Thursday, January 31, 2008

January Riding Report

I accumulated 381 miles, riding 31 days in January.


(Yesssss! exclaims the Bike Nazi in his best Marv Albert impression, while pumping fist in the air.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Weakest Generation

Today is a "snow day." (My teenage daughter rejoices.)

On a snow day, school is called off because of treacherous road conditions. This is the first one in recent memory.

We have maybe three inches of snow on the ground; there may be places around town where four inches have accumulated, but not much more than that.

Traffic has been paralyzed. Hundreds of accidents, slide-offs, etc. A local talk radio station polled the listening audience: "Should the highway district plow the roads?" (They've never plowed the roads in the past, other than a few particularly-steep roads, etc.) 100% percent of the respondents said, YES, they should plow the roads.


I'll go into crotchety-old-grandpa mode now... but what I say is the truth, at least as I perceive it.

I clearly remember going (walking, mostly) to school when there was 6 or more inches of snow on the ground... right here in Boise, Idaho. I don't remember even a single "snow day" in my elementary/secondary school years. Nowadays the Little Dumplings can't walk ANYWHERE, even on sunshiny perfect Kodachrome days! (Yeah... I'm just jealous.)

There weren't nearly as many cars - or roads - back in those days. I can't recall plowing/sanding practices. We lived on a hill north of town; I can remember Mom being concerned that somebody might cause her to stop on the drive up, on slippery days. If that happened, it was back down to the bottom and get another run at it and try again.

Nowadays people have remote-control car starters, so they won't have to suffer immeasurably in an un-heated car! (The $3 gas burned during warm-up time doesn't count against EPA mileage figures.) Many of those cars also have heated seats or steering wheels.

IMO, our insatiable pursuit of comfort and convenience has had a detrimental effect on us as a society. We can no longer tolerate interruptions to our life of ease. We've come a long way since the "greatest generation" of 50 or 60 years ago.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I love geography. "Maps and globes," was the term my son used, back in elementary school.

The Missus enjoys historical fiction. She reads it in the evenings just before sleepy time.

By contrast, if you look at my bedside, you'll find Rand McNally's USA Road Atlas. (Rand is my favorite author!) Idaho and Oregon Gazeteers. Etc. Looking at places I've been, and other places where I hope to go. I've got a drawerful of softcover atlases (atlii?). And boxes full of accumulated highway maps, visitor's guides, pamphlets and the like. (I hope someday to organize them better, so they are actually useful.)

Since I love maps and globes, I s'pose it's natural that I'd love Google Earth. And I do - it is fantastic! If you don't have it... and enjoy maps and globes, and have an internet connection (preferably a speedy connection), you should have (free) Google Earth.

[If you're not familiar with Google Earth, let me try to explain. The folks at Google have accumulated a world's worth of aerial photos, and you can look down on any place on this little blue planet. In some places, particularly remote, non-populated areas, the photos are low-resolution satellite views. But in many places, they are quite detailed aerial (airplane-level) photos. I can see a car parked in the street, in front of my house. And the photo was obviously taken in the summertime, because the trees and grass are green. In the most recent version of Google Earth, they also have added the cosmos - looking UP instead of DOWN.]

I've recently been getting more familiar with Google Earth. There are some neat tools - including the ability to create "points of interest" and routes, save them, and share them with others. (Other people can even do a "flyover" of routes... interesting stuff.)

If you have Google Earth, this is my first effort to share some info.

It's one of my most-often-ridden bicycle recreation/exercise routes. It starts near downtown, goes north on 15th, northwest on Hill Road, south on Gary Lane and Glenwood and southeast through Garden City, back to the starting point. I probably ride this route 120 or more times a year; I'm familiar with every stripe and pothole.

Click HERE to see the route. (If you don't have Google Earth installed on your box, my link isn't worth opening.)

GIVE ME SOME FEEDBACK! If you're interested, I've been plotting out my favorite bicycle roads, other "loop" rides around town, and a "Loop Tour de Boise" - a route that would almost take you around the entire city limits, that's probably 50 miles of riding. (I'm doing the same with some of my favorite motorcycle adventures - both completed and anticipated.)

Sustainable Lifestyle

On Friday evening, 1/25, I attended a gathering of members of the Idaho Earth Institute. The topic was of interest - CAR-FREE LIFESTYLE.

