Reason #257 Why I Love Bellingham: Annual Naked Bike Ride

NakedBikeRide-page-001There are MANY reasons why I love my adopted hometown of 20+ years, Bellingham, Washington, and the annual Naked Bike Ride is certainly one of them.

The World Naked Bike Ride is a global event with an interesting dual message, promoting: 1.) cycling for the good of the planet; 2.) body-positive values. Riders in the clothing-optional event display varying levels of skin, based on personal preference, and that skin is often painted. Skin not on display is covered with eye-catching, outlandish costume and accessories.

No, I’ve never participated in the ride myself, and I’ve never even consciously sought it out as a spectator. BUTT, pun intended, many a time I just happened to be downtown when the glorious parade of naked weirdness just happened to pass by.

I am simply happy that I live in a town with people who support and participate in events like this; creative acts of expression, silly, fun, and with an aim to make the world a better place.

If Earth Was Made Of Pepperoni, Would You Eat It?

pepperoni-pizzaListen, I know it’s a serious subject, this matter of whether or not human consumption of meat is sustainable, or worse, harmful to the only planet we know of that we can call home.

I’m a guilt-ridden, former-vegetarian, carnivore myself, and between my concerns for the environment and my concerns for how the animals we eat are treated, I really don’t know how I live with myself every time I chow down on a hamburger, no matter how organic, free-range, and grass-fed it may be.

And yet, I couldn’t help chuckle when, in a recent, widely-reported blog post on the subject, Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates included the following infographic:

infographic-pepperoni

The thought of some research assistant doing the math for this, measuring the diameter of a slice of pepperoni, perhaps even determining an average slice diameter to account for variations amongst different brands of pepperoni, and then factoring in the Earth’s circumference, well…

It’s just.plain.funny!

Eyecatchers: Upcycling: Allied Arts Recycled Art Exhibit

Allied-5It’s been ages since my last Upcycling installment, but this weekend I visited an exhibit at a local art gallery that focused entirely on pieces made from recycled materials, and I just had to share.

Allied Arts of Whatcom County hosted their second annual Recycled Art & Resource Expo (RARE) this past weekend, an event that included exhibits, workshops, and presentations at various locations in town.

My favorites were on view at Allied Arts’ Cornwall Avenue gallery, where the majority of the works took the form of multimedia sculpture, like Graham Schodda’s Magneto, featured in the lede photo here, fashioned from: a vintage drill, piston, rods, fuel filter, insulator, and radio antenna.

I LOVE the imagination on display here, how the artist saw in these discarded scraps — once intended for much more utilitarian purposes — that they might be pieced together to form various subjects or some new functional item, like this clock by Karin Mueller, titled Time To Call Mom, made from a vintage cigar box, telephone, clock:

Allied-7

The exhibit will be up through April 24th, so, if you are in Bellingham consider checking it out. And/or, check out my other Upcycling installments, or just Google ‘upcycling’ if this kind of thing strikes your fancy.

In the meantime, here are some of my other faves from the RARE show:

Graham Shodda: vintage thermos, jigsaw, window winders, spatulas, gas can spout, etc.
Graham Shodda, “Thermo” – vintage thermos, jigsaw, window winders, spatulas, gas can spout, etc.
Karen Mueller, "Chicken or the Egg" - mixed media
Karen Mueller, “Chicken or the Egg” – mixed media
Rafael Mithuna, "Bomb Fin Lantern" - WWII bomb fin, WWII military transport parts
Rafael Mithuna, “Bomb Fin Lantern” – WWII bomb fin, WWII military transport parts
Launi Lucas, "Gnarwall" - mixed media
Launi Lucas, “Gnarwall” – mixed media
Rafael Mithuna, "Budenberg Steam Lamp" - early 1900s steam test equipment, lamp parts, plumbing parts
Rafael Mithuna, “Budenberg Steam Lamp” – early 1900s steam test equipment, lamp parts, plumbing parts
Alana Coleman, "Lovers Tango" - mixed media
Alana Coleman, “Lovers Tango” – mixed media

Fat Bikes Go Electric

Fat_TireWhen I first heard someone refer to a ‘fat bike’ a couple of years ago, the first thing that popped into my mind, as I’m sure it did for many beer drinkers, was Fat Tire Amber Ale from New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Boy, was I mistaken.

As it turned out, fat bikes, ‘fatbikes’, or ‘fatties’, are a type of bicycle originally designed for the ultimate in off-road cycling, sporting fat, knobby tires as wide as four or more inches, allowing the bike to seemingly float on loose sand and snow. They are typically much heavier than mountain bikes, and the tires can be under-inflated in order to absorb shock on bumpy terrain.

Fat-Bikes-Blog-Wide-Tire-Shot-2

But, I described them as “originally designed for off-road”, because a fair number of people have simply found fat bikes to be super cool-looking, they’re increasingly showing up on city streets underneath people using them as commuter bicycles, and even Walmart sells them now.

And, while it doesn’t make me angry, like one blogger I came across, who published a post titled Fat Bikes Are Not for City Riding, You Trendy Asshole You, it does baffle me.

I used to own a mountain bike, with the knobbiest tires I could find, but once I found out that I didn’t have the guts to be a single-track mountain biker, zooming down hills dodging VERY large immovable trees, I retreated to using the bike as commuter transportation to and from work.

In some ways, a mountain bike is a great choice for a commuter. With wheels meant to take a pounding, and mine had front shocks, hopping curbs and dealing with the occasional unavoidable pothole is a cinch. Likewise, here in rainy Bellingham, Washington, the wide, knobby tires offer good traction and less chance of dangerous slippin’-and-a-slidin’.

