Saturday, January 30, 2010

An Old Dog - Amended

Before you read any further, please go back and read this earlier post "An Old Dog".

One day this past week, I was riding home from work, that same dog - a little older - a little wiser - chased me! He did not sit passively in his yard and lazily watch me pass as he had done on literally hundreds of occasions in the past. He chased me!! He didn't just leisurely perambulate in my general direction. He chased me with an abandonment!!!

I was traveling faster than his aged legs could carry him, plus there was a fence between us. He didn't catch me. There was no way he could. I think he knew that. Yet - he chased me all the same.

The question is why? Why would he chase me, when he knew it was but an exercise in futility?? Why would he chase me, when he knew he would but walk away panting heavily and empty pawed???

The answer is not as complicated or elusive as you might think. It's actually quite simple really.

We are dogs and that's what dogs do!

Monday, January 25, 2010

When It Rains - It Pours

This morning, as I stood at the kitchen window grinding my coffee, I noticed the tell tale signs of rain. I was veritably giddy at the sight.

Several months back, I invested in some top notch rain gear from Shower Pass. Since that time I have been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to give it a whirl. Much to my chagrin, I have been continuously thwarted the chance and have blogged my frustration in Paul and His Magic Rain Suit. Today though, the stars aligned in my favor and so did the storm clouds. As I donned my gear, little did I know the adventure that awaited me. All I knew was, it was raining and that was good enough for me.

The precarious predicament into which I rode did not manifest itself until I reached Huntington Park. It was at this point in my commute that I emerged from the protective covering of trees and houses and was confronted with the full force of a southwest wind blowing across the James River and right into my face. At the time, I failed to realize that this was but a cheap imitation of what awaited me when I reached the North Yard parking lot of the shipyard and was confronted with the full, unabated force of mother nature. We are talking sustained winds of 40 mph with gusts as high as 60 mph.

I have ridden in weather conditions of all kinds. I'm talking really bad stuff. However, nothing could have prepared me for what confronted my senses on this day. I shifted to my easiest gear and it required every ounce of my immense strength and pedaling prowess to keep the cranks going in circles and maintain a mere pittance of forward motion. To exacerbate matters, the wind drove the rain at such a velocity, that I was certain the drops would penetrate my face and pierce my brain, causing irreversible damage at best or sudden death at worst. These mentally damaging or life threatening conditions caused me to hold my head down and essentially reduced my vision to a mere 2 feet in front of my wheel.

A lesser man than me would have bemoaned his fate. I on the other hand began to laugh loud and hard. Of course, no one could hear me over the howling of the wind, but I laughed all the same. I was having the time of my life.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Grandma Bike??

"Hey! Get that Grandma bike out the way!!" Those were the words that pierced my ears as a co-worker and fellow commuter shot past me on my morning commute to work. I'm not sure which one was worse - he insulting my bike or me? Truth be told, I don't think it's possible to separate the two!

As he pedaled away in the distance, I reached down and gently patted the top tube and soothingly said, "don't listen to him, he's an idiot."

Then I got to thinking. OK, fair enough, she's not the fastest steed on the streets. The fact of the matter is, she's not built for speed. She's built for efficiency, comfort, functionality, flexibility, and practicality. In those realms, she reigns supreme. The fact that she's drop dead gorgeous, well that's just a bonus!!

For all you guys and kinky girls out there - you can look - heck, you can even lust - but don't touch - cause - she's all mine!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Car Light Index

One of my New Year resolutions is to "Expand the practical use of my bicycle". Living in the area that I do and given my current lifestyle, I've accepted the fact that going "car free" is not realistic. However, there is no reason that I can't reduce the amount that I use my car (truck). Therefore, I have decided to aim for "car light" instead of "car free".

The question is how light is "car light"? How do I measure it?

I have been racking my brain of late trying to answer those questions and as a result, have devised what I've dubbed the "Car Light Index (CLI)". The "CLI" is a measure of how many trips I take with my car with respect to how many trips I take overall. The simple formula is a follows:

Car Light Index (CLI) = # of Trips by Car / Total # of Trips

I have defined "Trips" as when I use a vehicle (car, bus, bike etc.) to get somewhere or accomplish an errand. In this definition, when I climb on my bike simply to take a ride for leisure or training, that does NOT count as a trip.

