Wednesday, September 30, 2009

50's Sapporo cycle chic


My mother and I went to Sapporo last week. Sapporo is our birth place. Mother attended at the class reunion of her junior high school and high school. She showed me the photo albums and a classbook of those days.

These are the photographs when mother and friends made a cycling trip to the Odori-park (main street park) in Sapporo. Mother remembers the event very clearly. She borrowed a sweater from her mother(My grandmother) and wore it. She said "I borrowed my mother's green striped sweater because I wanted to look fashionable, but I didn't have anything of my own to wear."

A cute pose!

They eat lunch box and rice balls?


Sapporo Autumn Fest is being held now in the Odori-park. I ate ramen there!

I was not able to ride a bicycle on this trip because there was no time. but I know that it is splendid to ride a bicycle in Sapporo and Hokkaido. I will ride a bicycle with my husband by all means next time I'm in Sapporo.

2009 Sappro

Sunday, September 27, 2009

ride to Tryon Creek

I had a nice ride over the weekend with my friend Aaron Piland. He's one half of APAK, a husband and wife art unit much like ourselves. (They have been doing that much longer than us) He's been living in Portland longer as well, but have not been into riding the bike so much until recently. He says that I inspired him to ride the bike more. I think there's plenty of inspirations to ride the bike here, but if that's what he says, I'm glad to have been the catalyst.

We met at the Sellwood Riverfront Park and headed to Tryon Creek State Park. We crossed the Sellwood Bridge to the West side of the Willamette River. The last time, I crossed the Sellwood Bridge was during Bridge Pedal, but the road there is not exactly bike friendly, so I have been reluctant to go that way. Aaron told me that there is a way through a cemetery to the Tryon State Park.

Tryon Creek State Park
Aaron at Riverview Cemetery

If you follow Bike Portland, you might have come across this post last week about dangerous speed bumps in a cemetery. The cemetery we went through is that cemetery. We were well prepared thanks to Bike Portland, so we didn't encounter any danger. It's quite a climb through the cemetery. Aaron's bike has no gears or to be exact no derailleurs, so he had quite a difficult time climbing (and sometimes walking the bike). He wants to get a derailleur for his bike, but he hasn't been able to find a cheap one. I guess he's not yet used to the prices of bike parts. When you think of it as transportation vehicle, it doesn't seem so expensive. Anyway, I hope he will find a happy bike set-up soon.

After we got through the cemetery, we made our way to Tryon Creek.

View Larger Map

There was a nice bike path through the woods as we got close.
We parked our bikes and went for a bit of a hike in the park. This is not a park with a huge lawn, but more like woods with trails through it.

Tryon Creek State Park
Lots of big trees and plants

We walked a bit and then found a spot by a creek to sit down for a break. We both brought some snacks, fruits and hot drinks (me coffee, Aaron tea). We sat there and ate while talking about everything from Hopi legends to polar shifts. It's always interesting talking to Aaron. He knows a lot about Buckminster Fuller, that's for sure.

We then walked to the Western end of the park where there is a community farm.
Tryon Creek State Park
There were goats, chickens and sheep there as well as vegetables,

Tryon Creek State Park
some fun looking buildings,

and a swing!

Such a nice park and only an hour's bike ride from home (closer if you live in South Portland). Going back, through the cemetery, it was like a maze and we had to be a little more careful as we were going down hill and watch out for those new speed bumps. It wasn't an epic ride or anything, but it's good to combine riding the bike with some walking in the woods. It's an especially nice time of the year to do that.

Be sure to check out APAK. They have an Etsy shop like us with super nice and affordable artwork as well.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bicycle Citizenship Manifest?

Last week, I came across about 3 different online petitions/pledges in the space of about two days.

The Google Trike (Photo: Google)

First was the Google Maps 'bike there' Feature Request which is pretty self explanatory, but in case you're not too familiar with Google Maps, it has a feature called 'Get Directions' in which you can enter your starting point and destination and the choose among 'By car', 'By public transit' or 'Walking' and then Google Maps will draw a line to show you the way you can take. The petition asks Google to map out bike lanes and enable users to find safe routes by bike to get to where they need to go. I think this would definitely be a welcome feature for a lot of us whose main transportation is the bicycle. I think this will take some time to realize, but I suspect Google is already working on it as they have been recording the streetview shots with their special Google Trike. It was apparently in Portland recently to ride the bike paths here. So, I think that will be happening sometime in the near future. I signed the petition anyway, as I thought a little encouragement couldn't hurt. The petition really says some good things. Take a look and sign it if you agree.

