Sunday, November 30, 2008

When a Dead End Is Really Just The Beginning

Even though we had family staying with us through the long holiday weekend, I was able to get out for some type of ride each of the last four days and still maintain my stellar reputation as the hostess-with-the-mostest's obedient other half who does exactly what he's told. (When he's not riding.) Needless to say, I'm enjoying a fabulous state of mind right now. (No, not because the in-laws have left. C'mon! It's the riding! ;-)

Today's ride was the way funnest of the four. The mental slate was blank (fancy term for brain dead) and after tossing around a few ideas, I decided to go in search of Spokanarama's stretch of the Ben Burr Trail. I did a quick Google search. Nothing. And that's as close to asking for directions as I get, because, well, I'm a guy. So I bid the IL's farewell and headed off into the glorious fog.

The section of Ben Burr trail that I'm familiar with is between Liberty Park on the west and Ray Street (roughly) on the east.

It ain't paved and it pretty much Dead-Ends into a residential chain-link, where you can then drop down on single-track through a wooded section and get back onto pavement. Instead, I skirted the north side of the fence. On the other side of this property, I was truly at an eastbound Dead End, so I cut south on what looks like an easement and landed back on the street. I crossed Ray and Freya and wound up in this neighborhood.

View Larger Map

At which point I pretty much forgot all about the BBT thing. I was in my rideabout mood and while I've passed through this neighborhood lotsa times, I've never stopped to play.

What's cool about this neighborhood is that is that it's all up and down and a whole bunch of the N-S streets are steep, rutted, dirt jobs.

And it's full of empty lots you can ride through.

A lesser man would dismount at this point. That's mister lesser man, to you.

And the more you ride here, the happier you are to see the next Dead End sign.

Because you start getting more and more confident that there's fun on the other side.

But then things get serious when you get to the NE section of the map, cause that's where there's some undeveloped land. I didn't see any 'no trespass' signs, so I invited myself on in.

Man, if I lived adjacent to this, and assuming the owner was cool with it, I'd build the coolest-ever track and live the life of a king. Right in the damn middle of the city!

But maybe the best part of this find is that it's a killer route between 14th/12th and Hartson/8th. One of my staple W-E routes involes scooting down Carnahan between these two streets. But going up Carnahan sucks big, so I take a different route going E-W. Now I don't have to.

On the way home, this stairway stood between me and my house on the hill. Fortunately, I'm fully trained in shouldering techniques, so I hoofed it on up.

Anyway, I give. Uncle. Can somebody tell me where the newly paved section of the Ben Burr is at?

Signing off for Nov. Cya in Dec.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

First Snow

. . . ready or not . . .

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rainy Day Project

Since I was under the weather this past weekend, I couldn't ride and I couldn't build. So I needed a project. Here's what I came up with:

Friday, November 21, 2008


Tonight I visited the trading post and secured the provisions I will need to survive the next few long winter nights. Pretty sure it's gonna get worse before it gets better. I feel like garbage. On the bright side, Beer-Quil shooters seem to help, if only temporarily.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Take On Tonight's Meeting

Tonight I attended the Master Bike Plan Open House. For some reason, the meeting became this week's focus of my bike life and so in my usual obsessive fashion, I printed and read documents and maps and killed time surfing the city website, getting a little immersed in trying to understand this process and what the plan means for Spokane and it's cycling community. Even with a little preparation, I didn't really know what to expect. I had been to one previous open house, but that wasn't enough to get things clicking in my head.

A lot of people showed up with the idea of commenting on specific routes and specific preferences, and of course there were the requisite idea guys/gals, along with those who want immediate results. And I love that everyone showed up and I'm not complaining in any sense because it's so great to see the passion and involvement in our burgeoning cycling scene, but that wasn't at all what tonight was about.

