Convert Energy into Mobility // Praise the Light

Design Chat: August 8, 2013

Every month or so, the firm at which I work hosts a lunchtime event with our architect firm friends down the street. We call it Design Chat, and it brings together nearly a dozen design-minded individuals with a passion for aesthetics, sustainability and progress.

As we haven’t really done one of these in a while, we revisited an old theme: Good Design.

Items presented have included everything from graphic design to architecture and product design to industrial design. I chose the bicycle, and the following is what I presented, in blog form with minimal words.


“The bicycle is a tremendously efficient means of transportation.


It is more efficient than any other method of travel–including walking!
A bicycle can be up to 5 times more efficient than walking.”

(Source: The Physics of Cycling.)

Skagit County has some of the most beautiful roads I have ever traveled by bike. Design Chat has also given attendees a chance to share art, photographs, and personal experiences related to design or not.

The Project: 1972 (or 1974) Schwinn Varsity

Next, I talked about my current project, an early 1970s Schwinn Varsity, which I have disassembled and am now stripping of paint. It will be rebuilt as an elegant, flat black cycle with white-wall tires and plenty of shiny chrome. The plan is to fit it with a Brooks saddle, and I’m still debating whether to make it a freewheel single speed or multi-speed.


The Goal

Growing the Revolution: Mission Bicycle

I follow a small handful of bicycle makers. There is Fast Boy Cycles in NYC and — my favorite — Mission Bicycle in San Francisco.

What They Do

• Make lightweight hand-made cycles.
• Custom built to order, one at a time.
• Built for city riding.

Their Products

One reason I am such a fan of Mission Bicycle is due to their Instagram account. They take fabulous photographs of their products, of which I noted above are all custom made to order.


A Different Revolution: Revolights

Revolights are a revolutionary new bicycle light that mounts to the front and rear wheels. Not only does it light your path forward and back, it provides adequate adjacent lighting to give you greater visibility to other riders and drivers at night.

I am fascinated with this product and would love to install it on one of my future cycles.

Revolights™. Now landed. from revolights on Vimeo.

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In Photos: Seattle to Portland by Bicycle

PREFACE: Like my previous post, this is less a story than it is a journal entry recounting a great moment in my life.

WE BEGIN: In 2011, my father asked if I would join him on his annual participation in the Group Health Seattle to Portland Bike Ride, also known as the STP. What I didn’t know was that my answer would essentially change my life.

Two years later and I have completed my third STP. Biking has become an integral part of my life, logging roughly 1,000 miles on my bike each year. It is my “commuter car” and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Each year it begins the same: a photo of my bicycle resting the evening before the trip, posted on Facebook with the famed Twin Peaks line (as delivered by the mysterious giant): “It is happening again.”

The night before, I joined my parents and my friend and Green Light Go Publicist Janelle Rogers in my parents’ room for a celebratory pre-ride bottle of wine. We used styrofoam cups.

With my parents, it is always an ordeal to get on the road. It is always a hurry up and wait scenario. Everything has to take place now in my father’s eyes, but then we get held up by things he did not finish.

We got a very late start, leaving the hotel roughly 30 minutes later than hoped and the starting line a good hour-plus later than planned. They called 5-minutes ’til starting line closure as we rode through. The time was 7:25am.

We cruised through the first stop at REI’s headquarters. Things were wrapping up; the crowds had dissipated, food was essentially gone. What was left were plain tortillas, plain bagels and oranges. We left quickly, concerned lunch might find us with an equal lack of food options.

The second stop is a mini-break in Puyallup/Sumner before what everyone dubs “The Hill” — a somewhat brutal mile-plus incline that never seems to end. Shortly after the hill is the lunch spot. We were pleased to find plenty of sandwiches remained.

After lunch, we ride alongside Fort Lewis, a road that is typically a bit terrifying. For one, it’s narrow. Cars drive fast along it, and the heavy quantity of bicycles make for bunch-ups behind slow riders, and closer-than-normal passing by fast cyclists. Last year we witnessed the aftermath of a few bike-on-bike accidents along this road, one of which resulted in hospital treatment.

This year, the road was easy. Given our late start, bike traffic was light.

At the end of this road, we hop on a bicycle trail for 14 miles. In the past, this has been an arduous ride, but this year it seemed to go quickly. The heat was still blaring, but I had trained a significantly greater amount this year in comparison to last.

Perhaps the best part of the STP is the overnight stay in Centralia. Each year we stay with a wonderful couple who hosts a get-together with plenty of beer and wine, an amazing BBQ, and actual beds for riders to sleep in (most riders camp).

