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Stories and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems, written by a beginning farmer/gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Memories of bicycling for bacon

On a recent bike ride with my younger sister Jeune Gal, she and I were reflecting on our memories of biking to our hometown's Main Street every morning for a few summers in a row to get coffee, bagels, bacon, and to simply enjoy the weather without any responsibility. Those were the days!

As we talked more about how much we missed those summers, we discussed how our bicycles really were our modes for freedom from home those days since neither she nor I had our licenses at that time. I was probably old enough to have one during those summers, but I didn't get my license until after going away to college. I believe I was 19 and had had two learners permits by then... I've still never owned a car, and I'm hoping I can continue to say that for many years to come.

By biking in those days, we were able to learn the contours of our hometown's streets, find the quiet streets with less traffic, visit little stores we came across, and enjoy the weather by being out in it when we rode from place to place.

One place we often visited was Coffee Beans & Bistro (or Coffee Beans & Things as my dad called it). It was located on a corner in downtown that is near a little plaza with a coffee shop, burrito place, and ice cream parlor, so it's near the part of town where people tend to gather. It's across the road from the Farmers' Market that happens every Saturday, as well. It's a bustling place on Saturday and Sunday mornings and after school.


When we used to visit this restaurant (which has since become a different restaurant called Café Main), there was a cook there named Felipe who always made our  bacon. We know because whenever we'd order, the cashier would tell us "Felipe will get you your bacon." And sure enough, Felipe always brought us our plate of bacon, right to our table. Knowing the name of the cook, becoming a recognized set of faces each morning, and enjoying that freshly cooked bacon brought us back quite often, always by bike. We'd get coffee and maybe a bagel on the way downtown and then without fail, we'd order bacon when we went into the little café.

In thinking about this pattern, I realized it was a real-life example of bicycling supporting the local economy in a particular way. I'm currently working on a research paper about how increasing support for bicycling in a community or business area can support the local economy because of how bicyclists spend money, where they tend to visit, and how people on bikes interact with communities differently than people in cars. I'll post the final version on this blog, and I'll likely continue to reflect on it throughout the next quarter of school.

I realized that the combination of our bicycles (which limited how far we really felt like traveling for food), the friendly faces that greeted us each time we visited (knowing Felipe was taking care of us and making our bacon), and the sense of our smalltown-feeling hometown community all worked together to bring us back to that café time and time again.


As I write this, I'm sitting in the same building, which is now a restaurant serving a wider variety of food--but they still have bacon and coffee. They still have large front windows right on the main street in town, and I still feel better spending my money here rather than at a non-local chain restaurant. I feel at home in this place, able to observe my town while enjoying delicious food and remembering all those mornings in summers past when my sister and I were free to bike as far as our legs could pedal and our wheels could roam.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Break has begun... with lots of bikes!

My Spring Break began last Thursday, and I have until Sunday to enjoy time at home. I am studying and preparing for the class on Friedrich Nietzsche that I'm teaching through the Literature Department at UC Santa Cruz next quarter, but in between reading, I've been biking around with Green Guy and my sister. Take a look!

Friday night, I bicycled around town with Green Guy and Jeune Gal for the second night of my Spring Break from college--my last spring break of my undergraduate career!
 
While visiting Sonoma State with Jeune Gal yesterday, we saw her exact same bike parked in a rack, only a larger size. It was like a sign from the Bicycling Gods that she is meant to go there--and to bring a bike! She did decide to go there after visiting--I'm so proud of her and excited for this new chapter in her life. Go Seawolves!

Jeune Gal showed her bicycling style on Sunday night before a party around the block in back jeans, black boots, and a lacy black top. Her black helmet with silver flames totally matched, and her pink bike added some color to the whole ensemble!

I biked with her to her friend's house, two blocks away. She doesn't have a back light, so I decked my bike in lights and wore my bright yellow jacket to escort her there safely. I'm working on convincing her to get a new bike before she goes away to college. I think we're making progress, especially after the three bike rides we've done since I've been home. She still needs lights, a new bike with gears, a bike rack, some panniers... Sonoma State is flat, so she should have no trouble getting around by bike!
 
I ordered some bike stickers from Taking The Lane, and they arrived in the mail!

