Archive for the ‘city dwellers’ Category
Here’s my year 2015, recapped in approximate order. I’ve been doing very little blogging despite much happening in my life, but the new year is a nice time to reflect on how things have been developing.
When you’ve lived in a place for awhile and move away, the gradual changes become more obvious with each separate visit. But I think all longtime residents of Washington DC would agree that development in the city is accelerating. Neighborhoods like Shaw, Navy Yard, Bloomingdale, and 14th Street (does this stretch of 14th from about Q to U Streets have its own name yet?) have seen significant upheaval in the last year or so since I’ve moved away. And the sheer amount of construction that’s happening even now is staggering.
This past weekend we caught the Crafty Bastards art market (following the trends from Adams Morgan to Union Market), saw the new streetcars on their test runs along the H Street tracks, and happened upon some Art All Night activities in Shaw. Performers scaling the column of a building, a few pieces played for the crowd in the street by the Batala drummers, and masses of people crowding the reimagined Wonder Bread Factory.
And also: lots of new hometown brews.
We took a little break from work and spent a few days in Chicago this past Labor Day weekend. My second time in the city was a new look at the skyscraper-filled Midwestern city on Lake Michigan.
My first visit, in 2007 for Pitchfork Music Fest, was a short roadtrip from DC. I stayed in a downtown Chicago hostel in a room with ten (!) people, listened to Sonic Youth, GZA, and others play great sets in the park, took a very informative walking tour of the city, and tried deep dish pizza for the first time at Pizzeria Uno.
This visit, 7 years later, I tried an AirBnB rental for the first time and loved it, attended the incredible blowout wedding of two good friends, explored the “finally up-and-coming” Logan Square neighborhood, took an equally informative river boat tour of Chicago architecture, and had deep dish at Lou Malnati’s.
And the first time I was in Chicago I had no idea that in the 19th century, the city (buildings and all!) had been raised and that the original flow of the river had been reversed, both for water sanitation reasons. Knowing this gave me renewed respect for Chicago’s history and its incredible feats of engineering, not to mention its architectural heritage.
We were sad to leave Chicago and city life behind, but glad to leave the humidity. Southern California living makes you soft.
CicLAvia’s “Iconic Wilshire Boulevard” event this Sunday brought the masses out to Wilshire Boulevard on foot, bikes, skateboards, and even some creative ‘freak bikes’ to see their city streets in a new way: without its usual stream of cars. The six miles of Wilshire blocked off to cars and opened to people became the stage for spontaneous activity, crowds drifting between music and food vendors and art, families lounging on the lawns and people-watching.
I’m fully supportive of these open streets events, modeled off of Bogotá, Colombia’s successful and recurring Ciclovía event (it happens weekly – can you believe it?). I loved being able to volunteer during Santa Barbara’s own version of it, SB Open Streets, which took place for the first time in November 2013, and it was inspiring to witness another such event close to home. CicLAvia, a larger event that has now been running for four years, has two more events planned for this year: “Heart of LA” on October 5th and “South LA” on December 7th.
Here’s the continuation of my coffeeneuring in 2013, with part one here. It was nice to complete this run in a new city, as last year’s trips took me around the Washington, DC area. My new home base has proven itself a fine land for coffee adventuring thus far.
Visit to Handlebar Coffee Roasters on Saturday, November 9th
128 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, California
Ride distance: 14.7 miles
This place is uber-hip and serves delicious coffee. The patio, tucked in an alley and open to the cafe counter, is small but welcoming, and on this particular weekend afternoon happiness seemed effortless. It’s amazing what a space for enjoying the art of coffee can do for the neighborhood.
See? The art of coffee.
The quality and abundance of produce here is staggering. The first time we went to the neighborhood farmers market here was eye-opening. So much grows here, and availability of certain fruits or veggies depends less on following the seasons than it did back east. In DC, we shopped much more seasonally: the market only ran from May to November, and what you could purchase was highly dependent on what was available that time of year. At the Goleta farmers market, I found not only peaches, berries, tomatoes, kale, squash, meats, and dairy, but local dates, figs, nuts, and honey, as well as many, many vegetables I couldn’t identify.
