Saturday, May 31, 2008


After a long period of good intentions, I finally printed up a "propaganda" T-shirt. The shirt is size XXL so I can wear it over whatever I happen to have on at commute-time. Perhaps when I ride past long queues of stuck-in-traffic motorists (burning that $4 gas at a ZERO MPG rate) it'll give 'em something to think about.

The shirt is already woefully outdated; it's 10 days or so old, and my mileage is now up by 150+ MPG!!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Salad Days

The last month or six weeks have been awesome times for bike riders, at least in these parts. The bike racks at the office have been packed, and it seems you can't go anywhere without seeing other cyclists. (I'm happy to say that as a general rule, I haven't encountered too many of 'em riding down the wrong side of the road!)

No doubt the pump price has been one of the motivating factors.

(I heard a guy on the radio - an "expert" - declaring confidently that gas would be back around $2.50, most likely by July. And I breathed a sigh of relief that he isn't managing my retirement fund! I'll be surprised if the price is ever again south of $3.50.)

In years gone by, the spring bicycle-burst usually comes to an end around the middle of June, when temperatures start getting above 90 on a routine basis. Folks who can't ride when the temperature is below 60 or so typically can't tolerate heat, either. It will be interesting this year to see which is the stronger motivator - the wallet or the thermometer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Are the good times really over?

Merle Haggard - a favorite of mine - penned a song a few years back by that title. The chorus goes like this:

Are we rollin' downhill like a snowball headed for Hell?
With no kind of chance for the flag or the Liberty Bell?
I wish a Ford or a Chevy would still last ten years like they should.
Is the best of the free life behind us now, and are the good times really over for good?

The local newspaper (website) had a provocative headline this morning: "Have Idahoans hit their limit on gas prices?"

I s'pose if your definition of "good times" includes unlimited hummin' around in your Hummer, fueled by $1.50 gas, maybe the good times are over for good.

The article lists some of the side effects of the spiraling price of fuel:
- The VOLUME of gas sold in Idaho, compared with a year ago, is down 5-7 percent
- The Caldwell-Boise ValleyRide route ridership is up 40 percent
- 12 new commuter vans have been added, to meet demand.

The state is also taking in less money. First, because the gas tax is a fixed amount per gallon and sales are down. Second, because people are spending less on other goods and services, so as to afford gas. So sales tax is down.

Is ANY of that bad? Seriously! I see every one of those results as being a good thing!

I think it's fantastic that people are being more practical-minded in their car purchases, and buying a Prius instead of a Yukon XL. If they're smart, they'll also consider where they want to dwell, in relation to where they live their lives. Perhaps 20 years from now, there won't be quite so many people who live a 30-mile-each-way commute from the office and 10 miles from the nearest market. Maybe the average fuel economy will be up by 10mpg. Maybe public transportation will be the rule, rather than the exception. Maybe air pollution will be down significantly. Maybe in 2028, employers will provide locker rooms and showers for all the cyclists and walkers, the way they provide parking lots in 2008.

It's just too bad that people don't seem to be motivated to "do the right thing" unless not doing the right thing becomes painful in some way. There's absolutely NO reason that people couldn't ride the bus more, or buy an economical car and drive less, or carpool, or ride a bike or walk, if gas were $0.95 instead of $3.95.

Of course, I can't imagine the government sitting idly by and watching their revenues slip away. They're already lamenting that they need $250 million, just to bring the state's roads up to acceptable operating condition. You can bet they'll figure out a way to bleed the taxpayers a little more. (Having forgotten all about the Boston Tea Party!)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Springtime ... and the ridin' is easy

This is a dandy time of year to be aboard the bicycle.

Since we got abundant snowpack over the winter, they decided to open the "rooster tail" spillway at Lucky Peak Dam for a few days over the long weekend. I rode up there Friday afternoon to check it out...


Worth the ride. (I heard the Dam Lady telling somebody that's 22,000 cubic feet of water per second. So it would take about 1 second to fill a 3000-square-foot house.)