The second one was the
Cyclists Against Reckless Drivers Petition
. This was also a petition which seeks to make the world safer for cyclists. I totally agree with it, but I have not signed it as I'm not sure if I have the necessary status to do so. I am a permanent resident, but not a US citizen and since this petition seeks to change law in a specific region, I don't know if this is something I can sign and be accounted for.

The third one which I came across while reading Tokyo's Cycle Square Concierge Blog was the "Bicycle Citizenship Manifest" (in my rough translation). It's written in Japanese, so I will translate it into English below. I must say that even though this 'manifest' was written with good intentions, I can't say that I agree with everything it says. It seems to be written with a different mentality than that of my own.

Please note that this is a very very rough translation by me and not an official translation by the author of the manifest. I am bilingual in English and Japanese, but I am not a trained translator.

Bicycle Citizenship Manifest

We envision a society in which the bicycle, which helps to improve our health and the environment and will become an important means of transportation in the 21st century, to become a beloved means to enjoy our lives. To make this into reality, we seek "citizenship" of the bicycle by following the manifest and heretofore act as a group to demand for improvement in bicycle infrastructure.

1. We will ride as part of traffic and will adhere to left side traffic. (traffic is on the left side in Japan)
2. We will always yield to pedestrians and ride in the street along with automobiles.
3. We will follow traffic rules, stop at signals and always stop at the stop sign and check for safety.
4. We will wear helmets, use lights at night time and will enroll in insurance in case of accidents.
5. We will supervise our bikes correctly and will never abandon them.
6. We will demand safety in our bikes and maintain them properly.
7. We demand car drivers to recognize us as legitimate part of traffic.
8. We seek roads to be maintained for us to be able to ride safe and pleasantly and removal of illegally parked cars which undermine our safety.
9. We seek convenient and theft proof bicycle parking and facilities for showering and changing clothes.
10. We will work had for "citizenship" of the bicycle.

Where to begin... I think it does say many good things, but I think for the most part, this is purely for the very dedicated and hardcore cyclists and not something for the majority of people who may not be cycling enthusiasts, but uses the bike to get around. I think of myself as being far more of a bicycle enthusiast than most, but still I can't say that I agree with everything in this manifest. I am not sure what will become of this, but I think this may be just a part of a bigger plan to use this as leverage for improved infrastructure.

I'm all for better bike infrastructure. I think that's all that Japan really needs actually. There's no need a set of strict rules just to ride the bike. For most people, it's just another way to get around. In Japan, it seems like there's a huge gap between the hardcore cyclists and folks riding around on mamachari. It's almost as if these elite cyclists don't even recognize the mamachari riders as fellow bicyclists. There's a huge gap in mentality as well, but I think if the infrastructure is improved and it becomes safer and easier to ride, the mamachari riders will begin to travel much further than their immediate locality.

I really wonder if this is the way to go about it. It's kind of like a statement by honor roll students, but it's not really realistic if we are seeking a better environment for everyone to ride bikes in.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kyoto by bike

Kyoto cycling

The last post about the Shimanami Kaido was written with info and images I'd gathered online, but I remembered that earlier this year before we begun this blog, we took a trip to Kyoto and rode around on rental bikes quite a bit. We did write about our trip on our Japanese blog fairly extensively, but I thought maybe we should share that experience here as well.

as you may or may not know is the old capitol of Japan where the emperor had resided for most of Japan's history, so it is old and has a lot historical architecture and old culture. I had visited there briefly during elementary school, but I think I was way too young to really appreciate all that Kyoto had to offer back then. So, it was really cool to spend one full week there as an adult and explore the city.

We explored Kyoto with various modes of transportation including the train, bus, bicycle and by foot and the bicycle was by far the most efficient and pleasant way to see Kyoto.

Kyoto cycling

We rented our bikes from Kyoto Cycling Tour Project. Their bikes are their original brand called "Gin Rin" (Silver Wheels) and I found them to be pretty nice, definitely far better than your average rental bike. It has a very solid frame and comes with nice fat tires, front basket and 3 speeds which suffices for most city riding.


Kyoto is very bike friendly and is easy to ride on most streets and you can get to most destinations from the center of the city within 30 minutes or so. It was pretty cold as it was January when we were there, but I found it much nicer to travel by bike rather than taking the train or the bus which are disorientating.


The Kamogawa (or Kamo River) runs through the city from North to South and it's a very scenic place to ride your bike. We rode on it quite often on our way to various sights we were going and it has a nice relaxing atmosphere to it.


I'm not sure what more to say about without going into specific routes we took which would be very complicated, but if you are planning on visiting Kyoto which I recommend at least once in your life, renting bikes to see the sights will add so much to your experience.