Did you know there are many varieties of avocado? I had no idea. The flavor varies: some are nuttier than others, some grow much larger, some are rounder while others are more pear-shaped. One of the many avocado vendors this morning gave me three free avocados when I paid for mine. That’s something you wouldn’t get at the supermarket.
It never registered in my mind that in Washington, DC, it’s just not as easy to get fresh, local produce without going out of your way. The produce stocked at the supermarket is shipped in from hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. The farms represented at the DC farmers markets came from further away than you’d expect, too. The Washington, DC metropolitan area is growing too urban for farms – look at how much Loudoun County, an exburb of DC located about 40 miles from downtown, has shifted from its historic roots as a farming community – so they’re located further out in the rural parts of Maryland, Virginia, or Pennsylvania. And produce is much more expensive in DC. In Goleta, many of the farmers market vendors are from within Santa Barbara County, and at least one of them (Fairview Gardens) only has to drive their produce two miles to bring it to market. Most of the farms are right in Goleta or Santa Barbara. You can get fifty-cent avocados or a huge bunch of kale for a dollar at the regular supermarket. We’ve been eating well.
But that’s an inevitable difference between being located right in the middle of a huge agricultural area versus being on a more built-up coast. Besides the people, whom I miss above all, there are other things I prefer about DC living:
- The abundance of Asian supermarkets in the suburbs. We have small Asian markets in Goleta and Santa Barbara, but they’re overpriced.
- Our favorite Ethiopian takeout place, Zenebech Injera in Shaw. Washington, DC has the largest concentration of Ethiopians in the U.S. and Ethiopian food is some of the best affordable cuisine around.
- All the neighborhoods in DC – and parts of Arlington – are only a few miles away. Things are much less dense here, and it seems like a lot of the places we go to are in suburban-style shopping centers. Going through busy parking lots on a bike is the worst.
I’ll surely miss the crisp autumn weather that should be approaching DC soon. Even the winter holds fond memories of getting bundled up to ride to work in the dark, with only my thoughts and a bright beam of light leading the way, and the sudden comfort of leaving the outside freeze and entering a heated building. Everyone here tells me I won’t miss winter. I think it’ll depend on reading the more subtle cues that mark the passage of seasons here.
The sun actually came out today in San Francisco, making it an easy decision to walk over for the park to picnic away the afternoon, soak up vitamin D, and wander through the de Young Museum. We spent time catching up with friends who are both former DC residents and new residents to SF, having lived here less than a year each. I love discussing differences in lifestyle from east coast city living versus west coast city living. There’s much more homelessness here, some of it voluntary.
The Lawn Bowling Club was out, playing what looked to me like bocce. The signs, however, forbade playing bocce on the lawn bowling greens – so there must be some major difference. They invited us to come learn how to play during their free lesson tomorrow, but we’re back on the road then.
The view from the observation deck of the de Young Museum was improved by the lack of fog that is quintessential San Francisco. We could see all the populated streets fanning out on the hillsides.
The museum was designed by the prominent architects Herzog & de Meuron and I felt that the building was as much on display as the collections of art. In the cafe courtyard, people were out soaking up the sun.
We made sure, of course, to eat enough Mexican food to fuel us for the last few days of our trip. Continuing south tomorrow, hopefully with fresh legs!
Today we made it into San Francisco! This was the eleventh straight day of hilly riding on the west coast without a break – though we’ve decided to take a needed rest day tomorrow.
This morning we continued our ride up and down through Marin County.
In the early afternoon, our friend Maya caught up with us on Route 1 and guided us to her place in the city. We took a coffee break in the touristy Sausalito, then waited for a few minutes amidst the hubbub of tourists on the Golden Gate Bridge until 3:30, when the west side of the bridge opens for cyclist-only passage. Navigating the east side looked much too chaotic, with tourists shakily riding rental bikes and abruptly stopping everywhere to take photos.