Fortunately, the meeting was only about a mile from my house, and I was able to ride the bike despite harsh winter road conditions. (It would be SO WRONG to drive the car to a meeting about Car-Free Living... wouldn't it?)

They had some of my "bike brothers" - I'd not met them before - who embrace bikes-as-transportation and shared their ideas and enthusiasm with the 15 or 20 people gathered. Their enthusiasm and knowledge put a smile on my face. (They also invited me to briefly share my "story," which I was happy to do. Give me a soapbox to stand on, and I'll preach the word!)

The Idaho Earth Institute (link to website HERE) are folks who are trying to live a "sustainable" lifestyle.

I fully embrace that concept. Of course, each person has to decide what measures he/she is willing and able to take, to leave a smaller footprint.

For example, some Institute folks shun meat; after all, it takes a lot of food and water to bring a newborn calf to the butcher shop. I don't eat a lot of meat, but I would never willingly give it up entirely, as it enriches my life.

Another example is bicycling. It's easier for me to live a "bicycling lifestyle" than for, say, a mom who has kids to deliver to daycare, school, etc., or an electrician who travels to multiple jobsites with lots of equipment, or for somebody who lives in Kuna and works in Boise. (Although the latter situation is a poor choice for sustainability. Let me emphasize choice. There are some things we don't get to choose, but we all can choose where we're going to live.)

Julie, who writes a blog about Boise Mass Transit (link to website HERE), made me aware of the gathering. I was happy to meet her face-to-face; she was in attendance as well.

She was the "voice of reason" among the zealots! She observed (I believe correctly) that most people cannot or will not give up automobile transportation altogether, or disconnect the gas and electricity, or eat only what they grow in their garden, or live in a 128-square-foot house built out of old tires.

However, we all should be aware of our consumption of resources... and we should go beyond "awareness," and actually take active measures to minimize our consumption. Maybe we can ride a bike 8 months of the year... or leave the car home 3 days a week. Maybe we can live closer to work, or work closer to home. Maybe we can take 5-minute showers instead of half-hour. (I wish my kids would take THAT advice! Does anybody know of a household shower-timer, that cuts off the hot water after, say, 7 minutes? I want that!)

If you're interested in sustainable lifetyle, or "voluntary simplicity" (what a fantastic notion!), or want some practical ideas on how you can live more sustainably (and cheaply!), get in touch with these Idaho Earth Institute folks.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Winter Commute

Today was one of those mornings where, if I'd had a car available, I probably could've convinced myself that "it wouldn't hurt, just this once," to drive to work. But since I don't have a car, I didn't have that difficult decision to make.

The "bad" roads have the citizenry in sheer-panic mode.

(Imagine how expensive it would be to own and maintain a car just for the 10 or 15 days each year when bicycling is somewhat difficult. It would cost me $15/mile driven! No thanks on that idea! If it gets really bad, I can always take the bus.)

Once I was underway - on my vintage '85 Peugeot Canyon Express mountain bike - it wasn't bad at all. I stayed out of the traffic lane, way over in the "powder" snow, and took my time. I detoured to side streets and the Greenbelt for safety reasons. (As I was leaving home, the lady on the ACHD TV road report said, "Expect one and one-half hours from Nampa to Boise" - that's about 15 miles.)

My commute normally takes about 13-15 minutes. Today it took about twice that - but probably 5 minutes was spent at a couple stops to snap some photos. Because it was cold and wintery - and beautiful!

Would I trade this for a car to drive? HECK NO!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Do it for the Children!!

Frequently when I'm riding to work in the mornings, I get passed by a big ol' Chevy Suburban with "Promise" license plates on it. They look something like this:

Idaho has about 36 different types of "specialty" plates - everything from Firefighters to Bluebird to Medal-of-Honor winner. All very worthy causes, I'm sure. (I doubt they have to stamp out too many Medal of Honor plates. Far as I know, it's just Bernie Fisher and Rambo. But I digress.) A PDF poster of all of them can be seen here.

I believe you pay $40 extra for the theme plate; and part of the proceeds are donated to the cause, whatever it happens to be.

So, what is "America's Promise" to the Youth?

