Monthly Archives: July 2010

Still Enjoying the Long Way Home

My commutes have been so lovely lately. Ever since I took the long way home for the Summer Games, I’ve continued taking the same relatively quiet route to and from work. Now I can’t believe that I never discovered this route for over two years.

The route is all calm two-lane streets with bike lanes. Both the car and bike traffic are much lighter and more considerate. Trees line the way, shading me from the hot sun. Kids wait on the corner for school buses. People walk their dogs.

Bonus: I pass right by one of the best cupcake shops in Chicago.

I feel like my commute is now more like a normal commute in a small or mid-sized city, instead of the hulking beast that is Chicago. The whole experience is totally worth the extra five minutes that my ride takes.

{I took these pictures today with my vintage Polaroid with expired film – that’s why they look funny}

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A Random Act of Kindness

To the Argo Tea girl handing out free smoothie samples on the street corner: thank you so much for bringing a sample to me while I was waiting at the stop light and hanging around to take back my empty cup when the light turned green. I did not ask you to do that, but you must have seen how longingly I looked at the smoothie in the 90 degree heat. You, my dear, are an angel.

What is the nicest random act of kindness you’ve encountered while riding your bike?

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Summer Games – Molly, Group Ride with Co-Workers

Another Summer Games contestant who entered via email is Molly from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Molly really went the distance, participating in part 3 of the games during her honeymoon in Montreal, and her stories always put smiles on our faces.

From Molly:

Librarian Cyclists

I organized lunchtime group ride for the library where I work. It was a small group, only 4 people, but we still had fun. We rode to the Farmer’s Market and I think we all came back with asparagus.

Story: There’s an organization in Ann Arbor that promotes sustainable transportation alternatives called getDowntown, and every May they have a Commuter Challenge where they get workplaces to compete to have people do the most sustainable commutes over the course of a month. The University of Michigan Library has a huge team, so I was inspired to do a little Commuter Challenge/Summer Games crossover and organized a lunchtime group ride from the library to the Wednesday Farmer’s Market. The weather was great but the turnout was low, probably because I forgot to send a reminder email. But the four of us who did gather had a fun ride to the market. One of our participants interviewed all the other participants for a segment on her radio show. She asked us all what we planned to buy at the market; I think we all said asparagus.

{Awesome! and I can’t resist including her sweet bike date story!}

Piet and Molly

Piet was impatient with my attempts at documentation. Anything for a chance to win a Batavus in the Let’s Go Ride a Bike Summer Games.

Story: We’re finally getting some spectacular weather here in Michigan, so after we got home from work on Friday we were still itching to ride our bikes some more. I thought, “Bike date!” ran off to put on some earrings and fancy shoes, and we biked to Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream. After the ice cream, we encountered a random gang of cyclists zooming around. We didn’t recognize any of them, which was weird, and it turns out they were all from out of town visiting. We joined their gang for awhile and made a haphazard loop around campus. It was totally spontaneous and fun, but I had trouble keeping up on my lazy commuter bike, so after awhile we gave up and had a leisurely pedal home.

{Thank you, Molly! To see all of Molly’s entries, visit her Summer Games Flickr set here.}

I love the idea of getting a group of friends or co-workers together for a lunchtime ride. Has anyone else done something like that?

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Easy Summer Commute

I took the Lakefront Trail on the way home, stopping to snap some pics with my little point-and-shoot. Feels like a long time since I enjoyed an easy summer commute on the Lakefront Trail.

Ah, can you feel the sunshine and the lake breeze? That, my friends, is the good life and it’s totally free.

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Summer Games – Natalie, Bike a Greenway

Enjoy another Summer Games entry sent to us through email. Natalie and her family explored the Virginia Capital Bike Trail for Part III, Bike a Greenway.

From Natalie:

We went on the first part of the Virginia Capital Bike Trail, which is under construction and eventually will connect Richmond to Jamestown and Williamsburg. This spring, we rode one of the longer sections in the middle, but we hadn’t ridden the part that was in town.