Contrary to previous years, our very generous hosts expanded the party and invited neighbors, family and other friends. Met some great people that night, had a little too much beer and wine, and woke up the next morning with a light hangover.

Our hosts, of course, have the perfect cure: an amazing breakfast with homemade cinnamon rolls and oatmeal, all the coffee we can drink, and fruit and muffins and more.

Like much of this year’s STP, the second day was very untraditional. We three rode separately for the most part, my father going ahead early on while Janelle and I took a longer break. I rode with my father up to the Banana Bread stop, but he left us behind at Winlock, home of the World’s Largest Egg.

By the time I arrived in Vader, dad had a 30-minute-plus lead. Following Vader is a school stop, then Day 2 lunch. I left Janelle behind a few times and met up with her again at the stop-points. We also met up with a few of our fellow overnight stay guests along the way.

Perhaps one of the most notable paths during the STP is the crossing of the Columbia River in Kelso. Traffic is split: a large group of cars crosses, followed by a large group of bikes, and so on.

Last year at the peak, I lost my chain. It jammed and I cut my fingers an knuckles yanking it loose. This year, with a new bike under me, I was determined not to have the same fate.

The bridge arches tremendously, and at the peak you can see miles in every direction. Of course, in a crowd of bicycles, you don’t look. Especially at the peak. You focus on what’s ahead — the decline.

It’s known as a water bottle graveyard. You can achieve great speeds on the way down — thirties, forties, if not higher. It’s the dividing sections of the roadway, subtle bumps in a car, but back-jolting impacts by bike. It’s always a bit terrifying, but a thrill nonetheless.

From there, it’s on to the final large stop of the day in St. Helens, about 30 miles outside Portland. Arriving here is always a welcome sight. They have plenty of water and crude PVC-pipe misters. The more daring bikers walk through the arches, while most stand eight to ten feet away and let the mist roll over them.

It’s a welcome feeling after a sixty to seventy mile ride. It’s even more welcome as by the time you arrive, the temperature is in the 80s.

However, one of the best stops on Day 2 is the Dairy Queen in Scappoose. By 3:30pm, we’ve been riding in 70 to 80+ degree heat for hours, and all we can think about is something nice, cold, and refreshing: ice cream.

It’s a popular destination.

In St. Helens, I caught up with my dad. We rode together to Dairy Queen where we each had a treat. With the sugar rush that followed, I left him far behind. Had I clocked it, my average speed is likely to have topped 20mph the last 20 or so miles.

People always talk about the Puyallup hill as being one of the most hellish parts of the trip. I quite disagree. I think it’s the hill up to the bridge in Portland, given it comes up so unexpectedly. We always forget about this hill, and it’s a bit of a monster.

At the top is quite the sight.

The bridge is so iconic — We have arrived in Portland!

What follows is another easily-forgotten path: the winding streets through the city to the finish line. It’s a good seven or eight miles, and it always seems so much longer as in the city there are endless stoplights and crowds of bicyclists.

Then it’s done.

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In Photos: A Hot Vegas Wedding

PREFACE: This is less a story and more a journal entry, recounting my wedding on July 1, 2013 and the road trip there and back…

WE BEGIN: Andi and I have been together for nearly six years. We’ve lived together for over five. Last August, I, in my normal state of awkwardness, proposed and she gracefully said yes. She didn’t want a fancy ring. It nearly brought tears to my eyes; she was satisfied with the ring I presented her on the day we got engaged — my late grandmother’s engagement ring from the 1940s.

Us: we’re not much for large get-togethers. She especially will shun big parties. Likewise, she doesn’t like being the center of attention in a large group. So we decided the best route to a wedding was something small — we set a mid-summer date and scheduled a small ceremony at the famed A Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas (Elvis not included). The date: July 1, 2013 — all prime numbers (a requirement of Andi’s).

Homemade invitations were distributed to a small number of close family and an even smaller number of close friends.

Given Instagram has added embed functionality to their photos, I figured I’d give you a visual rundown of our trip.

The trip was amazing. What we didn’t expect, though, was 117-degree weather.

We left our Mount Vernon, Washington home on the Saturday before our wedding and drove to Twin Falls, Idaho. It was a long drive at over ten hours, but we stopped in the cute town of Nampa just outside Boise for dinner at Messenger Pizza. The second day, we traveled south to Vegas, quickly passing through several small desert towns.

