Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Color Is Your Nerdachute?

Couple or more days ago, my friend Alan commented on this post. He's a really creative and forward-thinking guy and his suggestion was that maybe the bike nerd color scale could be it's own thing instead of having to ride the coattails of the whole homeland security gig.

The actual statement was "Yes, the nerd alert has been raised to "orange," or, in nerd-speak: coral." Holy hell. That made instant sense and set my twisted mind reeling down a fresh new path.

Chartreuse had already been brought up because how can you have any kind of respectable color conversation without including that one, and then Andrew mentioned mauve, which, how can you argue out of the conversation, and I had already been thinking about olive.

So. Exactly how does it work?

Well, in order from least to most nerdy, it's:


I already know that coral is totally where I wanna live. Accept that I am a nerd and be a respectable middle-of-the-road-one, is my thinking. Plus, it's incredibly warm. But also recognize that I am susceptible to life on the fringe and that I will have to wage epic battles with my demons to keep from going hotter and getting weirder.

Glow-in-the-dark-chartreuse and live-in-the-shadows-olive people: you know who you are, we know who you are. This is an accepting place and we don't come here to judge. But please, don't try to bullshit us.

As for honesty as it actually applies to me, Patty's out of town this weekend which leaves me with a lot of freedom and I'm only one night in, and I'm already struggling not to peg the nerd color meter.

Coratreuse, I guess.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Still Alive

Work's been crushing my ass, which leaves me in survival mode with little desire to bike blog. But that sucks, because it severs my vital connection with you, my fellow freak. So I'm breaking the surface just long enough to say hey and grab some air and then I guess I'll be going back under for I hope not too long.

But despite the silence, I haven't gone totally bike-dead. Bike shit is always happening and is in fact my escape and what keeps me sane. To wit:

Monday night is a standing weekly visit with my parents - I show up at my Mom's nursing home just north of the Y and bring some dinner for me and my Dad (Mom eats the NH food) and we all have a meal together. It's a along way from home on the s hill to my work out past industrial park to the northside and then back home, so I normally drive. But during seven carless days a few weeks ago, I needed to bike. The food plan for me and Dad that night was Wendy's at the Y, since it's close. I got there late and just wanted to grab some food in a hurry and book over to the NH, so I decided to bike through the drive-through.

The sensor doesn't pick up my bike and I'm just sitting there, so I finally pedal up to the window. I get an amused reaction, but not the "we're laughing with you" kind. I place my order. I hand her a $20. Window closes. Long wait. Window opens. She hands me my $20 back and says they can't serve me in the drive through and that I havta go inside. I park my bike, lock it, pull out my wallet, phone . . all the shit I was trying to avoid. Once inside, I have to take a spot at the end of the line and wait my turn. Are you kidding me. I finally get to the front, pissed as hell. Anyone/everyone in the kitchen who had anything to do with telling me I had to come inside is making themselves scarce and I'm not about to take it out on the 16 YO cashier who, after I ask how to get a hold of the manager, is begging me not to mention her name when I call. For some reason, they can't ring my order up on the front register since I originally came through the drive-through and there's a bunch of chaos and delay and people in line behind me are getting pissed at the douchebag with the bike helmet who's messing up the flow. All in all, a stupid humiliating experience. Yay Wendys. If Dave was still alive, this kind of shit would never happen. If Wendy wasn't so busy sucking on a golden spoon, she would step up and take charge and this shit would never happen. But neither of those things is happening, so this shit is happening. Only good thing I can find out of all this is the clouds. Pretty cool.

I didn't call, but I did google "bikes in drive thru" and it looks like there's a bunch of antecdotes out there about refusal of service and corporate speak about safety-driven policy regarding [gasp!] having bikes and cars in the same space. Whatever. Lame, lame, lame.

On the lighter, less ranty side, I've been messing with my first set of metal fenders, a pair of Velo Orange stainless jobs.

They come with a boatload of hardware, which even if the fenders are junk, I can totally use which is just so rad.

I have seen great fenderlines like this, and they're what I aspire to and let me tell you they are not easy to come by, but let me also tell you how the challenge totally disengages my head from work. Yes.

With that, I consider myself having checked in. I doubt that you feel any better, but I sure do. Okay then, hopefully talk to you soon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Button Heads

When I first brought my new Elephant home from Glen's, all the eyelets were stuffed with button head screws (BHS). At first, I was like WTF. These screws are wimpy as hell and besides, the entire bike and bike accessory industry revolves around the socket head cap screws (SHCS). Don't change me, man. The SHCS takes a 4mm hex, but the BHS takes a 3?? So that messes with your head a bit. Especially if you have a mix of BHS's and SHCS's on your bike, 'cause now you need 2 wrenches. But then over the next coupla days your head gets around the sense of BHS's and then you see a flash of light and the next thing you know, you gotta have 'em in your life.