Here's my Flickr set of our Kyoto trip. (including non-bicycle related pictures)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Touring in Japan - Shimanami Kaido

One of the nice things about starting a new blog is that you have an excuse to get in contact with other bloggers. Of course, you can do that even if you don't have a blog, but if you have a blog, the person you contact can see what you are about and so you are on a more equal footing.

When we started this blog, I emailed a bunch of blogs we've been fans of just to say hi and that we've added their links to our blog. One of the blogs I contacted was Candy Cranks. Candy Cranks is a blog written by women from all over the world. I'm not all that into the fixies thing which Candy Cranks often write about, but there is something about them that's different. I think it's that they have so many different perspectives and their love of the bike come across as very genuine. So when I emailed them, I got a very nice and quick reply from Meg in Sydney who I assume is the brains behind Candy Cranks. She was very complimentary about our paper mache bikes (she did a nice post for us!) and also told us about her plan to tour in Japan on a tandem with her partner and asked us if we knew of some good routes there. I replied that I haven't really toured much (or at all) in Japan, but we'll look for information and get back to her, maybe even do a post about the findings on our blog.

Well, that was a couple of months ago, and we still hadn't done the research and the post. I knew her trip was coming up soon and then I saw this article of her trip there so far over at Candy Cranks. I'm glad to see that they are having a great time. How cool is their custom tandem bike(aka WASP)!

I left a comment there and suggested a route called the Shimanami Kaido. It's a route which runs from the Island of Shikoku to the main island of Honshu which goes over the numerous small islands in between. I have of course never been there, but it's definitely a place I would love to ride one of these days. I don't know if they will see my comment in time or if they will ride there anyway, but I thought I would write about the Shimanami Kaido route for this post.

Here's what city of Onomichi says about the Shimanami Kaido:
The Shimanami Kaido (“kaido” - literally means “sea road”) is an expressway which links the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku through a series of bridges and islands. It spans the 60km distance between Onomichi City, in Hiroshima prefecture, and Imabari City, in Ehime prefecture. (Please note that the total cycling distance is 70km, including bridge access ramps.)

Thousands of people flock here annually to enjoy a fun bicycle ride in a great environment. Some cyclists complete the full trek in a matter of hours, and some take a more relaxed pace and spend the night in one of the accommodations along the way. And while a few people actually make the return trip by bicycle, many opt to make the trip back by bus or ferry.

Without having the experience of being there ourselves, the best I can do is look online for information. Here's a blog post from Francois' Japan Blog about his experience biking the route.

Just for perspective, you can see in this map below where the route is located within Japan.

View Larger Map

City of Onomichi which is at the Northern end of the route is located roughly 60km East of the city of Hiroshima and it's quite far from other major cities such as Osaka, Kyoto and especially Tokyo.

Anyway, congratulations to Meg and Tarn for taking on such an adventure; traveling internationally with a tandem bike and touring/camping in a strange country! When I move back there and we both have our "good" bikes, we will definitely venture out into the Japanese countryside. Thanks for inspiring us!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Columbia River Bike Trail

Yesterday, I went on a ride on the bike trail by the Columbia River. I've looked to see if there's a name for the trail, but I couldn't find it, so I'm just gonna refer to it as the Columbia River Bike Trail.

Columbia River Bike Trail
(does this qualify as a Panda portrait?)

It is a perfectly nice scenic bike trail much like the Springwater Trail which runs through South East Portland, but for various reasons, it doesn't seem to be quite as popular. I think the main reason is that it is relatively far from the residential area of Portland. The trail is about 6 miles from where I live and 2 miles from the nearest residential area.

Anyway, I thought I'd share with you some pictures and some thoughts I had about the ride.

View Larger Map

We'll begin at the Peninsula Park in North Portland which is about a mile from my place and it has a nice rose garden. From there, I took Ainsworth St. Eastward all the way to 33rd Ave. where I turned left. About Ainsworth, it's a very nice street with relatively little traffic and it takes you through town quickly without having to stop too often, but it doesn't have bike lanes and has on-street parking instead. It would be so much better if they got rid of the on-street parking and installed bike lanes. There's plenty of places for car parking on side streets there. I'm getting side tracked, but I think it's good to maybe write these kinds of things. After you turn onto 33rd Ave, you go Northward and cross over Lombard St. where it can seem a bit scary on a bike, but mostly it just seems like it and not so much in reality. After that, you continue up North on 33rd Ave. until right before NE Marine Drive, there is a separate bike path to which you can turn left to get to.

Columbia River Bike Trail

From there, you ride parallel with Marine Dr. Eastward for about a half mile and then cross Marine Dr. and ride on the path next to Columbia River. This is a pretty nice area with some parts of the shore being sandy beaches. It's a nice place for some Summertime river fun.

