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Travel gives us a better view of home

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

After three weeks on the road, traveling through different countries and cultures, I was still waking up in the middle of the night, addled by dreams, confused by my surroundings, having forgotten I was home again. I would blink in the darkness, staring into shadowy corners until my eyes adjusted and I recognized my own bedroom. For days I struggled to adjust, my mind and imagination still filled with the people and places I’d seen, my body on a different schedule.

Finally, lured by a spectacular sunset, I got on my bicycle. I needed the exercise and the distraction. I rode through the park and formal gardens near my house, maneuvering around the people who were out for an evening stroll, who were admiring the spring growth, stopping to look closely at plants, reading the name on the placards identifying them before moving on.

I navigated neighborhood streets, crossed a bridge over a busy arterial and then pulled up at a popular overlook to take a photo of the city below me. It was just beginning to glow in the twilight and traffic lights looked like a necklace of red and green stones stretching north toward the mountains.

As I made my back home I passed a house that seemed to be filled with music, the vibrant sounds of Beethoven pouring out into the spring evening through open windows. Around another corner I caught the smell of wet paint and through a window I could see a man rolling onto the wall a fresh coat of clean white paint. I passed a pair of teenagers sitting on the hood of a car parked on the street, their heads close together as they talked to one another. Farther down the street a big tabby cat stared out a window, his eyes following me as I rode past.

When I finally pedaled up my driveway and pulled into my garage, I felt calmer and realized the ride had soothed whatever it was inside me that had been so jangled. I was finally home.

No matter what takes me to some place far away—the bargain-basement airfare, the invitation, the assignment—I make an effort treat each trip to each new place like it will be the last. Like I will never return. I want to see it all while I can. I want to hear what people are saying, taste the food, drink the wine, sniff the air and find the pulse. Open your eyes, open your ears, I tell myself. Don’t miss a thing.

But so often at home, I move through my day like an automaton, oblivious to the place that owns me, driving with blind eyes down familiar streets, through familiar neighborhoods, past familiar landmarks. I put my feet on the floor in the morning and, leading with my chin, push through the day.

That’s my loss. What makes any city exciting or interesting is its people; the countless ordinary lives lived each ordinary day. I had to travel around the world, and then around the block, to remember that.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Drew Bledsoe’s Bike Stolen In CdA

Drew Bledsoe, of Bend, Ore., the former Washington State QB who went on to become a Pro Bowler with the New England Patriots, experienced an unhappy visit to Coeur d'Alene over the Labor Day weekend. Bledsoe's $5000 (originally listed as $7000 in the police report) "Santa Cruz" model bicycle was stolen from the 1000 block of East Front Avenue while he and his family were dining out with friends Sunday night. Bledsoe didn't notice the bike missing until early Monday afternoon. According to a Coeur d'Alene police report, Bledsoe said that a cable lock had been used to lock his bicycle with two others. The thieves took only his bike. The bike has a large frame and is black carbon in color with an "All Seasons" sticker near the crank case. (AP file photo: Drew Brees of New England passes against Green Bay in the 2002 AFC championship game.)

Tuesday Video: Moment Of Zen

Confession: I’ve been on a bit of a transit kick lately.  However, this video is too cool to pass up. Once again, it’s about a phenomenon in New York where things are changing fast, particularly people’s expectations for space that is designed to accommodate humans instead of a vehicle. More than 200 miles of bike lanes have been created and places like Times Square are more pedestrian friendly and the city is experimenting with bus transportation. Swoon.

Take note Spokane.

Sightem In Downtown Coeur d’Alene

From his perch above downtown Coeur d’Alene, Don Sausser spotted a bearded man pushing his overloaded bicycle along First Street. Don said that the bike appeared to have “the contents of a motorhome on a two-wheeler.”

Bike To Work Week Starts Today

I rode Black Velvet to work this morning. That’s the name my wife has given to the Giant bike that she bought me for my birthday last November. She calls her bike Silver Streak. Smooth rides. As I mentioned in a weekend Wild Card, I took it out for a test drive during the weekend, down and around the waterfront. As long as the days are nice, I plan to ride the bike to and from work this week and beyond — to burn off 1908 calories per week (not counting weekends). I used this calculator to figure out how many calories will come of the waist line by riding to work.

Question: Do you name your vehicles, motored or leg-powered ones?

CdA To Change 15th For Bicyclers

Item: Life in the bike lane: City of Coeur d’Alene considers major changes on 15th Street/Tom Hasslinger, Coeur d’Alene Press

More Info: Re-centering, re-striping, adding bike lanes and a traffic signal, and doing away with parking. The city of Coeur d’Alene is considering some major changes on 15th Street from Sherman Avenue to Interstate 90, including adding bicycle lanes to both sides of the street on the popular riding route. To put in the lanes, the city would re-center and re-stripe the median, which hugs closer to the west side of the street than the east on portions of the road. The change would include taking away all parking on the east side of the street in that stretch.

Question: What else would you like to see Coeur d’Alene and other Kootenai County cities do to make them more bike friendly?