You start by going through a door-sized opening in the flood wall, near the canal walk downtown. There are some odd but somehow pleasing sculptures back there (which can’t be seen from the road because of the flood wall) and a map. The first half mile goes along the old canal under the train trestle. They put a corrugated metal roof under the tracks to keep hot oil from falling on people using the trail. This first section ends at Shiplock Park, and it’s just a mile long. My child liked that there was a small stop sign and railroad crossing sign just for the cyclists near the end of the trail!

We looked around the ship lock and rode back by the old tobacco warehouses that are now condos and apartments, and then parked at pizza place for lunch. Not a long ride at all, but it was nice to get out and it was too hot (mid 90s) for a more involved ride.

I guess this could be considered a greenway and exploring a new area. We don’t have anything called a greenway here, and the only other bike trails are for mountain bikers who like technical rides. I’m looking forward to when the Bike Trail is completed in a few years and hope more of it follows the river!

{Thank you, Natalie! Very interesting to see how this trail snakes under the highways.}

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Riding Solo with Friends

Although it seems like all my friends ride bikes, sometimes I’m the only one in the group riding. I suppose I could ditch the bike and go along with everyone else, but I’m loathe to give up the freedom and fun. Such was the case this weekend.

Saturday was a very full day, starting with a 9 mile ride to the Field Museum, where I met Melissa and Chanh. After looking at dinosaurs, we headed back to my neighborhood for dinner. They had taken the train in from the ‘burbs, so they continued with public transportation, while I set off on my bike and met them at the neighborhood L station. The restaurant was another mile away, so I walked my bike with them.

Field Museum

Melissa and Chanh

Sue the T-Rex

The city from Grant Park Museum Campus

Pomegranate Margarita

Later I somehow ended up going to a nightclub; definitely not a usual activity of mine, especially in my old age. I finally ditched my bike in favor of sharing a cab with everyone. After a very late all-night diner visit (mmm, grilled cheese), I rode my bike home by myself at 4 a.m. I was only a couple of miles away and I actually felt perfectly safe (pepper spray and u-lock just in case).

Night View

Thank you, dear Betty Foy the Bike, for taking me all around the city with such ease. I’m never alone when I’m with you :)

What do you do when you’re riding solo with friends?

{These photos taken with my vintage Minolta XG1 film camera.}

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Evie – Future Batavus BUB Owner

Congratulations again to Evie of the lovely blog, Now for Then. She will very soon be the owner of a shiny new Batavus BUB courtesy of Fourth Floor Distribution.  Evie won the bike by completing two events for each of the three parts of the games.  However, she went far above and beyond merely completing the events; she incorporated the challenges into her life with enthusiasm and wrote about it all so wonderfully.  The fun radiates through her blog.  Here are Evie’s entries.

Bike date – ride with a friend and dress up.

Ride with your family.

Test ride a different kind of bike.

Go grocery shopping by bike.

Explore a new part of town by bike.

Go on a picnic by bicycle.

Evie, you and your bike Carmen are awesome!  I think she and Mr. Bub will get along very nicely.  :)

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LGRAB Summer Games Round III and Grand Prize Winners

The moment is here! Dottie and I wanted to find a way to draw for the prizes together, so we gave Wetoku a spin. The sound leaves something to be desired, but it was fun to be on screen together. Watch the video, or just click through the jump to see the list of winners if you can’t stand the suspense. :)

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Explore: Nashville’s downtown

In the spirit of the LGRAB Summer Games, last week Le Peug and I rode downtown to go to a party celebrating the release of a new bourbon from Maker’s Mark.

Le Peug in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame

Riding downtown isn’t completely new for me, but I’ve only done it a handful of times—and this was the first time I rode from the office to downtown and then to the Gulch. The picture below shows the new Pinnacle building on the left. It blended into the sky better before they branded it, but such is modern life.

Pinnacle building and Encore condos

The place, the bourbon.

When I left The Palm, it was about 7:45 and the sun was setting. Apparently every bird in Nashville wants to be roosting on the roof of the Hilton at dusk, and the sky was full of them.

