Two Wheels in the Twin Cities

A summary of biking in Minneapolis is that everyone hates everyone. Namaste.

Walkers wander into the bike lane, bikers forget to signal, and drivers are reckless. Commuting regularly via bus, bike, foot, light rail, and car, I have been the accused and the accuser in all of these scenarios.

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Once everyone safely arrives to their destination, the dialogue quickly changes to how great the Twin Cities are for offering so many different forms of transportation. In the five years that I’ve lived in Minneapolis, I have been able to explore so much more of the Cities due to all of these options.

It’s true that they aren’t flawless. MPR is required for heavy traffic, buses sometimes follow the beat of their own drum, and sometimes the bike lane disappears without my permission. But I like to think of that as part of the journey, especially with biking.

For a large part of our lives, physical activity is determined by organized sports with the purpose of being the best. For me, biking couldn’t be farther from that. I’ve gotten stranded in St. Louis Park on a pitch black summer night trying out a new route. I’ve made an unannounced U-Turn that prompted a driver to take a few of her fingers off ten and two. I’ve ridden for weeks on incredibly flat tires, all the while assuming that I really needed to work on lower body strengthening.

So, I’m not exactly an expert. But the best part is, I don’t mind.

I love having a hobby that has no pressure to get to certain level, status, or excellence. I love, love, love not paying for parking downtown. I love giving myself permission to not always opt for the most efficient way from Point A to Point B.

And if you know me, you know I love any opportunity to spend less time sitting still. I love having someone 30 years older speed past me on the Cedar Lake Trail, it’s inspiring and humbling all at the same time.

While biking from work to Corepower the other day, I was behind a biker who really looked the part. This is the best case scenario for me- having an expert biker navigate the downtown chaos while I rail closely behind. He was really killing it in his reflective vest, until someone quickly opened their passenger side to hop out for the corner restaurant. The door flew open right in front of him, as he slammed on the brakes and somehow stopped himself from flying over or into the door. 

The woman apologized continuously and explained she didn’t seem him approaching. I heard a few passengers behind me, who also gasped watching the scene, say they hope she apologized. As his self-proclaimed side kick, I let them know she did, and I made sure he was okay. He brushed it off like a champ.

In my opinion, that woman isn’t an expert passenger. But who really is? We all make mistakes, so maybe everyone should think of themselves as beginner everything. We all forget time and time again that there’s a world surrounding our Point A to Point B commute. The more we recognize that, the less we get flicked off. Simple. 

 

 

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Don’t worry, every month is #BikeMonth in the Twin Cities

 

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Secondhand Hounds

From the background on my phone, to my day calendar at work, to collapsing on the ground to be on dog-level at any given opportunity, I do not try to hide my love for dogs. I’m shameless.

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Meeting my first Secondhand Hound, little did I know, at the 2014 Minneapolis Pride Festival

To all who I offer to dogsit for (strangers included), I am indeed serious, and clearly need to make business cards to get that message through. I’ve come close to tears talking about dogs I do not know, and tell stories about other’s dogs as if I am a part (or the sole) owner.

When I was little, I would get up close and personal with my Grandma’s small white poodle, Lady. She would bite me on the cheek every time I crossed the line, and I would comfort myself by hugging her and weeping into her fur. That’s unconditional love, people.

At 23 and a bit wiser, I found my way to Secondhand Hounds to get my dog fix through volunteering. A volunteer-run and foster-based shelter, Secondhand Hounds (SHH) finds temporary and permanent homes for dogs and cats that are rescued or brought in from a wide variety of scenarios.

I now start my Friday mornings letting out the animals that are in between fosters, and as a result temporarily staying at the shelter. This means sunrise walks, trying to trick very smart dogs into taking their medicine, rekindling my friendship with cats, and all the cuddling I had been missing. 

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Lady, part dalmatian and part pointer. Loves to cuddle and is a pro at eating the treat but spitting out the medicine
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Doxie, bulldog of some sort. So sweet! Not the most athletic, our walk ended shortly after this photoshoot 🙂

One morning, this also meant meeting an aggressive dog, who was very territorial of his space. I slowly and confidently introduced myself, and he started to be put at ease. He flinched as I put on his leash, which showed he had been abused prior to SHH. After going outside and giving him breakfast, we sat in his room as I pet him to get him more acclimated to the space. All was going well until we made eye contact, and he lunged at my face.

Unlike my younger self, I knew not to stick around. I quickly left his room, all the while subconsciously narrating to the dog, “I have to go, this is not going well.” In immense pain, I realized the bridge of my nose had been bitten very badly, along with a small bite on my chin.

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One week after the accident, other photos of the damage are left out for everyone’s benefit

I didn’t want to share this story too broadly out of fear of how it would reflect on Secondhand Hounds, who were nothing but amazing in responding to the situation. Many people asked me if I would go back to volunteering, or if I still felt the same way about dogs. All of which got the same response, of course.

Truth is, organizations like Secondhand Hounds are why accidents like this do not happen more often. I wasn’t attacked by a dog, rather this is the ripple effect of the abuse this dog has endured. It’s a ripple of someone who I imagine has been given one idea of how to manage anger, what it means to be masculine, and whether mental health should be talked about. 

I was recently reminded of this, when my dress was stolen from the locker room while I was teaching yoga. At first, I was upset and annoyed that I needed to go home for a different outfit to wear to work. However, once I changed and looked in the mirror, I noticed the scar on my nose and was reminded that there can always be more to a story. The new owner of my dress may have needed it more than I did; and either way, I am lucky to have a closet full of other options.

For the pain and fear that I experienced that early morning with this dog, I’m sure that moment of eye contact triggered the frequent feelings of pain and fear he has endured. This scar isn’t a reminder of that morning, it’s a reminder of why organizations like Secondhand Hounds matter. It’s not a reason to avoid dogs, it’s a reason to get involvedIt’s a reason to spread love and compassion whenever possible, because you never know who or what needs it most.