Monday, June 29, 2009

Critical Mass - Ghost Bike Ride - Norfolk

This past Friday night, I participated in a special Critical Mass ride in Norfolk. It was special in that we set up a couple Ghost Bikes in memory of two cyclists who were killed in the past year. I would like to personally thank Wes for setting this whole thing up.

We gathered outside Blair Middle School in Ghent. I had never participated in a Critical Mass ride before and I wasn't really sure what to expect. The riders came from all walks of life and were riding all manner of bikes. They were riding road bikes, fixed gear bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids and beach cruisers. It was an awesome group.

Wes arrived around 6:00 PM pulling a bike trailer with the two Ghost Bikes. We struck out on Colley Ave and made our way to Grandby. It was so strange to be taking over an entire lane on these busy streets. We weren't but 40 or so riders, but we were enough to be a "Critical Mass". I now understand how powerful this whole movement really is. There were a couple drivers that were pecker heads and honked their horns in frustration, but the vast majority were courteous. We even had several folks pull alongside and inquire as to what we were all about.

We rode for 5 or 6 miles to the intersection of Bayview and Tidewater Drive. We pulled into a 7-Eleven on the corner and there set up the first Ghost Bike.
From there we rode a couple 2 or 3 more miles and turned left onto Little Creek and a little ways down set up the second Ghost Bike on the corner of Little Creek and Meadow Creek, near an Advanced Auto store.We then meandered through the streets of Norfolk and made our way back to Ghent. It was nearing dark by the time we completed the ride. As we all straddled our bikes in the parking lot - I pondered this ride. We had only ridden 17 miles. It had only taken a couple hours. There were only a few dozen of us. Yet, I couldn't help but think that we had done something meaningful. We made a small difference. I believe we sent a message to quite a few drivers that hopefully changed their perception of and attitude toward cyclists.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Maiden Voyage

The day before yesterday - Santa Claus came to town.

My first thought was, "Wow - somebody's been a good boy this year." Then when I peaked inside and saw the nameplate attached to the frame - I realized that good boy was me!!!

The new love of my life, my Bike Friday - New World Tourist, had finally arrived. I carefully unwrapped her. When I first opened the box, I saw but a jumbled mass of bike and parts. I thought to myself, oh boy, this will take a while. So I went to the fridge and opened a beer.

But, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy the assembly was. Behold as she comes together:

By the time I finished, it was getting late in the day, so I only had time to take her for a quick ride in the neighborhood. Then I parked her, grabbed another beer, sat down and admired her. We didn't say much, but more or less, felt one another out. We would become better acquainted later. As with any meaningful relationship, getting to know one another is not a destination, but a journey.

The following day, I dressed up for the occasion (all in lycra), filled a couple water bottles with champagne (GU2O) and our journey began. I wasn't 1/4 mile from the house, when I knew this was going to be a long and fruitful relationship. She rode like a marvel. I had her sized to match my road and fixed gear bikes and that is how she felt. I stopped every so often and tweaked the seat and handlebar height until we fit like a hand in a glove. We rode a blissful 20 miles. She isn't quite as fast as my Specialized, but that's OK. I didn't buy her for speed, she's built for long distance touring and for that, she will do just fine.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I'm Back

Well - have you missed me? I'll bet you didn't even notice I was gone. That hurts.

Well - a week ago I flew down to LA for some business in New Orleans. On Wednesday, I drove from there to my parents home in Southwest LA. I spent the last half of the week with them. I didn't have a bike, nor did I have access to the Internet. So riding, much less blogging were simply out of the question.

I enjoyed spending time with my family, but I am also glad to be back. I have a lot to tell you about, so stay tuned later this week. Two weekends ago, several guys from work and myself spent the weekend riding in the mountains. I'll tell you all about it. However, until then look at the right hand side bar and enjoy the slideshow I posted of the ride.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why Did I Do It?

A couple blogs back (I Betrayed Her - Oh The Shame), I lamented the fact that I sold one of my Harem. What I neglected to tell you was why. That oversight was not by accident, but by design. I found myself in a bit of a dilemma. One of my own making.

