Friday, July 24, 2015

Fat guy's transcontinental bicycle journey

You probably thought this story was about me!  And I kinda wish it was; I would love to ride my bike from sea to shining sea... given the proper amount of time.  But it's actually about another fat guy.

According to the Newport (RI) Daily News, 40-year-old Eric Hites is riding from the east coast to the west coast, with the intention of shedding a few of his 560 pounds.  (!!)  He wears pants with a 70-inch waist, and size 10x t-shirts.  (That's a big boy!)

He started his quest in Falmouth, Mass, in June.

The good news?  He's already lost 60 pounds!

The bad news?  So far, he's only made it to Tiverton, Rhode Island... 90 miles from the starting point.  If he continues to average about 1.5 miles per day, it'll be awhile before he's feeling that Pacific breeze coming off the ocean.  (He had intended to complete the ride in 4 months.)

More good news... part of his delay can be attributed to hardware problems.  Bent rims and such.  Understandable - most tandem bicycles probably aren't designed with a 560-pound payload in mind.  But things will get better - the good people at Newport Bicycle are outfitting a heavy-duty bicycle for him to continue his journey on.  (He's also pulling his gear in a trailer.)

Inspirational story!  I sure hope he's able to stay safe... he didn't get to 560 pounds while becoming an experienced on-road bicycle rider!

He's got a website - www.FatGuyAcrossAmerica.com - where he's posting updates.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bicycle transportation - more savings today than yesterday

As of July 1, in Idaho, the gas tax went up 7 cents per gallon, and it costs $21 more per year to register your car.

There was no comparable bump in the cost of operating a bicycle.

That's a dangerous thing to bring up among the general public, because it invariably results in some motorists whining about the free ride that bike riders get, and how they should be paying a registration fee, road tax, etc.  It's an argument they wouldn't be able to win if facts are injected... because a significant percentage of the road budget comes from property taxes which "ding" us all... and most adult cyclists also own and operate - and register - one or many motor vehicles.  I ride a bike, and last week I paid $157 for a years' registration on 2 motorcycles and my wife's car.  You can't convince me I'm not paying a fair share.  (I re-registered 'em last week to save $50 by getting the pre-July rates.  Next time I'll pay more.)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Advocatin'

June is my first "600 mile month" this year. Woo-hoo! And perhaps more notable... as of June 30th, I've ridden every day for 11+ consecutive months, the last day I missed being in July '14. (When I was off ridin' motorsickle in Colorado for a few days.)

I fancy myself a "tireless advocate" for bicycle transportation. But I get tired sometimes. Particularly on 100+ degree days... on Sunday when it got up to 110, that fateful day last November when I crashed on the icy road seemed like a lifetime ago! There are also days, particularly during "peak riding season," when it seems like I don't have much to pontificate about on this blog, without just stirring up an old topic and serving it reheated. Thank goodness this is a voluntary thing, and I'm not under pressure to produce something meaningful every day, or every week.

I consider my "riding the ride" to be significantly more important, as an advocate, than "talking the talk." In fact, if I drove a car to work most days, and to most of my other destinations, I'd feel pretty silly trying to advocate about transportation cycling.

(The inconsistency between message and personal practice doesn't seem to bother some folks... and I'm thinking in particular about celebrities and politicians who like to scold us all about "climate change" while practicing a Size-18 Carbon-Footprint Lifestyle. Their message may be significant, or even critical, but how can they be taken seriously? Robert Redford just testified before the United Nations about how it might be too late to save our planet if action isn't taken before December. How do you s'pose he arrived at UN Headquarters? Not likely on foot, or a bike, or even public transportation. But I digress.)

Obviously, if my cycling practices are fostering hostility and resentment from other road-going citizens, I'm probably doing more harm than good. I shake my head in dismay at other cyclists who are out there NOT being good ambassadors! On a recent day, I had to take evasive action three different times, to avoid hitting illegal against-traffic cyclists. All three looked old enough and smart enough to know better - but looks can be deceiving.