BHS to the left, SHCS to the right . . .

Part of the mental process of accepting BHS's is letting go of industrial. It sounds easy, but it's hard. Just take a deep breath and walk with me . . . crazy talk, I hear ya, but maybe, just maybe, there's some room in your world for aesthetics. I just want you to think about how these pics are easy on the eyes with BHS's and then imagine how gross they might get with big ol' SHCS bulbs popping up in your face.

I can tell by the look on your face that you get it. Even if you don't, just nod. We need to move on.

I can't feel this way about a piece of hardware and not do something about it, so I placed an order for a batch of the stainless steel versions of a coupla different lengths that I thought would come in handy over the next 75 or so years, along with a coupla other items that I now never ever havta worry about running out of. The order hit my front porch yesterday.

I thought it was a very exciting moment. Patty issued a nerd alert.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hard Lessons Hopefully Well Learned

I don't know about you, but cycling, for me, is kind of the last bastion of my young-man-invincibility phase. That lasted 30-some years. My bulletproofness, incredible athletic talent that would allow me walk-on to any pro sports franchise (if I "really" wanted to) and make the team, and my amazing dance moves have all crashed and burned in distinct and irrefutable instances. And yet in my late 40's, I've somehow clung to the notion that I can do as much of anything that I want on a bike.

Last week was apparently about the universe correcting my misconception.

My knees are a mess from different injuries and surgeries and while I can't run or ski or a bunch of other stuff, I've always been sure that I can do as much knee-friendly riding as I want and that in fact, the more the better. My knee surgeon even had a term for it: "work hardening". He stole that term from the materials science world and he should have left it alone. Over the last several days, I "work hardened" my knees into a bad place. I'm off the bike for I'm not sure how long and I've ended the last few days with the wonderfully cool relief of ice packs.

I'm not implying in any way that my surgeon is to blame. I needed to listen to my body and instead, I decided that a dumb, self-imposed goal of seven carless days was more important. Two-a-days of stop-and-go urban riding hammers your knees and I was feeling the effects bigtime after the first three or four days and yet I was determined to power through and in fact on the last day, stubbornly refused to use the bus for any part of my travels.

If past experience from this similar condition is any indication, I think I'll recover, but it will take a while. Which hopefully is time well spent modifying my ideas of what I should be doing and how often. Which sucks, but is what it is. I hereby refute every last ounce of invincibility. "Getting by" is a hard pill to swallow, but on the positive side, I think you can get by at some pretty high performance levels. It's okay to be real.

In the meantime, I've consoled and distracted myself with another rack project. Except that the little bastard has caused me more grief and rework than any rack I've built so far. It is yet to be determined whether I will learn a hard lesson from this rack, or it from me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Seven Carless Days, Take Two

Last Friday night I parked my truck and launched my second attempt at 'Seven Carless Days'. Details of the first failed attempt are here. I'm now six successful days in and it's been a lot tougher than I thought, and at this point I just want it crossed off my bucket list. So I don't care if I have to crawl to work and back tomorrow, I'm willing it done. Originally, I envisioned that I'd be wrapping this project up with a long and boring post full of pictures and anectdotes, kind of like when someone whips out pictures of their grandchildren from their wallet and corners you. I was actually looking forward to tormenting you a little. Pictures and anecdotes both do exist and maybe at some point I'll get around to sharing them, but the week ended up taking a much more profound turn.

The "rules" for my little challenge are that any human-powered or mass-transit way of getting yourself around is allowed and that everything else is not. Including being a passenger in a car.

The experience has helped me to stretch boundaries and develop new perspectives, as it was designed to do. But by far the most significant thing it has done is to help me more clearly understand the fundamental role that transportation plays in the life I/we have designed for ourselves and boil it down to its most basic elements: time, distance and horsepower. I had to push all three limits to get it done. As of tomorrow, these will be my approximate 7-day numbers:

170 miles by bike, 12 total hours
100 miles by bus, 3-1/2 total hours
2 miles by foot, probably about 1/2 an hour

So, say 270 miles a week is probably a good average of the number of miles it takes me to live my life every week. (That seems a little sick when you put it that way, but those are the numbers.) Doing the math, driving those miles would probably take about 9 hours. Biking them all takes around 19.

19 hours is a huge chunk of time; 16 this week just about did me in. 9 in my truck minimizes it, but gets me no excercise or fun. Fortunately, I can mix and match, because I have transportation choices. That's the main point of everything I've written so far, so please hold that thought.


Monday morning, three days into my challenge, I picked up the paper from the front porch and read a cover headline about the 2nd ave bike lane. I had no time to read the article because I had a bus to catch and rushed out on my bike at 6am into the rain and dark. The cold and miserable start to this day was nothing in comparison to the way it would play out.

