Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ride into history

A week ago, I was about 100 miles short of 6000 bicycle miles for the year... a goal that seemed quite distant considering icy road conditions and cold temperatures.  I was riding every day, but usually it was 5 or 6 miles.  But I had a day off Monday, and decided it was do-or-die time... and rode 25 miles.  That put the prize within reach... I finished up with 6002 miles for the year.  (The 11th year in which I've ridden 6000+ miles.)

During today's riding, I ran across preparations for the New Years' Eve Potato Drop.  (When I paused to take a photo of the big truck, a guy mistook me for a parking enforcement guy and asked, "Is the potato getting a parking ticket?"  Haha!)

(Hey!  That's not a potato! haha)

I also rode across, and then under, the Broadway bridge... probably for the last time in its 1956 form.  (Since the bridge was allegedly built when I was 2, I don't remember life before the bridge.  They will replace it, but likely with a slab on blocks, rather than the graceful arches of yesteryear.)

Today also marked the end of my 30th year of transportation cycling.
Back around the start of 1986, I "invested" $400+ of scarce and hard-earned money in a shiny new Peugeot Canyon Express mountain bike. I'd gone to the bike store expecting to buy a Centurion road bike, to take up bicycling to work. But they didn't have my size in stock, and the mountain bike - a pretty newfangled thing in early '86 - looked sturdy and competent. The Missus - who shared the burden of rationing out our very limited young-family budget - was skeptical. She saw the bike, not unreasonably, as a new "toy" for me. I assured her that I was in it for the long haul, even though I probably wasn't fully-sold at the time myself. But as it has turned out... I was in it for the long haul; at least 30 years' worth.

(I'll forever be grateful to Betty Vickrey - she and I worked at the same place, back in '86. She rode her bike to and from work almost every day, and her words of enthusiasm, and her example, were what made me a believer.)

My motivations at the time were:
- to avoid motor-vehicle aggravation... traffic jams, parking hassles, etc.
- to save some money
- to get a little exercise
All three were well-placed, and have panned out very nicely in the ensuing years!

What has changed
- Me!  I'm older and slower than I was 30 years ago. (I'd guess that I've lost 3mph, and probably a bit of endurance, as well. It's sobering to think where I might be, physically, if I hadn't been bicycling all those years.)
- The hardware, for better or worse - is much more diverse and technical than it was 30 years ago. My bike is a "30 Speed" - a "10 speed" would be fine, but ya can't get a "10 speed." Pretty much every bike was steel in '86. Nowadays you can get a bike made of anything from plastic to titanium. The diversity is great... but it comes at the cost of simplicity.
- The hazards... particularly behind-the-wheel electronic distractions. You could buy a cell phone in 1986... but it was the size of a brick with an antenna, and cost $1500. 30 years later, it seems more people are using "smart phones" while driving, than those who aren't. In '86, I rationalized that if I did my riding during the day, the probability of being hit by a drunk driver was reasonably low. I'm not nearly so confident about avoiding distracted drivers. They regularly kill and maim innocent bystanders, and so far, society seems to accept that as acceptable collateral damage. The National Safety Council estimates that 1 in 4 crashes involves cell phone use, and another 10% or so to texting while driving - an activity that's illegal in 44 states. It's scary to share the road with people who have such poor judgment! (78% of Americans say that distracted walking is a serious issue! At least when they're walking, they're usually not killing innocents!)
- Geese!  The Canada Goose population has exploded, at least in Boise.  They are magnificent birds when they are flying over in their V-formations, like honking squadrons of B-17s.  They are pests when they are waddling around on the ground, creating Canada Goose By-Product.  Apparently little can be done because of migratory fowl treaties.

I take great satisfaction in the transportation-aggravation I've avoided and the money I've saved, and the consistent exercise I've gotten over the years.  But the decision to ride a bicycle has turned 30 years of transportation time into 30 years of recreation time.  No regrets!

It's unlikely I'll be able to ride for another 30 years - and certainly not as my primary form of transportation.  But - I'll give it a go.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Want to get out of debt? Drive less!

