The Day I Didn’t Bike to Work

I’m a little over three months into my year of not driving and things are going well. As the weather continues to get colder and rain comes more regularly, I’m going to have to modify how I ride, possibly even taking Andy’s suggestion and get fenders. For now, I’m still enjoying the new bike.

A few weeks ago, the school I work at finally got the official go-ahead to move into our new building. When we did, several of the students decided we should have a Spirit Week. For anyone unfamiliar with this tradition, each day of the week (typically leading up to the Homecoming football game) gets a different theme and everyone is encouraged to dress to match the theme. We’re a small school with no football team (we only have 32 students) so moving into our building was as good a reason for Spirit Week as any. Our week was (in order) Crazy Sock day, Twin Day, Aloha Day, Plaid Day and finally PJ Day.


As you can see, I rocked Plaid Day (I’m second from the left, in the kilt)

As part of Spirit Week, I wanted to do something a little different for my transportation as well. So for one day only, I decided to leave the bike at home and commute to work on my trusty unicycle. It’s been two years since I rode it for any distance farther than about 25m and it’s 2 miles into work. Rather than practice and train, I just decided to go for it. That morning, I pulled it out from the back of the bike barn, inflate the tire and head out. The first half mile went great: no falls, good speed, only a few strange looks from passersby. Unfortunately, I hit a bump and fell off right in the middle of Hyde Park, the spot with the most people to see me fall on the whole ride.

Quick clarification, falling on a bike is a big deal. Your legs are on opposite sides of a large piece of metal, the handlebars mean you can jump off the front and so far, lack of advanced coordination has prevented me from jumping off the back of a moving bike. Unicycles are different. There’s nothing to get in the way when you fall. The vast majority of times you fall off a unicycle, you land on your feet in a standing position. Just pick up the unicycle, hop back on and you’re good to go. Falling isn’t a big concern, but it is annoying to do it in front of your favorite coffee shop.

Anyhow, after three attempts to get back on, I finally got correctly seated again and rode off. Most of the rest of the ride was uneventful, although the people turning to get onto the highway seemed to think I was very off for riding such a strange contraption. The ride home also went well. This time, I was able to ride past the coffee shop without falling in front of it. Overall, it was a fun way to commute. Most importantly, I learned that my legs were able to get me to and from school just fine. I also learned that the saddle for a unicycle is very different and rubs in unusual place… Luckily that only took a few days to get over which means I’m ready for the next time we decided to have Spirit Week.

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Air-Repair Station To-Go

Since just before giving up my car, I’ve been working at a new, experimental high school call One Stone. This is the first year One Stone is offering classes as a replacement for high school. In years past, they’ve run after school programs focused on Design Thinking. With the new project, they also started looking for their own building and looking for ways to connect this new building with the surrounding community.

Several students in the after school program worked with a couple of school students and


Photo by Daniel Oines.

the schools development director to apply for an Air/Repair Station grant through Whole Foods. Currently, there are about a dozen of these stations around Boise where anyone can stop by and do work on their bike for free. The students worked hard to make the case that our school, located in a neighborhood with a large immigrant population, would be a great place to add another bicycle repair station.

When we found out we won, the first thought was, “How will we pick it up?” The idea of driving over to pick up a bike repair station seemed wrong. Luckily, I’ve got a trailer that can handle the weight of the air pump and repair station, so that’s how we got it. We rode back along the Greenbelt for about a mile to get it to the school and got many odd looks along the way.  At one point, another biker rode up along side me and asked, “Is that one of the bike repair stations?”


“Um… Why do you have it on a trailer?”

“You should always be prepared… This is my turn off. Have a good one.”

It felt good to be able to pick this up with a bike, rather than getting a truck to move it. I also think it showed the students what you can do with a bike other than get yourself from one place to another. I’m excited to see what impact my year of biking will have on them.


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2 Months, first rain

I’m now two months into my car-free year and it’s still going well.

Last week was the first real rain of the season in Boise. It also happened to be the week that worked moved from being 2-3 miles each way of the commute to 5 miles each way. This made for some interesting rides.

The rain started on Thursday afternoon. I had expected this and brought a coat for the ride home. Unfortunately, it was raining harder than I expected, and although my shirt stayed dry, my jeans were soaked through. That night, the wind picked up and more rain fell. In the morning, the clouds we dark, angry and covered the entire sky. I assumed a cold front had moved in so I bundled up to stay warm and dry. No cold front had arrived. In fact, the weather was warmer than the day before. When I arrived at work, I was not dry, but it hadn’t rained one drop during the ride in.

Rain was promised all weekend and by Monday, I was ready for another rainy ride. This time, I checked the temperature before leaving the house and dressed appropriately for the weather. This time, it rained. This time, I arrived at work dripping with rain. In Boise, rain falling like a tropical storm so rarely happens that my supply of rain gear is light. Happily, it was enough to get me through the stormy ride and, after changing into dry clothes, only my shoes remained wet. I guess I still need to find a solution to that.

The first big storm of the season has blown through and it’s sunny again in Boise. As the year progresses, more rain, snow, hail and graupel are sure to hit me on my commute. Luckily, I’ve only got about one more week until our new building is finished and my commute gets cut in half.

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Co-op, Co-Hop

21616_10153238806878038_2735676887678995300_nBoise Brew Minute (episode 94) – Matt at the Boise Co-op talks with us about their collaboration with Boise Brewing. They created a fresh hop ale called Co-Hop. We also discuss what makes a beer qualify as “fresh hop” and what’s the difference between a bine and a vine.

