What’s in the bag?

For someone who cycles just under 6 miles (each way) in one of the world’s most urban cities, I carry a lot of stuff with me on my commute. So what’s in the bag?

Allie's bike on the Staten Island Ferry

  • Tool bag (with wrench, multitool, tire levers, spare tube, etc.)
  • Lunch
  • Sunglasses & case
  • Lip balm
  • Wallet
  • Cellphone
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Clif bar
  • Clothes (wrapped in a plastic garbage bag)1
  • Rain gear (pants, jacket, cover for bag)2
  • Tail light

And that’s just the bare minimum. On days when I have off-site meetings, there’s also hair product and shoes in there. (I keep a collection of shoes under my desk–and a hair dryer, straightening iron, styling creme, and hair wax in a drawer–but when I have to travel to meetings, I need to bring some with me.) Last week, I baked cookies that I took with me to a meeting. Today I brought my glass jar of coffee because I ran out yesterday.

I don’t normally carry a lock (because, luckily, I have a bike storage locker at work) but I do have to bring one if my day requires travel. I keep a Kryptonite U-lock in my storage locker at work (for when I have afternoon meetings) and a heavy-duty chain lock at home (for when I have morning meetings). If I didn’t have to carry a lock with me, I’d be a happy camper: it adds considerable weight and bulk to my bag. But, unfortunately, I live and work in a city where bikes are stolen in broad daylight on a regular basis so I just have to suck it up and deal with it.

Given all the stuff I carry with me, I’m extremely grateful for my rear rack and trunk bag combo. They work great together and I get to haul a lot of stuff. The bag has a carrying handle and a shoulder strap so it’s easy to slide the bag off my rack and carry it with me into the elevator and to my desk. I’ve also used it to go grocery shopping. It can do it all! But maybe not for long: I got it 4 years ago and it’s starting show some wear and tear. When it finally breaks down, I’ll be replacing it with the same model. Actually, I’ll probably upgrade to a higher-capacity one. Bigger is better, right?

1 Why the garbage bag? Rain! My bag isn’t waterproof so I need to make sure my clothes don’t get sopping wet on my morning rides. And it’s also easier to then transport the clothes into a bag I keep at my desk that I take with me to the bathroom to change, do my hair, etc.
2 I don’t trust meteorologists anymore so I take my rain gear with me everyday and everywhere.

A vegan kitchen: eating at work

I just sent Alex a text message:

There’s a wedge of lime wrapped in foil in your lunch container. Please don’t microwave it >_<

I made Pineapple-Cashew-Quinoa Stir-Fry last night and the recipe calls for a wedge of lime for garnish. Alex and I really do like the extra touch of citrus so the lime is a necessity. However, it’s hard to pack without somehow compromising the integrity of the lime or losing it in your bag. My latest attempt was to wrap it in foil and drop it into the food container with the entree. If no one microwaves the foil today, this will be my go-to method of including essential-but-non-microwaveable foodstuffs in our lunches.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I have glass food containers in which I pack our lunches so I wanted to talk a little bit more about what else goes into eating at work.

In addition to the glass containers in an assortment of sizes (in which I carry entrees, side salads, cookies, fresh fruit, etc.), I have a couple of tiny squeeze bottles in which I carry dressings and other sauces. They’re only 2-oz so you don’t get much in there but it does its job well. I haven’t purchased salad dressing in years (opting to make my own instead1) and, while I store the majority of the prepared dressing in a glass container not reserved for lunch, I carry little amounts with me to work to dress up my food.

In terms of utensils, I bought two sets of bamboo flatware on Reuseit. I keep my set at work while Alex brings in the necessary utensil(s) on a day-by-day basis. (I have my own cube where I can keep my stuff but he doesn’t have a designated work area so he has to schlep his stuff in.) They work really well. The fork has surprisingly sharp tines and the knife is serrated to help get the job done. The spoon is relatively flat and is sort of halfway between a regular teaspoon and tablespoon in size. I’ve used it to eat soup, soy yogurt, applesauce, etc. It successfully transfers food from my bowl to my mouth so I’m satisfied.

