Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tag-along Bonnie

My granddaughter Bonnie turned 3 in February... and has outgrown the front-mounted baby seat that she's ridden in since early on.  So - we have graduated her to the Tag-A-Long bike.  (Or "choo choo bike" as she sometimes calls it.)

It was stored for a couple years where it was exposed to the weather, so I had a couple of rusted-up pedals to replace.  I lubed the chain, set the seat height as low as it will go, rotated the handlebars backward a bit... and we're good. Oh! I also added a handlebar basket, because she loves to collect stuff to bring home.

On our first ride, Bonnie was pretty excited.  "I can pedal!  I can pedal!"

The view probably isn't as good as it was before... but she can pedal.  (You know what they say about the sled-dog view: "Unless you're the lead dog, the view never changes."  I imagine her old grandpa partially blocks the forward view.)

We've probably ridden 30 or 40 miles using the Tag-A-Long at this point.  I'm still frequently admonishing her to "Hold on!" - much more important, now that she's no longer surrounded by bucket-seat and grandpa arms.  But so far she's done fine, including 20-mph rides down the hill.

The "I can pedal!" dynamic introduced a minor problem on our most recent ride.

Her bike has a freewheel - she contributes to forward motion when she pedals forward, but spins freely when she pedals backwards.  And she's discovered that pedaling backwards is less effort, so that's what she does most of the time.  So... we were riding along, me pedaling forward and her backwards, and I heard a "klunk" as something fell and hit the ground.  It was a pedal.  Her constant backwards-pedaling had gradually unscrewed it, and it fell off the crank.  (I obviously didn't tighten it up adequately when I installed it.)  I screwed it back in by hand, and finger-tightened it.  I tried to explain to her... "Pedal the other way, Bonnie!"  She tried to somehow cross up her feet, so her left foot turned the right pedal and vice versa.  (Dang!  I love young kids!  They are learning everything from scratch, and it's joyful to be part of that!)  I obviously didn't explain adequately... and before we got home, the pedal had hit the ground one more time... and was about halfway unscrewed a third time, when we rolled up the driveway.  I tightened it - hopefully it won't be a problem on future rides.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Stupid phones!

The motto of many, many "smart phone" owner/operators could be, "My phone is smart, so I don't have to be!"

30 years ago, mobile phones were a very rare novelty. The cell phones of the day were the size of a brick, were useful in very limited areas, and cost $2000. They did one thing rather poorly - make and receive telephone calls. And... most people did just fine without a mobile phone.

In 2016, it's rare to see anybody over 12 or so who doesn't have a "smart phone." And a meaningful percentage of those people seem to be totally focused on that tiny screen, all the live long day!

I challenge you to do your own informal inventory. Look at the people where you are... walking, standing, driving, bicycling, skateboarding, sitting... whatever. It's really quite startling how many will have one elbow cocked at 90 degrees to look at that phone... or in some cases, cradling it lovingly in two hands, like a precious infant or an adorable kitty. (As a mostly-outsider looking on, I can't help but wonder... WHAT could possibly be so interesting on that four-inch screen, that's far more enthralling than the real life all around them?!?)

Has the IQ of our society gone up, as "smart phones" have become ubiquitous? There's precious little evidence of that... and there are disturbing signs that the opposite might be true, in this observer's viewpoint.

FIRST: You don't need to know anything, if you can look everything up on your "smart phone."

SECOND: Observe some of the stuff that "smart phone" operators do, on account of their staring at their phones! They walk into manholes and fountains, and step off curbs. Worse... they get behind the wheel of their car, and maim/kill themselves and innocent bystanders. 30 years ago, I'm confident that collisions involving distracted driving were less common than they are today. (There have always been distractions... but the "smart phone" has taken distracted driving to a whole new disturbing level, and apparently our society deems the collateral damage acceptable.)

A couple weekends ago, I was bicycling through a nearby city park. It seemed there were considerably more smart-phone zombies than usual, standing or lurching about, staring at their phones. Turns out it was almost certainly related to the latest smart-phone craze - Pokemon Go. Oh, joy! Proponents are defending it: "Well, at least it gets the kids out of the house and doing something." Seriously? Is that where we are, as an enlighened society? We need some sort of smart-phone game to get people outside (where they stare at their phones some more)? (If you're interested, HERE is a video taken on a Baltimore cop body-cam. A driver sideswipes a cop car, and his declared reason is because he was playing Pokemon on his "smart phone.") Beam me up, Scotty!

[NOTE: The main reason I have strong feelings about "smart phones" is the tendency of their users to do really REALLY stupid stuff that endangers other people. I witness it up close and personal, almost every day. If they were only putting themselves at risk with their entertainment/lifestyle choices, I'd say let nature take its course! The smart will survive... the dumb, not so much. But "smart phone" users kill and damage both smart and not-so-smart indiscriminately. I sincerely hope we eventually attach some negative stigma to driving around killing people while phone-distracted... that would be a step in the right direction.]

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tour de France!!!!!!!