We got our new Costco Connection magazine yesterday.  As is usually the case with the January edition, it's chock full of advice - and products, of course! - to improve your lifestyle, give up bad habits and start good habits, etc.  (Do people read this stuff on New Year's morning, and are suffering so badly from the night before that they're serious about changing things?)

An article caught my eye - "Dump that Debt."  I try to live a debt-free lifestyle, because I've experienced the heavy burden of debt and want to avoid it.  It's always valuable to get some suggestions on how to remain out of debt.

One of author Terri Cetina's suggestions is Drive less - much less.  She quotes blogger "Mr. Money Mustache": "Pretend that gas is $17.50 per gallon and a full tank costs $262.  This is the actual cost of driving ... don't fire up that money shredder unless absolutely necessary."

I like Mr. Mustache!  I'd never heard of him... he claims to have retired comfortably at age 30, through financially-responsible living and wise investing.  A quick review of his blog proves how smart he is - he's a dedicated transportation cyclist!  I found an interesting column on his blog: "Curing your Clown-Like Car Habit."  It's written with budget in mind... he emphasizes doing a cost/benefit analysis of each motor vehicle trip...

Mustache: "People drive to the school to pick up and drop off kids. To the grocery store. To the restaurants. To the gym. To each other’s houses. Back and forth on Main Street to show off. Every road sees plenty of cars and personal trucks, some of them in dangerous numbers. And inside, every vehicle is equipped with a La-Z-boy recliner, upon which a tragic clown sits, pushing the soft-touch pedals, turning the power-assisted wheel, and talking on some sort of Clownophone."

"The clowns have to wait in line when the traffic light turns red. They have to bumble though the parking lots and wait for each other to back out of parking spaces, because their machines are so bulky that two cannot pass each other in a space less than 20 feet wide. They line up at special events and fight for places to park on the streets. Then they line up at the gas station and the car wash and the oil change shop. And the machines make them fatter and poorer every time they use them."

And this: "Mustachians like you and I view an idling engine like a bleeding wound or an overflowing toilet. It’s something to be alarmed at, and to correct immediately. But Car Clowns actually idle deliberately, sometimes to get something as ridiculous as a cup of expensive coffee in a disposable paper cup. When I see these lines of Drive-Thru Clowns, I find the urge to get off my bike and walk down the lineup systematically PUNCHING EACH DRIVER IN THE FACE through their open window to be almost overwhelming."

Mr. Mustache uses some "adult" language and biting satire to get his point across, but I sure agree with the point he's trying to make.  Golly!  There's a treasure-trove of good info out there on the WWW, gems hidden among the politics/celebrity swill.  I hereby resolve to read more Mr. Mustache next year.  It's too late for me to retire at 30... I was older than 30 when I took up transportation cycling.  But maybe I can retire someday, if I keep on pedaling...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

New bike questions on the Idaho driver's test

The local news media are reporting that the test to get a driver's license will soon have additional questions about sharing the road with bicyclists.  (There aren't any new laws, and the information has been available in the Idaho Driver's Handbook (starting on page 74), but having it on the test will certainly contribute to awareness of the situation, and cyclist rights.)

ITD spokesman Steve Grant acknowledges that the crash involving 5-year-old Max Wyatt was a motivating factor... that "this tragedy kind of opened the discussion."

I believe it went like this:

Following the crash, our #1 advocate and activist, Jimmy Hallyburton (AKA "Mister Boise Bicycle Project") requested a meeting with Governor Butch Otter.  The rest is history.

I've got to admit, I was pretty skeptical that anything could possibly come from Jimmy's meeting with Butch.  I figured Butch would pretend to listen to him for 10 minutes, reply "I feel your pain," and roll his eyes when it was all over.  (It's hard for people who don't ride bikes-as-transportation to appreciate the issues... just like most of us can't fully understand being a "minority race" citizen.)

NEVER underestimate the power of well-informed and passionate advocacy!  Especially if you demonstrate that you're not just a wild-eyed fanatic.  My hat is off to Jimmy Hallyburton!  (I'm sure Jimmy gets even more satisfaction from having distributed, with his organization, 387 refurbished Christmas bikes!  The mind boggles!  Fantastic!)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Shoulda taken the bus!

It's probably been 10 years since I had an "injury" crash on the bicycle.  You know, with an injury that has more than a 24-hour impact.  Up 'til yesterday.  I crashed twice!