AT&T building peeking out from behind the Hilton; bird-filled sky

I rode down Demonbruen and over the viaduct to the Gulch, admiring the sunset along the way.

Union station, sunset

The Gulch, sunset

Most of my bike trips lately have been from home to work and back again, and to other familiar places (grocery store, pub, etc.). Exploring a new part of town was just what I needed to recapture the sense of adventure I felt when I got on the bike for the first time. Here’s hoping the rest of you who did this task for the Summer Games had the same experience!

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Summer Games – Kari, Say Hi to a Cyclist

The LGRAB Summer Games have come to an end and we’re getting ready to announce the final winners tomorrow morning. Many thanks to everyone who played! We’re not done with Summer Games fun here, though. Over the next week, we’ll be posting entries that blog-less people emailed us and also putting together more recaps.

The first emailed entry comes from Kari in Minneapolis. This is such a fun story – enjoy!

Nicole and her custom bike

From Kari:

Yesterday, during my commute home, I complimented a woman on her unique bicycle while we were both stopped at a crossing on the Greenway. As we both took off and she receded into the distance, I realized that I could have asked her for her picture and used this as my second entry for the games! Her bike is super cool (evidenced by the photo below) and I was sure I wasn’t going to see anything that cool or unique anytime soon.

She was already pretty far ahead of me, but I decided that I was going to catch up with her anyway! I booked it hardcore in 3rd (my bike is a 3 speed) and I managed to catch up with her, happy but a little out of breath. She was super nice and obliged me with a photo. I told her about the contest and she said she read your blog, too! Her name is Nicole, and her bike was custom-made for her by her boyfriend, Matt, who works at Calhoun Cycle, a bike shop in Uptown.

It’s a really sweet bike in person (she’s sweet too, btw)! It’s not so clear in the photo, but the bike has a smaller front wheel and larger backwheel, plus a handmade chainguard that manages to look sort of steampunk in it’s handmadeness. I think he made the kickstand from scratch, too. Very awesome! Nicole and I geeked out bike-style about custom-made bikes and how hard it is to find European-style bicycles in America. She told me that she was really happy that I stopped her, since people normally ask her “why her bike is so wierd” instead of commenting on how INCREDIBLY AWESOME it is.

So here’s Nicole! Thanks guys!

{Thank you, Kari and Nicole! I love how this story brings two bike lovers – and LGRAB readers – together.}

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Chicago Countryside

Chicago is the third-largest city in America. Skyscrapers, taxis, tourists, crime – it’s all there. However, jump on your bike and ride a few miles south of downtown for this scenery.

The Chicago Countryside is closer than you think :)

{I could not help posting more pictures from our Sunday ride.}

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Alternative Transportation

I want to ride a horse around Chicago!  That would be awesome – no one would mess with me and children would love me.

My new blog, Let’s Go Ride a Horse, would be a runaway hit.  Life on four hooves: simple. stylish. a little smelly.

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A Different View of Chicago

This morning Mr. Dottie and I set out at 9 o’clock for brunch at the home of friends. The catch: they live over 15 miles away (31 miles roundtrip) in Hyde Park, aka Obama’s neighborhood. The ride was totally worth it for their fantastic food and company, plus I always like an excuse for a bike expedition.

Thanks to the Lakefront Trail, the ride there was simple and beautiful. From our house we rode a mile east to the Trail, then 14 miles south down the Trail, then a mile west to their house. I often ride along the north side of the trail, but very rarely along the south side. The south side is much quieter and less crowded, more nature-like and removed from the city.

Me at Promontory Point - view of skyline from the south side

Greg and Sir Raleigh at Promontory Point

Museum of Science and Industry

I'm on a boat! Not really, I only wish I were.

Part of the skyline from the south

Chicago skyline with kid biking

I wish I could convey the feel of the 90-degree heat, burning sun, miraculously cold lake breeze, cookout smells, boom box music, children laughing… We returned home at 5:30 pm, exhausted in a good way, feeling alive.