For quite some time now, I knew that something was missing in my life. I have a nice road bike, a fixed gear, a mountain bike, a light roadster and had two hybrid bikes. They each hold a special place in my life. I enjoy riding them. I enjoy talking to them, though they are not much for talking back (which is a good thing!). I enjoy hanging out and drinking a beer with them, though they don't drink (which is a really good thing!!). Yet, when I was with them, I couldn't help but feel that there was a void in my life. For a long time I tried to ignore it. I tried convincing myself it wasn't, it couldn't be true. The bikes in my Harem were all I needed. Yet, deep down I knew I was living a lie.

I tried to remain true, I really did. But, as time went on, I found my eyes beginning to wander. Then in Early May, I fell in love again. I went after the only thing that could fill the void, that no bikes in Harem were able to do. I BOUGHT A "TOURING BIKE". Specifically, I ordered a Bike Friday New World Tourist. Even as I type this, it is being custom built to my exact dimensions and specifications. It is supposed to be complete by Mid-June and arrive at my door by the end of the month.

Now that I was on my way to being whole, I only had two hurdles to contend with. Number one, my wife didn't know. My new bike wouldn't be arriving for at least 6 weeks, so I took the high road and procrastinated. For most of the month of May - I wrung my hands - I knitted my brow - I fretted – I wrestled with how to tell her. One day, I was sitting in my garage drinking a beer, when I concocted a fail proof plan to call Bike Friday and have them ship the bike to my co-worker’s home. Then I could go pick it up at his house, sneak it into my garage and heck, I figured I could go almost indefinitely without my wife noticing. She doesn’t share my passion for bikes. When she goes in my garage, she doesn’t see each bike as an individual entity. She just looks up on the wall and sees this hoard of metal and wheels. I was certain I could just hang my new Bike Friday among my Harem and my wife would be none the wiser.

When I sobered up, I realized just how ludicrous that plan was. I have been married to this woman for 26 years. Our relationship has been built on mutual trust and respect. I couldn’t bring myself to undermine these important principles for the sake of a bicycle. I wish I could honestly tell you that this was my thought process. The fact of the matter is, I dismissed the plan because I knew there won’t no dadgum way I was gonna get away with that.

In preparation for baring my soul to my wife, I decided I needed to at least get rid of one my bikes in order to help defray the costs of the new one and make room for it in my garage. That’s what I did on that fateful day that I blogged about it. That blog had another, unexpected benefit. It opened the door for me to tell my wife. She read it and when I got home from work, she asked me why I sold my bike? Well – it was time – no more hiding it – no more procrastination. I simply responded, “because I bought a new one.” To my amazement, she took the news very well. We had a nice conversation. She asked questions about it. She wanted to see a picture of it, so I took her to the website. The only negative thing she said during this open dialogue was, "that's the ugliest bike I've ever seen." It took every fiber of self control to keep from blowing up. I was shocked and appalled that she could be so insensitive as to utter such a ludicrous thing. Then I calmly reminded myself - she doesn't have an appreciation for bicycles like I do.

Now that my wife knows, I now only have one more hurdle to get over. I have to figure out a way to tell my Harem. I think I'll take the high road on that one and procrastinate. I still have a couple weeks.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

First Century of 2009 - cap2cap

My first century of the year is in the books.On May 9, I participated in the cap2cap Century which serves as a fund raiser to support the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation for a bike trail being constructed between Williamsburg (the old capital) and Richmond (the current capital). I picked Steve up at 6:00 am and we drove up to Chickahominy Riverfront Park just outside of Jamestown. This was the southern start. There was a simultaneous start up in Richmond. The weather was calling for a pretty good chance of showers, so Steve and I did the remaining 1398 riders a big favor by packing our rain jackets. This single act of selflessness was a near guarantee from God that not a drop of rain would fall.

We had a police escort as we started on Route 5 and crossed the bridge over the Chickahominy River. Once we reached the northern bank of the river, that was the last I saw of the police escorts. We were pretty much on our own after that as we made our way North on lightly traveled country roads.

The organizers did a pretty good job of having rest stops every 10 miles or so. My only complaint about the rest stops was the minimal variety of food - crackers, bananas and dry bagels. By the end of the day - I would have killed for a peanut butter sandwich and I don't even particularly like peanut butter.

As we left the Charles City County rest stop at the 20 mile point, we rode along with a fellow from Williamsburg. I think his name was John. He was an Army officer, about my age. we talked about bike touring with our sons, riding in France and an assortment of similar topics. While these topics were interesting, what really captured my attention was his backside. Now now, don't jump to conclusions, I was talking about his saddle. He was riding a Brooks B-17 Special, complete with hand hammered copper rivets and copper plated rails. It was a work of beauty. I asked him how he liked the saddle. His response captivated and intrigued me, "it is like a companion!" At that point, I knew I had to have one.

