Thursday, December 27, 2012

My 150k day

Way back last January, I thought there was a decent chance that I'd arrive at a milestone before the end of the year - 150,000 bicycle miles.  I was about 6100 miles short at the time, and for the last few years I've been averaging around 6k miles per year.

At the beginning of December, I was 329 miles short.  And this afternoon, I tore through the tape!  Woo-hooooo! 150,003 miles and counting.

I hit 100,000 miles on September 1, 2004.  If you're interested, you can read about that auspicious occasion HERE (PDF document).

It took 27 years.  The first year ('86), I rode 2195 miles.  In the 26 ensuing years, I've ridden 4000+ miles every year; 20 of those years I've ridden 5000+ miles; 10 of those years I've ridden 6000+ miles.

When I hit the 100k mark, 200k seemed like a long ways off, and an unlikely milestone.  Not so much any more.  Heck - I might make it before 2020, if I can stay healthy and the creek don't rise.

In the morning, I rode to work over a light snow covering, but the day actually turned out lovely!




Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wealthy Chinese want a bike for Christmas!

China has come full-circle in a very short time!

Until quite recently, the vast majority of Chinese did their commuting either by bicycle or public transportation... car ownership was relegated to the wealthy elite.  But as China has industrialized and become the source of affordable merchandise for the world's insatiable consumers, the country has also become the world's biggest auto market.  People have abandoned their Chinese "Flying Pigeon" bicycles.

But now, according to an interesting article, the comfortably wealthy class in China is reverting to high-end bicycles.  Analysts estimate 10 percent growth in the bicycle market, and even higher in the "high-end" market.  Chinese consumers are spending thousands - $16,000 for a handmade British Moulton, $38,700 for a limited-edition Colnago.  A Chinese financial firm ordered 1000 spendy bikes to give out as year-end bonuses to its employees.  (Ah, that my employer could learn something from this!)

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Not-so-safe safety equipment

The days are short and the nights are long. (Global darkening?) As I was bicycling in to work this morning - in almost-dark - I caught an occasional glimpse up ahead of a red light. I assumed it was a taillight on another bicycle. And I was right.

As I got closer, I saw that the rider, dressed in dark attire, had a light on the back of his fat-tire bike, attached to the seat post. (A very common thing; my taillight is attached to the seat post.) But the other rider also had a rack on the back of his bike - and a bag attached to the rack, right behind the light. The taillight was impossible to see from directly behind. A driver might see it just as he's plowing into the guy.

I've got my little Chinese single-AA LED flashlight, for my headlight. When it has a fresh battery, it's amazingly bright... I can see signs reflecting back at me a half-mile up the road. But it uses the juice to produce that bright light, and as the battery power diminishes, the light grows weaker and weaker, until I can't even see it on the road just in front of me. Ultimately it quits blinking, and just glows a steady night-light glow... at that point it's essentially useless for being seen or seeing. (I carry a spare battery, so I won't get into a hazardous situation.)

Another common sight, this time of year... people wearing a thick knit cap... with a helmet perched on top.  They're obviously safety-minded, but in the event of an accident, unless the head-impact was directly on top of their head, the bucket would almost certainly just get knocked sideways, rather than providing any impact absorption.

It's a little sobering, but true... our lives can literally depend on that gear. If you're sharing pavement with 4000-pound hurtling missiles, sometimes with distracted or impaired pilots, it is absolutely imperative that you take measures to be as visible as possible! For me, that means functional lights that can be seen 360 degrees around the bike, and light clothing. Some people are obviously comfortable riding alongside the road on their black bike in dark clothing, without any lights and muddy reflectors. I see 'em regularly.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Are you prepared?

Much has been made of the Mayan calendar... you know, that big round stone thing that apparently ends on December 21 of this year.

That's only about a week off... are you prepared for the End of Days?

Here's a front yard that's filled with Inflatable Carnage... 10 days from now, it might be carcasses scattered about, instead of balloons!!!




(But slightly more seriously... I'm pretty confident those guys just ran out of rock, or got tired of chiselin'.  And maybe the Mayan Desk Calendar went out to the end of January 2013... ya never know...)

The question remains... are you prepared?

If I'm not prepared, it ain't because I haven't been warned!

I'm a long time Boy Scout - the motto is "Be Prepared."

My dad was a Great Depression baby.  Back a couple generations ago, people were much more self-sufficient.  The knew they better be prepared, or make do... or do without.  (We're pathetic and helpless by comparison, nowadays.)  When I was a kid, we had a basement "fruit room."  It had varying inventories of fruit that my mother and/or grandma canned, canned goods, flour, sugar, wheat, etc.  Once a year or so, we'd pile into the station wagon, and my dad would fill it with cases of food to replenish the supply.  Most of it we rotated pretty faithfully.  Some - like powdered milk (yuck!) - didn't get used before it spoiled.  (How do you tell when powdered milk is spoiled?  But... I imagine powdered milk isn't quite so bad nowadays, and even then it wasn't so bad when used for cooking.)

For my entire life, my church has encouraged us to have a reserve of food, water, and cash for that "rainy day."  I've also seen fuel mentioned, from time to time, but I believe the emphasis is mostly on being able to cook and stay warm.

How about being "transportation prepared"?

I don't think transportation is given much thought.  And maybe it's not a primary survival requirement... but there a LOT of people who, if they couldn't get gas for their vehicle, would be pretty much helpless.  I'm thinking mostly of the people who live way out in the suburbs - too far to get to any of their routine destinations on foot.

I'm not saying I have it all figured out, or that "survival transportation" wouldn't be a problem in my household.  But I'm confident that whatever December 21 brings, my trusty bicycle will still roll down the road, even if the power if off and the gas is gone.  It might just be the cockroaches, the bicyclists, and Mad Max out there on the mean streets.

Bike chain art

Do you just throw away your old rusty chains?

I thought so, you earth hater!

(Me, too. Yeah, every time I feel guilty about it.)

A more artistic person, like Nirit Levav Packer of Israel, turns old bike chains into awesome dog sculptures! Story HERE. The world is a more beautiful place, thanks to artistic people.