San Francisco is hillier than I remember it from a family trip ten years ago; the grade of some of these busy streets seems to defy logic. Yet buildings sit, positioned at angles to the streets and sidewalks, while drivers zoom up, cyclists trudge by, and streetcar lines trace the grey skies.
Pockets of the city do see some sun, though often too briefly.
One of my favorite legs of the journey so far was taking Historic Columbia River Highway for sections of our route from The Dalles into Portland. The construction of this scenic highway first started in 1913, but in the 1930s it was beginning to be thought of as too narrow and dangerous. Interstate 84, which runs along at river level, replaced the Columbia River Highway by the 1960s.
More recent efforts to restore and reconnect the old highway are bringing the highway back for a scenic alternative to I-84. Some portions are open to all traffic, but other sections had been converted into trails closed to motorized vehicles. The stretch between Cascade Locks and Troutdale (just outside Portland) was memorable for its lush waterfalls, serpentine wanderings, and sweeping vistas.
Gorgeous, and enormous, Multnomah Falls.
One of the biggest perks of staying with family: being fed huge meals! Korean dinners, waffle breakfasts, and as much fresh fruit as we could eat. It was wonderful spending hours catching up and sharing stories.
Portland’s giving us a taste of Pacific Northwest weather, as it’s been mostly in the 60s and a bit drizzly. We had the chance to walk around downtown and see some cool transit in action, including the Portland streetcar.
Some neat old factories-turned-condos in the downtown, as well.
We browsed around Powell’s Books, had some beer and some coffee, and skipped the enormous line for Voodoo Doughnut (very much reminded me of the perpetual line outside of Georgetown Cupcake).
Next we’re heading to the coast – the other coast! – where we’ll mostly be following the Oregon Coast along Highway 101. Advice, recommendations, comments are always much appreciated.
It’s always great to take time off from the actual bicycling part of a bike tour to take in the places we’re visiting. Since we’ve been traveling to many towns and cities that are new to us, we’ve taken time to walk and bike the streets, try the local fare, and talk to as many people as we can meet.
Red Wing, Minnesota is home to Red Wing Shoes, as well as the largest boot in the world. Kitschy, but we like documenting the middle America claims to fame.
Going from Red Wing to Hastings, Minnesota took us along the Canyon Valley Trail for the first ten miles, as suggested by our hosts Jim and Jennifer. They noted that after that stretch of flat trail, we’d have to climb back up out of the valley, so we snacked on our leftover baguette and cheese before tackling the climb. Fortunately, County Road 7 ended up being a gradual incline – no steep grades to force us into our lowest gears. We made it into Hastings by lunchtime, then had heat and headwinds heading west from there.
With its sprawling surrounding suburbia, it seemed we were approaching the Twin Cities for hours. Rosemount was an enormous community of new suburban development in the middle of farmland. There was no relief from the midday sun as we wound our way through the endless, identical streets lined with cookie-cutter homes.
In Eagan, a more established area closer in towards the Twin Cities, we were passed on the sidewalk bike route by a cyclist who was headed in the same general direction as us. I told Adam we should ask him how to cross the bridge into the city, so we sped up to catch up to him at the next light. As it turned out, Scott was also headed to Minneapolis and said we could follow him into the city. This was a great help, as there were many branches of the trail – along with a seemingly complex detour for one of the bike routes – that would have meant many checks and re-checks of the map. He also told us about the great Minneapolis trail system that goes around the city’s lakes, where he was planning to ride that evening. We parted ways on the Minnehaha Trail, and Adam and I headed up to link up with the Greenway.
The Midtown Greenway is known as the “bicycle freeway,” a three-lane path that runs underneath Minneapolis along a former rail-trail line. One lane is reserved for pedestrians, the other two for bi-directional bicycle traffic. It’s a good system that lets you pass joggers without spooking them. There’s also a Bike Center you can access directly from the Greenway, with a coffee and lunch bar along with the Freewheel Bike shop.
Continued, with more photos, after the cut.