A guess: "We promise to burn up all the fossil fuel, so you won't have to worry about it." (nudge-nudge, wink-wink)

But, I'm sure whoever put those Promise plates on that big ol' Suburban feels pretty good about doing something "for the Children."

Here are some alternate suggestions - things you might consider doing "for the Children."
- Leave a little oil in the ground for them to burn!
- Pollute their air just a little bit less.
- If you have children, teach them by example that they don't have to be totally dependent on motor-vehicle transportation to get to their destinations. Support mass transit. Carpool whenever possible. Plan and combine trips. Walk someplace... or ride a bike.
- Don't live so far out in the boondocks that you are miles from your destinations - work, school, shopping, entertainment - so the only option is getting in the car and driving.

One of the major "rites of passage" in the life of a youth is the day she/he completes Driver Education, and gets the driver's license.

I can still remember that day in my life, and it was almost 40 years ago! I took the family's '60 Rambler American - "The Meatloaf" - and was gone 'til after dark. And was promptly grounded from driving for a couple weeks, since my license was daylight-only. Live and learn.

Of course, like all other teenage kids, I thought any form of transportation other than car-driving was grossly inferior. And there was really no effort to convince me otherwise; from then on it was a battle to maximize my car-driving.

Knowing what I know now, if I had the power to command attention, I would declare to America's Youth that cars and trucks have a purpose, but in today's society they are the most inefficient possible choice, for most of what they are called on to do. Don't willingly submit to motor-vehicle (and oil-company) slavery!! That would be a wonderful gift to give America's Youth.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bikeboy survives again

Wondering if my hair is whiter now, than yesterday. (Probably.)

I was riding east on Bannock Street this morning, almost to my destination. Wearing my bright-yellow jacket, light-colored pants, with 10-watt headlight aglow. (It was almost sunrise, so it's not like darkness was really an issue.)

12th is a one-way, southbound street crossing Bannock. The folks on 12th have a stop sign.

A lady in her SUV pulled up to the stop sign. I was keeping a wary eye on her, because she was "creeping," like she couldn't decide whether or not to run me over.

Lo and behold, suddenly another vehicle zoomed right through the intersection, in the other (right) lane of 12th street!

It was a happy-looking fat lady with her double-latte mocha vanilla espresso or whatever in one hand. She didn't even apply the brakes at the stop sign, far as I can tell.

I braked hard and hollered. I think it was "IDIOT!" (A very astute observation, considering the circumstances.)

She was driving a medium-blue Pontiac Aztek. BE ON THE LOOKOUT!

[A side-note: It's not fair to stereotype drivers based on the vehicle they are driving, because there are occasional variations to the pattern. But I think we can all agree - anybody who would buy and drive a Pontiac Aztek is obviously mentally defective in some way! I mean - that is the butt-ugliest vehicle since the AMC Pacer! I watch out for Aztek drivers!]

Fortunately, I've learned from years of experience that one of the secrets to bike survival is - be ready to compensate for the incompetence of other roadway users. (Others choose to get the biggest vehicle they can, so when they crash, they survive even if the other guy doesn't. To me, that seems to circumvent "the law of natural selection," since the stupidest and/or weakest frequently walk away and end up reproducing.)

I don't like to think of the possible outcome, if I'd been another 15 feet farther on my journey. Or if I'd had an icy patch right there. If I get taken out by a bad driver, I kinda hope it's a Porsche, or maybe a sweet 350Z or Audi. Pontiac Aztek? Fuggeddaboudit!

Strangely, the lady in the SUV proceeded on through, and just about hit me, too. I guess she figured the fatty in the Aztek had already taken me out, so why wait? I hollered at her, too, and gave her the skunk-eye through my clear-vue goggles. (It was 9 degrees this morning!) In both cases, I held "the finger" in check, even though my gloves have all five fingers (rather than mittens).

The dude abides.

(Sorry for the rather angry tone... Fat Aztek Lady brought it on.)

[Note... this is my 200th post to Bike Nazi. Woo-hoo!]

Friday, January 18, 2008

Afternoon Commute, 1/17

How was your commute yesterday? Did your insulated, climate-controlled steel cocoon get you comfortably to your destination? I hope so.

My commute was nice!

Sure, it was a little on the chilly side, but it was great to be part of the environment for a few minutes.