Tonight was about a collection of really smart, seriously thoughtful people with tremendous vision, who have been passionately involved in moving cycling in Spokane progressively forward, holding a meeting that was a necessary part of a process that spans many years. Laying a foundation for change. The specifics will be more easily achieved and more fully defined within the excellent framework that is being established. If you don't already get where I'm coming from, I believe that these folks are on exactly the course that can best achieve results. Seriously intelligent and focused, man.

I'm sad to say that I am feeling a tremendous pull towards involvement. Sad, because I have a lot on my plate and my history of over-commitment puts a lot of strain on things. But I sense that this is truly a unique group of movers and shakers in a truly unique time of change in the Spokane cycling landscape. Spokane's cycling stars are sort of aligned and energized and how can you not be a part of that in some larger or smaller way. It's just the place I'm in, but it feels like put up or shut up time for me personally.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Like This Video

See what you think.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Grossed Out and Full Of Questions

A couple of local blog posts by David Blaine and Jacque got me thinking about the west end of town this week, so this morning I flipped a two-headed coin to help me decide between yardwork and a ride. I hadn't been on the Fish Lake Trail for a couple of years and wanted to see what it looks like these days, so I started at the current far west end - 13th and Lindeke.

It was the first real chance I've had to take the monkey off pavement and I was being blown away by how well those massive tires were just rolling over everything in their path and the stability of the whole setup, and I was also seriously enjoying riding in daylight. So by the time I came to what looked like this muddy section, I was feelin' my oats and decided to just power through it. It wasn't until I got to the other side that I became aware of the stench. The smell and the texture of the goop were just so out of place that my mind was having a hard time processing it.

I rode on to the Fish Lake Trailhead. The ride was full of wonderful scenic distractions, but I still couldn't stop thinking about the mud bog. Was that horse shit I was smelled? I know enough about horse shit to know that it smelled like horse shit. In fact I could still smell it because it was all over my bike. I was denying it for all I was worth, but the realization that I had ridden through a pond of liquid horse shit was setting in. WTF.

By the time I came back through, I was beginning to accept reality. It was at this point that I began to feel very sorry for one of the riders before me that obviously hadn't made it through.

But to be honest, I didn't have much time for sympathy, because I was overloaded with questions. How and why is this poop pond sitting in the middle of the FLT?

I got off my bike and headed off trail. The liquid poop mess was coming from the uphill side of the trail (seriously good detective work here). There's a house (horse ranch?) directly above the cesspool and there is goop all over the hillside. I don't know enough about the operation of a ranch to know if there is some common method of dealing with manure that involves suspending it in liquid and then flushing it down a hill next to your ranch. It is hard for me to imagine that this a-hole could possibly be oblivious to what he is doing, so is it intentional? Is he anti-FLT and this is his form of protest? Hmmm. Wow. Hmmm.

I decided to take some deep breaths and let it go. (Actually, the deep breaths were involuntary. But I did let it go.) I came off the FLT and since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to figure out exactly how flawed the advice was that I offered Jacque, regarding his route to work. He's been trying to pedal a trailer full of fireman's gear up the Sunset Hill without ending up plastered to the grill of a Yukon. David Blaine and I volunteered basically the same alternate route.

But as I was looking at the map, I realized that I had never ridden all the way straight up Rosamond, which judging from the map, feeds right back into Sunset Hwy at the top. Sweet! I must have missed the Dead End sign.

You can keep going, sans pavement, but probably not if you're pulling a trailer.

I did complete the loop and suspect that this is headquarters for talking down 747's.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You Goin' ?

Dunno. You goin' ? Not sure. We have lots of time. We'll decide later. And so it went.
Here's the story: When I got home from work tonight, I found out that Jacque and I were thinking about the same thing. We had never once talked about it. She heard about it from her friend Aaron. I knew about it from Spokane bike blogosphere. She saw me fiddling with my bike, as usual, and asked me if I was going for a ride tonight. "Not sure." As we talked, it became apparent that we were both thinking about the same thing - the Fiasco. We himmed and hawed some more. I finally threw down and she enthusiastically accepted. At ten after eight, we were on the road, destined to be fashionably late.
As fate would have it, we pulled up behind Aaron, Melanie and Eric on our way down the hill and rode on to the Swamp together.