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Goodbye, Bullseye

About 15 years, when I thought shopping at Goodwill was too fancy for me, I found myself at the Goodwill outlet. This is where everything goes that hasn’t sold at Goodwill, just before it goes to the dump. All the clothes are sold by the pound and other goods are sold for pennies on the dollar rather than having to pay the trash company to take them away. Having found no jeans in my size, I started looking at what else was there. That’s when I found Bullseye.

Bullseye was a blue, 1980’s style Takara 10 speed road bike. His tires were flat and, I would later find out, the seat post was corroded in place. Otherwise, he was in remarkable good shape considering he was days away from the landfill. I decided a “new” bike was just what I needed, so I forked over $10 and carted the bike home. After inflating the tires and trying to lower the seat, I took Bullseye out for my first ride. Recently, I had only been riding mountain bikes so getting back on skinny tires felt so fast. There was a small voice in the back of my head that kept repeating any bike worth only $10 is bound to fall apart when you ride it. Over time, as we covered more miles together, my confidence in Bullseye grew.

When we moved to Boise, I decided to try bike commuting rather than getting another car and Bullseye was right there with me. I assumed I’d get a new bike once this one finally gave up on me. When something on Bullseye would break, I always feared it was the beginning of the end. So, rather than fixing it properly, I would bodge it back into working order with zip ties, coat hanger or occasionally random pieces of Erector Set I had from my childhood.

After several years, I realized I was spending more time researching, cleaning and adjusting my derailleurs than I was using them. So, I took them off and Bullseye went from 10-speed to one. Later, I noticed that my rim brakes were not providing the stopping power I wanted when it rained. Now, I assumed that new brake pads would probably have fixed the problem, but it was cheaper (and way more fun as a maker) to weld the back hub, turning the free wheel into a fixie. This allowed me to stop without using the brakes at all and worked for nine months. Then the welds broke and once again, Bullseye went back to being a non-hipster style of bike.

Eventually, the parts that needed to be fixed or replaced far outnumbered those still working well. I had decided it was time to replace Bullseye. That’s when I saw the notice about the car for bike swap. Once I won, I agreed to trade-in Bullseye as soon as the new bike arrived. That happened last weekend, so I said goodbye to Bullseye. Now, I’ve got my new bike, but I have no idea what to name it. I mean everyone who’s ever seen Toy Story knows that Woody rides Bullseye, but that name was already taken.

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Grand Teton

hdw2ksn20yzpjxi60uyq_400x400Boise Brew Minute (episode 93) – Derek at Grand Teton Brewing talks to us about their fresh hopped ale and what it takes to get hops from field to kettle in less than 24 hours. We also discuss their history as the oldest brewery in Idaho and explore one of their classic recipes.

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We moved to Boise in January of 2007. We arrived sight-unseen from England with very low expectations. Having lived in Seattle and Portland before moving abroad, we knew Idaho was where you ended up only if you’d done something bad in a previous live. As such, we only planned to stay in Idaho for six month to a year, two years at the absolute most.

Lizzy1When we moved to the UK, we each sold our cars and borrowed one from family for the first month we were back in the States to get us settled. With the understanding that we wouldn’t be here long, we looked for a car that would get us through our stay in Idaho. We found Lizzy. She was a 1991 Toyota Corolla station wagon with 183,000 miles. The hope was that she had 20,000 more miles in her and would last until we moved back to the West Coast.

Within a month of arriving in Boise, our opinion was changing; within two months, we were loving it and had given up our plans to leave. We also starting exploring some of the more remote areas around our new home with longer and longer road trips. First to Stanley, Idaho for a music festival, then to Seattle to visit family. Before long, Lizzy was taking us on back country roads in remote parts of Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Montana.Lizzy2

As we explored further, we also got more adventurous with our driving. Gravel roads, dirt roads, unused forestry roads, lines on the map that probably weren’t meant to be interpreted as roads at all, we drove them all. One spring, we were poking around southern Utah. We had left the interstate days ago and hadn’t seen pavement in several hours. As we approached the intersection with the next “major road” we spotted several large trucks and jeeps parked along the side. We pulled over to make sure everything was alright. They were debating whether their off-road vehicles would be capable of making the drive we just did in Lizzy. “Where’d you come from?” they asked. “About 40 miles… that way, I think,” was my reply. They looked over my shoulder at Lizzy and asked, “In that?!?” She was pretty amazing.

We’ve now been in Idaho for almost a decade and Lizzy has served us well all these years. We started joking that Avery would learn to drive in Lizzy. Then, this summer, Lizzy started having some issues. She could still get us around but not as well and with a baby on the way, we decided it was time for Lizzy to go. The question is what do you do with a car that took us on so many adventures and clearly means more to us than anyone else. When the opportunity arose to trade Lizzy in for a bike and go car-free for a year, it seemed like a perfect fit. Lizzy’s spirit could live on in the new bike and Lizzy would get donated to a good cause.

lizzygoneSo, after nine and a half year and over 100,000 miles, the car that was expected to last two years and 20,000 miles was finally taken away. When the tow truck came, the neighbors who knew the story, came out to say good bye. Overall, Lizzy was a great car for us. Like Boise, she was much better than we expected. We had a lot of great adventures and look forward to the adventures yet to come with the bike that will replace her. It even seems likely that Avery will learn to ride a tag-along connected to this new bike.

Fare well, Lizzy. You were a great car.



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