Okay... speaking of artistic people, I'm adding Clancy's bike-chain tree ornaments.  (Very clever, Clancy!  I hope you gave 'em the solvent bath first, or there will be some dirty Christmas outfits!  haha)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cardboard bike

For a couple months, I've been reading about a cardboard bike being developed by a guy in Israel.  (Thanks to my friend Bob T - he noticed it, too, and emailed me a link to that particular article.)

A cardboard bike may not hold much appeal to somebody who rides a sweet carbon-fiber or steel, or even aluminum bike... but to some impoverished person in a third-world country, a bike that can be produced for "$9-12 a unit," it might look much better than walking, or riding atop a burro or water buffalo.

And, when you're riding your cardboard bike, you can protect your noggin with a cardboard helmet!  A startup company, Kranium, hopes to market them.  Apparently they provide better protection than the ubiquitous styrofoam-based buckets.  And interestingly, a custom fitting is part of the package... the thing is built to match up perfectly with the shape of your head.  (Making it a little spendy at around $130.  But a replacement would be cheaper, assuming the reason you need a replacement didn't also re-shape your skull!)

When I first heard about the cardboard bike and helmet, my first thought was - water damage.  But apparently the cardboard can be treated with stuff to make it waterproof.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mood bucket!

Do you remember "mood rings"?  Back in the day - if I recall, a year or two before "pet rocks," they were a fad.  They would supposedly change color to indicate what sort of mood you were in.  I believe the technology was based on skin surface temperature - definitely low-tech.

Technology has marched on.

Arlene Ducao is a research assistant at the MIT "Media Lab Information Ecology Group."  She's also a bike commuter.  And she has invented the "MindRider" - a bike helmet equipped with an EEG sensor that displays your stress level.

According to the article, it uses "the visual vocabulary of traffic lights.  Green lights indicate a focused, active mental state; red lights indicate drowsiness, anxiety and other states not conducive to operating a bike; and flashing red lights indicate panic."

Ms. Ducao sees this as a possible way to improve safety for cyclists and motorists.  "One way of doing that is improving communication between cyclists and drivers."  Her helmet is just a prototype, but she wants to improve the ergonomics, and also a tracking system (probably a phone "app," huh?), so you can figure out which routes are high-stress and which aren't so much.

So - what color would your lights be?  I like to think that in most of my bike-riding circumstances, I'd be solid green.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A little taste ...

... of what I'm missing, by using a bicycle for my daily transportation.

I probably spent more than you did on Black Friday. I upgraded the Missus' transportation.

Her 2000 Honda minivan was getting pretty long in the tooth, at 134,000 miles. We bought it brand-new, and it's been a good vehicle... and it still runs fine, but the nickel-and-dime problems were starting to crop up. (You know, the stuff that costs $100-500 to get fixed.) We traded it for a 2009 Honda minivan with about 100,000 fewer miles. $16,500. (For comparison purposes, the old one was about $23k brand-new, and a brand-new 2012 is well over $35k. OUCH!!)

I'll be paying about $300/month for the next 4 years to the bank.

Sales tax was $800-plus.

Insurance is about $70 per year more than before. (Not as bad as I'd anticipated.)

License and registration - $91.

Hopefully she'll drive many, many miles before I need to buy her new tires, or do repairs other than routine maintenance. And I'm slightly insulated from the cost of gas, since I give her money on payday, and am rarely there on the fill-up days.

If we had a second car, most of those expenses would be roughly doubled. "Mamma mia!" as they say in the Olde Countrie.

My #2 reason for bike transportation has been powerfully reinforced in my mind. (I should have more respect for those motorists - they pay a LOT of money to drive around in their little runabouts!)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"New" Temple - same old bike rack

When the Boise, Idaho (LDS) Temple was first dedicated in May, 1984, my bride and I were there.  (In fact, our second daughter Kellyn was there too - she was born a week or so later.)  So we were full of excitement when they announced a major renovation a couple years ago.

The renovation has been completed.  The main difference on the outside is that the gray marble tiles were replaced with white granite... it's lovely!  (The inside was completely renovated, as well - photos of the interior can be seen HERE.)

I got to serve as an usher on a couple evenings during the recent Open House.  (And I could kick myself for not extending a personal invitation to my local friends!  So sorry.)

Saturday was rather dreary and wet, but I ventured by to see if the bike parking situation had changed.  (When the bride and I attend temple sessions together, we drive in her car... but when I go alone I almost always bicycle out there.  It's about a 5-mile round trip.)  Bike parking has NOT changed - one rack.  And I've never seen a bike attached to it, other than my own.




Saturday, November 24, 2012

BIG Bicycle bargain - at Walmart!

Okay, this is a weird thing... I'm "recommending" a bicycle that can be bought at Walmart!  (Maybe recommending isn't the right word - more like making you aware, should you be interested...)

I first spotted the "Genesis" cruiser bike when I was strolling through my local Walmart.  (If memory serves, I diverted over to the bike department looking for 20-inch white tires for Princess Mackie's bike.  I don't spend a lot of time in the Walmart Bike Department.)  The Genesis caught my eye immediately - it was the 32-inch wheels that did it.

A bike with 32-inch wheels is a freak of nature.  And definitely a novelty... the 29er riders would be green with envy!

The Genesis is likely similar to other department-store bikes in build quality... but it is made of aluminum, and looks sturdy enough.  Shipping weight is listed at 40 pounds, so the bike probably weighs 30-odd pounds, ready to roll.  Other than the size, it's pretty much standard-issue classic cruiser - single-speed, coaster brake, rototiller handlebars, fenders, big fat saddle.

Well... a couple days ago at my local Wally-World, I again noticed the giant beach cruiser, and it was clearance-priced at $125!  I was sorely tempted!  It comes in several colors, including bright green and bright orange, my two favorites of the ones I've seen.

Maybe I need to ask Santa to bring me one.  (It would not be the first time I asked Santa for a bike.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012


"How's it going?"

It's a question that is often thrown out casually, often even by total strangers in passing.

