Biking Is the Spice of Life

I have missed many things while driving for transportation thanks to a broken elbow (with recovery complicated by a frozen shoulder). To name just a few:

  • Exercise (hello, +10 pounds)
  • Sense of connection to my surroundings and the people along the way
  • Flexibility — the ease with which I can change my mind, navigate to an unplanned stop, and park

My bikespedition yesterday brought back all of these in a day so complex Google Maps won’t let me create a map to illustrate it (for real; I maxed out the number of stops allowed), yet so simple to execute in real life I can reconstruct it in memory. Thanks to a cortisone shot last Friday along with massage therapy and physical therapy, my shoulder is regaining some range of motion. I was off work and could take my time, so out came the bike.

My main goals for the day: Find spices needed to make a recipe for homemade masala chai mix. Get a quick cleanup at my hair stylist. Take it easy on that arm.

barb-chamberlain-112316Bike style for the day with a forecast of possible rain: Smartwool stockings under a pair of stretch pants, a light top under a wool sweater, scarf to keep my neck warm, full-finger gloves, back-up rain jacket in a pannier.

This was my sixth time on the bike since the crash/break. Every time I ride it stings after a while, since the arms serve as shock absorbers, so I used transit to reduce total bike mileage. I took Tessa the folding bike since she’s easier to lift onto the bus bike rack, another physical challenge.

Transportation planners calculate in terms of trips. My trip log consisted of Bike + Bus + Bike + Bike + Bike + Light Rail + Bike + Bike + Bike + Bike + Bus + Bike.

Sound complicated? Not really. On my bike I could make spontaneous stops, linger in stores without worrying about how much parking was costing me, and change my mind about my destination without the frustration of trying to navigate through heavy car traffic. With transit in the mix I was also able to skip some hill climbs that are hard on my arm and thus extend my range.

I say I bike because I’m lazy. I’m wearing my Fitbit again and am finally able to increase my physical activity to try to get rid of some of that convalescent baggage I’m packing around.

So in theory, if I drive someplace and park, I should be willing to walk from there to other nearby destinations. More steps, right? But really, how often do you do that?

On this outing I went to two destinations that were less than a half-mile apart and continued on my way. Would I have left the car parked at the first spot, walked to the second spot, then walked back to the first? Ummmm….. Whereas on my bike it was easy, so overall I got more exercise.

Herewith, the breakdown of the day’s transportation with specific locations for the enjoyment of my fellow Seattleites.

Bike to the bus stop from my home in the Top Hat neighborhood near White Center: .6 miles in 4 minutes at a sprint because I left the house a little late. Never would have made it if I’d been on foot. Arrived with that triumphant feeling you get when you spot the bus up the block and know that you have a minute to get the panniers off the rack and get ready to load the bike onto the rack.

#131 bus to 4th Ave S. and Royal Brougham: ~6 miles, ~20-25 minutes. Played/worked on Twitter, observed fellow passengers. My neighborhood is 60% non-white and my bus always reflects that so I get to listen to lots of languages and cultures.

Bike to Big John’s PFI: .3 miles, 2 minutes. Fantastic imported food store with a selection of bulk spices and legumes (black, white, yellow, brown, green, and red lentils, for starters) and so much deliciousness. Picked up some of what I needed but given the holiday baking season, no surprise that they were out of cinnamon sticks and candied ginger in the size I wanted, and I couldn’t find loose black tea.

Bike to Uwajimaya: .2 miles, ~2 minutes. Big tea selection, of course, but couldn’t find loose black tea unless I bought a big container I didn’t want.

Bike to Seattle Best Tea, then International District Light Rail Station across the street after looking more closely at the Seattle Tea website and realizing I’m too thrifty to buy really good tea: 2 blocks? Too short to count.