There is nothing that you own that comes anywhere close to being as cool as Melanie's boots.

It was great to run into Scott and Brenda and their friends at the Swamp. Scott built my Karate Monkey. I got so busy yapping that I forgot to take a picture. After much beer and super-salty popcorn, we headed out, en route to the Globe. It's always fun riding downtown, but super way more funner when you're riding with bike friends.
At the Globe, I got to meet the man who hatched this grand plan, along with my old friend and veteran fixie rider Hank. Jacque mentioned that it was so cute to see us nerdy bloggers getting together. I'm deciding here and now to take that as a compliment and just move on.
It was fun to hear the stories about the modest early days of this ride and then see the evidence of the Spokane bike event that it has become.

We ran into Joe on the way out and got a chance to chat, which was great. Then Jacque headed off to the Baby Bar because she's young and hip and full of energy. I headed home because I'm a Bar Baby who needs sleep. I'll have to peel myself off the mattress in the morning, but it was well worth it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Drawing A Blank

The title of this post totally evades me. So be it.

I scrambled home tonight because I had to do this conference call with some people who live in nutty time zones. But on the way, I stopped for just a minute at the top of the hill, on Cliff Drive, to smell the lilacs.

Gorgeous city - we're so lucky. If you've never seen it by bike in the dark, you're missing something special. At first glance it might seem cold out, but the riding is actually great right now - you should check it out.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Bungee King

Umm, that would be me.

The shortest route between home and work is 17 miles and we don't currently have shower facilities at work (although they're coming within the next year - yay!). I can ride both ways once in a while, but mostly it's not very practical, so I rely on the bus to help me with my bike commute. In the most common scenario, the bus shoots me from downtown (near home) to Industrial Park (near work) in the morning and then I ride home in the evening. But there are all kinds of bike-bus possibilites and combinations. In the icy dark months, 17 miles can be a long ways and it's good to have options. The point here is that I need the bus.

So anyhow, I took the monkey on its first commute a coupla weeks ago. Plan was to ride downtown, rack up on the 72 to Ind Park and ride home after work. The ride down the South Hill was even better than usual. I fell in line behind another bike coming down Washington and then another rider fell in line behind me. Our LED-laden bikes were taking over the Lilac City in the dark, early hours!

Once downtown, I waited at the stop, trying to read the route numbers of approaching buses in the dark. Finally, the 72 appeared and the sqeauling brakes brought the big rig to a stop. As I had done many times before, I muscled my bike up onto the rack. This time though, there was a problem: The big tires and long wheelbase wouldn't allow the bike to set down in the rack. HOLY KRAP!! I hadn't even considered this when I was dreaming up my perfect winter commuter. Desperate to not have to abort the commute and pedal back up the hill and drive to work, I just left the bike in the rack. It fell over, leaning against the bus windshield.

"Looks good to me!" I told the driver. He wasn't exactly buying it. I'm pretty sure he didn't want to be the first driver in STA history to lose a bike off the front of his bus. He was a super-nice guy and got off the bus to help me with my little situation. He said he had another rider with a similar problem, and showed my how to set the front wheel in first, which fixes the bike in the rack, and then lash the rear wheel down. He asked me if I had any bungees, which I didn't, but fortunately, I had a dork bungee-esque cargo net on my dork rear basket, and we were able to make do. (You can see how the bike in the left sits properly down in the rack while the monkey just sort of sits on top of it.)

I got to work, but I've been worried every since about how reliable the bus is gonna be for getting me and the monkey to work. So last Friday night after work, I rode up to the the South Hill park-n-ride and got a coupla other drivers to let me try the bike in their racks. It worked out sort-of okay and maybe I have a tiny bit more confidence now, but certainly not the complete peace of mind that I would like.