Once at work, I read the article online. It was uninformed, unfactual and seemed to intentionally pit motorists against cyclists. It was disappointing, but the comments that followed were pure anti-bike vitriol and venom. I'm talking hatred. Reading that shit left me floored and depressed. Try as I might to let these troll-ey, vile words of anonymous cowards roll of my back, I could not. Then things went from bad to worse.

During the afternoon, the Spokesman-Review reported online that a vehicle-bicycle accident had occured downtown. Details were scant and in my opinion, predjudicial against the cyclist. Whether intentional or not (and I do believe it was not), it nonetheless opened the door for all the scumbag self-centered backwater myopic vultures who preyed on the morning article to flock over and tear into this new bit of news with the full fury of their self-righteousness.

Details were slow to follow, but eventually started to emerge. The cyclist, Matthew, is by all accounts, a responsible rider, good citizen, good guy. He was riding to work and had the right-of-way through an intersection, when a minivan that had stopped at the cross-street proceeded through the intersection, across his path. One minute he was riding to work, and the next, he had no chance. His injuries are ICU-level head and spine. He has family that are devastated and friends that are in tailspins.


It's been a highly emotional and pivotal week in terms of the struggle of bikes and peds to establish rights and challenge perceptions in our fair city and I've done a bunch of soul-searching over all this. How can you not. A guy riding his bike, doing all the right things, has his life destroyed by the irresponsible action of another, and then his family and friends have to endure the hurtful cruelty of cowards that imply it was his fault for choosing a bike as his mode of transportation in the first place.

I'm terribly sad for Matthew and his family and friends and I'm trying to battle the anger that I feel towards worthless dipshits who inflict so much pain with the garbage that flows out of their mouths, because it's non-productive (the anger) and in the end, those folks don't count. The insane us-or-them, car-vs-bike mentality is so redneck. Nor do I have the patience to engage in the round-and-round stupidity of arguments about whose taxes pay for what. We're a society.

What I have decided I would like to focus on in order to avoid total despair is the idea that the city I grew up in and love could someday be a place that in general, values and promotes a diversity of transportation options because it understands this to be a key quality-of-life component. I can at least dream, can't I?

Here are some links:

John provided the first detailed info on Matthew's collision here, along with a forum for others to share additional facts and express emotions in a civilized manner . . .

S-R article on the 2nd Ave bike lane. (Warning, comments will make you vommit) . . .

S-R article on Matthew's collision. (These comments are actually worth wading through just because one of Matthew's friends posted a tribute somewhere in there that is so unbelievably touching) . . .

Matthew's caringbridge website:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Men

What you're looking at is a makeshift hanger rod that I made out of a defunct push-broom handle and some baling wire in a basement storage room at work that I use for hanging my clothes when I commute. See the yellow thing on the end? It's a nylon mesh bag that I take to the shower with me - it holds things like soap and hair gel and a comb. And of course, deodorant. I always keep a new, spare deodorant stick in there, so that when one finally runs out, I'm ready with another. Yesterday morning both sticks were in the bag. Today, the new one was gone.

Yep, sometime over the last 24 hours, someone stole my deodorant.

I must have looked in the empty bag ten times just to make sure it really wasn't in there, as I stalled to give my mind time to wrap itself around the concept of a deodorant thief. First the lilac heist and now this. The whole world has gone totally mad.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Can't Quit Screwing With It

It's coming along, but how am I supposed to carry anything on those dopey crossbars?


I feel better now.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Things You Don't See Everyday

I came upon a grizzly near GU on the CT this morning. I could bearly believe my eyes.

Hell ya, it was real.

Was too.

Was too.

Look, I said it was real, not alive.

The guy standing in the trail wanted to know if he could take my picture. "What fur?", I asked.

Turns out he works for the Forest Service. He hauled his stuffed griz out to the CT today to shoot some photos for an instructional video they're making. The subject? What to do if you run across a bear on a bike/ped path. Of course.

He had me and another stranger on a bike pose - you're supposed to stop, get off your bike and stand with your bike between you and the bear. (While the bear decides how hungry he is. Not really. Made that part up.) He was also getting shots with runners and walkers. Needless to say, when the video comes out, I'll be super famous.

On the way back into town later in the afternoon, I noticed a hole in the bike-ped "wall" in the U-district.

This is obviously a limited-time offer and involves trespassing. You know I would never, ever, ever trespass on railroad property, and luckily, the long, slow-moving train helped sustain this conviction.

Finally, we've had some killer sunsets lately, but tonight's was over the top. Holy hell, the sky was on fire. This was the best I could do riding down 29th, swerving wildly out into the center turn lane to get a view, at dusk, with my iphone cam.

Needless to say, you had to be there. Hope you were.