Our Bicycle Friendly Community

Our Bicycle Friendly Community, as published in Tahoe Mountain News:

By Victoria Ortiz

Mindy and I on a bike tour through SF and Marin

Mindy and I on a bike tour through SF and Marin

Our friendly bicycle community has a louse amongst us. Fortunately, this den of fragrant pines and recycled ice water also breeds heroes, and thus an everyday Knight’s Tale was conceived.

The scoundrel, unnamed, unknown, armed with cable cutters and a subdued ethos, found his prey on a sunny July Sunday. Her name was Mindy, a mint green road bike recently introduced to its mountainous palace from the Bay Area via Craigslist and a Thule rack.

A red helmet perched on her hammerhead handlebars when I locked her to a dulled bike rack near the Y.

She and I had become fast friends the last couple months. Equipped with a stick of deodorant, we charged the shortcuts of South Lake to work and grocery outlet, up Ebbett’s Pass, and shared regular sunsets at Lakeview Commons.

I researched and scanned the Internet for the perfect touring/commuting bike for six months like an eager online dater. She was the first bike on which I spent more than eighty bucks and she was destined for great adventures.

All of those details cycled through my mind as I stared at the discarded helmet, no trace of cable or Mindy in the empty parking lot. She was gone like the sun-drunk spill of a Nalgene in the Mojave Desert.

But, dear neighbors, I am a fighter and an optimist, and that evening I filed a police report, sent out a mass Mint-Alert email, created flyers for the lost bike, and even posted to my sparse Facebook page.

Bike thieves belong in Dante’s sixth level of Hell, and the following morning I felt the sour surge of distrust flowing through my eyes at every biking passerby. Then, the phone call.

“I’ve got your bike!” said the ecstatic, slightly out of breath voice. “I’ll drop it by your office now.”

At 10:30am, less than 24 hours after her bike napping, Mindy was safely leaning on my desk, completely intact minus the bike lights. The hero, my now-boyfriend, saw Mindy lying at the feet of a teenage boy standing outside the Verizon store on Highway 50. He pulled in and parked.

“Look kid, I’m not calling the cops, but I’m taking that bike,” (I picture a flourish of a Superman cape here).

“Aw, I just bought it,” the kid protested weakly.

Lies or truth I know nor care, but you can bet that I bought a Kryptonite U-lock a few days later.

Mindy remains my faithful steed, leaving my car to collect pine needles. This story could have ended differently in a big city, but in our bicycle friendly community, happy endings do come true.


10 Reasons to Visit (or Live in) Spain

Dear Friends and Family,
Ten days in Spain and I’m hooked! My best friend and boyfriend Matt and I are halfway through a three-week adventure to soak in the sun, aromas, and  lisping Spanish accents. We are currently bicigrinos, pilgrims on a six-day bike tour along the 300+km Camino de Santiago.
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As we sit in an albergue, one of hundreds of old monasteries turned hostals, a lightening storm crashes and interrupts the pouring rain on the cobblestone streets. We have splashed through mud, climbed thousands of meters up dirt roads and gawked at the vistas while following the yellow arrows and sea shells that mark the Camino. Despite a faulty pedal (me) and a broken gear shifter (Matt), I wouldn’t trade this part of our trip for all of the tapas in Spain. We’ve crested green hills pillowed in clouds with windmills in the distance and countless flower lined medieval towns with effervescent cathedrals.
If the cowbells and buildings dripping with history weren’t stereotypically European enough to make you fall in love, I’ve compiled a list of ten additional reasons why Spain deserves your company:
1. Food: Of course, this would be #1 for me.
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Salud-ing with a bocadillo de jamón

Hot chocolate that left me unable to speak(whoa!), the first olive I have ever enjoyed, and jamon (ham) like I never knew existed often paired with fresh bread and perfect cheese. They invented the art of snacking and understand that drinking should always be accompanied by good food. Hence, the free tapas with every glass of wine or cider, which leads to número 2…
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Homemade noodles under chicken cacciatore, with the national drink… vino tinto!

2. Wine: plentiful, cheap, expected. Oftentimes ordering a glass = free food or vis a versa (see #1).
3. Bike lanes: automobile-centric USA culture take note, drivers CAN coexist with bikers. The kilometers upon kilometers of heavily used bike lanes contribute to an active culture, which helps to combat the effects of daily chocolate croissants.
4. History: It’s normal to live in an 18th  Century building or to sit in a medieval plaza.

2013-10-02 17.06.24The modern amenities seamlessly weave into a fabric so rich in history that the footpaths have been worn soft by the soles of hundreds of years of pilgrims on the same path.

5. You can drink the water: Compared to most of my travels, this is a luxury I do not take for granted. It’s on par with flushing the toilet paper.
6. It’s Cheap(ish): I went to Spain expecting my frugal self to squirm whenever the wallet came out. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that for 10€ ($13) Matt and I can split a three-course meal with wine, or simply have a bottle for 1.5€($2) and stay in a clean room with a shower for 20€ ($26) without worrying about bed bugs.
7. Trains are so fast!: Latin American buses, despite having great dubbed Jet Li movies cannot compare to the zoom zoom of the rail system.
2013-10-03 10.55.128. No hurrying allowed: As one of our friends warned, ” Whatever you do, don’t fuckin’ hurry in Spain. It’s just not Spanish.” We’ve taken this to heart and enjoyed many a cafe con leche (Matt) or a pastry (V) to watch the clouds and people float by.
9. Sleeping in is not an issue: In fact, it’s encouraged. We stayed up till dawn with our incredible hosts in the foothills of Madrid  then subsequently slept till early afternoon.
10. The national lisp: I have to grin when they say Zaragoza (pronounced Thar-a-go-tha).
Spain’s cultural history is nearly as diverse as the many dialects that inhabit its various regions. We are less than 20 km from Santiago and our bums are looking forward to relinquishing the saddle. My back (which I broke in June) is doing great and hasn’t bothered me on the tour.
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Matt and I have hardly stopped smiling since we took off from Tahoe and we still have almost 11 days to explore San Sebastián and Barcelona. I hope that life is keeping you smiling as Fall begins to tickle the leaves to the ground.
Besos y abrazos,