I have an aunt who was famous for replying, "I'm in constant pain."  And then if you didn't somehow cut off the conversation, she was happy to explain in detail the sources of her constant pain.

How's it going?

Personally... I'm disturbed by many things that I have little or no control over.  Our huge national debt and the implications it has for our economic future.  The unemployment rate.  (I'm gainfully employed, but there are no guarantees, and I'd sure hate to be looking for work in November, 2012.)  Strife and hate.  The direction our society seems to be going in.  Etc., etc.

However... I'm quite happy with the situation that I do have control over.

I s'pose I'm "in constant pain."  But it's just the low-grade pain associated with a 59-year-old carcass, sometimes more severe but mostly not.  Certainly not debilitating.  I don't focus on it, and I've never felt inclined to share my misery.

I live in a place with a nice environment.  Peaceful and stable.  Mercifully low crime rate.  Natural disasters seem to mostly bypass us.  Comfortable house, that I can afford the payments on.  Ample recreational opportunities.

Awesome family, both immediate and extended.  Good-hearted, faithful, supportive wife.  Kids who are assets to society, rather than liabilities.

From the "bike nazi" viewpoint... a bicycle I'm happy with.  Tires that give me lots of trouble-free miles.  Living close enough to work and other destinations that it's mostly easy to ride.  Moderate weather, predictable and mild wind.

Just this week, as I rode to work the air was brisk, and the sunrises were lovely.  As I rode home yesterday (taking "the scenic route" along the river), I got to watch maybe 300 Canada geese take to the air in unison, honking enthusiastically as they headed straight for the low-hanging sun.  As far as I know, only me and one other guy on a bike were blessed to witness it.  (Geese are rather pesky on the ground... but they sure are magnificent in the air, or on the water!)


Yeah, it's going mighty fine for the Bike Nazi!  I hope for you, too!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why motorists don't see you

Far too often, following a collision between an automobile and a bicycle (or motorcycle), the motorist laments, "I didn't even see him!"

Such a tragedy may be caused because the motorist isn't paying attention to his primary responsibility.  It's called inattentive driving... it's against the law, but rarely does the inattentive driver get cited.  Now more than ever, motorists make the deliberate decision to distract themselves with their electronic gadgets, lunch, cool car gizmos, etc.

However, even when the motorist is paying attention, it's far too easy for a small "target" like a bike rider or motorcycle rider to be overlooked.

Clancy sent me this very interesting article.  John Sullivan is a Royal Air Force pilot, a cyclist, and a crash investigator.  He points out some interesting things about human vision.

1) To see detail, we have to be looking directly at something.  "A mere 20 degrees away from your sightline, your visual acuity is about 1/10th of what it is at the centre."

2) When you move your head and/or eyes to scan a scene, your eyes don't move smoothly... they move in a series of quick jumps, and only when they briefly pause, is an image processed and sent to the brain.

Try it for yourself!  The article provides some experiments that will confirm his findings.

The author also provides these tips for the bicyclist/motorcyclist to be seen, and to survive:

1) Recognize the risk.  "High contrast clothing and lights help. In particular, flashing LED’s (front and rear) are especially effective for cyclists as they create contrast and the on-off flashing attracts the peripheral vision in the same manner that movement does. There’s nothing wrong with leaving these on during the day."

2) At intersections, look at the head of the driver that is approaching or has stopped. The head of the driver will naturally stop and centre upon you if you have been seen. If the driver’s head sweeps through you without pausing, assume that you have not been seen and expect the driver to pull out!

3) Recognize that a low sun, or a dirty or rain-covered window will decrease driver visibility even further.

4) Ride in a position farther out from the curb, because the driver is more likely to look directly at that location.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Goat attacks bike-riding paper boy

I've been chased on numerous occasions by dogs.  (And on many of those occasions, I've ended up chasing the dog... if a canine comes chasing after me, he better be prepared to back up that bark!)

But I've never been chased by a goat!

From the Deseret News:

Smithfield paperboy chased up tree by feisty goat

A 14-year-old Utah paperboy says a goat knocked him to the ground and chased him up a tree during his morning route.

Smithfield resident Jaxon Gessel says he was delivering papers Tuesday morning when a goat approached him from the side and head-butted him off his bike.

Gessel tells the Herald Journal of Logan the goat kept nipping at him and forced him up a tree.

The teen says the hour-long standoff ended when the goat started chasing girls passing by. Gessel says he jumped from the tree and grabbed the goat's collar to help them.

Smithfield police say they got a call from Gessel's parents reporting he was overdue, and from residents reporting a boy struggling with a goat.

The goat was impounded by Smithfield animal control officers.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bargain Saddle

Are you in need of a replacement saddle, or one that's kinder to your back end?  If so, Selle Anatomica is offering their original "Titanico" for $99, through the end of 2012.  The MSRP is $190.

This seat came as standard equipment on my Cannondale touring bicycle, and was immediately my favorite seat ever.

The Anatomica is similar to the more-famous Brooks saddle in that it's a thick leather seat suspended hammock-like on the frame.  It has some additional design features that supposedly make it even more butt-friendly, specifically the distinctive "slot" that lets each side flex more independently as you pedal along.

I wrote about it, and saddles in general, HERE.

Much to my chagrin, the original Anatomica saddle broke!  I wrote about that setback HERE.  To the company's credit, they replaced the original saddle with a spankin' new one, even though I had slightly passed the 1-year warranty period.  And the replacement is still going strong, 20 months and almost 11,000 miles later.  At this point, I'm convinced that my problem was a freak "defect in materials."  (The lady at the company said they had several that broke - she speculated they must've gotten an inferior batch of steel that they used to form the rails.)

The Titanico and Titanico X (for riders 190-280 pounds) are both available at the sale price, in Mahogany (brown), Graphite (gray), Red, White, or Pink.  (Pink!  Sweeeeeeet!)  I'll be ordering one before the end of the year.  I've got an old beater mountain bike - primarily my really bad-weather ride - and when I perch on its conventional saddle, it feels like sitting on a post.  ($100 saddle on a $50 bike... nice!)