Ride on Valley

The wheels continue to turn on the Spokane Valley’s ambitions to develop a Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan.  We first got word of this plan in January (thanks OutThere Monthly) when they announced they were working to develop a public outreach program to ensure that the plans represent the needs and desires of citizens.  And last week we were contacted by representatives in the City wishing for us to put the word out asking if any interested parties would like to be added to the Planning Department’s contact list for updates regarding the Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan.  If so, please contact Mary Swank at 509-720-5325 or at mswank@spokanevalley.org for more information.

Here’s a little of what they sent: “We are fortunate to live in a city where “for the most part” streets connect, congestion is minimal, the terrain is fairly level and weather is manageable most months of the year. For these reasons, biking and walking is a viable alternative mode of transportation in the City of Spokane Valley. To capitalize on these assets, the City of Spokane Valley will prepare a Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan (BPMP) over the next year identifying opportunities and constraints throughout the City. This process will include an assessment for safety and use of existing routes and facilities. The anticipated time of completion for the BPMP is summer 2011. Implementation of identified and prioritized work projects will occur after adoption.”

We will continue to keep you up to date on what’s happening with this plan, and ways to help out and get involved.  In the meantime, stay tuned as preliminary information will be presented at an open house to be scheduled for the first quarter of this year.  And information regarding the Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan will be available on the website as it is developed, so check back often. They’ve already posted some cool maps and a work program (see more after the jump).

Another Green Monday

Remember this image?  Hard to imagine that’s what our wonderful city looked like this time last year.  But hey, if you’re nostalgic for the past, call a friend or relative in the Midwest or the East Coast and talk about wild winter weather.  It’s been quite the role reversal this winter season.  We must say though, Spokane is a much more peaceful place when people aren’t pushed to the brink of frustration, anger and paranoia due to weather. *Photo from KHQ.

And honestly, it’s nice to take a break from the around-the-clock coverage and excitement level the local media displays during winter storms.  But would it kill the media, both local and national, to talk about the weird weather and how climate change plays in to that?  Spending an entire January in the 40’s should at least call for a mention of the words “climate change” but it’s like those words don’t exist in the media’s lexicon.  Maybe they know that society isn’t smart enough to interpret the difference between weather and climate (it’s not).  Or is it because they don’t want to be crushed by commenters for pushing a “liberal agenda.”  Either way, we’re here to set the record straight, and to call on climate scientists to take more responsibility about how their work is presented to the public.  In a recent story on the BBC, Dr Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said, “To be fair, people often make the same mistake but in the other direction, and link every heat wave, major flood, drought and famine to global warming. Of course, we know that these things happen anyway, even without climate change. They may happen more often under a warmer climate, but it is wrong to blame climate change for every single event. Climate scientists know this, but still there are people outside of climate science who will claim or imply such things if it helps make the news or generate support for their political or business agenda.”

Weather is weather and to try and make a case about climate change and global warming with a mild winter in the west, or a wild winter in the east is just simply not effective.  Betts says, “Over all I think there is no need to talk up every environmental change and event as evidence of anthropogenic climate change because the evidence is already strong, and going over the top may just backfire. We should stick to where the evidence is good — there is plenty of this.”

After the jump you’ll find some stories you might have missed last week.

Tuesday Video - Bicycle Instructional vid from 1963

Happy Bike To Work Week everyone, we sincerely hope your commutes are going well, and you’re realizing the simple joys of riding.  For some of you, it may be the first time or the first time in a while that you have ridden in traffic.  Hopefully the next two links are old news to you, but just in case - be sure to bone up on Washington Bicycle Laws and Safety from the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.  And if you’re riding to work, it’s likely you’ve been on the Bike To Work Spokane site, but in case not, be sure to go there and go often for it’s an extremely informational resource for new and old riders alike.  But after all of that, you still find yourself wanting more bicycle information, by all means, watch the trippy video below. 

Take a walk with Mayor Verner - TODAY

Show Support For Non-Motorized Transportation Improvements at Oct. 20 Rally Do you want more area walking trails, bike lanes, and better access to transit? If you answered ‘yes,’ join us at the SmartRoutes Community Rally TODAY to raise awareness and support the need for improved non-motorized transportation facilities in Spokane. Photobucket Several local agencies, including Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC), the Spokane Regional Health District, Spokane City, and Spokane County are partnering with area civic, bike, and pedestrian groups to participate in the Rails To Trails Conservancy’s (RTC) ‘2010 Campaign for Active Transportation.’ RTC is seeking to double funding to $9 billion for non-motorized transportation in the next reauthorization of the federal transportation budget. The proposal will advocate that $2 billion of the funds support forty communities, which could include Spokane, with $50 million in funding over six years to increase biking and walking for transportation. More information can be found at . www.smartroutes.org

Bicycle Commuters Benefit from $700 Billion Bailout Plan

Rachel Gordon of the San Francisco Chronicle writes: The $700 billion bailout bill intended to stop the tailspin of the nation’s financial sector did something else: It includes federal tax benefits for people who commute by bike. Starting in January, workers who use two-wheelers as their primary transportation mode to get to and from work will be eligible for a $20-a-month, tax-free reimbursement from their employers for bicycle-related expenses. In return, employers will be able to deduct the expense from their federal taxes. “It significantly legitimizes bicycling and elevates it to a credible commute mode, like riding a bus or train,” said Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The money could be used to purchase, store, maintain or repair bikes that are used for a substantial portion of an employee’s commute.