Being so early in the year, Steve and I were not in tip top shape, so we agreed to ride at a relatively slow pace of between 16 and 17 mph. We kept to this pace all the way to Richmond. I was looking forward to the mid point stop and more substantial food. Imagine my dismay when the menu offered - crackers, bananas and dry bagels. I snapped a few pics and we were heading back to Jamestown and the advertised after ride lunch.As we left Richmond, I felt a few drops of rain (not even enough to get us wet), but then it stopped and the remainder of ride was precipitation free. A large portion of the ride back was on Route 5. I can't say I was particularly thrilled by that. There isn't much of a shoulder on Route 5 and the cars zoom by real close in excess of 55 mph. On the plus side, it is a pretty direct route back to Jamestown and we had a nice tailwind.

At one point, while we were on Route 5, we passed this couple riding their hybrid bikes. They were going all of 5 mph and get this, they were riding side by side. The cars were coming up behind them, like I said at 55 mph, and had to go all the way into the oncoming lane of traffic to get around them. As we passed them, they looked like they were on a leisurely Sunday ride, completely oblivious to the fact that they were on the verge of becoming road kill at any moment. I sped up to get past and away from them as fast as I could. I didn't want to be collateral damage to their catastrophe. I swear, some people have no business on bikes!!

About 10 miles outside of Richmond, Steve and I hooked up with John again. He was pretty much going our pace and we rode in a pace line for quite some time. I was really starting to feel very good. The more miles we logged in, the stronger I felt. About 20 miles from the finish, another rider joined our pace line and we really started to move. I was out front, got in a zone and must have lost track of my speed because after 10 or 15 minutes or so, the new rider, who was right behind me said, "I would like to pull through, but it is all I can do to stay on your wheel." I sat up and looked back. Steve and John were no where in sight. I had inadvertently dropped them. Oh well, there was only another 5 miles or so to go to the finish, so I reached for the drops again and hammered. I really felt good. I had just finished riding almost 100 miles and here I was tooling along at 20 mph.

At the top of the bridge over the Chickahominy, I stopped and snapped a few pictures and waited for Steve and John. The ride finish was just at the foot of the bridge. After a few minutes, they came along and we finished the ride together. I was extremely happy with my performance and I was starving to death.I couldn’t wait to put away the horrid images of crackers, bananas and bagels and sink my teeth into some real food. To say I was mildly disappointed when I got in the lunch line and they were serving wraps with cold cut meats, is an understatement of astronomical proportions. I didn’t have much choice, so I woofed it down and asked Steve if he was up for a cold beer. We stopped at the Green Leafe CafĂ© in Williamsburg, sat at the bar and I sipped contentedly on a nice wheat beer.

A long ride – a good friend – a cold beer – one can hardly ask for a better birthday present than that.

PS – the following week. I went to Harris Cyclery and bought a Brooks B-17 Special, complete with hand hammered copper rivets and copper plated rails. I’ve been lovingly treating it with Neatsfoot and Mink Oils. In the future when people asked me how I like it, I already know how I’m gonna respond, “it’s like a companion!”

Thursday, June 4, 2009

May Recap - New Year's Resolutions

May is behind me. Time to review my New Year Resolutions:

1. Drive my truck to work less than 25% of the time. (GRADE = A+)

Year to Date:
Bike = 74
Bus = 17
Truck = 5

Truck driven to work only 5% of the time. The astute reader will notice that the only number that changed above from April was the number of times I rode my bike. That's right - I rode my bike to work every day in May. I never drove the truck. I never rode the bus. I am bad to the bone.

2. Complete a Triathlon. (GRADE = DNF)
Dropped in April. Upped the number of centuries from 3 to 6.

3. Ride at least 6 centuries. (GRADE = A)
I completed my first century of the year on my 47th birthday on May 9. I rode the Cap2Cap ride from Williamsburg to Richmond and back to Williamsburg. It was a good ride. I am working on a post describing it that I hope to have out later this week.

4. Start blogging and create a web site for "". (GRADE = A)
I was able to average a little over 2 blogs a week in May. I am happy with that.