Which is okay. Great, really. Because part of what makes bike commuting so great is the adventure and uncertainty. I've found that if I can just get myself to swing my leg over the saddle and start pedalling, I will figure out a way to get to work. It's amazing how resourceful you can get at 6:30 in the morning, when you're on your bike, miles from work, with no other options. And now that I am the proud owner of a Big R bungee variety pack, I will be that much harder to stop.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wet, Black & Chilly

Tonight I took a ride in the dark and cold and rain on the bike that I designed for riding in the dark and rain and cold. It was funner than fun.

When I got home, I wrapped these weird bars.

People always think their own shit looks so great, me included. I'm pretty sure that just about everyone else out there is going "whatever".


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Appalachian Miracle Relic Unearthed!

No, this is not a piece of coal that came out of the ground shaped like a cross that has mystical healing powers that I am trying to pitch to The Enquirer.

It's part of my ugly fender hack job that involves . . . wood.

I don't know if any of you guys and gals have anything on your bikes that started out as a tree. I do, and it's not the first time. Sometimes, wood just works.

I finished up last Sunday's gate project somewhere between 8 and 9 pm, running on fumes. I'd been dying to get to the bike all day and wasn't gonna let a couple little things like darkness, hunger and sleep deprivation get in my way. I didn't have a solid plan for mounting the fenders and most of my right kind of tools for this job are lost someplace in storage. Luckily, I had a table saw, a halogen worklight, some wood scraps and of course, cheap beer.

The cross started out as a piece of pine shelving. There were a couple of diffent power and manual saws involved, along with a wood rasp. It was eventually slathered with with gloss black rustoleum. Like all righteous hacks, electrical tape and cable ties were involved. I don't have time for elegance. What I do have is a fender spacer and bike that is ready to roll on rain. (Yes, I'm trying to justifying this embarassing mess.)

The front fender spacer looks infinitely more professional, except if you had seen the barbaric methods that went into creating it.

In case your enquiring mind wants to know, here's how you dry spray paint on a cold night. Just leave it there until really foul-smelling smoke starts to roll off of it and that's how you know it's done.

It looks pretty good, as long as you don't get too close.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mounted Snows

The weather this fall has been nothing short of awesome, but all good things must end and the writing's pretty much on the wall now.

I've been reluctant to pull the Paselas off because cornering is just so damn much fun on this bike, but one of the things it has to be able to do is go off-pavement and with all kinds of mud and yuck in our near future, I'll be needing a little more traction. The winter tire I picked out is the WTB Vulpine 29er. I'm hoping it's the just-right combination of fast (because I need range) and sticky (because I need to stay upright!). The sidewall says 35-65 psi, but they're a tight fit on the rims and I had to pump them up to about 75 just to get them to seat. I'll start off running them at 40 and see how they feel. I think they look pretty good on the monkey.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Monkey Business

It's been a busy week and as it's progressed, my mood has become more and more foul. Not because of the busy-ness, but because I have a new bike sitting in the basement and the busy business is keeping me away from it. Tonight, I finally got some relief. The girls sat down to watch a movie and I took the opportunity to sneak away and caress my monkey.


What I am trying to tell you, if you would pull your head out of the gutter, is that I finally got to spend some time working on my new Karate Monkey.

I've had a hard time figuring out what saddle to put on this bike. I have a few stashed in my saddle box, but nothing was even close to being right for this bike. I've wanted to try a Brooks for a while, but this is not the bike. What I've been reading about and wanting to try is a WTB. They have about a thousand different models, but I zeroed in on one called the Pure V Pro. It had to look right and ultimately, it has to feel right. It's finally in hand and on the bike. I think it looks pretty good. How does it feel? Only time will tell. I'm only too happy to throw a few more bucks into the bottomless saddle money pit.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bike Riding Man Riding Bike

When you absolutely, positively, have to get someplace with one too many bikes.

(In the U-district this morning.)