The new sticker on my bike rack.

Jeune Gal and I biked to Starbucks to do some homework together. We took the route that I used to take to bike to high school... so many bicycling morning memories!

We biked home just as the sun was setting. It's only Monday, so who knows how many more bicycle adventures we'll have in the coming days!
 
Happy Spring, my friends!
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ditching Class to Ride Bikes... Kinda.

Yesterday, my Bicycle Transit Planning Team (BTPT) partner Aly and I left IDEASS class early to bike down the rollercoaster ride that is the UCSC Bike Path.

No, we weren't ditching class just to ride bikes. Though I guess we kind of were... We did have permission from our instructors, though!

We were on our way to our first People Power Bike Commuting Workshop that we're helping design and facilitate. They happen every third Monday at the People Power Office at 703 Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz.

I'll post more about the workshop once finals are over. I will say that eight community members showed up for the first one last night.

The conversation and sharing of stories and tips was awesome. I hope to see you at a future community workshop, or if you work for a business in Santa Cruz County and want us to bring the workshop to your business for a free lunch hour workshop, send me an email!
 
Learn more about the BTPT here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Santa Cruz Pi(e) Day Pajama Ride Bike Party



Pi(e) Day Pajama Ride Bike Party required pajamas, of course! We picked up some pie at New Leaf on the way.


Santa Cruz Bike Party happens every second Friday of the month around 7 PM. Learn more here.

Yes, that's a couch, specifically The Happening Couch (you can become friends with it on Facebook). I rode a tandem bike with my friend Greg (of Moved By Bikes). He owns this couch, which is equipped with speakers and attached to a trailer attached to the bike. Random folks jumped on it during the ride, and we had two riders get flats and ride the couch so they wouldn't get left behind. We pulled Green Guy up Walnut Avenue (a pretty steep road) after he got a flat... Serious bike party awesomeness right there.




What's a bike party without a dance party?


Green Gal and Green Guy! We rode up the hill to campus after the evening's festivities, having our own bike party along the way.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A bike writing kinda day

It's been a bike writing day for me.

Last week, I was interviewed for a Good Times article about the bike commuting workshops I'm co-designing and facilitating through my IDEASS bike internship. This afternoon when I walked by a stack of Good Times newspapers, I flipped through one. The article about our workshops began on page seven, and the photograph of my bicycle and me was on page ten. How awesome--my bike's never been in the paper!

The article quotes Amelia, the Director of People Power, and me, but it doesn't mention my team partner Aly by name. If I had it my way, she'd have gotten a quote in the article, too! She does so much great work for our team, and she always has a cheerful attitude. I'm so grateful to have a motivated team partner who cares about our project and does a fantastic job! Our hope is that people will read this article and attend one of the workshops--and then they can hear from Aly, too!

 
Read the article here: "Riding Smart" by Aric Sleeper, Good Times, March 13, 2014
 
 
Later today after reading the article, I spent some hours finishing up a newsletter about bicycling that I am co-creating with my team partner for IDEASS, Aly. We hope the newsletter can share a good mix of on- and off-campus opportunities, events, and stories about bicycling in Santa Cruz. We have connected with both bicycling communities since September, and there is so much going on that doesn't always get shared between on- and off-campus groups. We're hoping to bridge that gap as best we can and also create a newsletter that contains UCSC bike news--we don't know of any that already do that since there isn't a unified bicycling voice for campus. Until now!
 
Since it was the first issue, there was so much we could include. Next time, it will probably be shorter and include fewer photos. Here's only a piece of it, pictured below. Click the link below the image to view the full newsletter, and please let me know what you think!
 

 
 
 
Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Weekend of Hikes & Bikes (Part II)

This post is the second part of a series about my weekend. Yesterday I went on a hike with other women to learn about and engage with nature connection. You can read about it in part one of this series here.

Today, day two of this beautiful, sunny weekend, I woke up early and fortunately on time because my cell phone automatically switched for the time change. The things our technology can do these days! After a quick breakfast in the dining hall, I flew down the hill on my bike toward town. I say flew because today I was going to be a "SOUP'er Hero!"


