My First Time Riding Over the Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge

As we’ve been driving back and forth to Wednesday square dance lessons, I’ve been watching this bridge’s construction. Tonight, I ride!

But first, a photo!

I took no photos on the way over, but midway there is a gorgeous view of downtown Portland. And it kicks you out close to the convention center and makes for a quick ride home. I’m going to enjoy this new connection to SE Portland.

Plaque: Gunter Ernst Car

Today I rode on Car 205, better known as the Gunter Ernst Car. This was the first car of this type that was delivered.

The Gunter Ernst Car is one of the Type 2 Max train cars, which, according to MAX FAQs “have a raised upper deck by each of the cabs, and the sideways-facing seats in the middle of the train (called the C-section, though it has nothing to do with babies) are slightly higher, presumably to have room for the wheels, brakes, and sanding tubes underneath.”

The Type 2 is my favorite of the Max train cars. I like to sit in the raised upper deck.

Getting to the defense

My first full day in Minneapolis was also the day of Sara’s defense. I decided to use the Nice Ride bikes to get myself to campus.

On the same street where I was saying was this gorgeous apartment building.

My neighborhood had a lot of churches in it, including two across the street from one another.

About four blocks from my house were the bikes.

I checked one out and was on my way. Look at the great bike infrastructure they have! I rode bike lanes the entire way to campus.

This bridge took me over the freeway.

Here I have a great view of the Mighty Mississippi.

I got to campus quite easily using the Google Maps directions. From that point, I had a bit of trouble finding a docking station. The campus is large. I ended up docking at the Student Union because I knew where that was and vaguly in which direction it was located and then power-walked over to the defense.

Thank goodness I’d visited campus on previous trips.

Minneapolis Day 1: Bike ride to Lake Nokomis

Sara K, whom you might know from her regular comments on this blog, is almost Dr. Sara K. She’s spent the last few years working toward a PhD, and I’m in Minneapolis to see her defense.

After navigating myself from the airport to my AirBnB, (thanks light rail!) I used the app on my phone to find a Nice Ride. Those would be the bike share bikes in the Twin Cities.

There was a bank of bikes not far from my place, and I rode about 25 minutes to Lake Nokomis, where I locked up my bike at another station. Easy as pie!

One thing I enjoyed about Lake Nokomis, was that they had seperate paths for walkers and bikes. The path in the foreground is for walkers; the one in the back is for bikes. Very smart, Minneapolis!

While it was full-on warm spring in Portland, it was still early spring in the North Star State. I would call what I experienced mid-to-late-March weather.

A variety of Sara’s relatives (and Sara herself, plus Shawn) arrived and we ate and chatted.

Shawn and Sara gave me a ride back to my place, which was also nice, as I was not wearing a mid-to-late March coat and I was a bit chilled when the sun was going down.

What a great start to my trip!

Messages on the bus ride home

I interpreted the very direct message on the power pole to be referring to suicide, of which there seems to be an unreasonable amount of going on right now. But today I can see that it can also refer to just getting to exist in this world. Our homeless population probably feels like we don’t think they get to live.

I loved thinking of the number of flyers and signs that had been posted to this pole over the years.

Portland inundated with electric scooters

The electric scooter companies have rolled out their product. And they are everywhere.  They are all over downtown and I took this picture at 102nd Avenue. My friend told me she’s seen them as far as 168th street.

To ride the scooters, you download an app, and then pay $1.00 to unlock one, and fifteen cents per minute to ride. Electric scooters are supposed to be ridden on streets, not sidewalks and every rider is supposed to wear a helmet.

So far the riders I’ve seen have been good about staying off sidewalks (though while biking, I did encounter one riding the wrong way in the bike line) and very few of them wear helmets.

I’m curious how much a scooter costs the company to purchase. I’m guessing that they are cheap enough that they pay for themselves after a few rides. Or perhaps people are throwing gobs of money at this new venture. I look forward to seeing how these items integrate with our transportation system, though I don’t see myself using this option on a regular basis.

Biking update: paying for supplies

When I started biking to work again, I needed to invest in some bike-worthy clothing for the winter months. While getting to work via bike is much cheaper than via car, it does have its costs. The trick, as with all saving money things, is to keep them below the cost of other ways to get to work.

(The only thing cheaper than bike riding would be walking to work, as it only requires a decent pair of shoes and something to keep the elements out. It does take substantially more time, though.)

In my case, I can pay $5 per day to ride the train round trip, or I can bike and pocket the cost of the commute. When I make a big bike purchase, I like to see how long it takes to pay it off. This keeps me in economical bike gear as bike jackets can be very expensive.