Also, a single trip constitutes going to and from a destination (round trip).

One further point of clarification in the use of the CLI is that I will only count solo trips. That's trips that I take by myself. I have purposely left off trips that include other family members, principally my wife. My wife ain't into all this bike stuff. Recently, I nonchalantly mentioned the possibility of the family going "car free" and seeing how this blog is rated "G", I will refrain from providing an exact quote of her response. Actually, my wife doesn't use foul language, but never-the-less, she was perfectly clear in communicating her opposition to such a ludicrous idea. Therefore, my measure of CLI will only reflect "MY" performance, not "OURS". The last thing I want is for my quest to achieve a low CLI to negatively impact the quality and quantity of time I spend with my wife.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

An Old Dog

On a ride home recently, I saw an old dog, a rottweiler to be exact. He was standing in his yard and looking the other way. He didn't even notice me. I dinged my bell to get his attention. He slowly turned his head and looked my way, but outside of that, he didn't move a muscle. That got me to thinking and drawing parallels between:

- Dogs and Doods
- Bikes and Babes

A young dog will chase a bike with every fiber of his being. It doesn't matter if he's chased a hundred bikes before and failed to catch any of them, when bike number one hundred and one passes, he will chase it with every fiber of his being. It's not logical. It doesn't make any sense. He looks absolutely ridiculous in the process. Everyone knows that he ain't gonna catch that bike. It's a futile waste of time and energy. Yet none of this logic matters to a young dog. In fact, none of these things even cross a young dog's mind. When a bike passes, a young dog thinks of only one thing - chasing it.

An old dog, on the other hand, barely even pays a passing bike any mind. There's no way he's gonna waste any energy chasing after it. I don't think that an old dog's failure to chase has anything to do with a lack of interest or desire. Nor would I attribute it to a lack of energy. I think an old dog has lived long enough to come to the simple realization that it just ain't worth it. That's not to say that if a bike ventured close enough, the old dog wouldn't chance a bite, but it would have to be within a step or two, cause he ain't likely to expend much more energy than that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Car Market King

The Wall Street Journal reports China Passes US as World's Top Car Market.

Personally speaking, that's a race I don't mind us losing. Unfortunately, I suspect that our loss of supremacy in this, less than illustrious, competition, has little to do with the US buying less cars and more likely attributable simply to China buying more.

Upon further consideration, I think this is a competition in which there are no winners - just losers - all the way around.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cyclist and Drivers - The Conflict

A few years back, I was on a weekday training ride through the neighborhoods. I was tooling along on the right side of the road, when a minivan overtook me and passed a few feet on my left. Just as the rear of the van passed, my peripheral vision caught the tell-tale signs of brake lights. I instinctively grabbed for the brakes and it was a good thing I did, for the van made an abrupt right hand turn into their driveway.

I yelled out "come on!!", stood up, stomped the pedals and continued on my way. Now the street I was traveling on was a dead end, so after another mile or so, I had to make a U-turn and head back the other way. As I passed the spot, where a few minutes before, I almost got ran over, I heard someone yell at me. It was the offending driver's neighbor, a middle-aged man, who just so happened to be sweeping the sidewalk at the time of the incident and witnessed the whole affair.

Now, I have been riding a long time. I've had people yell at me countless times. Normally, I just shake it off and pedal on. However, this particular day, I was still steaming over the reckless disregard the minivan driver showed for my life and well being. I was in no mood to take being painted as the offending party. I spun the bike around, pulled up to where the black man stood on the sidewalk and stopped.

"What did you say?" I ask him.

He responded, "I just wanted you to know, I don't appreciate you yelling at my neighbor like you did earlier!"

"Did you bother noticing", I spat out, "that your neighbor turned right in front of me and practically ran my a$$ over?"

"Yea, but she had the right of way!" He remarked.

"How the H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS do you figure that?" I, less than coolly, retorted.

"Cause" he calmly explained "she's driving a bigger vehicle!!"

