A visit to my Hometown

Being poor is not easy in the winter in Milwaukee.  Getting around is difficult.  You can’t ride your bike.  The sidewalks are treacherous or impassable.  Cars don’t start (at least, the old ones don’t.)  Buses are unreliable.  When you have to wait in the cold, shivering, it is a constant reminder that you are poor.  The sky is usually grey and a lot of the time, it’s also dark. You spend more time trying to get around, and less time taking care of your needs.  This is a time when a lot of folks are struggling.

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Last week I was visiting my family and stopped by to visit Friedens Pantry at the Marcia Coggs Service Center.  I have known and supported Friedens since 2005.  An old family friend used to be very active there.  The pantry welcomes clients during weekday hours.  Clients can also apply for food stamps and other benefits in the same building.  Friedens is a valuable service in a poor community in one of the most economically and racially segregated cities in North America: Milwaukee, WI.

It felt good to volunteer.  The staff I met – Sophie, Dan and Catherine –  were gracious and humble.  They were friendly and helpful to all the guests, no matter what condition or mood they were in.

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I talked for a bit with Terrell.  He is a client at Friedens.  I don’t know for how long he’s been going, nor what drove him to seek help in the first place.  He lives with his mother and 2 daughters in a small apartment not far from the pantry.  Terrell was so grateful for the food that he received.  I helped deliver canned soup, canned fruit, canned veggies.  Some bits of fresh produce.  Dried re-warmable stuffing from Thanksgiving (which actually is probably very tasty), canned cranberries, frozen cherries, seafood soup stock, and a small crate of chocolate.  There was a lot of good nutrition in that food.  The client was allowed to choose his food.  Whole Foods it is not.   However, Terrell was more sincerely thankful for that food he received from Friedens than I have been for anything I’ve received in a long, long while.  He was so gracious for the little time I spent helping him.  What an experience.

I drove around the neighborhood a bit while I was helping deliver Terrell and his food to his home.  I remembered driving through the area while I lived on Milwaukee’s west side back in the late 90s.  The neighborhood has still not changed much.  It is still poor, and a mixture of old, struggling businesses, old homes that haven’t seen much upkeep in 50 years, sporadic evidence of government spending (the social services agency where Friedens is located, a police station, and a new jobs development center built on North Ave.)  There are lots of vacant lots and lots of derelict buildings.  It is a place where hope is hard to come by, but people still do have hopes.  I think Friedens helps bring that hope to people.

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If you talk to clients at Friedens, they are usually quick to smile.  I feel like they are grateful for anyone who listens or cares.  I know these folks are struggling, but they don’t begrudge me for my comfortable life, and they are automatically kind to me.  And that’s a wonderful thing.  If we could all be so gracious, the world would certainly be a better place.

Thank you, Friedens!

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Bay Trail Ride to Hayward

So I made it through the Oregon ride in June.  That was a “super” tour (it really WAS Supertour – check it out.)  Glad to get back to the Bay in one piece, unharmed by the road and the tour except for (yes) saddle sores.  But, they weren’t too bad.  I got this skin dressing stuff from one of the guys on the tour.  I think that saved me.

Saturday last weekend I did my annual ride to Hayward along the Bay Trail.  It’s become something of an annual tradition for me.  This time, I was joined by Doris.  It was fun to have someone along to check the scene.  Wish I’d taken more pictures.  Here are some of them.

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The low tide and sunset made for nice picture-taking.  There were lots of little mud-birds digging for clams or worms.  At truly low tide, you can walk a ways out from the bay trail into the bay near San Leandro marina.

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Note to others: from the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center (which was closed by the time we got there), we decided to try taking Winton St. back through Southland Mall to Hayward BART. It was unpleasant.  I do not recommend the streets around the mall for bicycling, unless you like looking at cars whiz past 2 or 3 feet away.  The “bike lane” is just a couple signs that say “BIKES SHARE THE ROAD”.  We could have easily gotten hit by a vehicle.  Next time I will steer for South Hayward BART station, which is a much quieter ride (and not much longer, either.)

Doris pointed out a good place to get food on the way back: El Novillo Taco Truck, off Fruitvale Ave. near Guadalajara Restaurant.  I would not have thought to try that.  Thanks for the ride-along, and good suggestion D.!

Ride around Redwood Park on Pinehurst Rd.

Yesterday I took a training ride around Redwood Park, back up Skyline then down Joaquin Miller and through Dimond neighborhood back to my house.  Here is the route with RideWithGPS: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/13632344

Lots of climbing, as you can see, with medium distance (+/- 24 miles).

Weather was perfect – high 60s, sunny, a little breeze.

The first picture is from Pinehurst Rd. on the backside of Redwood park (east side), looking further east towards Moraga.

