Posts Tagged ‘ transportation ’

The story of a Tire.

Saturday was exciting.

My sister and I went to a birthday party for a baby. On the drive home, we were about a quarter of the way across the Ross Island Bridge when there was a loud popping sound, and the car lurched to the left. Using her super driving skills, Jessie kept us in the proper lane as a flapping sound emanated from the front driver’s side tire. We pulled into the right lane and stopped. She flipped on the hazard lights and I closed my mouth.

“Who do we call?” I asked.

“Triple A,” she responded, “But you’re going to call them while I call Chris because my phone is out of battery.”

I called and punched buttons until I got a real person on the line. I explained the situation to her, (“Hi, we’re on the Ross Island Bridge with a blown out tire,”) and she told me that a tow truck would be sent to take us to a safe spot for the AAA dude to change the tire. “I’m making you priority one,” she said, “We’ll send the closest available truck.”

While I was on the phone, a policeman pulled up behind us, assessed the situation, and put out some flares after Jessie told him we had AAA on the way.

Or so we thought.

We sat and waited for about twenty minutes. First, an AAA tow truck passed us going west while we were pointing east. We speculated that he was the closest truck and had to turn around to help us, but he didn’t. Then, another AAA tow truck passed us, eastbound. We watched his approach in the rearview mirror, (me grumbling about how it took him so long,) waved as he drove by, and fell silent as he continued across the bridge.

I called AAA to complain, and tell them to get us the hell off this freaking bridge, when a car slowed as it passed and pulled into the right lane in front of us and stopped.

A man in a day-glo green t-shirt stepped out of the car, followed by his wife. The neon man and Jessie conversed for a moment while I was still on the phone with the AAA operator, and I canceled our request for a tow truck when the neon man offered to change our tire.

He was shockingly quick about it. The entire process only took him about five minutes. His wife mentioned something about him working at Les Schwab for years.

Then the tire was changed and they drove away. We followed, and then I started freaking out.

Although I was late to work, things could have been a lot worse. I  mean, of all the bridges in Portland, we probably picked the safest one to break down on.

But still. Breaking down on a bridge was probably the most exciting thing to happen to me this month. At least it makes a mildly interesting story.

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Intimidation.

Occasionally when I’m low on writing material and the hipsters in the park don’t oblige me with yoga to write about, I’m forced back to my Trimet riding ways.

Since I’ve moved into Portland, I’ve had very little cause to ride Trimet. My bike gets me everywhere I need to go with only slightly more chance of bodily harm.

However, yesterday, I was tired and low on ideas, so I boarded #14 and just rode for a while, notebook in hand, waiting for something to happen.

I was shocked by how boring the ride was. The most interesting thing that happened was that I discovered a new coffee shop.

But after we reached the end of the line and headed back into town, things got more interesting.

The previously deserted (except for me) bus suddenly started filling at an alarming rate. I grudgingly removed by bag from the seat next to me as I noted fewer and fewer open seats.

Then, at a particularly active stop, a guy got on the bus and headed straight for the back, where I was seated.

I watched him as he approached, sizing him up, deciding whether or not I should feel intimidated.

Over six feet tall– intimidation factor of 1.

Neck tattoos– intimidation factor of 2, (ridiculous factor of 3.)

Basketball attire– intimidation factor of 1.

But more than anything, I noticed the guy’s eyebrows. He had the angriest eyebrows I’ve ever seen. It was like there was a magnet in his nose that was attracting the corners of his eyebrows. Intimidation factor of 5.

Total Intimidation Points– 9.

As I evaluated him, the guy stepped up and sat down beside me. Fortunately I hadn’t been taking notes on him (yet) so I didn’t have to worry about him seeing what I thought about his angry eyebrows.

The bus began moving again, and he reached down to dig around in his backpack. I pretended to look out the window, which had forehead marks on it. Disgusting.

Eyebrow guy pulled something out of his bag, and I glanced over, wondering if his Intimidation Factor was about to go up.

With a look of innocence and purity, the Man with the Angriest Eyebrows was shuffling through a deck of Magic: The Gathering cards. Intimidation factor of -10.

Total Intimidation Points by the time he moved to a vacant seat– 0.

Which just goes to show that you should never judge anyone by their appearance.