This is going down as a Summer Games event, “explore a new part of town by bike.” Although I’ve been there before, I don’t go often, and I’m not eligible for prizes, anyway :)

Read about my ride to Hyde Park last year here.

While you’re at it, check out this fun write-up with photos of the south side Lakefront Trail from Bike Bliss.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Civia Loring

Chances are good that you’ve already heard of Civia Cycles, the relatively new company in Minnesota making beautiful utilitarian bikes. Civia’s motto is: Life’s better by bike. We agree!

I recently test rode the Civia Loring. The Loring is the most relaxed of the company’s five models. Civia markets the Loring for “tooling around town, cruising campus, or pedaling to the grocer.” This seems to limit the Loring more than necessary, as it is a sturdy utility bike and they make it sound like a cruiser.

The steel frame and sprung Brooks saddle make for a smooth ride, almost like my Dutch bike, but not quite as smooth. The pace of the ride is also similar to my Dutch bike. I had expected the Loring to be a little more peppy, but the bike demands smooth, steady and slower pedaling action. The swept-back handlebars are comfortable and allow for a somewhat upright riding position. The position is similar to that of my Rivendell Betty Foy.

Civia Loring in all her glory

The Loring has the unique combination (at least unique for city bikes) of an internally geared hub and disc brakes. Both of these components are excellent for riding in rain and snow. I rode the 3-speed version (there is also a 9-speed version). The first gear was useless during my test ride in flat Chicago, but could come in handy for people with hills or carrying heavy loads. Second and third gears felt good. Braking at normal speeds and in normal conditions felt no different than braking with the roller brakes on my Dutch bike.

Rear wheel with disc brakes

Front view of Civia Loring

Carrying capacity is outstanding, with integrated front and rear aluminum racks with bamboo slats. A spring prevents the front from swinging around when loaded. The fenders are also bamboo and work to keep you clean and dry in the wet weather. Other stand-outs are the chain guard to keep your pants and long skirts from getting greasy and mangled, and the two-footed kickstand to keep your bike sturdy and upright. Minus a couple of points for the lack of an integrated lighting system.

Integrated front rack with wood slats

Integrated rear rack with wood slat

Wood fenders and 26" wheels

Civia Loring

The Civia Loring is a high-quality and well-thought-out bike. If you are interested in a beautiful and dependable bike to get you and your stuff around town, you may want to add the Loring to your list of bikes to consider. As always, I recommend trying to test-ride as many different bikes as possible, before deciding which bike is best for you.

For other Civia Loring reviews, check out Ecovelo’s and Fortworthology’s great write-ups.

{As always, we at LGRAB receive nothing for our reviews except the joy of spreading beautiful bike love.}

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Dottie’s Photography Blog

I wanted a pretty little space on the internet where I could put my thoughts about and attempts at photography, so I started a new blog called Dream Camera. My intent for Dream Camera is similar to the intent Trisha and I had when starting LGRAB: to learn more about the subject and hope that, along the way, others will find my experiences helpful on their own journeys. By no means am I a photography expert, just as I am not a bicycling expert, but that’s not really the point. Life’s 95% enthusiasm, right?

I will be posting here the same as always. What can I say, I like to write and love to communicate with others. I will just have to get more efficient with my use of time. :)

If you’re interested, you are more than welcome to visit me at Dream Camera. I know some of you are great photographers, so I would especially love for you to be a part of the conversation over there.  I have so much to learn!

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Nashville and the Long Way Home

Well. It’s the final stage of the LGRAB Summer Games and I have to say that the competition for the Batavus BuB is fierce.  But! There are many more of you who could be contenders, if you complete an event (or two) this week.

Though sadly ineligible for a prize, I took the long way home on Friday. That day (the same day Kim @cottenmusic saw me in the Village), this just meant going a few blocks out of my way on S. Douglas Ave. since I was already running late for my evening plans.

IMG_1102
Wide and gently curving with slow-moving traffic, the street is terrific for cyclists. At the turn of the century, when the neighborhood was being planned, the center lane held a trolley car. Of course in the 1940s all that went away.