On Memorial Day, I traditionally hop aboard the motorsickle and check out some cemeteries around the area. This year I decided to take a more limited loop aboard the bicycle. I rode to Pioneer Cemetery off Warm Springs. It was quiet out that way. Then I rode up to the Military Reserve Cemetery; the last 1/4 mile or so was dirt, but I anticipated that. Honest Abe and the Civil War reenactment boys came and put on a show.



It's a wonderful thing, to pause in the course of our normal activities to honor those who paid so dearly for the freedom we enjoy. Freedom is NOT free!

NOTE: Photos are "truncated" - click on any of 'em for better viewing options.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jet Bike!

Although it's somewhat contrary to everything GOOD about bicycle transportation, this is kinda cool.

This is Bob Maddox, or Medford, OR, on his pulse-jet-powered Schwinn cruiser.

It's the second one he's built - he got the first one up to 50mph. (He figures it's good for 75mph, with the right guy at the controls. Think "Darwin Award" contestant. Paging Evel... paging Evel...)

Evidently "pulse jet" technology is pretty simple... a fire in a tube. Hitler's rocket boys used 'em for V-1 Buzz Bombs back in Dubya Dubya 2. And Maddox says it'll burn pretty much anything from kerosene to corn squeezins'.

It's got a few drawbacks, though:
- 150 dB sound pressure (Think F-15 at full afterburner takeoff)
- it burns 1/2 gallon of fuel per minute
- it glows red-hot during operation, so it's probably not Forest Service approved, huh?
Other than that...

(Wired article - and YouTube video - HERE.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Addicted to Oil"

As you are no doubt aware, President Bush recently traveled to the Middle East.

One of his motives was to grovel before the Saudis, to try to get them to increase their oil production. (That inconvenient supply-demand thing. An effort to increase the supply, since his fellow countrymen are unwilling to decrease their demand, but whine incessantly about the cost of fuel.)

Apparently the Saudis said "No." And frankly, who can blame 'em? While a robust U.S. economy is still important to their own economic well-being, they can sell their product (of which there is a finite amount) all over the world for the going price. If we don't buy it, somebody else will.

Last night, Jay Leno was making great light of the fact that Bush was gifted with a bicycle during his trip. Leno implied that it was the Saudis who gave him the bike, and joked that it's their response to the American energy crisis.

Yeah - that's funny. Bicycles as an answer to the energy crisis.

I'm not laughing because bicycles are my answer.

I'm not laughing because if my fellow Americans would get over their addiction to (terrorist) oil, and adopt similar consumption patterns to my own, I'm confident prices would be closer to $2 than to $4.

I'm not laughing because their demand for oil affects the price I pay, on the few occasions when I have to gas up each year. (It was a bit sobering last weekend, spending $15 to fill up my motorcycle tank! Thank goodness it's not a frequent occurrance.)

If we could tell the Saudis, "Screw you! Keep your steenking oil! We're riding bikes now!" ... THAT would make me laugh!!

(I did some digging; the bike was actually a gift from Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. The bike is Israeli-made; probably a fine bicycle. I'm thinkin' it looks just a bit small for the Cyclist-In-Chief.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

BBW, Day 4


(Although we can agree that both are very positive, desirable things, huh?)

I'm happy to report I've ridden every day this week (and last week... and the week before... etc.). This week I've been faithful about putting on my "ONE LESS CAR" T-shirt every day during the commute.

(I've also got a T-shirt that says "CARS SUCK." With a motorcycle. But we're striving for diplomacy here.)

I don't think I'm just imagining a LOT of cyclists on the road these days. Which is fantastic, as long as they're being GOOD cyclists - following the rules and not making asses of themselves. (Of course, Danielo has noted that many of them are fair-weather riders, and the first day it's too hot or too cold, they traditionally hang it up. We'll see if gas prices pushing $4 makes any difference this year.)

Speaking of motorcycles... this afternoon I'm going to eastern Oregon on mine, to burn a little fossil fuel. Gonna do some riding in the Blue Mountains, in the Baker / La Grande area. I expect there will be places where the snow is still clinging to both sides of the highway. The plan is to return to Boise Friday evening, rejuvenated and recharged. And to participate in the PEDAL POWER PARADE on Saturday.