It was at this point in the encounter, when I came to the sad realization, that further debate was completely and utterly useless. This guy wasn't being mean or vindictive. He wasn't trying to pick a fight. He wasn't throwing out ludicrous statements for the purpose of stirring me up. NO!! As ridiculous as it sounds, this guy honestly believed it. The really troubling part of this encounter is that this gentleman is not alone in his convictions, but simply verbalized the sentiments of many.

I was reminded of this incident recently as the blogs have been a buzz about a Facebook cyclist hate fan page and the Doctor in LA being sentenced to 5 years for assaulting cyclists.

As the popularity of cycling grows, so does the conflict between cyclists and drivers. Drivers have grown accustomed to reigning supreme on our streets and have drawn the, unsubstantiated by law, conclusion that the roads are for them and them alone.

What are we as cyclists going to do to shift this paradigm?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Seagulls on Ice

One really needs to question the sanity of commuting by bike when... ... the seagulls are sitting on the water instead of in it!

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Chilly Welcome

They first week back to work after the holidays has really tested my resiliency and determination. The temperatures every morning have been in the low 20's with a pretty hefty dose of north wind. It would have been so easy to climb in my truck, turn the heater on high and escape frigid weather.

Instead, I not only rode every day, but I changed my route and effectively doubled my commuting miles at the same time. I logged in 70 glorious commuting miles!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A bicycle Theater

Today, I was faced with a troubling dilemma. Allow me to paint the picture.

I have been off work since before Christmas. Today was my last day off. I return to work tomorrow. I wasn't ready for the Christmas season to be over.

I traveled to Louisiana to spend the holidays with my family. While I had a wonderful time, I was not able to ride my bike the past 2 weeks. I really wanted to ride my bike at least once before going back to work. However, the temperature was on the low 20's.

As I said, I spent the holidays with my family. My parents do not have cable or satellite or internet. As a result, I was not able to watch "A Christmas Story", which has become a bit of a tradition on Christmas day.

So as you can see - I was in a bit of a pickle. After much wringing of the hands, I arrived at an amicable solution.

Solution: A bicycle theaterFeature presentation:I'm still not ready to go to work tomorrow, but I was able to get in a 1-1/2 hour bike ride, while all the while extending the Christmas holidays and keeping a tradition alive.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 - New Year Resolutions

Well, it is the start of a New Year, a new beginning, time to let go of our failures and shortcomings of the past and start afresh. I enjoy making New Year resolutions. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of being too aggressive in my resolutions and as a result fail to achieve them all. I hope to remedy that this year by establishing resolutions that will stretch me, but at the same time are realistically achievable. So here we go:

Expand the practical use of my bicycle – I already use me bike for riding regularly to work. I want to keep that going, but now expand it to include other activities such as riding more to church, the gym and when running errands.

Go “car free” for one month – living in the area that I do, I won’t say that it is impossible to live “car free”, but it would be extremely inconvenient. That being said, I would be interested to see what it is like to go without a car for one month. Who knows, I may even try to post daily blogs chronicling the experience.

Complete an unsupported bicycle tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway – for my bike tour this year, I would really like to stretch myself and ride the entire length (469 miles) of the Blue Ridge Parkway. In order to accomplish this goal I will have to lose weight, train hard and be meticulous in my gear and packing.

Reduce my weight to 155 lbs – right now I am hovering around 170 lbs. I plan to improve my eating habits, reduce my beer consumption and increase my exercise in order to trim down to the 155 lb mark. To reward myself, I plan to purchase a brand new set (front and back) of Ortlieb panniers upon achieving this goal.

Build a “City Bike” – similar to what I did last year with my “Light Roadster”, I would like to expand my harem of bikes by building my own “City Bike”. The preliminary plans for such a bike are already bouncing around in my head. I will use this blog to bring you along on the entire design and build process.

Post to this blog at least once per week – I am already posting at this regularity and was tempted to establish this goal at two per week, but I am trying to be realistic here. I have a regular life and I do not want to put myself in a position where I compromise on the quality of my posts in order to achieve some arbitrary quota. Therefore, I am going to keep the goal at one and really focus on content and quality.

OK - So there you have it - my New Year Resolutions. On reviewing them, it would appear that I have once again, either overstepped or stretched the bounds of achievable. I'll keep them where they are keep you posted on my progress.