On my way to the office in the morning, a light dusting of snow obscured the route, just enough to make obstacles less than obvious.  Particularly when combined with the darkness that's fairly prevalent at 7:45am.  I rode through a construction project, just off the Greenbelt, and went straight where the path has been rerouted a little twisty.  I handled the frozen mounds of dirt and clattering rebar... but stopped abruptly when I went into a 10-inch curb dead-on.

Literally did the face-plant.  Banged one elbow and my right leg just above the knee.  Fortunately there was no other traffic of any kind, so I had the luxury of laying there and moaning for 15 or 20 seconds... then dragged my sorry carcass to my feet, to assess the damage.

The snow and dirt apparently provided just enough "lubrication" so I didn't have any facial road rash... my top lip was fat.  Road rash on one elbow.  An achy deep bruise just above my right knee.

The bike escaped relatively unscathed... had to straighten out one brake lever... and limped to the office.

Then on the ride home, the temperature was right at freezing.  And... in a display of poor judgment I was riding over-confidently.  Attempted a turn on what I thought was wet pavement... turned out to be frozen instead of wet.  BANG!  The same knee took the brunt... along with the other elbow.  Two witnesses (on foot) to that one.  Both asked "Are you okay?"  Trick question... right?

Once again I was able to answer the bell.  I rode on home - carefully!

I 'spect the right knee will be sore for a week or more.

Could've been way worse!  But both incidents were totally preventable, and I have to take ownership.  I hope I can now go another 10 or 15 years before I bang myself up again.  I'm getting too old to be slamming on the black-top.

Dry pavement is totally under-rated!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Late Fall Commute

How's your evening commute? You know... out State Street, or maybe the 184? Or... out Main Street, where it goes from 4 lanes to 2 lanes to 1 lane? It must be good - lots of people are doing it!

The last few afternoons have been pretty suitable for bicycling, which isn't always the case in December.  So I've been taking the scenic route.  Yeah, I'm excluded from the afternoon "Freedom Parade."  I don't have the hermetically-sealed, sound-deadened, climate-controlled interior.  Or the remote entry or keyless start.  (Actually on second thought, I do enjoy keyless start!)  But I s'pose I can deal with the tradeoff.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Hot Air at the Paris Climate Summit

ALERT!  I have to confess considerable skepticism, and cynicism, regarding the efforts of Humankind to proactively change the climate for the better.  If that attitude offends you, you might want to skip this one.

What a relief!  We (and I speak, of course, of all of humanity) kept the wheels from coming off long enough for our luminaries to gather at the Paris Climate Summit, where they'll get the whole thing figured out!

Yup... the Big Brains are convened.  147 world leaders arrived in private jets (at least one in a Boeing 747!), or at least First Class.  They'll talk.  They'll wine and dine.  They'll break for photo-ops.  (I've gotta think there will be a lot of "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" going on, as well.)

Apparently the objective is for the rich countries to fund efforts by developing nations to cut down on carbon emissions, and reduce greenhouse gases.

NBC News reported that our Emitter-in-Chief, who quite possibly has the largest "carbon footprint" on Planet Earth, had 3 minutes allocated at the big opening reception, and took 14 minutes.  He seems to be wavering between climate change and gun control as his number-one priority for his last year in office.  Or that's what he tells people.  Between you and me, I bet his number one priority will be taking lots of vacations, golf outings, etc., in Air Force One, while he still has that privilege.  Let's watch and see if I'm right.  (I wish I could have more respect for the man... but apparently he's never learned a lesson that I learned quite young... your actions speak so much louder than your words!  Even if you blather on for 14 minutes.)

(Yeah, I'm just a racist, like anybody who questions Dear Leader.)

What CAN we do, to minimize our impact on the climate?  I believe it starts with individuals.
- We can minimize our driving.  I believe there's a consensus that driving around in our vehicles (or jetting in our 747s) is probably the single most polluting activity that most of us engage in.
- We can try not to waste things.  Eat all our food, use up our goods, so more doesn't have to be manufactured on account of us.
- We can turn the thermostat down a few degrees in winter, and up a few degrees in the summer.  Expand our "comfort zones."  (Possibly President Obama's first act in office was to turn up the thermostat in the White House.  Check it out - it's out there on the record.)
- We can turn off our lights, electronic gizmos, etc., when they're not in use.
- We can walk up one flight of stairs, and down two.  (Jimmy Carter suggested that, during the first big "fuel crisis," way back in the early '70s.  I thought it was a good idea then... and I still do.  We're WAY too lazy!)