I hope you and others see me out there, fat boy chugging along on a bike... riding legally, predictably, visibly, and defensively. If somebody in a car thinks, "I could do that!" from time to time, my advocacy-by-example has been a success!

(I'll be missing a few bicycle days in July - will be hopping on the other 2-wheeler for a carbon-burning ride up to Montana, and the Dakotas. When I'm riding the powered 2-wheeler, I also try to do so legally, predictably, visibly, and defensively. The stakes are high!)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Simplicity

Simplicity is underrated in today's modern society.  We embrace complex high-tech.  There are "specialists" for everything, because everything is so complicated.

Among my other duties at "the day job," I do tech support for our computer systems.  And I've become convinced that our system has become so complex, with so many little wheels that need to be spinning, that something is always broken.  You just hope it's not something really important.  (I've been doing computer-related stuff for almost 40 years, and it hasn't always been that way.  Back in the glory days, there were data entry people, and after-hours batch processing, and lots of printed reports.  (An early-on colleague couldn't make the transition from punch cards to monochrome green monitors connected to the mainframe, and decided it was his signal to retire.  How times have changed!)  Nowadays, information is so vital that it has to be maintained "real time," and everybody - even people out "on the road" - needs immediate access to the right-now info.

From my seat, our "civilized" transportation isn't so different.  Motor vehicles are so complicated that when something breaks, the dashboard "idiot light" comes on, warning you that your car computer has to talk to the car-doctor computer, which will tell the parts replacement guy (formerly mechanic) what part needs to be replaced.  Fer cryin' out loud!  I'm seeing cars advertised that have eight-speed transmissions!  And of course, there are more cars all the time with both a gas motor and an electric motor, working in computer-controlled harmony.  Compare that with the ol' '57 Chevy or '68 Mustang!  And even if the car is purring like a kitten, there's the transportation infrastructure.  I observe that morning commute with amazement... thousands of cars rolling into town, all counting on a no-mishap morning.  One fender-bender... it can throw 5000 people off schedule!

By contrast, bicycle transportation seems like a marvel of simplicity.  If you carried to the ultimate form, I s'pose it would be the single-speed direct drive.  What can go wrong... at least with the machine?  I settle for slightly more complexity... I know how the derailleurs work at both ends, and the brakes... I know what needs to be maintained (and am often guilty of neglecting that stuff for too long).  I haven't taken my bike to the shop for years - I can fix everything out under the shade tree.  Barring a totally weird catastrophe, there's essentially nothing I can't maintain myself, nor anything that can happen on a ride, that I can't fix and limp on in.  It's a beautiful thing!

Frankly, I'd prefer if my bike were a "10 speed" instead of a "30 speed" - I don't need all those speeds!  But like computers, for as long as I've been paying attention, even bicycle manufacturers have been motivated to make this year's models a little more complex than last year's.  It's probably driven by the cyclists who drive hybrid 8-speed climate-controlled cars, huh?

(Tonight I'm replacing a rear tire.  The tread was getting pretty light... but it's been so long, I can't remember... should I replace the tire when the rubber is worn all the way thru in a few places, or wait 'til it's worn thru all the way around?  ha-ha-ha!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Boise is upgraded to Silver

Interesting story at the Boise Weekly website... the League of American Bicyclists has upped Boise to "silver" status, for being bicycle-friendly.  For ten years or so, we've been mired in the Bronze doldrums.

Why the upgrade?

BW reports that "factors contributing to Boise's gaining the silver include increased bike lane access, converting some one-way streets downtown to two-way streets - slowing car traffic in the process - and the rollout of rideshare program Boise GreenBike."

The League rates cities both large and small "based on how cities and communities rate based on enforcement of bicycle-friendly laws, rider education, 'engineering' safe places to ride, evaluating rider experiences, encouraging bicycle use and assessing 'key outcomes' like ridership, crashes and fatalities."

Our silver status puts us in rarefied territory... other Silver cities include Anchorage, Oakland, Salt Lake City, and, somewhat surprisingly... Chicago and New York City.  (20 bicyclists died in NYC in 2014, 7% of all traffic fatalities, and 8 in Chicago.  Both numbers were more than double the year before... they may be in danger of getting demoted off the League's list.)