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The second is from Joaquin Miller before the descent back to Montclair and Dimond further down, looking west.  Not that much visible except lots of ships on the Bay behind Alameda.

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It’s so nice to be able to do this kind of ride starting and ending from my house!

Next weekend I’m planning a long ride with Oakland Yellow Jackets through Morgan Territory, and then with some friends extending that ride to 70 “ish” miles.

I’m preparing for a one week “Supertour” in Eastern Oregon that features 4 days of 100+ miles (out of 7 consecutive days riding.)

Right now I’m most concerned about 1) saddle sores – the new bike is not as comfy for my behind as the last one (that one had a brooks saddle) and 2) not enough gears on my compact double Surley Pacer.

Springtime Bike Ride

Last Saturday I took a long awaited bike ride up into the hills and then back to my home.  My new favorite route, which starts and ends at my house, goes up 21st Ave. to 29th St., then over to 23rd Ave which becomes Ardley, Glen Park St., Park Blvd up to Montclair, Butters Canyon and finally Skyline going east all the way to the Zoo (Grass Valley Rd.)  From Grass Valley, which is a sort of scary descent (big trees on either side of you on a narrow road), eventually becomes Golf Links road, which is a pretty bad surface these days.  I made it without incident and without a flat tire down to the entrance to the Oakland Zoo, near Hwy 580.  Going under the highway, Golf Links Road becomes 98th ave (?) and eventually, you reach Bancroft which takes you back west through some of the toughest neighborhood in East Oakland.  In beautiful spring weather like we had Saturday though, even the toughest hoods manage to look presentable, and all is well in the world.  Which is why “I bike Oakland!”

I only took 2 pictures on that ride so I am going to show them to you now.

One is a very healthy looking tree on 21st Ave. around 23rd St.  My friend the tree expert thinks it’s a Sweetgum tree.

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That is a real picture BTW.  The trees get that green when it gets sunny after a good rain.

My friend the tree guy says: “The City planted a lot of them (Sweetgums) along streets a few decades ago and they’ve grown big, but their aggressive roots are breaking sidewalks and roadways all over town, and the spiky brown seed-balls are a nuisance on sidewalks. They aren’t allowed as street-trees anymore.”

The other picture is of a billboard I saw on Foothill Blvd. in the Fruitvale area.  I think the 420-cannabis commercials are just funny.

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What is less funny is my neighbor here got busted by the cops for a 100 plant indoor grow.  Actually he didn’t get busted, his house got broken into so the theives stole the equipment.  The cops showed up and measured and photographed everything.  Apparently the guy (I suspect with the owner’s help) was stealing his power from PG&E.  We haven’t really gentrified yet if the houses are being used for pot grows and no people are living in them.

No Action on Curb Cuts, Utah trip

This year I haven’t lifted a finger to get those curb cuts installed.  I haven’t even attended a meeting of the Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), which is where I need to go to build support for the idea.  The fact is, I am a little older now and I just don’t like going to meetings after work unless it’s convenient for me.  The one Thursday night each month when BPAC meets I always seem to have something going on.  Also, I’ve been more busy socially (such as dating) and with other things not related to bicycles.

In other personal bike-related news, I rode the PUCH bike I borrowed for the last year or so from my friend David 70 miles around Morgan Hill, CA south of San Jose in May.

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I also completed a very nice trip to Utah in October where I rode around on my mountain bike a lot.  I injured my shoulder from an accident on the last day’s descent on the Porcupine Rim Trail.  I’m lucky I did not break any bones.  6 weeks since the accident, I still feel it.  Nevertheless, it was totally worth it.  Thanks to Chris (CJ) for accompanying me (and driving me) during the trip.

Google created one of these nifty “stories” using the pictures I took.  You can see it here:  https://goo.gl/photos/icxTZd8ZhozxagPk6

 

Curb Cuts for bikes and pedis

My goal this year is to get some curb cuts installed on E 19th St. between Park Ave. and 14th Ave. This happens to coincide with one of my routes home from work, and so there is a selfish component to this effort.  However, I figure my efforts will also help others – for instance those on wheelchairs, and also other bicyclists whom I occasionally see on this same stretch.  Biking over the curbs just doesn’t make sense, when other cities (Berkeley) manage to make it so much easier.  I bike in Berkeley almost as much as I do Oakland – so a degree of “city planning envy” has from time to time taken hold.  However, I do not lose hope.  It’s just a process of asking, and waiting, I figure.

Note, the first picture below is the site of an active Buddhist shrine, not far from my house, at the intersection of 11th Ave. and E 19th St.  I love this “use of median public commons.”  I do not want any curb cut to interfere with the shrine.  I already spoke to the neighbors who maintain the shrine (and use it) about my idea.  They support it, and pointed out where the curb cut could go: on the side, next to the yellow arrow signs.  It will work fine, I think.

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