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Real Bikers"

A fella who identifies himself as Jim Peterson writes a colorful and perhaps inflammatory letter to Boise Weekly. He's mocking the "toy bike" riders who hang up their bikes when the weather starts turning bad.

"You guys don't ride in the snow. You don't ride in the rain, either. Heck, you don't even ride when there's rain in the forecast. ... You are the nancy boys and the girlie girls of the cycling world."

Mr. Peterson is pretty self-satisfied because he rides all year round, using his ski apparel rather than bicycle apparel, and on his "real" bike (steel-framed hardtail mountain bike is the way to go).

Weirdly, his letter says he'll be 59 by the end of October. Weird because I turned 59 near the end of October! Golly! He and I share much in common!

I join with him in poking a little fun at the nancy boys and girlie girls! Haha! But I think he's being a little shallow to suggest that only real men ride the same kind of bike as he does, or wear the same type of gear.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Old campaign signs = fenders!

"Our long national nightmare is over." (- Gerald R. Ford)  Breathe a sigh of relief or resignation - the eternal campaign of 2012 is in the books.  Personally, it's resignation for me... I don't think we can afford another 4 years of "hope and change."  But the opposition was pretty weak, too.  We'll keep on rollin' and see how things turn out, I guess.

Hopefully all those roadside campaign signs will start disappearing.

Maybe you can make some of 'em disappear - and turn 'em into fenders, like Kent Peterson.  Pretty clever stuff - quite effective and very cheap!  He provides detailed instructions HERE.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Autumn splendor '12

There are places that are more famous for their displays of fall foliage, but we usually have it pretty nice right here in Boise, Idaho.  Last Saturday, and again on Sunday, I was fortunate to spend some quality time in search of spectacular scenery.

Saturday (starting at Ann Morrison Park, going upstream on the north side of the river to Barber Park, and back down on the south side of the river)...





More photos can be seen in a set HERE.

Sunday, I took Princess Mackie and we rode downstream in Garden City.  In the first two photos, she's trying to wake up bugs that are sleeping in their holes, using the stem of a leaf.  (Just in case you can't figure it out!  haha)




Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cycling beyond the edge of civilization

Super-Storm Sandy has turned New York City into a temporary wilderness, virtually impossible to enter using traditional means (car, train, subway, airplane). This story on the website has some good advice - take a bike!

Writer Tom Randall: "Commuters are filling bike lanes in greater numbers than usual this morning. Staring out the window of an idling car, I wished I were one of them. The sun is shining and the streets are full of optimism. Don’t forget your helmet."

Farther away... across the sea in Bangladesh... the San Francisco Chronicle reports that dozens of "Info Ladies" ride their bicycles to remote villages, with notebook computers and internet connections, and help people connect to the outside world. The women get training and a job, and they are providing a valuable service. (Some communications are free; others, like Skype, cost a reasonable $2.40 per hour.) What's not to like?

As of right now, there are 60 "Info Ladies," but it's so popular that by 2016 they estimate they might have 15,000!

Photo from the SF Chronicle story.

(Let's pause and feel gratitude, for living in a place where info and everything else we might need are so available and abundant!)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Autumn commute

My afternoon commute today.  Fifty yards to the west, the motorists zoom-zoomed down the "connector," enjoying the new 60mph speed limit.  I wouldn't trade 'em.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

$14k designer bicycle

Here's the bike for people who absolutely need to make a fashion statement with their bicycle... but find the "hipster single speed" too pedestrian... the Gucci bicycle.  And since they're priced at $14,000, you can rest with some assurance that you won't have that extremely awkward situation of arriving at a trendy destination on your Gucci, only to find that somebody else is riding the same model.

It's built by Bianchi, but with Gucci embellishments, including the Gucci logo stitched on the saddle.  If you want to go with the full Gucci Kit... the water bottle will set you back $105, and a matching helmet can be had for $890.  (Good grief!!)  You could get some Gucci loafers separately, to complete the look.

In my admittedly non-expert opinion, it looks like a $600 bicycle, so you're paying a premium for the brand name.  (It's probably built in Taiwan!)

More HERE.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Making intersections safer

Intersections are easily the most dangerous place for both bicyclists and motorcyclists. The smaller vehicles are harder to see, especially for attention-deficit drivers who are distracting themselves with phone calls, etc. Far too often, the motorist laments, "I didn't see him!" after smashing a rider, even though they were often headed straight toward one another.

Bicyclists are also vulnerable to the "right hook" at intersections. The rider is coming up beside a car on the right - in the bike lane, and the right-turning car - often without signaling - turns into the cyclist's path.

(Personally, I'm very aware of the potential for such a situation, and watch turn signals closely. It is required by law to signal a turn, you know. However, I don't trust the non-signaling driver and make sure I have an escape route... just in case I'm suddenly being right-hooked by somebody who can't operate the turn signal on account of the phone, the coffee cup, etc.)

Traffic engineers are always trying to figure out ways to make intersections safer. In Portland, they've tried bright green "bike boxes" - painted pavement to designate places where a bicycle should be. Unfortunately, that particular effort may not have had the desired effect - this story says right-hook accidents have actually increased following their implementation at "a handful of tricky intersections."

Here in Boise, they've kinda done a "Bike Boxes Lite" treatment - some bike lanes have been painted dark green, apparently in an effort to remind motorists that they are sharing the pavement with cyclists. (I hope they got a good deal on the paint, because it's ugly! And it's so dark it's hardly noticeable... and 2 or 3 months later it's fading badly.)

My friend and correspondent Bob T sent me some very interesting info about the Dutch way of doing intersections. Very innovative! (I've never been to the Netherlands, but they are arguably the most bike-friendly folks on the planet. Cycling is part of the "national identity," and bike transportation is routine for the citizenry.)

The intersections are enlarged to create a "semi-roundabout" for the bike lanes, which are isolated from motor traffic by a raised island. Woe to the poor motorist who strays too far to the right - he'll be jumping a curb! The main advantage is improved line-of-sight... motorists and cyclists aren't creeping into each other's blind spots. And of course, as Bob points out, there isn't an "us versus them" attitude of resentment between motorists and cyclists. They're just members of the "family of man" trying to get from Point A to Point B.