Billions of people, doing billions of little things, will have a much bigger difference than the Blowhards of the World, gathering to talk some more.

Okay... I've vented.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Autumn - the best time for bicycling in Boise? (!!)

We are fortunate to have weather that's suitable for bicycling - even for casual cyclists - probably 9 months of the year.  But every year, I'm reminded of how lovely it is to ride a bike in autumn in Boise!  The days are generally still warm and sunny... the trees do their magical transformation... and I s'pose the lighter traffic also contributes.  (What's with the people who put their bikes away for the year, on Labor Day?!)

This year was particularly amazing - we didn't have frost until November!  And so the perfect conditions have persisted a few weeks longer than normal.

Today I went on a bike ride with granddaughter Bonnie.  Lovely scenery... plus encounters with lots of squirrels, geese and ducks... giraffes (! - looking over the fence at the zoo)... and Bambis grazing at the park.  A fine time was had by all.

She'll have outgrown the baby seat by next season... better bust out the tag-a-long, I guess...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Reached THE MAX? That would be nice!!

Last month, a fine young boy named Max Wyatt was riding his bike with his dad (in my neighborhood!) when he was struck down in a collision with a woman driving a minivan.  Details are still sketchy and the investigation ongoing, but based on all accounts, Max and his dad were doing everything right.  Poor Max was dragged down the street a ways, and bystanders rescued him from underneath the car.  He was flown to a children's hospital in Salt Lake City, and (thank goodness!) seems to be on the mend - albeit very slowly.  We all hope and pray that he has a complete recovery.

Friends of the Wyatt family have started a campaign to raise funds for his care... and Jimmy Hallyburton, founder of the Boise Bicycle Project, is also doing what he can (as always) to raise awareness about bicycle safety.  (He's also good friends with the Wyatt family, raising his stake in this particular drama.)

Jimmy is encouraging people to make a bracelet out of a bike spoke as an awareness symbol.  But more than that... he's put together a public safety meeting that will hopefully involve concerned citizens as well as local policymakers, scheduled for Wednesday 10/6 at 6pm, in the Rose Room.  (I hope that's correct info!  I'm gathering this off Jimmy's Facebook postings, and I'm not a Facebook power user!!)

Schedule of events:
6pm - Bracelet Making
6:30pm - Meeting Begins, Max and The Max campaign
6:45pm - Information and opportunities for involvement in the Treasure Valley’s bicycle and pedestrian organizations
7:15pm- New technologies, methods, and ideas for change
7:30pm- Public comment, ideas, input and concerns
7:55pm- Next Steps in the Max Campaign
8pm- Meeting Conclusion

(Jimmy also has an audience with Governor Otter on October 14.  I've gotta hand it to the guy - he's totally dedicated to making a difference!)

What more can be done, to make our streets safer for cyclists?  (Other than separating bike traffic from motor traffic, and that will NEVER happen comprehensively.)

I happen to know the lady who was driving the minivan.  She's devastated.  She has kids of her own, including a little girl about Max's age, and they ride bikes.  She's a very conscientious person.  She doesn't even own an electronic handheld gizmo, so she wasn't distracted by her texting or yappin' on the phone (like so many people these days).  I'm sure she'd gladly trade places with Max in the hospital room, if she could.  She says she can't remember much of anything leading up to the tragic moment... I s'pose shock will do that to ya.  I'm NOT excusing her; she was almost surely responsible for what happened.  But it makes me realize that one or two seconds of inattentiveness while driving can affect lives in a profound way.  How do we get motorists to truly appreciate how critical it is, that they focus on their driving, in our A-D-D day and age?!!!