The sun was, of course, low on the horizon. And it cast a particularly spectacular light on the hills northeast of town. I slowed down to enjoy the occasion... and even stopped and snapped a photo.


This was taken on the Greenbelt, just south of the "Garden Street trestle."

While I was taking the photo, I heard some rustling along the creek-bank to my right. And what do you know? Three (at least!) "Urban Bambis," creeping stealthily around. Magnificent creatures.


It amazes me that they are literally within sight of - and the mechanized roar of - "The Connector," where thousands of motorists go by, oblivious to what they're missing. (I would've likely not noticed 'em myself, if I hadn't stopped for a moment.)

Yeah - you can have that MSDC (Mobile Sensory Deprivation Chamber).

(Click on either photo for larger viewing / downloading options.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Fitness Center

The company I work for provides a really nice fitness center for employees who are so inclined. And for a VERY attractive price, too! I believe it's $10/month.

When I first started at my job, I thought I'd give it a try over the first winter, on the cold and slippery days when bike-riding wasn't so attractive. (Back then, it was $5/month, so I figured that's all I had to lose.)

The fitness center offered Richard-Simmons-style aerobic sweatin' classes. (Not interested.) Weights - both free and weight machines. (Mildly interested.) Lots of various other machines - joggers, rowers, stair-steppers... and stationary bicycles! (Interested!)

The bicycles were what caught my eye. They had several, of various types. Some were simple - the kind where you just twist a knob to set the amount of resistance. But there was a computerized one that would let you program in a "route" to follow, with varying degrees of resistance. Theoretically, sometimes it's like you're climbing a steep hill in difficulty level, and at other times it's like you're coasting down the other side.

So - I tried it.

And - I hated it!

Even on the computer-cycle, with the TV set on (cable news), it was just WAY too tedious and boring.

Compared with riding a bicycle, it was like being a hamster-on-a-treadmill.

I guess I couldn't catch the vision of exercising for "fitness" alone.

Riding a bike, out in the real world, you get the exercise (perhaps not as "concentrated" as at the fitness center, but definitely of value). But in addition, you get the wind blowing in your face (sometimes blasting you like a convection oven, sometimes with winter chill). You get the scenery flowing by, and the ever-changing environment. Often you have that beautiful blue sky overhead. Occasionally there's somebody to greet. There's a need to keep the senses tuned for potential hazards.

I dearly missed all of that stuff, when riding the bike-that-doesn't-move.

That was years ago. Since then, I've seen ads for stationary bikes that are even more sophisticated. Some even include video road courses on a screen in front of the rider. Would it be the same? Even a passable simulation? "Spinning" was the big craze for awhile. That's apparently where several people ride stationary bikes facing each other in a circle, and see who can spin the fastest...? (I never participated. I don't know if it's still popular or not.) None of that stuff attracts me the way a simple bike-ride does.

And besides that... I can start in one place and finish in another, so a bike ride has additional purpose!

Of course, if you're choosing between: 1) Fitness Center, and 2) Sitting on your sofa eating Cheetos and watching "The Biggest Loser," Fitness Center is THE choice!

(One amusing side-note. I believe I signed up in December and January. On January 2nd, I went in and the place was PACKED! Usually it was almost empty. I thought, "Oh, no! All these new people have signed up for exercise as their new-year's resolution!" And thought I'd have to jockey for position from then on! But not to worry - on January 3rd, the place was almost empty again.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Global Warming Update

It was 14 at ride-time this morning. I put on the "winter" gloves for a change. I was sharing the bike routes with some other hardy souls - that's always comforting.

Those who pooh-pooh the notion of "global warming" love to spout in the winter time when it's cold. (And you may have expected me to be doing the same.) Some of 'em seem to believe that the winter season proves that "global warming" is a myth. Especially if there's a record-setting cold temperature somewhere. There's a lot of, "See - I told you so!"

Same thing with the "global warming" hand-wringers in the summertime, of course. In fact, if it weren't for hot weather every year, most folks prolly wouldn't be paying any attention at all!

Those who get all huffy about cold in the winter and warm in the summer are just being silly and obtuse. Day-to-day and season-to-season temperature changes are meaningless as indicators of trends in the climate.