In addition to the things I bring in everyday, I also stock food-related things in my cubicle: a single-serving French press, a glass jar of coarsely ground coffee2, a glow-in-the-dark zombie mug (that is no longer available on ThinkGeek, sadly), two cans of veggie soup, a can opener, salt & pepper shakers, snacks (Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter, Clif bars, nuts, and dried fruit), and mints. I also have a couple of plastic utensils that I’ve procured over the last year and keep in case of emergencies. I also have a set of wood chopsticks that I recently got with a Thai takeout lunch (…huh?) that I’m keeping in case I need ’em.

I also have a glass water bottle that I keep near me at all times. I end up drinking about two bottle-fuls a day… which keeps my bladder nice and active. I end up using the restroom more frequently than a pregnant coworker with whom I share the office suite. (What? It’s important to stay hydrated!)

My cubicle is my home away from home (I spend at least a third of each weekday there!) so I make sure I’m comfortable and well-stocked. This comes particularly in handy in the summers, when the university institutes a 4-day workweek in which we work 40 hours in 4 days (taking Fridays off). I get hungry on those long days so it’s nice to be able to snack as necessary throughout the day. Alas, summer is over… but I’m still a very hungry lady who appreciates munching on banana chips or having a cup of coffee with spoonfuls of a vegan Nutella-like spread.

1 I’m a big fan of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s carrot ginger dressing from her book Appetite for Reduction so I make a large batch on the weekend and it lasts me through the week.
2 I drink my coffee black so I don’t keep sugar or creamer of any sort in my cube or in the shared kitchen. I get hot water for my coffee from the office water cooler but wouldn’t be opposed to storing a small electric kettle in my cube if I didn’t have access to the cooler.

I descended a dusty gravel ridge

So I’m working full-time again. As of January 2 of this year, I am the substitute Technical Services/Electronic Resources Librarian at a college in Brooklyn. I love my (challenging!) job and my (fantastic!) coworkers and I hope this stint will lead to a permanent position in the (awesome!) department… but what I’m really here to write about is my bike.

I love my bike. My boyfriend got me a 2012 Salsa Casseroll for the winter holidays and I’ve been riding it for a month now. I fall in love with it all over again every morning and then again every night. I miss it when I’m not riding it and I’m frustrated when I have to walk somewhere. (For 5 straight days two weeks ago, I couldn’t ride my bike — my fault, not the bike’s — so I took the subway to work and walked the 3 miles home. What do you mean it takes 3 times longer by foot to cover the same distance!? my mind kept yelling.) So now I not only look forward to work everyday but I also eagerly anticipate my commute.

…Unless it’s raining heavily or the winds are blowing at over 50 MPH. Then, yes, I’d rather be somewhere indoors but only because I hate being wet and fighting the wind to stay upright.

So when I realized this morning that my bike needed to go to the shop for some adjustments (derailleurs, brakes), I dreaded the possibility of having to leave my bike there overnight because I’d only be getting in around closing time. Instead, I spent about 15 minutes in the shop as the mechanic fiddled with some knobs and tightened some cables… after he ogled my bike and his buddy let out a wolf whistle. (The attention wasn’t expected but it was definitely appreciated.) It was a painless experience and I left with my bike, ready to tackle another day of commuting duty.

I’ve been consistently riding in to work at least 4 days out of the week. (We had a flurry of three-day weekends that I’ll miss going into a strictly-five-day-workweek March. I also had off-campus meetings that didn’t lend themselves to being bike friendly, as I stuck around afterwards to grab lunch with colleagues and/or travel back to campus with coworkers.) This would have been another one of those weeks — what with an off-campus meeting first thing tomorrow — but I think I’ll suck it up and bike there. It’s under 8 miles of mostly bike lanes. The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow, too. (High of 46°F! As much as it worries me that this winter can barely be classified as winter, I love that the mild weather keeps me on my bike.)