More pics from my long way home:

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Will I ever get tired of pics of heels on asphalt? probably not.


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LGRAB Safety Tip #1

Witnessed this morning on my way to work while waiting at a red light:

  • Guy zips by on fixed gear; screeches to halt in front of crosswalk.
  • Performs track stand, showing off bike tattoos on each calf.
  • While our light is still red, inexplicably jets into intersection of busy 4-lane road.
  • Makes it across one lane before coming thiiiiis close to being creamed.
  • Slams on brakes inches from car.
  • Driver going through intersection with green slams on brakes.
  • I stare in horrified shock.
  • Bike guy throws middle finger high in air in indignation.
  • I am even more horrified.
  • Every driver and pedestrian who witnessed the scene now hates bicyclists.
  • Five seconds later, light turns green and I continue on my merry way to work.

LGRAB safety tip #1: before riding, remove head from arse.

LGRAB safety tip #2: stop at red lights.

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Happy Bastille Day!

Of course, I rode Le Peug today. Details on today’s ride to come later, but I had to post a little something in honor of the French fete nationale. :)

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Trisha Sighting!

I read on Twitter that @cottenmusic saw Trisha ride by their Nashville store Friday and snapped this great pic. Yes, she always looks so effortlessly chic.

Trisha in the wild

Note how her silver heels match her silver PoCampo rack bag. That’s class, people. :)

{p.s. Follow LGRAB on Twitter!}

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Roll Models: Melissa! Queen of the Suburbs

Today’s “Roll Model” is a familiar face here at LGRAB, our friend Melissa. This is a very special profile for me to post, not only because we’ve been friends since 3rd grade, but also because I feel a tiny bit responsible for putting this woman on the road. I gave her a vintage Bridgestone Kabuki (“Smurfette”) and talked endlessly about how much I love riding my bike. Then she started riding to work! She lives in the far suburbs (exurbs) of Chicago, so riding a bike around town is no easy feat.

Melissa and her bicycle

Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Defensive, chill, fun!

How long have you been riding your bike?

I’ve been commuting for about 2 years, off and on. But, you know, I had a bike when I was a kid. Aw, those days when we would just ride nowhere…

Why did you start riding your bike?

I first started when I was going to college. It was down the street and I rode my then-fiance’s bike there. I hadn’t ridden much since then, but I am a runner and I love pushing myself, so I thought that riding a bike would be good on my off-days. I bought a crappy Wal-Mart bike, but it started doing something weird and I didn’t know how to fix it. I freecycled it to someone, but it left me without a bike. Dot had an extra bike, so it was mine for my “19th” birthday.

I used to have this horrible commute on the highway. It was so boring and restricting (especially in the spring and fall) but we moved closer to my work, so the commute wasn’t as bad. I decided to start bike commuting because I wanted to be outside more, especially after reading one of Dot or Trisha’s blog posts – it looked so nice to start your day outside!

Melissa riding in a skirt

How does the bicycle fit into your life?

I love Smurfette. I love her because she is unique and I am unique. I love standing out from the crowd and Smurfette does that for me. In my area, there are mostly mass produced bikes or Lance Armstrong wanna-be bikes. Also, I like that Smurfette isn’t too complicated. I know some bikes have complicated gears or something but Smurfette is simple!

How long is your commute and what is the route like?

My commute is about 6 miles, a good mix of trail and street. I start on the trail, which is good because I can wake up slowly. Then I get on the street. There is a tricky part Where the Sidewalk Ends, with no shoulder and a curve, so it makes it hard for the cars to see me. That is the part that I repeat my little mantra, “I have a right to be here.” On some parts of the route, I am too scared to ride in the street, so I ride on the opposite side of the cars on the empty sidewalk.

How do you manage the clothing situation?

I sweat a lot, so I wear shorts or skorts and a t-shirt for my commute and change into my work clothes. I usually pack what I’m going to wear the next day and store it in my back basket. It’s tricky to pack the night before because I am moody, so I don’t always love an outfit I picked out the night before. Or sometimes the outfit didn’t look as good as I thought it did 11pm the night before. To smell fresh throughout the day, I have a whole bag of toiletries to help!