Here are a couple of videos that explain it all. This one is an explanation, using diagrams, etc. ... the "power point" explanation. And this one uses street-side video to show how it works in real life. (Real life is always better than "on paper.")

Traffic engineers on this side of the pond could definitely take a cue from those innovative windmill people who wear the wooden shoes and grow tulips!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Infographic: The Cost of Traffic Jams

Nationwide Insurance says traffic jams cost the average motorist $716 per year.  According to their interesting chart, the worst city is Washington, DC, where people spend 72 hours per year sitting in traffic jams.  Frankly, that seems low to me... as somebody who occasionally sits in big-city traffic, I'd think the accumulation would be more than 10 or 15 minutes per day.

The most prevalent causes of traffic jams?  Bottlenecks (40%), traffic incidents (25%), bad weather (15%), work zones (10%), poor traffic signal timing (5%).

I'd say cyclists are pretty much immune from all of those but bad weather.  And I've been slowed by bad weather on my bike, but never "traffic jammed."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ethical question for the driver test

Tell me what you think of this.

In Idaho, once you have a driver's license, unless you lose it you just go in and pay the fee... they check your eyesight... and away you go with your new license.

Frankly, I believe that at least a written test should be part of the renewal process... just to make sure you're still on top of the rules of the road.  Some rules - like stopping at a red light or following posted speed limits - are obvious.  But others, not so much.

Furthermore, after significant consideration, I'd like to see all motorists have this hypothetical question posed to them:

If you were to cause a traffic collision that produces a fatality... would you rather that the victim be you, or somebody else?

Maybe if they had to give that some consideration, they'd be ever-so-slightly less inclined to drive while intoxicated, or while yappin' on the phone, or to blow through that red light.  Or, maybe not.

Mom transports six kids by bicycle

Often when I'm discussing bicycles-as-transportation with somebody, they say, "Well, sure!  You can do it - it's just you!  I've got to drop off a kid at daycare, get groceries, run errands..."  The list of excuses goes on and on.

While I acknowledge that each person has his own set of circumstances, and some would have a harder time than others, I'm convinced that what you want to do, you can do.

Take Emily Finch, for example.  She had five kids and was expecting another... and like most moms-of-five, transported her kids in a big SUV, or in a "stroller built for three."  But she wasn't happy with the situation.  One day she did a web search for "family bike," and her life changed forever, and for the better.  She ordered a Dutch-made Bakfiets... she puts 4 kids in the cargo hold in front, one kid in a seat behind hers, and another on a tag-along out back.  (Nathan, the oldest at 11, rides his own independent bike now.)

Emily is a small woman, but between her and a "stoker" on the tag-along, she transports 550 pounds in style!

Their limit is 20 miles, and occasionally she has to use bungee cords to strap an unruly brat into place.  (What parent can't identify with that?!!?)  But they are totally committed.

Do the kids want to chicken out and take the car?  (The family has a car, but only husband Mitch ever drives it.)  "They've lost that sense of driving... my kids have forgotten what it's like to even be in a car."

Thanks to Clancy for sending me the link to this AWESOME story!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

15-year Anniversary

As September, 2012, goes into the books, I celebrate fifteen years since I last drove a car to work, which was sometime during the month of September 1997.

To put that into perspective... that was a couple years before "Y2K."  Google just celebrated its 14-year anniversary.  My father passed away in 1998 - I haven't driven to work since he's been gone.

And no - I didn't hang up the car keys "cold turkey"... I'd been riding my bicycle for the vast majority of my work trips since 1986.  I just hadn't kept track day-by-day, month-by-month, before '97.

In late 1996, I bought a shiny new motorcycle - a Harley-Davidson XL1200S Sportster.  (Dang, I loved that bike!)  And as 1997 began, I decided to keep a log of what transportation I used to get to work.  (I'm still maintaining that log.)  That year I drove a car 3 times, rode the motorcycle 58 times, took the bus 4 times, and rode the bicycle the rest.

In 1998, I rode the motorcycle 42 times, took the bus 3 times, and bicycled the rest.  No car.

1999 - motorcycle 49, bicycle the balance.
2000 - motorcycle 24, bus 1, bicycle the balance.  (2000 was the year I sold the Sportster, and bought my Dyna Glide, which I'm still riding.)
2001 - motorcycle 22, bus 1, bicycle the balance.
2002 - motorcycle 8
2003 - motorcycle 3
2004 - motorcycle 2
2005 - motorcycle 2

Since 2006, I've ridden the motorcycle twice (in August 2009... hmmm...), and I've ridden the bus a few times.

At some point in the past - looking at the numbers, it was probably in 2001 - I was trying to encourage more bicycle riding among my family members.  And my bride said, "Well, you're a hypocrite, because you don't ride your bike everywhere."  She obviously didn't understand my encouragement, and I was probably doing a bad job of it.  I'm not very persuasive.  But I'm rather stubborn - I'm sure I thought to myself, "Well, I'll show her!"

For many years now, my bicycle is my default mode of transportation, and I use it unless there's a compelling reason not to.  (Usually distance, passenger capacity, hauling capacity, or weather.  Occasionally I'm just a lazy bum like everybody else.)

But I can't drive to work any more!  Can't break the streak!  (And besides... no car!)

Monday, September 24, 2012

My North Idaho Bike Vacation

Ah, it's but a happy memory now.  A very happy memory.  I'm throwing down some of the details before they slip the bounds of my feeble mind.

My favorite photos can be seen HERE. (Some are embedded in the story, below.)

Day 1 - Saturday, September 8

BikeVac120908aI drove the wife's Family Truckster from Boise to Plummer, Idaho, via McCall, Riggins, Lewiston.  The bike, BOB trailer, and gear were in the back.  Most of the distant scenery was obscured by thick smoke from multiple forest fires burning in the region.  I anticipated that the drive would be dull... but in fact, it was quite enjoyable due to the fact that don't do much driving.  Maneuvering on those twisty mountain two-lanes was fun, in a "video game" sort of way... more enjoyable than maneuvering in traffic in town.