I was invited to an event a few weeks ago titled "SOUP'er Heroes Bike Ride & Food Distro," and after reading the description, I was souper stoked to partake in such a great cause by bike. The description read, "Join us for a day of community service, food and cycling! Together we will ride to local farms and secret gardens, harvest veggies, make soup, and distribute it to feed the hungry masses. The ride is a collaboration between the Resource Center for Nonviolence, Food Not Bombs, and Green Ways to School. There will be food enough for all as we learn about the interconnected issues of homelessness, hunger, nonviolence, and the people-powered revolution."

As I've hinted to on this blog but never formally written about, I am co-teaching a class on sustainable transportation. We've covered topics like social justice, feminism, women's empowerment, walking, biking, busing, and climate change. The intersections (pun intended) between transportation and basically everything else in our lives is profound. We transport ourselves place to place daily, and everything we come into contact with has been transported to us in some way.

When people live in places that are far from healthy, fresh foods, they have a harder time acquiring those foods if they do not have the means to do so. Places like this are called food deserts, which the US Department of Agriculture defines as "urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease." (I quote the USDA only because they have a succinct yet complete definition. The USDA subsidizes crops like corn and other agricultural products that then lead to the cheap dollar menu meals and other unhealthy food that folks in food deserts end up eating because nothing else is available.) With better transportation infrastructure (more efficient buses, better bike lanes, better walking paths), people in these places can more easily access food that might be farther away. Transportation isn't the only solution to these issues, but it is one approach.

So with all of these issues in mind, I joined about ten other people with bikes this morning on an adventure through town, along West Cliff Drive, and over to the Homeless Garden Project at Natural Bridges Farm.

Before we left, Tawn Kennedy went over the ABCs Quick Check with us to make sure our bikes were in tip-top shape. Tawn is one of the ride organizers and director of Green Ways to School, a program of People Power of Santa Cruz County that works to get more youth on bikes.
A - Air. Each type of bike has different types of tires, with different amounts of air that they should be filled with for optimal ride performance. Tawn showed us to look along the rim for the amount and then pump accordingly. Having the right amount of air in a bike tire is just like with a car--you get better mileage. Instead of miles per gallon of gas, though, we're working with miles per burrito or miles per bagel, depending upon everyone's breakfast of choice.

B - Brakes. We checked to make sure our brakes were at the right setting so they don't grab too quickly or too slowly.

C - Then we checked our chains, and Tawn reminded us the importance of greasing our chains and washing them. C also stands for cassette, another part of the bike to make sure is clean and doing well.

Quick - Quick is short for quick release, the little knobs on the tires that you can twist to quickly release the tire from your frame on many bikes. We made sure they were tight and clamped shut.

Then we were off!

 
There were quite a few UCSC students on the ride, which was fun! There was also one high school student, and a number of community members. In the picture above from when we were still downtown, pictured far left is Kevin Green, the Student Environmental Center's (SEC) Green Building Campaign Coordinator. Far right is Sarah Angulo, SEC's Drop Your Own Drip Water Campaign Coordinator.
 
 
We took the Pacific Avenue Zig-zag route, since parts of Pacific are one-way. This entails turning down side streets and then cutting between buildings along the alleyways. Thanks for showing us this super awesome route, Tawn!
 
On the ride, I spoke with a fellow UCSC student named Adrian who works at the Bike Co-operative on campus. He is writing his senior thesis on food justice and sustainable transportation, particularly bicycles. How cool is that!? We spoke about this along the ride, and we talked about collaborating on an event next quarter to bridge Earth Week and Bike Month with food justice, social equity, and accessibility. This is why I love going to community events with bikes--the conversations along the way are always productive and worthwhile!
 
 
 
After the ride along West Cliff Drive, past Natural Bridges State Beach, and up Delaware, we made it to the Homeless Garden Project, all a little more familiar with one another. It had been my intention to visit this garden that employs homeless people in the community since making a commitment to do so at a workshop I attended earlier this year called Generation Waking Up. I have heard really awesome things about the Project, did some Christmas shopping at their holiday store downtown (which is now open every weekend), and the founder of the project, Dr. Paul Lee, actually spoke in my sustainable transportation class earlier this quarter. The story from that day can be found here.

 
At the HGP, they have a circular bicycle-part bike rack, where we all locked up our bikes.