I hope to see a HUGE turnout at the PPP! The forecast is sunny and 90+ ... bring hydration! (I hope the weather isn't TOO "nice" for the more fickle among us.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

2-wheel ghetto blastin'

If you'd like to ride a bike, but just can't bear the thought of giving up your 10,000 watts and and 18-inch subs ... your Fitty Cent or Solja Boy (or whatever... sorry, I'm not very 'hep' to that type music) ... this might be just the ticket.

You're neighbors can still know you're headed their way, five minutes before you get there! (I imagine it must have a bank of batteries, and you can plug it in and recharge it.)

Seriously... can you imagine punks rolling down the Greenbelt on a nice summer day with these things in tow? Surely Picnic Rage would ensue.

(Photo lifted from the Bike Trailer Blog. There's also a sweet-lookin' Keg Trailer that might be of interest... a rolling Pony Keg.)

BBW, Day 2

I hope the "Night Light Parade" went well - sorry I missed it. (My 17 tomato plants are in the ground, and this morning they looked like they're all happy, despite our chilly dawn.) The parade took place at 7:30pm...? I was out on an errand with my family at almost 9pm, and the sun was still in the sky - what's with that?

This morning I put on my Boise Bike Week T-shirt from last year, over my "office" shirt. It says on the back in big letters:


Do other roadway users understand that message?

Last night I tried to make a T-shirt that has a clearer message, using some cool T-shirt transfer paper, but my inkjet printer doesn't work anymore. (The tranfer is heat-activated, and it won't work in the laser printer. Inkjet printers kinda suck.) The message:

(so far)

Yeah, I think they'd understand that message. Even the Prius drivers and those annoying Moped/Scooter people who use the bike lane would be jealous, huh? (I've got a nearby friend with an inkjet. Maybe if I grovel, he'd let me print a page on it. But he drives an SUV so maybe he won't.)

Monday, May 12, 2008


Don't forget Boise Bike Week! Today is Day 1.

A schedule of all events can be found HERE.

I was planning on riding in tonight's Night Light Parade, but I'm just too flippin' busy. Garden-planting (planned for last weekend) got postponed, so it's on the docket for tonight. My tomato plants want BADLY to be in the ground.

I'll definitely be riding in the big Pedal Power Parade - Saturday at 4pm.

It would be nice if there were some sort of "critical mass" type event... not necessarily to disrupt the flow, but to promote maximum exposure.

One other bit of commentary... it seems rather odd to me that Saturday's Grand Finale is sponsored by Avimor - a planned community that is too far away from Boise for any but the most dedicated bicycle riders to commute from. A community that is unlikely to be served by public transportation at any time in the near future. A community that will put a bunch more long-distance commuter single-occupant vehicles on the road. But maybe I'm being too analytical.

2003 = Status Symbol, 2008 = Stupid Symbol

SUVs, big ol' pickups and "performance" cars have been removed from showrooms across the Fruited Plain, and stuck on the back lot. Now the featured vehicles are the fuel-mileage champs. New car dealers are knocking $5000 off the retail price of their SUV lineup and they're still not moving. People trying to unload their "upside-down" Hummers and Excursions and Durangos are finding it takes 90 days or more to sell 'em, at prices $3000 less than their blue-book value. They appear to be going the way of the brontosaurus.

Have you seen Chrysler's new gimmick? Apparently the lifetime power-train warranty wasn't helping sell vehicles, so now they have the "$2.99 gas guarantee" for the first 3 years of ownership. (Of course, if you pay the sticker price for some of those dinosaurs, you're paying the difference up-front.)

On Saturday, I saw a huge maroon Ford Super Duty Crew Cab with the giant chrome wheels and custom hood (they love a hood that's hard to see over, what with the big scoop or whatever on it). Although it was a half-block away, I could tell it was a diesel by the racket. The most distinguishing feature was a huge barrel-type fuel tank in the bed, painted the same color as the truck. I bet it holds 100 gallons! (Which means the truck costs close to $500 to fill up.) I hope the owner REALLY likes it, because it's probably not worth half what he has invested in it, in today's market. He can use his Economic Stimulus money to fill the tank.