Pedalpalooza: How am I Just Hearing About This?

Today, I was sitting in Oblique coffee, sipping a delicious glass of toddy when I decided it’d be a good idea to browse this week’s Portland Mercury.

Usually I avoid this publication on principle, because I’m not really fond of ads for strip clubs and adult stores. But this week their headlining story was something pertaining to Wednesday’s blog– how to get into biking in Portland.

After I finished reading the tips (“Don’t be an asshole” was my favorite,) I continued flipping pages, because the article had mentioned something that sounded exciting that I had never before heard of.

Pedalpalooza.

The first thing I ever heard about Pedalpalooza was last year when the World Naked Bike Ride cruised right by my sister’s house. Unfortunately for me, I’m now living in that house. I shall probably bear witness to this event, while mournfully waving goodbye to any last shreds of innocence that clung to me.

It’s not just naked bike rides though. All this month, all over Portland, are organized bike rides centered around almost anything you can imagine.

The ones I’m going to make a valiant effort to at least witness, if not participate in, are as follows.

Thursday, June 14th. The Fake Mustache Ride.

Friday, June 15th. Bob’s Meme Ride.

Saturday, June 16th. The Star Wars vs. Star Trek Ride. I’m a Trekkie for life, by the way. We can argue about this later.

Sunday, June 17th. Zombie Apocalypse Ride. The instructions say to come as a zombie or a survivor. I just really want to witness this one.

Wednesday, June 27th. Crappy Gift Exchange Ride.

Also Wednesday, June 27th. OMSI Pedals Science Ride, which starts and ends at OMSI and includes science and OMSI after dark. What’s NOT to love?

There are also, throughout the month, a nice range of food cart tours, coffee shop meetups, naked bike rides aside from the big one, pet-inclusive rides, and rides specifically crafted for families.

Mostly I’m just shocked I’ve never heard about this before. All my life  I’ve had family in the Portland area– heck, my dad grew up here and my brother lived here for like six years. Either they never mentioned it due to a lack of interest, or I just wasn’t paying attention when they did. (To be fair, it was probably the latter. I’m horrible at paying attention.)

Portlanders! Are you going to any of these rides? Are you going to any others that I should try to make it to? Email me or let me know in the comments. Let’s be biking buddies.

Bike Etiquette and Bethany.

Today I  was on the hunt for new pants, so I took my bike and headed east. Since I wasn’t feeling like risking my life today, I cruised down back roads, aiming for Buffalo Exchange.

When I got there, I discovered exactly zero places available to lock up my bike.

Sudden and irrational panic suddenly rose in my heart.

Was it okay for me to lock my bike in front of a store I had no intention of patronizing? Could I just pay that hobo a few dollars to not steal it? Was it kosher to park next to someone else’s bike even if theirs was immensely cooler than mine? What if someone blocked me in? Why was my bike lock so tacky?

My face bore no signs of panic as I locked my back on a partially available rack across the street from my destination. I commenced shopping, feeling woefully ignorant of some sort of Bike Code that I’m sure exists.

So I decided someone needs to write the Portlander’s Guide to Bike Etiquette.

It should contain answers to all of the questions listed above. Additionally, it should contain instructions on where it’s cool to park your bike, how old your bike must be for it to be vintage (80s, anyone?) a chart for how badass you have to be at biking before you’re safe on the main roads, maps of where it’s safe to ride without a helmet and where it’s not safe to ride alone, a formula for the ratio of number of gears to level of cool, and various other riding tips and rules that I don’t know about.

Also, instructions on how to exude that air of extreme badassery and devil-may-care that only bike couriers and serious commuters have.

And how to not get hit by vehicles.

A sort-of Success Story

On Monday my sister and her fiance and I went to the beach. Since I haven’t seen the ocean since 2010, it was a wonderful experience.

The day started out quite normally. While driving over we rapped along to Vanilla Ice and Will Smith (we ballin’, yo,) sang along to Adele and the Backstreet Boys, and bounced around to some of Jessie’s random dance music.

We found a beach in Oceanside, and after traversing through a mysterious and wet tunnel (in which I was reminded that Toms are terrible shoes for stepping in puddles,) we arrived at a stony beach.