While I am skeptical (but open-minded) about the human contribution to "global warming," I can make this unscientific but longer-term observation... it used to get a lot colder in Boise in the winter time, than it does now. (I was born in Boise and have been unscientifically observing the Boise climate for 50+ years.) When I was a kid, it was expected that there would be some below-zero days every winter. Not many, but a few. And a lot more single-digit days. Nowadays, by comparison, mid-teens give "Idaho's Chief Meterologist"* something to get all excited about. And I can't remember the last time it got below zero. Ten years ago, maybe?

I believe the climate is changing... and always has been. Weather seems to be more severe and extreme now, than it was 50 years ago. And at least in this area, I'm fairly confident the average winter temperatures are measurably warmer now, than 50 years ago.

If human activity is partially responsible, I take comfort in knowing that my personal impact is minimal. (Unfortunately, my bike-ride in this morning probably didn't warm the temperature even 1 degree.) And I'd rather be doing something about the problem, than blah-blah-blahing about how "aware" I am.

Okay - enough of the soapbox stuff.

* All the TV weather people have titles. One guy calls himself Idaho's Chief Meterologist. Is that a self-designation, or did Gub'nor Butch sign the certificate and have a little ceremony?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

North Idaho Bicycle Vacation

Winter is a fine time to dream about summer.

I dream of spending a week or so, someday, bicycling in northern Idaho. There are some fabulous opportunities that aren't very well publicized. If you love mingling with big crowds, look elsewhere. (Except Coeur d'Alene... sadly, it has evolved into a Strip-mall Suburbia.)

Take, for example, the 72-mile-long paved rail-to-trail called the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. To find it, find Interstate 90 in north Idaho. The Trail runs roughly parallel, a few miles to the south, from Plummer near the Washington border to Mullan near the Montana border.

My dream is to start at the Plummer end (at the bottom of the hill!) and ride eastward, taking maybe 3 days to explore the attractions along the route... then returning the entire 72 miles in one day. Maybe alternate between camping and motels, like I do on motorcycle adventures.

Attractions along the way include Heyburn State Park, a bridge-crossing at the south end of Lake Coeur d'Alene, miles and miles of lakefront and river-side riding, and numerous historic sites along the way (Cataldo Mission, mining-town Wallace, etc.). I'd suggest getting off at Wallace, and taking a ride up the (dirt) Burke Road, to see the remnants of little mining towns like Frisco and Black Bear.

Much more information can be found here, including "Google Earth flyover" views, that should convince you this is a GOOD idea.

When you get done with the Coeur d'Alene trail, try the Route of the Hiawatha. It, too, is built on an abandoned railway. But it's not paved, but rather well-packed dirt. (At least, the one time I rode it.) And, it goes through awesome tunnels and over even-more-awesome trestles. (If you're afraid of the dark, or suffer from "high anxiety," this one may not be for you... although there is essentially no real danger unless you're just being stupid.)

My family tried it 8 or so years ago, and it was a fantastic day ride! I dropped them off at the top, then drove to the bottom and parked the shuttle craft. Then I rode my bicycle furiously up the (car) road... then we all road down the trail together.

Since we rode it, they've completed work on the Taft Tunnel, and have opened it for bicycle use. The tunnel is approximately 1.5 miles - when you enter, you're in Idaho; when you emerge, you're in Montana! (Headlights and helmets are required... believe me about the headlights... or at least a good flashlight.)

It costs a few bucks to ride - $9 for a day pass as of 2007 - but it's a small price to pay, and they use the money to keep the trail well-maintained. If you're in any kind of bike-riding shape, I'd suggest you consider riding UP the trail in the morning, eating a packed-along lunch at the top, then riding back down in the afternoon.

More info can be found here.

We've talked very casually about going back as a family and spending several days bicycling. But I'm afraid they're somewhat deterred by the notion of going places by self-power. At least for day after day. I'm pretty confident even casual cyclists could do these rides - since trains used to run along the same paths, they're never steep inclines. So it's just a matter of setting the proper pace.

There is much more to see and do in northern Idaho... it's a whole different world from southern Idaho up there.

If you need to ride something besides a bicycle for a day, check out the Silverwood Theme Park, kind of a poor man's Knott's Berry Farm, with a sweet wooden roller coaster and other exciting rides. It's a few miles north of Coeur d'Alene.