Say what you want about $3.50+ gas... but IMO it's driving a good trend in personal transportation. Folks are thinking long and hard about how much a "status symbol" is worth in extra expense. (It's unfortunate that the cost of transporting goods has gone up proportionately. But on the other hand, the market will decide - I expect railway transport to have a resurgence in popularity, since it costs so much less than truck transportation.)

As the price of fuel continues to spiral upward, bicycle transportation just keeps looking better and better!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Feeling Secure?

Maybe you should think again.

With bike transportation at an all-time high at the building where I work, we're feeling the pinch. (It's fantastic! On Tuesday I counted 24 bicycles in the racks; that could be 5% of the building population, which is phenomenal.)

A month or so ago, they replaced the two old bike racks with the nicest rack I've ever seen... it's one-of-a-kind, built by Thomas, who is an extraordinary craftsman. (I happily served as his consultant.) But that rack filled, and there was pressure for more bike parking. So one of the old racks came out of retirement.

The old rack was festooned with abandoned bike locks of every shape and size.

People have a BAD habit of using the racks for long-term lock storage - there were locks that I swear hadn't been used in 10 years! And they were occupying rack space that could have otherwise been used for bike storage.

No more long-term lock storage... the locks came off.

Interestingly, all it took was a BIG freakin' bolt cutter. Here are the results:

(Don't feel too insecure, my friends, as long as you lock your bike. The wielders of the cutter had plenty of time, and weren't like meth-heads, casting furtive glances over their shoulders while working. In my experience, I've had two UNLOCKED bikes stolen, zero LOCKED bikes stolen.)

Gear Obsession

If you are a dedicated transportation cyclist, this probably happens to you. It does to me, like clockwork, as the days start getting nice in the springtime.

It happened yesterday.

An acquaintance says, "I've decided I'm going to start riding to work. In fact I've already started - I've ridden a couple times this week. I'm wondering what kind of bike I should get... can you advise me?"

My advice to him - and I hope he takes it - was, "Get a good set of smooth-tread tires installed on that mountain bike of yours, and ride it for a year or maybe even two. Make sure that bike commuting is indeed for you, before investing a substantial amount of money into a newer bicycle."

Some smooth-treads and slime tubes would set him back $50 if he shops carefully.

If that goes well, he could add lights, and/or a rack, and/or fenders, for a few bucks more.

I hope he isn't thinking he NEEDS the latest leading-edge top-of-the-line urban assault bicycle. These days the bike stores are full of (full-price) SWEET road bikes of every configuration. And those salesmen, bless their hearts, would be happy to relieve my friend of $1000 or $1500 or more, in exchange for a bike that MIGHT end up on hooks in his garage after a month or two.

I've got another acquaintance who comes immediately to mind. He's a gadget freak. He had the same notion a few years back, about riding to work... it was convenient, since he's only maybe 3 miles away over flat terrain. He didn't ask for advice; he just went out and bought a nice full-suspension well-equipped brand-name mountain bike. That wasn't quite right, so he bought a super-lightweight road bike... the kind that only has about 8 bladed spokes on each wheel. (You can see I'm not an expert. I admire 'em in the bike store, but that's good enough for me.) And he got the candy - the cleated pedals and shoes, the computer, the titanium bottle cages. I think he paid $200 for his super-lightweight saddle, for cryin' out loud! And guess how the story ends? He drives to work every day and those two NICE bikes are on hooks in his garage, 360 or so days each year. (Nestled comfortably among many other dust-covered gadgets, I might add.) I imagine that if he got the "bug" again, those bikes wouldn't be adequate... they'd be trade-in material for newer and shinier and lighter-weight replacements.

If you want to be a bike OWNER, go ahead and get whatever appeals to you. If you want to be a bike RIDER, make sure that's what you want, before making a huge investment in bike ownership. (My newest bike is 8 years old.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Tortoise and the Hare

We're all familiar with the fable... how the jackrabbit with amazing sprint-ability eventually gets beaten by the lowly tortoise.

But it seems a lot of people don't understand that a fable is a story with a MORAL. A story with a lesson to be learned.

Every day, I share the road with "hares" in their motor vehicles.

The light turns green, and zoom-zoom... they're up the road in a cloud of dust. Sometimes the tires even go chirp, they sprint away so quickly. Or as they punch the pedal to the metal, you hear the whooooooosh! of fuel/air intake, sucking that $3.60 gas.

