Monday, July 20, 2009

Back on the "X"

Last time I posted here (about a month and a half ago -- wow, what a long time) I also featured a pic of this little porch. But some things have changed! The bins that I was then "making soil" in (in part by ripping up cereal boxes into bits) now feature actual tomato plants (with baby tomatoes on them!). And, somehow, the bicycle that was also in that first pic has "grown" in this one. Unlike the plants that needed weeks (not to mention sun and water) to grow, the bicycle did all its growing, today -- I got my Xtracycle kit out of my storage unit, where it had been languishing for over a year now, and used it to stretch my bike another foot and a half and make it so I could carry the 65 lbs. or so of books that are on the back there (with my rabbinic ordination certificate in the cardboard on top of it all!).

Here are all the books, etc., unloaded at their destination and sitting by the elevator to get to my office upstairs. I've never really had a good place to hang my ordination certificate before, but my new office seems like a perfect place!

Here's another view of the bike loaded before departure:

It's so exciting for me to have an Xtracyle, again. True, I've still been able to bicycle commute and grocery shop without it. But shopping with a _regular_ bicycle seems so limiting after you've owned an Xtracycle -- you're always wondering if all the groceries, etc. will really fit, or if you can _really_ carry that large size of bleach home without busting your panniers (I'll never forget the time back in LA when I busted one of my brand new REI "Around Town" panniers the first time I used them by buying lots of large size liquid items at Smart and Final . . . bummer!).

It's not that the Xtracyle has _infinite_ cargo carrying capacity, but it's just so much more than you can hope to get on a standard bike. At K-Mart, today, I didn't even think twice about buying a lamp; it would have been really hard to figure out how to carry it on a standard bike. You can see the box with the lamp in it in the rear of the Xtracycle below, on the right side, along with a the rest of a total of some $110 worth of stuff I picked up at K-Mart and the supermarket.

The bike I _stretched_ is an old Giant Sedona I bought in LA around 2001 or so. I rode it all over LA, including up into the Sepulveda Pass (where my rabbinical school was) and along Mulholland Drive, which could be pretty exhilarating, especially after a rain when usually hazy LA became clear and beautiful. I call it "the junker" because it's in kind of rough shape. But now that I've X-ed it, I'm going to upgrade it some and have ordered about $300 worth of new parts, including two new wheels and a rear disc brake. The disc brake will come in pretty handy when the bike is loaded with a lot of stuff and when it rains. For now, I am getting by with _no_ rear brake. This is not as dangerous as it sounds (contrary to popular wisdom, front brakes are much more effective than rear brakes, especially when you are descending), but it's far from perfect. I have no rear gears hooked up either (turning the bike, effectively, into a 3-speed). This is not by design, so much, as just by practicality -- I'm just not enough of a bike mechanic to do the full conversion in one day. I hope to hook up the rear gears at least in the next few days. . . . . But, who knows if will really find time. . . . It's been a great summer, but one where I've been so consumed by my work (supervising/teaching six student chaplains we have with us for the summer) that not much else has gotten done (witness how I haven't blogged here at all!) . . . . Though, I can't really blame the lack of blogging just on being busy. I think I am a little overwhelmed by all the (good!) things going on in my life right now to be able to step back enough to reflect on them and write about them. Besides all the good times with Minna there is the fall -- when I start a doctoral program at NYU!!! . . . . I am so excited about that program. I've wanted to be doing doctoral work for a long time. And I think this is the next logical step for someone who has the kind of ambitions I do -- I don't just want to be involved in chaplain education (as a Clinical Pastoral Education, CPE, supervisor). I want to be involved in educating other _supervisors_. I want to be a voice in shaping the future of both rabbinic and pastoral education. I want to be able to say something about how people can be nurtured to be more compassionate and to be more effective leaders. I'm interested in that both for clergy and for doctors and other medical staff. . . . So, the doctorate is the place to go. . . So, I'm excited . . . And scared, too!!! :)

At times like this in my life, it's important to find ways to stay grounded. Cycling helps me do that. A cycling that is not just for exercise, but is part of a lifestyle -- a lifestyle that has an intent to be kinder to the earth by burning less petroleum than I would if I was driving just to do errands around town. A lifestyle that helps remind me that food is not something that just magically appears in the supermarket, but starts in soil that comes from the Earth that God gave us. A lifestyle where I do not just toss everything I don't consume into a landfill but where I try and recycle some of it (you can't really see it well, but the leftmost bin in the first pic above is a covered compost bin where we've been putting our food scraps).


Although I think the latest X configuration should do me for a while, but I think my future -- especially if there is a longer bike commute (with more hills) waiting for me -- may hold some serious upgrades. I love the idea of a Big Dummy like this guy has (the Big Dummy is frame purpose-built for an Xtracycle -- no _stretching_ needed, which eliminates the "flex" Xtracycle users know so well). I also find the Stoke Monkey electric assist system for the Xtracycle to be a fascinating concept. . . . . Yeah, I know, electric _assist_ sounds like cheating. . . . But I find pretty compelling this way that the Stoke Monkey folks answer that criticism:

Most electric bike products are designed for people who don’t, won’t, or can’t ride regular bicycles, even without passengers or cargo. Stokemonkey is different, designed for avid bikers who will continue to ride on their own power most of the time, but want a more capable car alternative some of the time. We don’t believe in replacing human power with electricity; we believe in replacing cars for work that even the strongest cyclists seldom if ever choose to handle without a car. Developed in a car-free household, Stokemonkey is for fellow riders who want to become more completely independent of cars in their daily lives.

Now if Stoke Monkey didn't cost nearly $2,000 maybe I would already have one! :)

[x-posted to abayye]

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