My sister and I share a tick where we look at inanimate objects and see other things in them. For example, this might just look like a bunch of rocks to you–

But Jessie, upon sighting this stone, exclaimed, “It has a nose!” which became instantly evident to me as well.

And when I see driftwood, I often don’t see driftwood.

Anyway.

We took some obligatory posed dancer photos, which I may or may not add into this post once Chris-topher shares them with me.

But the photos are not the point!

After frolicking on the beach we were driving along the Pacific scenic highway, in search of another worthy beach. Suddenly, I realized that the conversation had shifted and Jessie and Chris were talking about teaching me to drive a car with a manual transmission. Since we were currently in such a vehicle, I started trying to backpedal, frantically, yet subtly. But as reluctant as I was to be taught the function of this type of vehicle by my sister and almost-brother-in-law (“I know how in theory,” I said, “Just not in practice,”) their stronger wills and my underlying desire to know how to do everything won out.

I found myself behind the wheel, foot on the clutch and hand on the… I don’t even know what it’s called, gear-shifter-stick-thingy. Since I’ve moved, I haven’t driven much– this excursion makes three times behind the wheel of a car since January, so I was like this.

My brain while driving such an unfamiliar car.

“Okay, shift into first and ease the clutch out really slowly while giving it a little gas,” Jessie instructed, patiently. After a couple false starts, I managed to get the car going, into second through fifth gears, and we were cruising along nicely until I had a sudden lapse of confidence.

I downshifted more abruptly than was probably good for the engine, braked, and pulled over into a little graveled driveway.

Jessie and Chris were kindly pep-talking me when two large pitbulls ran up from the house that belonged to the driveway in question. Dogs don’t scare me unless they’re barking and showing their teeth right outside my inconveniently open window. This interruption provided me with the motivation to continue driving again, and after again a false start (there were dogs in front of the car, okay?) I got out onto the road again.

I was gaining coordination and confidence, and Chris pointed to a park where we could park and eat our sort-of picnic. I slowed and turned without issue, shifted down to second, and started to park.

“Waaarrgh!” I yelled, “There’s no power steering!”

I cranked the wheel with difficulty, tried to shift into first, and killed the engine, halfway into the parking spot. I restarted, and per Chris’s instruction, let the clutch out really slowly without giving it any gas as to ease gently into the parking spot.

Thrice I tried– thrice I failed.

Finally on my fourth try, I scooted the car the remaining six feet into the parking spot before the engine jerkily died– but I got into the parking spot straight.

Overall? Success.

Inside Voices

Sometimes, the day before I am scheduled to blog, I don’t have ideas. I usually have a few hours of siting staring at my computer screen hopelessly, desperately wishing that I would suddenly be struck with a lightning bolt of inspiration. However, I think some of the least interesting experiences of my life have been provided by the internet, so yesterday I planned to go to the climbing gym.

After inviting my sister along to this rather athletic outing, I rather abruptly changed my plans when she said, “I don’t wanna be inside today.” (she also spotted Waldo driving by, but I’ll leave that story to her.) I realized that being outside in the park with her and her fiance was a grand idea, so I switched into normal clothes and trucked down to the bus stop, worried that I might miss my bus.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

When I boarded 35, I was surprised to hear several raised voices on the normally quiet bus, and as I walked toward my typical destination of the back, I quickly veered off course when I spotted the sources of the voices.

Filling up most of the back section was 7 or 8 frat boys, sprawled around, passing a can of Monster Energy drink.

At first, their shouts of “We’re in Lake Oswego now!” and “That’s a big-ass house!” (Big ass-house, I thought,) annoyed me a lot. Then, I realized they were very much the opposite of clever and witty, and I find idiots to be amusing. And that’s when I started taking notes of their conversation. (Really kind of creepy of me, I know, but how else am I supposed to write entertaining blogs?)

Their shouts appeared to terrify the small children near the front of the bus, and they and their father escaped at the LO transit center. “And they flee!” I wrote, “I don’t blame ’em.”

We left LO and headed down highway 43, along the Willamette. One of the frat boys exclaimed something about the country club across the river being a house. “That’s not no house,” one of them said, and I wrote it down because I admittedly  judge people with grammar that horrible.