I stopped in Lewiston in the late afternoon for gas, and to enjoy half a cheeseburger and tater tots at Effie's Tavern.  (If you like burgers and find yourself in Lewiston, don't miss Effies!)

I arrived in Plummer an hour or so before sunset... checked into the "Highway Motel and Sport Shop."  It's not like I had a choice - it's the only motel in town.  It's definitely not fancy, but it was clean and the price was right.  (And the management told me they'd find a place to park the car for a few days until I returned.)  I had just enough time to get settled in, and take a quick bike ride to the trailhead, before dark.

BikeVac120908c At the trailhead I discovered a very impressive steel and stone sculpture of an Indian warrior on a horse.

The shower was warm, and the mattress was soft.

Mileage - 380 or so in the car, less than 3 on the bike.

Day 2 - Sunday, September 9

50 Sundays or so each year I go to church, so I feel a sense of loss when I miss it.  But today it just wasn't in the cards for various reasons.

I got my gear (barely!) loaded into the BOB trailer and the courier bag I brought, parked the car in a fenced vacant lot right behind the motel, and turned in the room key... and then I was off.

The first 5 or 6 miles of the Coeur d'Alene Trail are pretty much steadily downhill... but at a very gradual grade, since it used to be a railroad line.  The sky was overcast but with blue patches.  Oh - and despite the smoke on the way up, the air seemed relatively clear.  The glass-smooth asphalt was damp.  It was wonderfully cool... perfect for riding.

When the trail leveled out, I was at lakeside - the south end of Coeur d'Alene Lake.  A few miles further I came to the famous bridge.  I believe it was a drawbridge back in the train days.  When the trail was converted for bike-pedestian use, they raised the deck, and put some graduated "steps" on either side to accommodate wheelchairs and the like.  (You don't have to ride the entire incline - you can stop on a level spot part way up if you choose.)

BikeVac120909dAfter crossing the bridge, I rode north along the eastern edge of the lake for several miles... it was interesting to look over my shoulder and observe the bridge as it became more and more distant.

The scenery was fantastic from the steel Indian on!  Wetlands, forests - both evergreen and deciduous trees, and lush green meadows.  Occasional wildlife - herons, a deer or two, ducks and geese.

I took it at a relatively leisurely pace, averaging 10 or 12 mph.  Why would you want to hurry such a fantastic thing?!  There are some trailheads along the way - "entrance ramps" onto the Bike Interstate, if you will.  Traffic was extremely light - sometimes an hour would go by without seeing another soul.  I rode through the small burgs of Harrison, Cataldo, Enaville, arriving at Pinehurst in the afternoon.

BikeVac120909kPinehurst is where I set up base camp, at the "By the Way RV Park."  Pinehurst is small, and so is the RV park.  In fact, at 4pm or so the office was already closed.  I picked out a spot, and pitched my tent.  Rolled out my sleeping pad and bag.  I pushed a note thru the office mail slot telling them I'd stop in the morning to "settle up."

I rode down "Main Street," getting the lay of the land, and ended up stopping at the Big Pine Drive-In for my main meal of the day.  The food was pretty good.  When I got there, I was the only customer, but by the time I left, there were a half-dozen people clustered in the gazebo at the base of the namesake big pine tree.

As evening approached, I enjoyed a nice warm shower in the clean restroom at the RV park.  (I'd hate to slide into my sleeping bag while sticky from sweat... but the reality is I didn't sweat much on a partly-cloudy day at a relaxed pace.)

Getting horizontal in the sleeping bag felt nice.

I wish the campground were a little farther off the beaten path... I-90 goes by maybe 100 yards distant, so I heard road rumble pretty much all night.

Mileage - 53

Day 3 - Monday, September 10

It was brisk when I dragged my carcass out of the bag and into my shorts and long-sleeve shirt.  (I chose a lightweight woven cotton long-sleeve shirt for my riding, to avoid excessive sun exposure.  It's a technique I've learned over many years of hot-weather motorcycle touring.)

It was 7am or so - but since north Idaho is Pacific Time, it would've been 8 back home.

When Dick, the manager, showed up, I went and paid for 3 nights camping.  Dick is a nice old fella, and I enjoyed talking to him for awhile.  As it turned out, I didn't do much talking in the week or so I was riding.  Which isn't a bad thing.

From Pinehurst, I was doing some "day tripping," so no need to load the gear on the trailer.  I organized things in the tent, zipped it up, and was on my way.

BikeVac120910cFirst stop was breakfast... "cold" breakfast at the grocery store.  It's probably not particularly nutritious, but my traditional "motorcycle trip breakfast" is a quart of chocolate milk (Kristin Armstrong would be impressed!) and a couple donuts.  I scarfed down breakfast, and then it was back to the trailhead.  (The campground is maybe a quarter-mile off the main Coeur d'Alene trail, but a bike path from the trail passes directly in front of the campground.  And besides, even at "rush hour," traffic isn't much of an issue in Pinehurst.)

I rode leisurely on up the main Coeur d'Alene Trail - more lovely scenery, occasional trailheads, an occasional fellow traveler.

The end of the line - officially - is in downtown Mullan, Idaho.  Unlike the magnificent Native American at the west end, in Mullan the end of the trail is marked with a row of boulders.

A bike path continued "unofficially" for a few blocks, then merged onto a 2-lane roadway.  Which goes past the Lucky Friday Mine and more nice scenery to Shoshone Park.  I had intended to ride to the Montana border, but borders are somewhat obscure.  I believe the park is probably within a mile of the border.  I sat and vegetated - all by myself - at the park for a few minutes, snapped some photos, and headed back the other way.

The scenery was just as nice on the return trip.  It clouded up in the afternoon, and even sprinkled a little bit.  Not enough to break out the rain jacket.