So, are you paying attention to this year's Tour de France?  Yeah, me neither.  There are probably Americans riding in it, and maybe even competitively.  Does Radio Shack still sponsor a team?  How about the U.S. Postal Service?  (That was a favorite irony... an organization with a reputation for being slow and uncompetitive, sponsoring a team in possibly the most competitive of all team sports.)

I'm probably like lots of my fellow Americans.  Lance, and Greg LeMond before him, provided an additional point of interest in something that had always been quite foreign.  We wanted to rah-rah for the home team.  And our golden boys - in their yellow jerseys - filled us with patriotic sentiment and probably sold a lot of road bikes.  (Huffys and such.  haha!)

Then Lance burst our bubble.  Turns out we were all cheering for a cheater.

However, more and more it seems that Lance's big peccadillo was "getting caught."  Everybody cheats... right?  It seems to be part of competitive cycling... at least on the professional level, where lots and lots of money is on the line.  You'd almost think the major players have "cover-up experts" who know how the tests go, and can advise the team on how to game the system.

This year, for the first time, I've been reading about a new kind of test... infrared scanning of the bicycles, to make sure they don't have an electric "helper motor" hidden inside the frame.  What the?!!?  (Of course, if they were secret, it would've been hard for Shimano to sell their Dura-Ace Helper Motor, as used by the Team!)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Cowboy catches bike-rustler

Here's a feel-good story for anybody who's had a bike stolen.

Over in Eagle Point, OR (out of Medford), a thief was making off with a bike from the rack out front of Walmart.  Heroics ensued.

The first heroes were bystanders in the parking lot who noticed, and "began shouting and calling attention to the theft."  Makes me want to live in Eagle Point!!

But then the story turned almost larger-than-life.  A guy just happened to have his horse in a trailer... he chased the thief down on the horse and lassoed him, and held him for the cops.  (Too bad there wasn't a hangin' tree nearby, like in the olden days!)

Story HERE.

That cowboy's work might be done in Eagle Point... and he may have ridden off into the sunset.  But wherever there are low-life bushwackin' bike rustlers, hopefully he can be around!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Imagine - working out while you commute!

Just when you think you've seen everything... some genius comes along and thinks of something new and revolutionary!

In this case... it's a bus that, instead of being equipped with seats for the passengers, is equipped with exercise bikes for the passengers!

This is going to be a huge hit with people who like riding exercise bikes, and riding on the bus!

Story HERE.

From the article: "Why commute to work on a bike, fighting traffic and dodging potholes, when you could ride a stationary bike mounted inside a bus while you commute?"  And, "Safety concerns could be the biggest obstacle for 1Rebel's novel commuting plan.  The bikes mounted in the buses are not currently slated to include seatbelts, and Balfour made no mention of helmets."

Stationary bikes on a bus, with seatbelts!  Hahahahaha!  Hilarious!

The wizards behind this scheme are anticipating charging $17-21 for a 45-minute "class."  It's called "Ride2Rebel."  Edgy!!  I assume the cost of the commute will be included. If they could rig the bikes up so that they provided the forward propulsion, instead of that big diesel engine, they might be on to something! (Kinda like those "bar bikes" where everybody sitting around the bar is pedaling, while the bar lumbers down the road at 4mph.)

Full disclosure:  They have a gym at my place of work.  The first winter of my employment, I signed up and rode a stationary bicycle maybe half-a-dozen times on icy winter days.  I could NOT stand it!  I sorely missed the breeze (or wind and sleet) in my face... and the potholes and traffic, too, I s'pose.  I'd rather walk to and from work... or ride a bike fighting traffic and dodging potholes... than ride an exercise bike in a moving bus!  But... different enthusiasms make the world an interesting place.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Weiser River Trail - recreational ride

On Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14, I went with some friends on a ride down the Weiser River Trail. It's been on the bucket list for some time; last September as we completed our north Idaho riding, we casually discussed doing the Weiser in the spring. We made it happen.

86 miles over 2 days. (43 each day)
Scenery - B+ (Solid "A" for the first 25 miles or so, up in the woods)
Weather - B
Company - A
Amenities along the trail - C
Path surface - D+

Friday was sunny and it got pretty warm in the afternoon... mid-80s. Saturday was overcast most of the day, occasionally with rain in the distance. Not a drop fell on us. It probably got up to the mid-70s. Wind was a minor factor for just a few miles.

Seven people and bikes.  14 tires... one flat in the whole bunch.  Not bad.

In a VERY few places, the path was reasonably smooth.  For probably 75 of those 86 miles, it was covered with rocks 1-3 inches in diameter, abundantly enough that you were bouncing over them, squishing through them, dodging them, etc. Made for a real bone-pounder of a ride. And then there were some places that obviously become a mud-bog on wet days. Dried mud, and we were dodging gulleys and grooves. There were probably 25 livestock gates along the route... half had narrow "courtesy openings" that would allow a hiker or cyclist thru; half had to be opened and closed. (Did the engineer of the train have to open and close those gates, back in the day?)
On the second day, we saw a lot of snakes! Most were gopher snakes... a couple of garter snakes (most likely), and one antisocial rattlesnake. We were happy to part company and go our own ways.