But, when it came time to replace my bike, I test drove a hybrid commuter bicycle, sporting a mountain bike frame with road bike wheels, the wheels had a larger circumference and the tires were half as wide as the mountain bike, with some tread but nowhere near knobby, they were built to roll, and from the moment I took off on the thing I was blown away!

It.Felt.Effortless! With so much less rubber on the road there was WAY less resistance, and while I occasionally did jump curbs and ride on packed gravel and dirt interurban trails, most of my riding is on asphalt, and this hybrid was a revelation.

I simply couldn’t fathom riding a fat bike in the city … until now.

In the past two days, I’ve come across two new fat bikes, both of them electric, and these could be game-changers for folks who like the fat bike looks and want one as a commuter.

Introducing the radrover and the Sondors eBike:

rad-power-bikesSondors-eBike

Those electric motors could go along way toward compensating for the extra resistance from the extra-wide tires, but it still seems odd to ride a bicycle, intended for sand and snow, in the city.

Whatever floats your bicycle, I guess!

Cognitive Dissonance: Trader Joe’s Edition

cheese-foodYesterday, while browsing the sizable cheese selection at Trader Joe’s, scanning for any organic choices available to me, the product you see in the photo here caught my eye. (click on the photo to enlarge)

Now, I’m a HUGE proponent of buying organic products, but the questions this one inspires are many, important, and even funny. Here are just a few:

Sushi Tuna’s Disgusting Secret

TunaBoy, tuna really can’t get a break!

First we learned, years ago, that because dolphins and tuna often swim together, and tuna are harvested with humongous nets, dolphin are often caught in these nets. The U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that over 6 million dolphin have been killed since the late 1950s, in the eastern tropical Pacific, from the use of purse-seine nets.

Then, we were told that there are dangerous levels of mercury in tuna.

Well, last week, in a post about our locally-owned natural and organic grocers here in Bellingham, I mentioned Terra and how much they contribute to the community.

One way they do this is by posting links on Facebook to informative articles related to food and health, today they shared an alarming article from The Atlantic on yet another blemish on tuna’s already tainted reputation, the article is nearly two years old, and it’s hard to believe I’d not heard about this.

59% of the ‘Tuna’ Americans Eat Is Not Tuna

Nonprofit ocean protection group Oceana took 1,215 samples of fish from across the United States and genetically tested them in order to bring us the following astonishing facts:

  • 59% of the fish labeled “tuna” sold at restaurants and grocery stores in the US is not tuna.
  • Sushi restaurants were far more likely to mislabel their fish than grocery stores or other restaurants.
  • In Chicago, Austin, New York, and Washington DC, every single sushi restaurant sampled sold mislabeled tuna.

AND…believe it or not, that’s not even the most alarming bit!

  • 84% of fish samples labeled “white tuna” were actually escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable, oily anal leakage.

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!

Listen folks, at some point you gotta draw the line. This definitely feels like a 3-strikes-and-you’re-out situation to me.

Unless you happen to own a portable DNA analyzer, just say no to tuna!

Bellingham, Just Say No to Whole Foods

whole-foodsI was very saddened to see news in the Bellingham Herald this morning that a Whole Foods Market will be opening here in the summer of 2016.

I’ve written numerous times, most recently this past December, that one of the things that is so special about Bellingham is that local businesses are thriving here. It’s an integral part of our identity as a small city. And, local businesses are thriving mostly because we take pride in that identity and commit to support our local businesses, even at times when prices are cheaper elsewhere, because we know that the owners of these businesses are our neighbors and friends.

Another component of Bellingham’s identity is our commitment to sustainability, in terms of environmental protection and restoration, sustainable agriculture, sustainable building practices, etc.

So, you see this conflict between those two aspects of our identity when we consider the arrival of Whole Foods. While not a locally-owned business, it is a market that features natural and organic foods, including non-GMO products.

Problem is, we already have two outstanding local natural foods markets, the Bellingham Community Food Co-Op, with two locations, and Terra Organic & Natural Foods, both conduct themselves more like communities than businesses, and both contribute to a wide variety of community events and non-profit organizations.

I find the practices of these large chain stores disturbing, how they move into communities that have existing, local businesses offering similar goods and services, without any apparent concern for how they will take business away from those who were here first, wielding their corporate power against mom and pop shops, or, in the case of the Community Food Co-Op, member owners, businesses that don’t have the resources to compete fairly.

In the Herald article, a Whole Foods executive is quoted:

Bellingham is a terrific market. It’s been a long time coming…The right site was there, the right partner and developer was there, the right mix in terms of competition and suppliers. We just think the time is perfect…Our primary interest is in Whatcom County. It’s a very strong market in itself.

Now, I have no doubt that Whole Foods is confident that the market is strong enough for them to open here and succeed, but I’m just as confident that they do not consider the fact that their success could imperil the pre-existing locally-owned natural food markets.

Consider the Core Values section of their website, where you’ll find a menu of pages on a variety of topics, including one titled We Serve And Suport Our Local And Global Communities.

Sounds nice, but of course there’s no mention of their impact on similar local businesses. Why, that wouldn’t be flattering at all!

I wish I had more time to dig deeper on this topic. There are sources I’ve consulted on the impact of chain stores, which deserves elaboration, and there is the sticky fact that some local natural food producers might do better if they can sell their products at Whole Foods, and perhaps I’ll get to these topics in future posts.

For now, mine is a more personal expression of distaste for this news, rather than a thorough analysis.

I doubt we can stop Whole Foods from coming, they are already leasing the property they’ll be moving into.

But, we can make the choice to not shop there, and to continue to support the Co-Op and Terra.