Amazingly, just a couple miles up the trail from base camp I encountered a big Walmart!  Who woulda thunk?!  The Smelterville SuperCenter!  And it was pretty clean... and not crowded.  (If everybody in a 5-mile circle around the place were all there at once, I don't think it would be very crowded.)  I got some chicken and potato wedges at the deli for dinner, and several varieties of fresh fruit.

Oh - and before I showered and turned in for the night, it was back to the Big Pine for a large chocolate/vanilla softie!

 Sweeeet!  (Gotta fuel up, ya know...)

Mileage - 60

Day 4 - Tuesday, September 11

The previous day was brisk - Tuesday was downright cold!  I was reluctant to leave the comforting confines of my 20-degree down-filled bag.  My tent, and the picnic table, were both covered with frost.  For the first half-hour or so after I was out of bed, I took refuge in one of the shower rooms; they were equipped with wall heaters, so I sat in one and read the visitor literature about north Idaho.  But once the sun came over the mountain and trees and toasted the frost away, it was again very pleasant.

I spent the day riding "locally," in the Pinehurst / Enaville / Cataldo corridor.  There were probably half-a-dozen garter snakes, suffering more than I from the cold morning and trying to gather warmth from the black asphalt. Fortunately for them, traffic remained pretty much non-existent.

The highlight of the day was a ride-up to the Cataldo Mission building.  Constructed between 1850 and 1853 by Catholic missionaries, it is often cited as the oldest standing building in the state.  I don't believe that's correct, but it's a beautiful and well-maintained old structure.  And cyclists can breeze right past the booth where you pay admission to enter.  (It's a state park.)

Another building with some historical significance is the "Snake Pit" in Enaville, a bar/restaurant that has quite the reputation.  Unfortunately, it was closed and for sale.  Evidently the owners had to shutter the place for health reasons.





As I was returning to Pinehurst, I saw some bushes rustling at the side of the trail... an adult cow moose was grazing on leaves off the bushes.  I snapped a couple photos, but couldn't get a superior photo because of the bushes between me and her... and I was reluctant to try to get too close.  (Since I don't relish the notion of a moose dancing on me, should she decide I was pushing into her space.)

It was a rather lazy day, and when all was said and done I had accumulated a mere 34 miles.

That evening as I sat in camp, a "neighbor" from a nearby camper was strolling by and struck up a conversation. Politics!  Yuck!  (I'm kinda "politicked out" at this point.)  He started ranting about candidate Romney, and said, "If people knew about his religion, Obama would win by a landslide in 49 states, and maybe in Utah."

I asked, "Oh, why is that?"

He said, "I don't know what you know about the Mormon religion, but..."

I interrupted him to tell him I was a lifelong member, as were my parents, as were their parent and grandparents.  So, I guess he was satisfied I knew about the religion.  He told me he was an ex-Mormon, and went on to suggest that if Romney were elected, he'd be taking his marching orders from Salt Lake.  Which is absolutely NOT a matter of concern to me. (The Church would make its positions known to him, just like whoever is president, but that would be the extent of it.)

(Sorry to digress - you may be "politicked out," too.)

Mileage - 34

Day 5 - Wednesday, September 12

Once again, camp was frosty.  That might've been okay when I was a young boy scout, but an old geezer like me shouldn't have to wake to frost!  In reality... small price to pay for another perfect bike riding day.

Wednesday I had to face another reality - I bundled up and started breaking camp for the long trip back to the real world.

I pitched the rain-fly of the tent over a bush, and once the solar power kicked in, it warmed and dried out nicely.  The trailer loaded, I thanked Dick, the RV park owner, for the hospitality and headed west toward my starting point.




It was another lovely day of bicycling, and I arrived back in Plummer mid-afternoon.  The motel people put me back in the same room.  The car was quite grimy, apparently just from sitting there a couple days with smoke in the air... ?  It's strange, because while it was a little hazy, the smoke certainly wasn't oppressive for the days I was riding.

The mattress was a nice change of pace, being about 12 inches thicker than my Therm-A-Rest camping pad.

Mileage - 51

Day 6 - Thursday, September 13

I loaded everything into the car, said goodbye to the motel people, grabbed chocolate milk and a donut, and headed east toward Avery... in the car.  'Twas another perfect day.  From Avery I drove to the base of the Route of the Hiawatha, and unloaded my bicycle... around noontime.

As I rode toward the dirt/gravel bike path, some other cyclists were sitting around a table with their mountain bikes. One of them asked, "You're not planning on riding up on that, are you?"


"I hope you've got a spare tire, or at least a spare tube."

"I'm good, thanks."

A little farther on, the trail ranger was there to collect my $10 fee, for day use of the trail.  He said, "I hope you're self contained, because we don't have much help on the trail today."

"I'm good, thanks."  And I was.

Compared with the smooth asphalt I'd been spoilt by for four days, the Hiawatha's dirt was bumpy and squirrely... but tolerable.  (I had a 32-width Vittoria tire on back, a 28 on the front.  I had total confidence in my tires surviving... but I did have the spare tube, a patch kit and pump.  I was good.)

Besides being dirt, the Hiawatha path goes over high trestles, and through dark, damp tunnels.  Awesome!

I took my merry time, especially on the way up.  Traffic was extremely light.  The ranger guy passed me going up and said hi... I bet I saw 10 people total over the 10 mile ride to the top.

At the very top, you ride a few hundred yards on a dirt roadway, and then arrive at the entrance to the St. Paul Pass Tunnel, AKA Tunnel No. 20, AKA the Taft Tunnel.  8771 feet of (unlit) tunnel!  Also at the entrance was a lovely waterfall.  I could feel the cool, humid air flowing out of the tunnel entrance... it actually creates a particularly green and verdant patch of foliage right there.  I enjoyed the atmosphere for a few minutes, snapped a few photos, fired up the headlight... and in I went.

8771 feet... that's a little under 2 miles.  Rolling along at maybe 8mph... that's 10 or so minutes in the pitch blackness!  Water was dripping off the ceiling and running down the walls... a canal at the base of each wall caught the water and directed it toward the lower western entrance.