[NOTES: Just in case you're concerned about the "Bike Nazi" promoting an area that was, unfortunately, synonymous with the Nazi/Skinhead movement a few years back... I am NOT associated with those people in any way. And besides, most of 'em got run out of town a few years back. I found the "Hiawatha" photo at the TourVelo website.]


It's usually still dark when I go to work these days, but the afternoons are getting longer.

Which sometimes leads to spectacular sunsets. (I keep the shades handy, because my route homeward is in the general direction of the setting sun.)

I took a little detour the other afternoon, and rode past Boise's "tank farm." It was built during a bygone era when it was beyond the edge of town. Nowadays it's surrounded by city on every side, with a junior high school next door and a hospital a block or so away.

It's not a place you'd take the out-of-towners to see "Beautiful Boise," but it looked nice with the sun setting beyond.

0801 Sunset on the Tank Farm

Click here for a larger (1024x768) view.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Get a Clue, Motorist! #1

[NOTE: There's no denying that there are a lot of clueless cyclists out there; I see 'em all the time. But I intend to post some helpful hints to motorists, that if followed, would lead to more harmony and better-quality transportation for all roadway users. PLEASE feel free to reply either favorably or less-than-favorably.]

Dear Motorist:

You roll up to a stop sign. Hopefully you come to a complete stop - that's what that big red STOP sign demands.

If you have to wait for right-of-way traffic, you can save us all - including yourself - aggravation and wasted time if you stay stopped, rather than creeping slowly into the intersection.

You see, when I'm approaching the intersection on my bicycle, the stakes are extremely high. I watch your wheels... if I see them rotating, I have to slow way down, because I don't know if you're going to drive out into my path or not. I don't even know if you see me! Many of your colleagues aren't paying attention, so I have to assume you're not. When I have to slow down, you have to wait longer.

Just keep that foot firmly planted on your power-assisted brake pedal, until it's your turn to go. Sure, it requires some effort and concentration, but nobody said it would be easy. And it's worth it!

Y'all drive careful now.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

$3.50 gas?

The local daily newspaper (Idaho Statesman) is reporting here that according to the AAA, $3.50 gas is in our near future.

Traditionally the price of gas is a supply and demand thing. I believe that means, as demand goes up, the price tends to do the same. As supply goes up (which is unlikely; experts say oil supplies have "peaked out" and are on the decline), prices tend to drop.

The article suggests that prices now rise or fall depending on perceived threats to the supply. (To me, that seems like an interesting detail... but it's still a supply/demand market.)

As is usually the case, the "experts" have weighed in with their expert commentary. (See the comments following the article.) Most of them seem to ignore the fact that there is indeed a finite supply of fuel, and also a limited amount of refinery capacity. Many also seem not to understand the fact that worldwide demand is skyrocketing, what with the new prosperity in places like China and India. (The comments are the usual diatribes about Alaska oil being the answer to all our problems, fuel tax elimination, Bush and Cheney, blah-blah-blah.)

Each person who uses fossil fuel should consider how he impacts the supply/demand, in some small way. I'm getting cheated, since I contribute very little to the demand curve. (And frankly, I resent that by the time I'm "out to pasture," it may be much more expensive than I ever anticipated, to get behind the wheel of some kind of gas-powered transportation device and go see places I've never seen. That's my dream. I oughtta be able to buy "reserve" gas at 1986 prices, to be used in the future.)

UPDATE 10 January 2008:

The Statesman is conducting an informal online poll today, asking people how they will respond.
The results (from 976 submissions) so far:
Take fewer trips: 45%
Grin and bear it: 39%
Boycott gas: 6%
Bike or walk: 6%
Buy a hybrid: 3%
Ride the bus: 2%

(I s'pose you could say that choosing to bike or walk or ride the bus is a way to boycott gas. If you don't choose one of those options, how will you boycott gas? Stay home?)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Down... but not Out

Well... it was inevitable, eventually.

I had a weather-related crash this morning on the commute. Actually, two of 'em.

I did fine on the "flat."

But I got to the "Americana hill," and decided to take the sidewalk.

(The hill, for those who are not intimately aware, is a 5-lane roadway, 30mph speed limit that is never observed, with a wide sidewalk on either side. It is roughly 1/4 mile from top to bottom, and I'd guess there's a 50-foot elevation change. It's also a northward-facing grade, so it doesn't get much sun, particularly this time of year.)