Columbia River Bike Trail

The grasses along the path were all brown during the Summer, but now it's turning more green and there's some flowers as well. This area is just North of the Portland International Airport (PDX) and as your ride, you will see the airport terminal get larger.

Columbia River Bike Trail
(PDX terminal to the right)

The path continues all the way until past the I-205 freeway and then you have to ride on Marine Dr. 's bike lane for a while until the path starts again on the Southern side of the street.

Columbia River Bike Trail

This portion of the path is between the highway and some buildings, so it's not quite as scenic. You also have to cross some streets a couple of times and stop if there's traffic. A lot of people (or the majority of the few cyclists) seemed to stay on the highway bike lane as it was easier. The bike path then crossed to the Northern side of the highway again and I found this area to be the most scenic part of the whole ride.

Columbia River Bike Trail

Maybe you can't tell the difference from before with this picture, but I think it seemed nicer maybe because it was more cut off from the highway and it seems like it's mostly just the path and the river. The path didn't go on too long before it came to an end though.

Columbia River Bike Trail

Apparently the shore beyond this point was Private Property.

I think that was maybe because of this.

Columbia River Bike Trail

Houses on the river!

seems like a fun place to live. What looks like garages, I would guess contain boats.

Found a strange sign there (if you look closely at the picture).

Columbia River Bike Trail

Is that a nuke shelter submerged in the river!?

If I'd been a young teenager, I might've tried to sneak in and see what that was.

Anyway, this seemed like a good place to turn back, so I took a break there at the riverbank and had a little treat.

Columbia River Bike Trail

I rode back the exact way I came.

The thing about this trail is that much of it is very exposed to the wind, so you may have to pedal harder at times than in other places, but you will also have the benefit of the tail wind at times. It's a little cut off from the residential areas with the 2 miles in between being kind of a bland highway with warehouses and office parks. Most of the cyclists I saw on the trail were more of the sporty kind too.

I think if the way there was more interesting and if the bike path continued uninterrupted, it could see more use by other kinds of bike folks as well. You also have the 2 freeways nearby which crosses to the state of Washington. I heard it's possible to cross the I-5 by bike, but that it can be difficult if you don't know what you're doing. It would be cool to be able to bike to Washington easily as it is actually pretty close. I think developing this area to be more bike friendly and have easy bike access into Washington would be a very worthwhile thing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The mental aspect

I think it varies greatly from person to person, but I think in doing whatever you do in life, it takes some motivation and mental readiness for it. A lot of people seem perfectly capable of commuting in a fully packed train or gridlocked freeway traffic to a mind numbing job day in and day out. I'm not one of those people.

I think this also applies to bicycling. After having done the ride to the Columbia River Gorge, the previous weekend, I wasn't quite mentally up to doing it or an equivalent ride again this past weekend. (I did do a shorter more leisurely ride) That's the nice thing about not being a committed athlete. I don't have to keep some training schedule to keep a certain level of form. I can ride whenever and however long I feel like.

ride to Multnomah Falls

During the ride, on the way back from the Gorge when I stopped roadside to buy some fresh corn, I had a brief conversation with the elder gentleman selling the corn. He asked me where I had come from and how far I'd ridden. I told him I came from Portland and had just gone to the Multnomah Falls and he seemed impressed by that and told me about friends of his who tried to do a similar ride once, but stopped halfway and called him to come pick them up. The ride is pretty challenging, but I think they would have been capable of it. I think it was just that they weren't quite ready mentally for the physical exertion it required. For me, it would be the absolute last option to call a friend for a car ride if for some reason, I felt I couldn't ride my bike any longer. It would take quite a lot for that to happen like the bike frame breaking in half which is highly unlikely. Even if the Max light rail (which I rode on to bypass the sprawling outskirts of Portland) had stopped operating for some reason, I probably would have ridden back rather than calling for a ride. I would probably find a Denny's or something like that and eat & rest a bit and then ride home.

I think it's sometimes difficult to do things we're not accustomed to doing. For example, an American visiting Japan for the first time might have difficulty at finishing a bowl of ramen (not instant ramen, but a big bowl of steaming hot ramen from a ramen shop) while a Japanese traveling to the US may have a hard time finishing a big pastrami sandwich. I think in both cases, they can't finish it not because they are full, but more because they are just not used to eating the seemingly strange food. I think the same can be said for cycling long distances. If you haven't ridden your bike over distances longer than just casually riding around town, you may not be mentally ready for the effort it requires, but I think you can get used to it pretty quickly as your body does too. Then you can challenge yourself to go even longer.

Not sure where I'm going with this, but I think you can surprise yourself with how far you can ride if you try. It's definitely a different experience than passively sitting inside a car and stepping on the gas pedal.

abandoned bicycles