I got a little nervous about how dependent I was on that little (but bright) Chinese headlight.  If it were to fail it would be long walk back to daylight!  (Although the tunnel is long, it's also super-straight... you could see the faint glimmer at the other opening way off in the distance.)  The light performed admirably, and I emerged into the bright daylight... in Montana.

A trail ranger-type guy was there, and I had a pleasant conversation, and he shared water with me out of a cooler.  I still had water, but refilling meant I wouldn't have to ration on the way back down.  (Be advised... if you ride the Hiawatha, water is not readily available.  Carry plenty.)

I rested up for a few minutes, bid adieu to the nice ranger fella, and then plunged back into the tunnel.  On the way back, I fired up both the headlight and the Monkey Lights... and I wish I'd used 'em in both directions!  They did a fantastic job of lighting up the walls of the tunnel on either side, and made it much easier to orient myself down the middle.

I continued at a leisurely pace on down the trail, back through much less formidable tunnels and over the high trestles, pausing regularly to enjoy the scenery and snapped photos



By the time I got back to the car, the sun was quite low in the sky.  My intention had been to drive back to St. Maries and find an RV park to stay in, but by the time I got there it was almost full dark.  I checked at a motel - they wanted $68 for a room.  Too much!  I decided to head on back the few additional miles to Plummer, and see if they'd rent their room for one more night to an old friend.  But first... I was hungry!  I was attracted to Bud's Burgers... the sign in the window said giant burgers.  (Yeah, I love the burgers and fries.  Thank goodness I burn 'em off by riding!)  I ordered the big one - 12 ounces! - and fries.  Yeah, it was delightful.

Then I drove in the dark back to Plummer, and they put me in Room 1 - reserved for dignitaries!  (Actually, it was roomier than Room 2.  Nice!)

Mileage - 30+ (on the bike)

Day 7 - Friday, September 14

This time when I left the motel and got my chocolate milk and donut and headed out... I had to head south, back toward my real life.  Sigh...

It was just as smoky on the return trip through Moscow, Lewiston, Grangeville, Whitebird, Riggins, New Meadows.  When I got to McCall, early afternoon, I phoned home.  What do you do when you phone home, and the missus asks you to "stay gone" for one more day?  Yeah, that's what happened.  She was working on a project and didn't want me in the way.  So, I rolled on over to Ponderosa State Park, where there was a nice selection of available camping spots.  I pitched the tent.

Then, I went for one last dream ride.  20.5 miles around the perimeter of Payette Lake.  Counterclockwise, beginning and ending at Ponderosa.  There are 4.2 miles of dirt at the north end of the lake that discourage the casual cyclists, but I'd ridden it several times over the years.  The rest of the route is nice... and actually the scenery is quite spectacular in places.  When I got back to McCall I stopped for... yep, a burger and tots.  Then it was on back to my tent, where I sat and watched the sun set behind the pines, took a nice shower, and slid into that satin bag for the last time in probably a while.



Mileage - 21

Day 8 - Saturday, September 15

Breakfast at the Pancake House.  (Not a burger!  haha... a "McCall's Best" omelet and a sourdough hotcake.  Long a favorite breakfast of mine.)

A couple more hours on the road, from the smoky mountains back into the smoky, hot valley.  Sigh.

This was definitely a vacation I'd be willing to repeat every year as long as I'm albe, for the duration.  That's highly unlikely, but I sure do hope I get to return someday.  Those awesome bike trails beckon from up north.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Article: "Young Americans ditch the car"

An article at the CNN Money website observes that "young people just aren't buying cars like they used to."

It cites several reasons. The most obvious is the economy. If you're unemployed, or underemployed and barely squeakin' by, maybe the youngstas can't afford a $300 car payment. (Plus the many other expenses involved with owning a car - gas, insurance, maintenance, etc.)

It also suggests that owning a car and having a driver's license is no longer a "rite of passage" the way it was a generation or two ago.

I can attest to that from personal experience. When I was growing up here in Boise, you could get a daytime driver's license at 14... and as soon as I was old enough I took driver training and got my license. (In a twist of cruel irony, on the first day I had my license, I drove some buddies to the Fair, and we ended up staying too late. I got home after dark and lost driving privileges for a month. DOH!!) By comparison, none of my kids has shown much enthusiasm for getting a driver's license, and none of them drove before age 18. Even my son, who is now a "car enthusiast." (Erik's pride and joy is his '93 TransAm - although he also does a lot of bicycling and motorcycling.)

It also suggests that the virtual online society has largely replaced the youthful society of yesteryear - cruisin' Main Street and hangin' out at the drive-in restaurant.

Speaking of "car enthusiasts," it says 30% of Baby Boomers considered themselves "car enthusiasts," and less than 15% of Gen-Yers say the same, and they are buying practical cars rather than enthusiast-type cars.

Also pointed out is the "re-urbanization" of America, and the rise in prominence of public transportation, car rental options, etc.

I'd also say bicycles have become a more viable transportation option over the last 25 years, as many communities have improved bike facilities. Plus, when I was a teenager, a bicycle was the last-option mode of pathetic transport, used by those who didn't have a car or a friend with a car. (Even getting a ride from Mom was preferable to showing up on a bike!) Nowadays, by comparison, there's a certain "cool factor" to bicycling... the trendy hipsters ride around on single-speeds, making bicycling a somewhat fashionable alternative.  "Image" always has been, and always will be, huge for young folks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Postcards from the Panhandle

I've spent two days, 113 miles, on the Coeur d'Alene Trail.

This impressive sculpture is in Plummer, at the west end of the Trail:


Coeur d'Alene Lake:

Here's the bridge that cyclists can take over the lake.  The ramps on both sides are designed to have flat spots every few feet.  I believe it's an accommodation for wheelchairs.



Here's "home away from home" in Pinehurst. The ground is flat and the restroom/showers are nice. I wish it were farther from the highway's whine. .

Here's the most inviting "Rest Stop" on the entire 71-mile trail! .



The last mileage marker:

... and the east end of the trail, in downtown Mullan. (In stark contrast to the Indian sculpture at the other end!)