Viking E-Bikes, Vol. 2: Kicking It Off With A Bang!

viking-e-bike-displaySo, this cool thing happened!

I wrote last week that I’d signed up for the Viking E-Bikes program at the university where I work, I initially was supposed to get my 10-week loaner e-bike at the beginning of January, but one of the Fall Quarter riders turned their bike in early, so I got it yesterday!

And not only did I get the bike sooner than I expected, I got one helluva ride on it sooner than I expected.

I’ll explain.

I knew I would be picking the bike up on campus during the day, but I needed to get to campus for work in the morning, and so I drove my car with the bike rack attached, thinking I’ll just take it home and ride it in the morning.

Well, 5pm arrives, I ride the bike to my car, prep the bike rack, I go to lift the bike onto the rack, but I’m reminded instantly that the bike weighs 52 lbs, and with it’s odd geometry…

eprodigy-bike

…it wouldn’t fit on the bike rack even if I could hold it up long enough to secure it.

So, I pop the hatch of my Subaru Forester, lay the back seats down flat, and after risking a hernia and/or herniated disc, I gave up trying to fit the bike on or inside the car.

By now it’s 5:15, it’s dark out, I was supposed to meet someone somewhere about a mile away at 5:15, I call, they are ok pushing that to 5:30, but then I’m supposed to meet someone else, somewhere else, an additional 2 miles away at 6pm, and then finally I needed to go 5 more miles to my home.

I was not mentally prepared for this at all. Despite years as a hardcore bicycle commuter — rain, shine, light, dark, cold, hot — I suddenly needed to ride this e-bicycle, that was totally alien to me, in the dark, cold night, for a total of 7 miles.

Luckily, it wasn’t raining (unusual this time of year in Bellingham), and I did have with me sufficient cold-weather clothing, including gloves, and a headband to cover my ears under the helmet.

So, how did it go?

While I already don’t like a few things about the eProdigy Jasper, the overall experience was…

…exhilarating!

To be able to cover that much ground on a spur of the moment, including several sizeable hills, to make it on time to my appointments and then safely home without feeling like I’d run a marathon, to struggle for a little bit with feeling like I was cheating, using a motor like that, but to then let go of that struggle as I noticed that I was totally getting exercise, pedaling the whole time, using the minimal power assist levels as much as possible … all of that added up to a really fun time!

This morning, as I prepared to ride to work and then pedaled off, leaving the car behind, I felt that familiar, awesome feeling that had sustained me as a bicycle commuter for so many years, that I was doing my part, however small it seemed in the big picture, to reduce my carbon footprint and help usher in the era of transportation based on renewable energy.

As I mentioned last week, I’ll be blogging semi-regularly about my e-bike experience from now through March, so stay tuned for Volume 3 of my Viking E-Bikes series!

 

Viking E-Bikes: Putting The “Bicycle” Back In Fish & Bicycles!

Viking-E-Bike-logo-2gjswx5-200x200When I first started writing Fish & Bicycles, back in 2009, I’d already been employed by Western Washington University (WWU, Western) for nine years, and I was a devoted bicycle commuter.

Rain, shine, even snow…it was a point of great environmentalist pride, as well as the absolute best way to squeeze exercise into a ridiculously busy schedule.

But sadly, over the past two years of my now 17-year tenure at WWU, due to a combination of having moved much further away from campus, some injuries and health issues, and simply a loss of mojo for getting out on a bicycle in Bellingham’s famously wet weather, I gradually stopped my daily bike commute.

Enter, Western’s Viking E-Bike program!

I’ve been considering purchasing an electric pedal-assist bicycle for some time, thinking that the power assistance, only as needed, for the several hills along my 5-mile commute route, would be just the thing to get me back in the saddle, but with price tags ranging from $1,000-$4,000 or more, it was no easy decision.

So, when I learned about the Viking E-Bike program, when I learned that I could apply to have a loaner electric bicycle for an entire 10-week academic quarter, I jumped at the chance, applied, and was just accepted!

I had my orientation this week, in preparation for the start of my 10 weeks near the beginning of January, and I can already tell that this will be an incredible opportunity to evaluate an e-bike, learn how to use one, learn what features I like and don’t like on the eProdigy Jasper bicycle that I’ll be riding (which will guide my eventual purchase of some bike by some to-be-determined manufacturer), and whether or not the power assistance will be enough to get me back to a daily cycling commute.

Given that it’s wintertime, it will be one helluva test, and new rain gear is already on my holiday gift wish list.

I’ll be blogging about my experiences here, so keep an eye out for “Viking E-Bikes” in my post titles!

Stuff We Don’t Need: Frankensalmon

big-fish-little-fishREALLY disappointing news yesterday.

As I wrote five years ago, in two separate posts (Post 1, Post 2), some mad genetic scientists, seemingly out of some sci-fi B-movie, have been messing around with salmon to produce fish that grow faster on farms.

There’s really nothing more I can think to say about what a travesty this idea is, especially to people here in the Pacific Northwest, so please consider reading my previous posts linked to in the previous paragraph.

The sad news from yesterday, is that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the government body that is supposed to keep us safe, has approved the Frankensalmon as fit for human consumption, and they continue to refuse to label this or any other genetically modified food.

And yet, there was some hope hidden in New York Times article:

Within hours of the agency’s decision on Thursday, one consumer advocacy group, the Center for Food Safety, said it and other organizations would file a lawsuit challenging the approval.

Despite the approval, it is likely to be at least two years before any of the salmon reaches supermarkets, and at first it will be in tiny amounts.

It is not clear how well the salmon will sell. Some leading supermarkets have already said, in response to the vocal opposition, that they have no plans to sell it.

So, really, it’s up to us.

As the bumper stickers you see here in Bellingham say:

Friends don’t let friends buy farmed salmon.

Tweet of the Day: @BillMcKibben

My new favorite made-up word: Kayaktivist

I don’t think many people thought, when the kayak-based protests over a Shell Oil arctic drilling platform in Seattle’s Elliot Bay started a month ago, that the protest would still be going on today.

Kayaks have such an iconic presence here in the Pacific Northwest, and though I’ve never owned one myself, I’ve had the pleasure of paddling quite a few times over my 20+ years living here. As a result, and given my radical treehugging tendencies, I can’t help feeling solidarity with the protesters.

Paddle on, brothers and sisters! Paddle on!

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