We arrived in Vegas Sunday afternoon, the day before the wedding, and checked into our room at the Flamingo. Andi’s parents had arrived earlier that day, and mine the day before. We met up with hers for dinner, hopping from casino to casino to take advantage of their indoor air conditioning. The heat was already near unbearable with thermometers reading the hundred-teens.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced this type of heat, but it’s like being in a slow cooker. The air is thick with the heat — not thick like it is when it’s humid, though, just a pure, hot thickness. Almost immediately, we began to dub Vegas as Las Vegas, Hell.

We ultimately settled on The Cheesecake Factory in Caesar’s Forum for our meal after a few unsuccessful attempts to find a spot that offered gluten free options. By that time, Andi’s parents had gone back to the room to rest, and we were joined by Andi’s sister and her sister’s husband (where we are Andi and Andy, they are Jesse and Jessi).

The rest of the evening was spent looking for the piece Andi would ultimately wear in her hair during our wedding. We scoured the Forum for hours, looking in this store and that.

Marc By Marc Jacobs, a store in which we spent a fair amount of time, had a 1979 El Camino sitting in the window. Being that I drive a nearly identical car (but jet black), I had to take a picture. Finally, we gave up as 9:00 came around.

Heading back to Flamingo, Andi noted that she would probably find it in the least obvious place possible: our hotel. She was right.

That night, I took a few shots of the view from our hotel room on the 24th floor. The view was astonishing at night, lights everywhere, traffic and crowds never ceasing…

The morning of our wedding, we drove downtown to apply for our marriage license. At a Starbucks down the street, we met a wonderful elderly gentleman from Nevada who was nearly as hot as we were. He said this was unusual weather, even for the desert; the night before, it barely dipped below 90.

Andi dropped me off at the hotel around 11am. She and her father ran additional wedding errands while I met Andi’s friend Gypsy, who was just getting into town, and assisted her in checking into the Flamingo.

Our limo was to pick us up between 2:15 and 2:30pm. Andi hadn’t returned from having her makeup done by 2, and I, being the stress case I can be, was freaking out thinking she wouldn’t be ready in time. But we made it; she returned five minutes later and was ready within fifteen minutes (quite the feat for her, I must say).

She had her makeup done at Sephora, and expressed concern at the thickness of her eyebrows. Gypsy noted that on film and in photographs, having slightly bolder eyebrows is a good thing. She, of course, was right — despite our Girls references (i.e. when Hannah’s co-workers do her makeup, which prompts Adam to comment You look like a Mexican teenager. It rules.).

We made it to the limo just in time (or, about five minutes late). Andi’s mom gasped noticeably from the lobby as we descended on the escalator to where our ride was waiting. Joining her at the bottom, she commented that Andi looked stunning with her hair and makeup and 60s-referencing, Mod-era dress.

The limo ride was nearly unbearable. 117 degrees outside, but it wasn’t much better inside — 105 at least — as the air conditioning was terrible. The six mile drive to the Chapel nearly killed us. We rode back to the hotel in my parents’ rental car (though Andi’s family took the limo).

Technically, you’re not supposed to take your own photos in the Chapel, but we snapped a few from the lobby, including one with an Elvis cameo (he was not part of our ceremony):

After the ceremony, we congregated at The Center Cut, Flamingo’s signature steakhouse, for our reception dinner. We all ate steak and me, being a social drinker, had nearly 12 glasses of water. I snapped a photo of my parents, my brother and his wife, and our wedding dessert. In retrospect, I wish I would have had one of the waiters take a photo of the entire party at dinner.

Andi and I had a very untraditional honeymoon. The majority was spent on the road, driving home from Las Vegas. But it was along these roads that we had the most fun. Driving northwest toward Reno, we turned down a side street in Goldfield, NV and discovered a gold mine.

Not literally, of course, as those dried up years ago.

Goldfield is a partial ghost town, parts of which appear to have been abandoned in the 1920s. We could not pass up the chance for the photo op.

Walker Lake is a picturesque lake just outside Hawthorne, Nevada. We stopped here for a restroom break, questioning why the resort-like beach was vacant. We soon learned why.

Stretching our legs and getting ready to use the restrooms, Andi almost stumbled into a bush. It was at this moment she realized the bush was covered in inch-long spiders — nearly fifty in all! It’s wasn’t just this bush — it was EVERY bush.

Creeped out, we left as quickly as possible, not pausing to get a picture for proof. For miles around the lake, as we cruised by at 55 to 60 mph, we saw similar bushes along the side of the road, all infested with spiders. The following article about Walker Lake notes:

…woe to the motorist who pulls over and doesn’t pay attention to the guard rail. It is spider central — spider nirvana. It’s as if a B-movie director put out a casting call for large, nasty looking arachnids, miles and miles, thick with webs and spiders, packed together and ready to pounce.

On July 3, we were those motorists.

