Bicycling

The Brompton dream came true

I decided not to go to school this quarter, a decision based in the massive and unyielding amounts of stress that Kitchen Katastrophe 2016 is bringing to our lives. Stress makes fibromyalgia much worse, and I knew that attending classes was not in the cards for me right now. The upside to this decision is that I got all my tuition money back, and the upside to that…..

Meet Anouk!

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I named my boat, I named my bike. I name other things as well.

My Dad visited this weekend, and when we knew it was Brompton Time, we thought it made sense for me to take the train down to Portland and get a Brommie without Washington sales tax. So, I called Clever Cycles. They had a few Bromptons in colors I liked, but by the day before my trip, they were out of all except Stardust. It’s pretty, but I really wanted a color. So I went to my local shop, Electric and Folding Bikes Northwest,  and coughed up the tax to get a Brompton in Classic Racing Green, my favorite (so far) Brompton color. In the end I was glad to buy local. My purchase experience was educational and fun, I’m happy to support this shop. And I like knowing that if I come back with a question, they’ll know me and my bike.

Dad was already really looking forward to us riding bikes together, so I decided to try hauling Anouk to Portland via Amtrak. It worked great!

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One of the great things about the Brompton is the ability it has to roll like a shopping cart when folded partway. The C Bag, that fits in Brompton’s nifty luggage carrier block on the front post, then swivels around and becomes a basket you can access. You push the whole thing with the handlebars, and the bike rolls on the casters attached to the rear rack, which is folded under. BRILLIANT!

This was great for my fibromyalgia, because it meant I only had to carry my light backpack (light on the way down; it was much heavier after my trip to Powell’s), I could leave my heavier messenger bag on Anouk for her to haul for me.  I sat in the station for awhile and knit my Miles Goes to Japan Hat. When it was time to board the train….

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I rolled her to the train car door, rolling easily over bumps in the pavement and old tracks neck-deep in cement, and folded her up. I was a little clumsy climbing aboard with backpack, messenger bag slung over one shoulder and a bike in my other hand, but it worked. I placed her gently in this luggage rack, and there she sat for the whole trip. She was in the same spot for both trips.

The Brompton bag under the seat houses a black canvas bike cover, which I bought out of concern that I might need to make Anouk look more like a bag and less like a pile of metal pieces, but I never actually needed to use it. I kind of regret buying that $45 accessory. Especially once I found out that a Brompton fits perfectly into an IKEA bag.

I had a few attendants in the waiting area and at the ticketing counter ask me if I wanted to check the bike, but I just said, “No thanks, it’s a carry-on,” and they smiled and nodded and moved on. They seemed to be asking for my convenience, not because they were concerned about the bike. Amtrak policy states that folding bikes are allowed as carry-ons, although I’ve read of a few stories where employees were less then knowledgeable about this policy. On the Seattle to Portland route, I had no issues at all.
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My stay in Portland was a much-needed respite from the stress of the kitchen construction. I haven’t had a kitchen sink or a stove in 5 weeks. In Dad’s kitchen, I had this bizarre joy in running the faucet. I’d soap up my dish, turning it slowly under the cool stream of water and think, “I will never take running water for granted again.”

I also got to hang out with his adopted cat, Lucy, who loves me. She’s an interesting personality. If you give her affection, you’re fine. If you try to do something besides love her, she will note her disagreement with your lack of focus by biting your fingers or toes. This basically means that once you’ve begun petting Lucy, you shall never be allowed to stop.

And speaking of kittehs….

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This is the adorable Magnus, at the Lakeside Bicycle Shop, where Dad took me to get a helmet after I realized that I’d forgotten mine at home. I crashed on my bike once, many years ago, and cracked my helmet. I’m fully aware of the controversy surrounding helmets, and I support the reversal of helmet laws if it means more people will ride, but on my own person, I wear a noggin protector. It isn’t that I think bicycling is dangerous, it’s that I know that I am clumsy. With the fibromyalgia, I never seem to have all my muscles working the correct way at once, something is always off. If I were to crash and fall, I don’t think I’d do it with much grace or control. Any natural protection my body might have once given me in that situation, likely wouldn’t happen now. So, a helmet for me.

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Back home yesterday, I used a Sharpie oil paint pen to mark a little heart at the correct seat height, so that I can adjust it more quickly. I love this bike so much.

And! I hooked up my Travoy! A year ago I was talking about using my REI dividend to get a Travoy, and how I took it to the Farmer’s Market without my bike. Yesterday I took the hitch off my old bike and put it on Anouk.

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She rides great with the Travoy hitched up!

Since I developed fibromyalgia, the summers have been especially hard, because they remind me of all the hiking I used to do. Walking is very tough, I can’t walk far without pain. And if I try to walk through that pain, it compounds, quickly. At the end of a half mile walk I might be limping noticeably, my hips and lower back screaming in pain. But on a bike, for some reason, I’m able to ride a half mile with relative ease. I’m in still pain – it’s fibro, I’m always in pain – but in the language of spoonies: it takes far fewer spoons to cover the same distance on a bike than on foot.

With a folding bike, I can now bike places, and then catch a bus home. Or Greg or Jason can pick me up, or I can take an Uber. I don’t have to fear being trapped, that I’ll ride somewhere and then be in too much pain or too exhausted to get home (I live on top of a big hill). I’m looking forward to summer again! It’s a beautiful thing.

 

 

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