On the trail

What are people’s (friends, family, co-workers) reactions to you riding your bike?

Well, at first my fiance was against it because he thinks it’s dangerous. I don’t think it helps that I am a klutz in general: I fell down on my first commute this year. But he is starting to come around. He bought a bike and rides with me more. The other day, he proclaimed that he wants to try to ride to places more. I am definitely testing that!

My family is cool with it, too. They know I’m crazy and see this as another crazy endeavor. Funny story, when I was visiting my dad in Colorado, he mentioned that a lot people are all starting to ride their bikes now. He is a big Ford truck man, so I knew he wasn’t saying it in support. But I just said, “Join the revolution, Dad.” An awkward silence followed.

When my coworkers found out that I ride to work, they were really surprised. They think I’m crazy and that’s okay. During Ride Your Bike to Work Week, I sent an email out about it. I actually got a response from someone and we’re going to meet up on our commute soon!

You started a Facebook page to advocate for more bike lanes in your town, Aurora. What are the riding conditions like there and do you think it will improve?

Aurora riding conditions are not for commuting. We are lucky enough to have a bike trail, but that is really for recreation. It doesn’t go anywhere in town. There is one bike lane that lasts about ½ a mile. I still can’t figure out what the purpose of it is. It doesn’t go anywhere and it starts and stops randomly.

I am fairly confident that it will improve. I was interviewed by our local paper and the woman said that the mayor wants to add bike lanes but finds it hard to get support. I am thinking about planning a bike ride for some of us to ride in the streets. Maybe if we annoy the drivers enough, they will want a lane for us.

Aurora Commute Scenery

What do you like best about riding your bike?

There is so much to like, I can’t pick one favorite! I like the physical exertion, I like that I am lessening my global footprint, I like the wind in my hair on a hot day, I like seeing deer on my commute, I like high fiving the trees, whistling while I ride…

What do you like least about riding your bike?

I hate that it’s so dependent on the weather because the weather is so weird here. I also don’t like the lack of support from drivers. They can be such buggers! Lastly, I don’t like that the infrastructure of my town makes it difficult to ride into town.

Describe your dream bicycle outfit and destination.

I like to wear longer dresses that don’t fly up in the wind. I think it’d be cool to ride in New York City. I’d probably get in an accident watching all the other cyclists!

What advice would you give someone new to bicycling, especially women?

You just have to get out there and do it. You’ll figure out what works for you. Also, plan plan plan. You have to plan how you’re going because it sucks getting lost on your bike.

Have fun with it. You aren’t in a race, so don’t hesitate to stop and smell the flowers. For women especially, don’t flip off anyone that honks at you. You don’t know why they’re honking or who they are.

Also, learn how to work on your bike.

Smurfette - Melissa's loyal Bridgestone Kabuki

How did you get so awesome?

This is a silly question, Dottie! But I shall amuse you.

When a strict man and free-spirited woman love each other, they make a strictly free spirited baby. Haha!

I just try my best to be who I am. I have really great friends and family that amuse my whims. They are all really supportive of me and I’m really lucky. I haven’t had a friend who puts down any of my silly attempts to do something different and that’s really great because if they did, they’d be out anyway! Mostly, my fiance is my biggest fan. He’s the one who holds me when I cry and claps when I dance. If it weren’t for him, I’d be a lazy, chain-smoking slob. (Love you, boo. Can’t wait to be your wife.)

Pop quiz: I was with you the only time before adulthood I fell off my bike. What were we doing at the time?

Riding our bikes! Hehe. Honestly, I don’t remember. I remember when you fell but I can’t recall what we were doing. I know that my first memory of when I first fell off my bike, I lost my big toenail. [Editor’s Note: we were selling Girl Scout cookies!]

Melissa and her bicycle

Thanks, Melissa! You’re an inspiration to all – living and riding with class, style, humor and fun. :)

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