 
The Homeless Garden Project was founded in 1990. It is currently located at the Natural Bridges Farm, though in the future it may relocate to Pogonip, which was the original vision. It employs homeless people in the community and pays them to work on the farm. Anyone from the community can volunteer there, as well. You can learn about the history and current programs of the HGP here.

 
We had a tour with Don, who's been working at the HGP for four years. He told us a lot about the project, and said it is certified through California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), so they don't use any pesticides or chemicals. They grow all kinds of things--chard, kale, strawberries, flowers, herbs, artichokes, tomatoes, and much more.

 
This is a "victory garden" that is managed by a different person each year. It's a place to experiment with different plants and learn what grows well in the climate. Don said that their location along the coast means that the temperature is pretty consistent year-round. They are able to grow a lot of things year-round because of this.

 
He showed us the drying shed, where they dry flowers and lavender and tea. Nearby, there was a bee box, and Don shared with us that the bees can work year-round here because of the climate. Their honey could be called "multi-botanical potpourri honey" because so many plants in the area are visited by the bees and contribute to the honey.

 
Some participants wore capes because they are "soup'er heroes"! The cape on the left says "Babes on Bikes" because some students at Santa Cruz High School have created a group by that name. Green Ways to School provided these capes to wear today, so someone from SCHS must have made that pattern for the cape.

 
We explored a greenhouse with lots of little sprouts growing in containers.


 
There are 6000 strawberries at the farm!

 
This is "compost city," where they have a bunch of stacks of compost. He said their compost contains horse manure, straw, vegetation, and other plant materials. It can reach as a high as 160 degrees the first day you make a pile. Don said the ideal range is 130-150 degrees, and they keep a log each day to make sure it is staying within this range. This allows them to know it's okay to use with growing produce that will be sold to eat. Later in the afternoon, after the tour, I helped turn a compost heap by moving it to a location nearby.

 
The HGP has a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which you can pay a fee and get a box of produce each week for six months. They have a "you-pick" option, which is less expensive, and it gives people a chance to visit the farm and pick things themselves. "We want the whole family, the kids, grandma to come out and spend time in the garden," Don shared.

 
He also spoke about legumes that fix nitrogen into the soil, which nourishes the plants. In this picture, you can see the little white bacteria colonies that fix the nitrogen. This is from a bell bean plant, I believe.

 
Don passed around pieces of different herbs, like sage and marjoram. It made me wish I had space for a little herb garden!

 
After the tour, he set almost everyone to work harvesting food that would be prepared later and distributed to homeless people in town.

 
I returned to compost city. This is the compost heap I helped turn.

 
After everyone harvested food and we finished turning compost, we said good bye and thanked Don for the opportunity to visit, help out, and harvest some produce. Then we biked back along West Cliff.

 
On the way, Tawn showed us a secret garden that none of us had visited before, the Lighthouse Community Garden. Community members can obtain a plot, in which they can grow flowers or vegetables or whatever they want. It was nestled in a neighborhood, and it seemed like such a delightful place to live next-door to.

 
After we visited the secret garden, I decided to say goodbye to everyone so I could get back and do some homework. I ate a salad at the Picnic Basket on Beach Street, read for a little while, and then I biked back up the hill to campus.
 
Everyone else continued toward a house where they cooked the produce up into a meal. Then they distributed it downtown to folks who otherwise wouldn't have a warm meal for dinner. What an awesome event! Thanks to the organizers for making it happen. I wish I could have joined everyone for the full event, and I hope the meal prep and distribution went well.

 
This was my view heading up to campus on Hagar Drive. Beautiful, beautiful day!

 
My attempt at a smile as I steadily made my way up the hill. Notice the bike necklace! Whew, it was warm under that direct sunlight!

 
 
I made it! Here was my rewarding view of my wonderful town and community. I am seriously going to miss this view when I graduate in June.
 
Wow, what a great weekend! So much outdoors time, so many new friends and experiences, and the sunlight lasted for so long this evening! It feels good to be active and participating. Thanks everyone who spent the weekend with me!
 
To view more photos from today, click here.
 
Time to return to homework. It's week 10, the last week of instruction before finals week. Eek! But at least I got in some great, rejuvenating activities into my weekend. I'm ready for the week to begin!

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