I'm really glad we went... but because of the surface quality alone, I probably won't return, and would have second thoughts about recommending it to other riders. (Or at least I'd give them a heads-up about what to expect.) On both days, it was a HUGE relief to finally get onto relatively smooth pavement.

If it were paved, like the Coeur d'Alene Trail up north, I'd already be looking forward to my next adventure on that trail!

REALITY CHECK: They have VERY little money to work with; I believe the only funding source is a voluntary "Friends of the Weiser River Trail." And maybe a few bucks kicked in from the little towns along the path. We waited in Weiser, at the bottom, for 3 hours while our drivers went up and retrieved the cars. While we were there, a guy stopped who works for the trail. I struck up a conversation; he told me that every spring it's a fairly major effort to get it opened up. Fallen trees that have to be cut away; Landslides that fall across the path; Bridges that need surface reparations on a routine basis; Their budget barely covers those things, let alone any improvements. (Imagine how expensive it would be to just "roll" those 84 miles and lay down some fine, packed gravel, let alone put asphalt down! I guess you get what you pay for.)

ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed at a place called Mundo Hot Springs, just out of Cambridge, ID. All 7 of us rented the "hostel" facility - which sleeps 7... cost us $12.50 each! Cheap! It was spartan, but clean and comfortable enough. As one would expect, it had a hot-spring-sourced swimming/soaking pool. When I talked to the people on the phone, I told them we'd probably be arriving fairly late in the afternoon, and we'd want to get some dinner... and could they stretch their 8pm pool closing time a little? They assured me they could work with us. But I obviously interpreted that wrong - we got back from dinner (in the next town over) at 8:30. She told me, "Sorry - you're too late.  If you'd been here an hour earlier..." Bummer! Well, at least the showers were warm and abundant. (There was also a bathtub in the "hostel" - just sitting there in the middle of the room! I guess we could've taken turns in the tub! hahahaha!) Next time - assuming there is a next time - we won't expect to use the pool any time but the published hours. (8pm closing on Friday night, when it's still light at 9pm, seems pretty early. But I know those little towns tend to fold up early. Not very "touristy.")

Friday, May 6, 2016

MAY - Amateur Bicycle Month?

This should be, in every way, one of the premiere months to ride a bicycle in Boise. But I always have mixed emotions.

While the weather has turned for the better, and the fragrance of springtime blossoms hangs in the air... it is also the month when the casual cyclists show up en masse.

Some are probably just out of practice. Some are incompetent. Some seem to be willfully ignorant of the rules, and/or oblivious to their surroundings. They ride as though they have an invisible force field, that will protect them from encounters with other road-goers.

They seem to be causing an inordinate amount of carnage this year. In the past 36 hours, there have been at least three motor vehicle vs. bicycle injury accidents.

In the first, a cyclist collided with a cement truck at 2:30 in the morning, sustaining "serious lower-body injuries." Dude! I feel sorry for the guy... BUT! Seriously! If you can't identify the possible threat from a cement truck at 2:30 in the morning and take evasive action, maybe stay off the bike! (Details are still emerging, but I'm willing to lay down money that the cement truck driver's story is, "I didn't see him.")

In another incident, half-a-day later, a guy sustained life threatening injuries when according to witnesses, he rode onto a busy street, directly into the path of a car that had a green light. It's a bit risky to ride into the path of a car when your light is green and his is red. When your light is red? Nigh unto suicidal!

And then this afternoon (the very next day), I was witness to the aftermath of a car-bike crash I haven't seen reported yet. I rode up onto the scene. A young fella, maybe 11 or 12, was sitting (at least he wasn't lying!) in the road, surrounded by helpful citizens. A pickup was blocking one lane. Another young fella about the same age was looking on with a helpless expression from the side of the road; he was holding up a bicycle with a twisted front wheel. I could hear the first responders converging - I cleared out. Based on just that, it's pretty hard to assign responsibility.

Does "who's responsible" matter? The people who are responsible are the most likely to say it doesn't matter. I believe it's very important, to determine where more attention might be warranted, in both enforcement and education.

A half-hour before I rode thru the accident scene, I had my own close encounter with a couple incompetents on bikes. They both looked to be in their early 20s. I first encountered them as I arrived at a busy intersection just as rush hour was beginning. They were running a red light; I had to brake to avoid colliding with the second guy. I turned and followed... because that was the direction of my travel. I was happy when they took the sidewalk, leaving a clear bike lane for me to go by. But - lo and behold! - at the next curb cut, the front guy came off the sidewalk and back into the bike lane without warning, right into the space I was occupying. He was riding like he was alone on his private highway. I hollered "hey"! (The equivalent of a horn.) He took great umbrage at my shout, and of course his response was the universal/Neanderthal/all-purpose "Be fruitful and multiply!" Only not in those words. (Did he feel embarrassed? Or was he so totally clueless that he didn't realize the near-miss he was responsible for? I'll never know.) Sigh...

Well... they say that May is "Bike Month." Nice to see people out enjoying it, I s'pose. And Boise Bike Week is coming up, May 14-21! Look over the schedule and join an event or three! I always enjoy the Pedal Power Parade (Saturday 5/21, 5pm); I plan on being there with the granddaughters.