Then their conversation shifted from speculating on the surroundings (“They build fences so you can’t even see how rich they are from the road,” “They’d just slap handcuffs on you as soon as you step in the yard,” “Smell that river dude, it’s like a big cesspool,”) to tattoos.

One of the guys thought one of the other guys should get a Monster logo tattooed on his ribs, like it was being torn away. “The Monster symbol? I would never get that on me, never,” exclaimed the tattooee in question, and took a deep swig from the shared Monster can.

Then their conversation moved to who could “smoke” whom in foot races and/or who could do more pushups (“I was a runningback for six years!” “I could smoke anyone in this bus.”)

“This is the dumbest conversation I’ve ever heard,” I wrote, “I have such difficulty not laughing at stupid people.”

A lady boarded the bus about ten minutes away from downtown and sat two rows in front of me. The frat boys were, throughout the ride, cursing loudly and profusely, and no-one seemed to notice. It’s something you just learn to tolerate riding public transit in Portland– unless, of course, you’re this lady in question.

She seemed immune to most curses, but every time the frat boys would drop an f-bomb, she would whirl around, with a look on her face something like this.

I seriously never have seen anyone in my life whose eyebrows or the corners of her mouth have been forced into such angry positions.

She was so angry. I stifled so many bursts of laughter. One man a row ahead of me, at one point, turned around, observed the frat boys in the midst of a particularly heated exchange, then turned to the front again, laughing out loud. That man was awesome.

About two minutes before 35’s penultimate stop downtown, one of the frat boys finally noticed Angry Lady’s infuriated glares, and said to his companions, “Dudes, inside voices.”

“Why?” one of them veritably shouted in reply, “Because,” the first frat boy uttered in a hushed and urgent voice, “I think we just pissed off that lady.”

For the remaining moments, they were slightly more silent, but burst into their loudness once again as they disembarked at the same stop as me, bee-lining across the street to the McDonald’s.

I sat on the curb, furiously scribbling other snippets of their conversations and drafting this blog; I was just relieved that they didn’t get on my next bus.

 

The Journal, Stranger Repellent

Since I’ve been living in Lake Oswego, I’ve been riding public transit more and more. This is fine with me–  Trimet does well getting me to the few destinations I pursue that I can’t access on my feet or scooter.

Riding at night, however, is another matter entirely. I have yet to brave Trimet after dark. I’m not sure my reasoning is rational, but I just have a gut feeling that creepers are more prone to blatant creepage after the sun has gone down. A few weeks ago I posted a status on Facebook whining about this fact. My friend Andrew Gross had a great piece of wisdom– he suggested that the key to bus safety was to be the guy that no-one sits next to.

“Brilliant!” I thought, “I’ll grow a nasty beard!”

Jests ensued, including the suggestions that I stop bathing and let my hair revert to dreadlocks, or wear this in lieu of the beard I cannot grow.

Today though,  I made a startling discovery.

As I rode the 35 into downtown, I cradled my moleskine journal in my lap, drafting a blog which I may or may not write on Wednesday.

I wrote vigorously as the thoughts freed themselves from my brain through the escape route of my pen. Every few sentences I looked up from my black and white world to observe the people who came and went from the bus, as is my habit. Also by habit, I moved my purse from the seat next to me to the floor as the bus began to fill.

However full the bus got, though, no-one took the seat next to me. The young man across the aisle stole furtive glances in my direction.

Suddenly intrigued by the empty seat beside me, I watched the next batch of passengers board. A few people walked my way, toward the back of the bus. Each of them glanced at the notes in my lap and chose a seat somewhere else. I’m sure I imagined it, but they seemed nervous.

I smiled to myself, then picked up the offending book and scrawled (for I do scrawl) a few more sentences cursing daylight savings time (for there were four people napping on the bus today as opposed to the usual none.)

It may have been my admittedly slightly hipsterific attire, or the admitted pretentious attitude known to go along with Moleskine notebooks (don’t judge me, they’re so awesome,) or maybe today was just a lucky day.

But I like to think that people assumed I would write judgmental things about them if they sat next to me. (Which I might.)

The judgmental look on my face isn’t on purpose, though.

Also included in the strenuous drawing is ugly bus seats!

As long as the people sitting behind me don’t read over my shoulder, I should be good to go.

 

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