Sometimes they make it through the next light. Often they don't. And here comes ol' bikeboy, uncannily tortoise-like (down to the helmet that vaguely resembles a shell), trying to keep a steady pace and hit the green lights. Dum-tee-dum... dum-tee-dum...

Frequently the drama is still repeating a mile-and-a-half from where I first spot the would-be jackrabbits.

(It always pains me to be a passenger in a vehicle that's doing the jackrabbit thing. Especially when I have a financial stake in the operation of that vehicle, if ya know what I mean. But I know better than to offer advice... I ride a bike, so what do I know about driving?)

I've become a little obsessive about it... I'm to the point where I'm trying to avoid not only "sprinting," but braking, as well. It hurts my tender emotions to have to squeeze the brakes, because I've paid my dues for the speed I'm enjoying.

I took inventory - between home and office I have one stop sign and 11 signaled intersections to deal with. (I know what you city slickers are thinking... 11 traffic signals? In Idaho?? Yeah, riight! But I don't jest.) Rarely can I make it with zero-braking, but frequently I can do it with only one braking slow-down. Months go by in which I don't have to come to a complete stop. Because I'm paying attention to what's-up-the-road (or approaching from the sides) rather than focusing on G-force acceleration (and subsequent G-force braking).

Yep - there's a moral to THAT story. And to learn it makes one wiser... and possibly more prosperous and less aggravated.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sunday ride with my granddaughter

It's time for a couple brag photos from Grandpa.

Here's my beautiful granddaughter, Mackenzie, just as we're ready to head out on our adventure. (I've improvised a baby trailer with my faithful "Bob" and an old car seat. It was NOT easy to find an infant-size bicycle helmet.)

Here she is at a nearby playground... just one of several stops we made on our 8-miles-or-so ride. She's looking enviously over at the kids on the merry-go-round, who seem to be having so much fun.

Nature Deficit Disorder

I'd never heard of NDD before this morning, when it came up on the radio.

Author Richard Louv coined it, to describe how successive generations seem to be losing touch with nature. (I'm thinkin' I want to read his book, Last Child in the Woods.)

NDD would be particularly painful on a gorgeous day. On a day like today, when I was a kid, Mom would admonish us to "Go outside and play." Or conversely, as a threat - "You can't go outside and play until you've practiced piano for a half hour!" (And that hurt BAD!) The reason I'm a college dropout - unlike all my siblings - is I couldn't STAND to be cooped up in a college classroom on a beautiful spring afternoon! (The harsh reality is... nowadays I'm cooped up in an office on equally lovely days. Why, oh why didn't I see it coming? haha)

But things have changed over the course of a generation or two. Significantly less activity takes place outdoors, especially among America's young people.

Travelocity, the web-based travel company, recently conducted a survey and discovered, not surprisingly, that:
- Instead of hiking, biking and camping, more than twice as many families today focus on activities like shopping than did earlier generations.
- Families with kids "are visiting national parks and other nature sites much less frequently than previous generations." Instead, they go to the big city or an amusement park.

Of course, "vacation" is a small piece of most of our lives (unfortunately!). And these same trends are obvious the other 350-or-so days each year. There's a sizable group of youth these days who rarely venture out-of-doors. Their attention is consumed with video gaming, internet, text messaging, etc., instead of tag or hide-and-go seek or exploring the great outdoors.

Another factor is the child care staff, whether it be at the school or the daycare. They are VERY hesitant to send kids out on a less-than-perfect day, or unless there's plenty of adult supervision, etc. Also nowadays we're much more afraid of outside hazards - like sunshine, pervert boogeymen, bad drivers in speeding cars, etc., than we were a generation or two ago. Ah, life in The 21st Century.

Of course, many adults nowadays also seem to prefer the great indoors. They drive straight into the garage in the evening, and don't emerge 'til they back the car out of the garage the next morning. Their "drive time" is their substitute for communing with nature.

Obviously they're free to make that lifestyle choice. But they can't choose the consequences, which increasingly include obesity, impaired social skills (unless you consider "chat room" a social skill - hahaha!) and attention deficit disorder.