While I was riding to pay off my bike gear, someone stole my bike light and I had to pony up 6 more days of biking to break even on that.
I spent $115.00 on gear. Here’s what I bought:

At Goodwill, I went to the men’s section and bought three sweaters/sweatshirts. I was hoping for wool to keep off the rain, but no wool sweaters were to be found. I also bought four long-sleeved long-johns-type shirts for a base layer. Also, because my job involves walking to the bank to deposit checks, and not wanting to wander the city in my biking outerwear, I bought a second work coat to leave at work, which cost $30.00. Goodwill in Portland tends to be a rather expensive endeavor, considering it’s all used clothing that are donated.

My plan was that I would have the base layer and the heavy sweater and that would be enough to keep me warm. When it rained, I would use my bike poncho. However, I forgot something important: pockets.

Unless it is very cold (which doesn’t happen very often in Portland, even in the winter) I start my commute wearing those small stretchy gloves one can buy at every discount store in the winter. Halfway through the ride, my hands warm up and I take off the gloves and shove them in my pockets.

No pockets meant I lost some gloves, because they fell out of my basket. Also, I wasn’t adequately lit, which meant bringing along a reflective vest which was yet another layer to put on and take off.

So I had to pony up some more cash and return to my trusty affordable jacket to wear while biking (as opposed to a bike jacket.)  The orange monstrosity you see, is a flagger windbreaker. I previously had one in yellow, which I wore for many years. I was very excited to see that now I had the option of orange. This jacket costs around $40, is a nice layer against rain and cold, is obnoxiously reflective and also has pockets. I recommend such a jacket to all economical bike riders. In fact, I wish more people would wear them because I feel 20% dorky in mine and if they were more ubiquitous, that feeling would probably fade.
As the winter wore on, I realized I had overbought. I could have easily done with two sweaters and two base layers, which would have reduced my cost by about $20.

Overall, I’m happy with my biking clothing choices and feel that they served me well during the cold season. I’m looking forward to using them again next year, when they will be “free” to use.

Of note: I don’t factor in the cost of annual tune-ups to my bike commute costs. My tuneup this year cost $250 which means it would take 25 weeks of twice-per-week biking to pay it off. That’s too depressing to think about. I’m going to have a bike even if I don’t commute to work via bike, so I’m looping annual tuneup price into my “general vehicle expenses” category.

Trucks. 90% not needed

Reading all of Mr. Money Mustache’s posts has changed me in several ways, but profoundly when looking at what cars Americans choose to drive. And while sometimes Mr. Money Mustache can seem a bit blame-y when it comes to haranguing people about their debt and lifestyle choices, I’m totally there with him re: cars. And I’m completely there regarding trucks.

I love a good truck. When my parents inherited money while I was in my teens they paid off the mortgage and my dad bought a truck. I loved driving it. It was driving stripped down to the basics: standard transmission, rough cloth upholstery. To this day, something about a bench seat still gets me. Trucks are handy for hauling things, and they’re big, without being as asshole-ish as large SUVs.

However, I think in 99% of the cases, they are completely unnecessary. The above three trucks are parked in these spaces every day that I walk this way to work. I’m guessing they belong to the construction workers who are building the big tower down the block. But these trucks aren’t used for construction. They’re used to get the construction workers to their job.

As Mr. Money Mustache points out in this post, the two things to worry about  with vehicles are fuel economy and passenger/cargo space. These two trucks fail on both counts. Assuming the construction workers are driving themselves to work, they could be doing so in a much smaller car, even something as small as a Smart Car. (Which cost a lot of money, now that I’m looking at the price.)

Yes, these construction workers may use their trucks for other things like hauling things on the weekend, or an after-hours job. But they probably do not. Like most cars in the USA, they drive us to work and back home again.

And do these construction workers own these trucks free and clear, with no car loan? Possibly, but not probably. If there’s one thing all the Financial Independence reading has reminded me, it’s that car loans should be avoided at all costs. If the people who drive these cars are paying loans plus interest, that makes them even more inefficient choices.

I don’t currently own a car, though I do pay for the use of one. I take public transportation to work and use it to get me to other places when the car isn’t available. It’s easy to say that I’m lucky–that I’ve got it easy, with a quick commute downtown. Not everybody has that option.

But I would also say that I arranged my life in this fashion. When I last looked for work, I applied for jobs that were close to my house, at least via public transportation. If the job hunt hadn’t turned up anything, I would have expanded my search, but I’ve done the hour-commute-each-way-via-public-transportation thing, and I don’t want to experience that again, if I can help it.

These trucks may make their owners very happy. But they also might be inflicting needless financial pain. At any rate, they aren’t a good choice for the planet. I’d like to see us, as a country, move away from big vehicles.