As I said in a comment on the BW web page... I feel that enforcement and rider education are both nearly nonexistent here in the Boise area.  (Although the Boise Bicycle Project is being quite proactive in offering educational opportunities.)  I do believe, however, that Boise's "culture" is evolving to be more tolerant of bicycles in the vehicle mix.  And the City is promoting bicycle use.  And ACHD (the builders and maintainers of most of our roads) are very conscientious about designing roads to be bike-friendly.  (However... we should get points-off for the wretched camera-controlled intersections.  So far they haven't made a believer out of me... I lean toward the low-tech ground loops.  More often than not, I get the impression I could wait 'til Kingdom Come and the light would never change on my behalf.  Okay... I've vented.)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

New river crossing - open for business

For many years, there was no place to cross the Boise River west of Glenwood Street and east of Eagle Road... a distance of 4-odd miles.  Combined with that, there have been pockets of resistance to even allowing bicyclists and/or pedestrians to use the legal easements on either side of the river, down that way.

The situation has improved noticeably this year.

A private neighborhood near Eagle has finally acquiesced and allowed cyclists to pass alongside their neighborhood, as the developers agreed to do from the beginning.  You can now ride your bike from Glenwood to Eagle Road on the south side of the river.  (Stretches of dirt path remain... it may be for the best, if it discourages the Tour de France breakaway wannabe's.)

The Riverside Village "Nature Path" remains closed to cyclists, and there's no indication that will change any time soon.  I continue to hope for an explanation about how bicycles irreparably threaten "nature," which seems much more resilient to backyard parties, lawn mowers, dogs, etc.  (And for the record, I'm mystified that I continue to encounter seemingly-healthy "nature" along areas of the Greenbelt where they allow cyclists.)

But starting this month ("officially" next week with some sort of ceremony - almost certainly attended by anti-bicycle dignitaries), cyclists and pedestrians can now cross the river, approximately halfway in between Glenwood and Eagle.  Be advised... if you're on the north side of the river, you'll take to the roads to get back east to Glenwood.  But there's a nice series of Greenbelt-like paths (some dirt) taking you west to Eagle Road.  I predict that the bridge will be very popular very quickly, particularly with folks who live in the Eagle area.

I breached a fence a couple weeks ago, to ride over the installed bridge.  On Wednesday, June 10, all pathways were open (excluding the aforementioned "Nature Path")... I crossed and took these photos.

Looking north from the south side:

Looking southeast from the north side:
 
 Looking east from the north side (toward the restricted "nature path"):
 
Looking east from a bit farther downstream on the north side: 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Perfume in the air!

One attraction of transportation cycling is the exposure to smells... more so than if you're traversing the countryside in your sealed-off, climate-controlled auto pod.

It's not all good.  I don't care much for the stench of diesel exhaust... or gas exhaust, for that matter.  But it's the price I must pay, so my fellow road goers can enjoy the freedom and satisfaction that can only be had by internal combustion, particularly in a huge diesel-powered pick-um up truck.

But a lot of it is just fine.  Making me smell steaks grilling, or slow-cook smoke barbecue... that's downright cruel and unusual unless I'm invited!
(-;

Riding through the "country" - you know, rural America where agriculture takes place - will expose the rider to some of the best smells on the planet (spearmint fields, freshly-cut alfalfa), and some of the worst (feedlots, silage).  (On the bright side, exposure to feedlot-smell is likely not hazardous to your health, like exposure to exhaust.)

For a couple glorious weeks every year, in mid-June, riders in the Boise area get to enjoy the fragrance of linden trees in bloom.  The smell is reminiscent of orange blossoms, which I got familiar with when visiting relatives in the San Diego area.  We are fortunate to have 3 big lindens on the west side of our house, which bless us with good shade all summer, and glorious aroma for a couple weeks, around this time every year.  (The trees are rather "messy" - they throw pollen and sticky pods after they bloom, and lots of leaves 6 months later... but it's worth it.)

I've got to believe it's what Heaven smells like.  Particularly if you combine it with a juicy ribeye on the grill.