I declare confidently that a dedicated bicycle commuter can avoid a lot of that, in just a few minutes a day.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Plan NOW to participate in Boise Bike Week!

Boise Bike Week this year runs from May 12 (Monday) thru May 17 (Saturday). If you're like me, now is the time to put it on the calendar, because May is a crazy time, what with weddings, yard work, sunshine-oriented activities, etc.

The Statesman website has detailed schedule info. It includes a "Night Light" parade, numerous educational rides and clinics, Scavenger hunt, etc.

Last year I rode in the "Pedal Power Parade" on Saturday afternoon, and had a fine time. (Notes and photos from last year can be seen HERE.) I hope to get more involved this year.

If you're in the Boise area and have a "casual cyclist" friend or family member... this would be a PERFECT opportunity to get 'em involved. Maybe there would be a little enthusiasm rub-off in the crowd.

Frankly, I wish they would schedule one "Critical Mass" type event. I'm not talking about something that's deliberately "civilly disobedient," or even intentionally disruptive. But something that would provide MAXIMUM EXPOSURE to the maximum number of our fellow citizens. And in my mind, that would almost need to coincide with "rush hour." It's cool that they can get 300 cyclists riding through downtown Boise on a Saturday afternoon, when it's essentially deserted anyway. How about 300 cyclists riding south on 9th Street / Capitol Boulevard, or up one lane of "The Connector" at 5pm on Thursday? If "Boise Bike Week" only involves already-committed bike riders, that's "preachin' to the choir"! I'd like to see a little meaningful "outreach" effort, too.

The event I envision would have a whole different focus from the Pedal Power Parade, in which cyclists of all ages and comfort-levels participate. The "Critical" ride would be best left to experienced riders who feel comfortable in traffic.

Another idea... how's about an organized mass ride on the disputed stretch of Garden City's GREENBELT? You know the one... the one that Governor Butch says we can ride on, and Mayor Evans says we can't ride on. I'd be up for some of that action!

(May is also "National Bike Month," and more locally, "May in Motion" - supposedly to encourage alternative transportation. Info. can be found at the Statesman link above. Photo was lifted from the official Boise Bike Week Website.)

20 x 10

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer was on the (Boise) talk radio for a few minutes this morning; I happened to tune in.

He was talking about something that's on pretty much everybody's mind - the spiraling cost of fuel, and energy in general. And he had some interesting - and very realistic - insights.

For one thing, he talked about how the Democratic presidential candidates are promising to "get us out of Iraq" soon after they take office. (Schweitzer is a Democrat.) He said that's a joke. He was in the military, and was stationed in Saudi Arabia for 7 years, back in the '80s. He said as long as the USA is dependent on middle-eastern oil, we will have a military presence there. And anybody who wants us out of Iraq and/or the Mideast had better do his part to reduce that dependency.

He talked about Montana's "20 by 10" Program. They have an official energy efficiency program (more HERE) to reduce energy requirements by 20 percent, by the year 2010.

(He also talked about some innovative new energy reclamation technologies, like "coal gasification," that hold promise for the future. But mostly he was talking about here and now.)

What would it mean, to reduce energy requirements by 20%?

It would essentially mean the same thing as increasing the energy SUPPLY by around 20%.

It would mean decreasing the cost of energy in the budget by 20%, whether it be a state budget or a family budget.

Over the last year or so, the increased cost of gas has reduced fuel consumption... by TWO percent. That's not enough to make "Big Oil" even blink.

But if we collectively could reduce our consumption by TWENTY percent, believe me... it would get their attention, and you'd see some meaningful reductions in gas prices. (Of course, if those reductions resulted in everybody going back to their "normal" consumption levels, it would again change that supply/demand ratio.)

If those 90-plus percent of the people who drive alone to work every day would figure out an alternative, just one day a week... 20% reduction in fuel consumption. It's not rocket science, if even ME and an ol' rancher from Montana can figure it out...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

April Cycling Report

April 1 - 18 - 0 miles on 0 days
April 19 - 30 - 166 miles on 12 days

The trend is generally positive. May should be a good month, if the weather warms up a bit.