I normally ride down in the right-hand traffic lane, going within 2 or 3 mph of the posted limit. (Of course, all the speeders have to go around me in the other lane.)

But on snowy, icy days, I lean toward the sidewalk, only because the curb gives me an additional measure of protection from sliding-out-of-control cars and trucks. (Rule to live by: You can probably survive a bicycle crash, but crashing the bike and then getting run over could spoil your day!)

This morning, it was snowing - actually quite heavily, but at ride-time, only maybe 1/8 inch of accumulation. That 1/8 inch of snow was no problem on flat, smooth pavement, but I hit that sidewalk and it was 1/8-inch of new snow-cover over mounds of frozen slush, snowmelt from the previous day that had frozen, etc.

The first crash was maybe 50 feet into my sidewalk sojourn. I was going slow, and no damage. I picked up my sorry carcass, and decided to give it another go. VERY slowly and deliberately. I got another 50 feet or so, and down I went again!

The second crash was ever-so-slightly more severe. I tore a small hole in the knee of my britches, and there's a corresponding strawberry-size patch of road rash on my knee.

DANG IT! Those britches were almost new! (Dickies work pants - I'm not a GQ-kind-of-guy. I'm glad I chose not to put on the $100 Gore-Tex overpants.)

I walked (walked and slipped actually - it was VERY slippery!) down the hill to where it started leveling off a bit, then mounted up and rode on in.

Fortunately, the Missus is a seamstress, and she can patch my britches up so they're functional again.

And when I wax philosophical, I could buy 3 pairs (!!) of those pants for the cost of one flippin' tank of gas. So my high estimation of bikes-as-transportation has not been severely impacted.

Ride on.

Friday, January 4, 2008

My Granddaughter

Please indulge me in some personal boastfulness. My perfect-in-every-way granddaughter is 1 year old today.

(Photo was taken on Thanksgiving Day.)

Mackenzie (or "Baby Mac," as she is fondly called in these parts) was ambulatory from early-on.

She was walking at about 10 months... I take full credit. I spent hours leaning over, as she reached up and grasped my index fingers firmly in her tiny hands and we made the rounds.

She is practically running now... it's amusing and terrifying to watch her haphazard recklessness. (I guess that's why most babies are supplied with parents and grandparents.)

I can hardly wait 'til she's old enough to get on the 2-wheeler. Maybe by this summer...

(She's enjoyed going with me on trailer-bike rides since she was about 4 months old.)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Multitasking Drivers

If you pay attention to current events, you may have noticed that on January 1, it became illegal in Washington state to compose text messages on your cellphone/blackberry thing while driving.

If you get caught, it'll cost you $124. If it leads to an accident, the penalty goes up to a whopping $175.

Does this seem scary to any of my road-going bike-rider friends? It sure scares me!
- It suggests that in the other 49 states, it's okay (legal, at least) to compose text messages on your matchbook-size keyboard as you're driving along.
- More significantly, it suggests that there are people out there, operating 3500-pound steel missiles, whose judgment is so poor that they'll do something that's mind-bogglingly stupid and irresponsible, unless there's a law against it.

We already share roads with people who are BARELY capable of driving at all. (I see them all the time! There's no IQ test to get a drivers' license, and no way to test judgment, far as I know. Except after somebody causes an accident driving-while-texting, I guess you can say, "Golly! That guy was really exercising bad judgment!")

My biggest fear, as a road-going bicyclist, is the fear that somebody will plow into me while either impaired or distracted. I guess I can take comfort in knowing that if it happened in Washington, the perp would get fined $175 if it were his texting that caused the distraction.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Month/Year End Report

Considering the less-than-ideal conditions I encountered last month, I had a good December... and a good end to a good year, bicycling-wise.

397 miles accumulated on 31 days... ZERO accidents! (That accident statistic is more meaningful when slick roads are in the mix.)

Which put me at 6182 miles for 2007, accumulated on 356 days. (And coincidentally, I was out of town for 11 days. But I rode on the day I left town, and on the day I got back.) That's my best calendar-year mileage since 1996, so I have to figure it's unlikely I'll match it in '08, even with the bonus leap-year day. But 'cha never know.