Light rail to Capitol Hill Station: ~3 miles, maybe 10 minutes? Stood with my bike, which I can’t hang on the hook thanks to the shoulder. Luckily it wasn’t so crowded my bike became a problem for others. Oh, how I wish Sound Transit would add a car with the bike parking that lets you just roll the front wheel in and stand with your bike!

Bike from Capitol Hill Station to Espresso Vivace: .3 miles, 4 minutes. This was one of those “why not?” moments you can have on a bike that would be so much more complicated in a car (nicely illustrating one of the reasons shoppers who are biking or walking spend more than people in cars — easier to make impulse stops/purchases). I was actually heading toward the new location of my hair stylist (the incredible Jonathan Huppe). Broadway is a jumpin’ strip and I knew I’d find someplace to stop for a little nosh if I just kept my eyes open. With the ease of parking a bike it’s almost never a problem to stop, unlike having to circle for a car parking spot while emitting noxious fumes and particulates all the while. Hot apple cider and some quinoa salad and I was on my way again.

Bike to my hair trim: 1.2 miles, ~5 minutes, all downhill. You know what this means…. But I knew that if my arm got too tired I could take the #49 back up the hill and into downtown, where I could pick up the #131 to head home.

pike-place-market-ferry-bike-112316Bike to Pike Place Market: 3.7 miles, ~15 minutes. Uphill climb for a while in the bike lane on 10th Ave., then some time in the two-way protected bike lane on Broadway, then a wonderful downhill coast on Pine. It was raining lightly; I had my Wander Wrap with me in case it got too heavy but this was more or less a veggie-mister spray. Additional moment courtesy of transportation bicycling: Stopping to watch a ship moving serenely through the water behind the Pike Place Market neon sign. If I’d been driving and glimpsed it, I certainly couldn’t have stopped to enjoy or photograph it.

world-spiceAt World Spice on Western Ave. I thoroughly enjoyed browsing: Smell all the smells! Look at all the cookbooks and taste delicious things in your head! I ended up buying two cookbooks as well as the additional spices and loose black tea needed for the masala chai. Nice chat with the staff about the cookbooks I chose and how candied ginger would work in the mix (I ended up getting some gingerroot too).

Bike to my bus stop: .9 miles, 7 minutes.

Here’s where the bike advantage really came into play. I came out of the shop, looked at One Bus Away, and realized I didn’t have quite enough time to hoof it uphill 3 steep blocks to the nearest stop for the #131. BUT it’s downhill/flat on Western to Pioneer Square, where I figured I could catch the bus. After all, the driver has to contend with both stoplights and passenger load/unload time; all I had to deal with was the lights and a little car traffic.

cookbooks-from-world-spicSure enough, I got to the stop at 2nd Ave. Ext. S. and S. Main with 2 minutes to spare, according to the app, which predictably turned into more like 7 minutes to spare because the #131 almost always runs late to that stop thanks to the heavy vehicular traffic in downtown.

Bus to the stop near my home: 7.2 miles, ~25 minutes. Played on Twitter. (Forgot my Kindle at home or I would have been reading).

Biked home from the bus stop: .6 miles, 5 minutes. Unloaded a wonderful-smelling haul.

  • Total bike mileage: ~8 miles.
  • Total parking cost + hassle: Zero.
  • Total pollutants emitted: Zero.
  • Total cost of gas and car wear and tear: Zero.
  • Total calories burned: 435, using the Bicycling Magazine calculator.
  • Total happiness quotient: Off the charts.
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2 Comments to "Biking Is the Spice of Life"

  1. Wb says:

    Fascinating! I love all the errands. How are you putting the bike on the bus rack. Some days I can barely do that with two good shoulders. Or do you fold up the bike and bring it onboard?

  2. I’m able to lift the bike onto the rack as long as I get the front spot; that’s usually not an issue at the stop near my home and I lucked out at the downtown spot. It weighs less than my full size bike and isn’t as tall, both of which help. If I had to I could fold it to bring on the bus, although I wouldn’t really want to have to juggle that plus my two panniers.

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