That night we splurged in Reno, staying in a room with a jacuzzi at the Silver Legacy Casino and Hotel.

The next day we drove the best road I’ve ever traveled: CA-139 from Reno, Nevada to Susanville, California. It’s a road I hope to drive again someday. Along it we stopped at Jacks Valley, a watering hole from the settler days and early 1900s.

On our way to our evening stay in Bend, Oregon, we took a planned detour and visited Crater Lake. For those who have never been, Crater Lake is exactly that: a giant lake in the crater of a dormant volcano. What you don’t get from the name is that it features one of the bluest, most serene and picturesque lakes in the world.

That evening, we were spent. We stayed at your standard Super 8, woke early the next morning and drove north to Yakima, over to Seattle, then home.

Exhausting as these types of drives may be, we decided that road trips are the way to go.

You experience so much of America by driving back roads and byways, by traveling two-lane state highways and scenic routes. You discover towns like Goldfield, Nevada, drive breathtaking roads like CA-139, and have unforgettable experiences like Walker Lake.

The old saying Why drive when you can fly? should be reversed: Why fly when you can drive!?!?

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One Weekend: Two Farewells

Last weekend, the world lost two inspirational individuals. Both likely had no idea of each other’s existence, nor could they be considered inspirational for any parallel reason. One a politician, the other a musician. Yet each touched the lives of those with which they came into contact.

RIP Booth Gardner (Former Gov. of Washington): 1936-2013

RIP Booth Gardner

I met Gov. Booth Gardner on several occasions during my employment at Strategies 360. I found him to be an inspiration; he had a brilliant, charismatic demeanor despite having long suffered from Parkinson’s Disease.

Gardner was elected the 19th Governor of Washington in 1984 and held the office for two terms between 1985 and 1993. Prior to his Governorship, he served as Pierce County Executive, and after his term through 2008 – and likely well beyond – Gardner was active in some regard both in the local community and in the state government.

He publicly announced support for assisted suicide in 2006 and headed – successfully – Washington’s Death with Dignity Act in 2008. Per wikipedia about the Death with Dignity Act:

In 2009, The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner, a short documentary film, was produced by Just Media and HBO, chronicling the Initiative 1000 campaign. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

In a letter to my old employer, Ron Dotzauer, the family spokesperson, I stated: I know he touched the lives of and inspired countless people, myself included. He will definitely be greatly missed by all who knew him and many who didn’t.

Rest in peace, good man. You were a true inspiration.

Watch this clip of The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner:

The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner clip from Just Media on Vimeo.

RIP Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co): 1973-2013

RIP Jason Molina

I caught a partial set by Jason Molina several years ago at Seattle’s Folklife festival. I can’t quite recall the year, not can I recall the name under which he performed. It could have been Jason Molina, Songs: Ohia, or even Magnolia Electric Co. What I remember of the performance is that out of his minimalist style, he was effortlessly enigmatic in the songs he created.

Somewhere between indie-folk and alt-country, Jason Molina’s music was without a doubt heartfelt and revealing, despite having a sound that was often difficult to describe. The first song I ever heard of his was the stripped-down opener and title track to Songs: Ohia’s 2002 LP, Didn’t It Rain.

Molina ultimately succumbed to health complications resulting from alcoholism. Despite his ailments, Molina was an artist whose music moved those who heard it. Loved by many throughout the indie music scene, he too will be a greatly missed soul.

Listen to “Heart My Heart” by Molina from his 2012 release Autumn Bird Songs:

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When In Vegas: MRI, Red Bull & A Quiz

Here it is, my blog-slash-web presence under my very own name, Andy Fenstermaker.

This is what was recommended we create at a two-day intensive Account Executive Advanced Training session by Agency Management Roundtable.

What a concept!?!?

In now fourteen years of blogging, I never thought to create one using my own name; likely to my own fault. It just always seemed more notable to create something under some pseudonym — something witty or clever.

But this makes perfect sense: I am now peeking behind the veil that is “Fense” and saying Hello World! in the most generic WordPress manner possible.

The AMR event saw me in Las Vegas for the first time. (Talking with someone later, I noted that the only items I didn’t use in my über small carry-on bag were the 14 quarters I took to play the slot machines.) And what a trip! Lots of new friends; an amazing learning experience.

The final night I ended up a Vodka Martini and four beers deep while hanging out with a new friend from Massachusetts. After she took off for a red-eye flight, I made my way to my new hotel, checked in and powered up the laptop.

Looking for a spare plug, I found the following behind the couch:

When In Vegas

Plenty of WTF, this was the perfect wind-down to an amazing trip.

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