Also... how can we make cyclists appreciate how critical it is for them to be legal, visible, aware, and "defensive"?  Max and his dad were probably doing everything right, but just the same, they flew under the driver's "radar."  It's horrible!  I see Bozos on Bike every day, who are riding illegally and downright dangerously, apparently trusting good luck and the attentiveness/skill of the Motoring Public.  (NOT a good place to lay your life on the line, seems to me.)

I'm not sure there is an answer, other than vigorous enforcement of laws, and a dedicated campaign of education.  I'm vitally interested in bicycle safety, and look forward to what emerges from the meeting.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ridin' buddies

Pardon me while I go all proud-grampa on you.  Here are some photos of my three beautiful granddaughters, with their buckets on.

Bonnie, 2, is on the left.  She's got an awesome lady bug bucket, and as soon as I put it on, she wanted to go for a bike ride.  (She rides in a seat in front of me on the "beater bike," but has just about outgrown the seat.  She went almost 400 miles with me last year, and we're over 300 together this year.)
Mackenzie, 8, has been riding bikes as rider or passenger since before she was a year old.  Back in '11, she and I did one of the most enjoyable projects of my life - we rode to 92 playgrounds around Boise over the summer!  She rides her own 24-inch pink bike these days... and it's a bit harder for me to get her to go; pedaling your own bike is harder than riding the tag-a-long!  And... as she gets older she has more interests competing for her attention.
And Maren, 7 months, is visiting from far-off Providence.  It's going to be more of a challenge to ride bikes with her, but we'll figure something out.

Friday, September 25, 2015

September Update

So, it's come to this.  I've gone pretty much the whole month without posting a word.  Pathetic!  This is an attempt to make slight amends.

It's been a great bicycling month!  On Labor Day (September 7), my friends A.J., Larry, and Linda drove to northern Idaho with me, and I acted as tour guide on a Tour de Coeur d'Alene (Trail) and the Route of the Hiawatha.

We drove on September 7.  We rode 50 miles on September 8, from Plummer to Pinehurst on the Coeur d'Alene Trail.  We camped.  We rode 50 miles on September 9, from Pinehurst on up to the end of the trail in Mullan, and back.  We camped again.  We took our side trip to the Hiawatha on September 10... rode from the bottom to the top, and back again.  30 miles.  And camped again.  We rode 50 miles from Pinehurst back to our starting point in Plummer on September 11.  We drove home on September 12.  (Well, A.J. and I drove on home; Larry and Linda headed for the Seattle area to visit relatives.)

Those are just the statistics... and they can't convey what a blissful experience it is, to ride on those particular paths.  Pictures do better than words...

More photos can be seen HERE.

It was somewhat of a "leap of faith" for me... I'd never ridden one bicycle mile with any of 'em.  But we've been discussing it, and training individually, for most of the year.  And they didn't let me down!  They were all up to the challenge and not only completed each day's planned riding, but remained cheerful both during the riding, which was pretty much all day long, and when the riding was over.  Great company!  And they went right along with my budget travel practices... camping and such.

So - I crossed those rides off my "bucket list" - again!  And added 'em back on again.  This is something I'll hope to do every few years, for as long as I am able.  (My previous adventure up that way was in September '12 - read about it HERE.  This one was far different, on account of the company, and their interests.  We stopped and read pretty much every interpretive sign along the way, and learned a lot about the history of the routes and the area in general.  Fascinating stuff.  Back in '12, either those signs weren't there, or I just rode on by, oblivious.  Next time, it'll be different once again.  I hope I can finagle some family members into going with me... we shall see.)

Other September happenings... 2015 became my 29th consecutive year riding 4000+ miles.  And this month marks 18 years since I last drove a car to work.  The pressure's on!  I can't let either streak slip away now.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Helping hand for maintenance/repair

I'm cautiously optimistic about an accessory I just invested in.  It's called the BikeHand - a wall-mount bike work clamp.  59 bucks on the

Yeah, it would be nice to have one of those super-sweet Park stands... but at $150 up, they're a bit rich for my blood.  And - I'd never use one frequently enough to justify the expense.  The BikeHand seems like it will be an acceptable substitute for the shade-tree mechanic.

It was designed to mount on the wall, but I had other plans.  I attached it to an 8-by-10-inch piece of scrap plywood with two 5/16 x 1.5 inch bolts, and clamp it into my Jawhorse (another nice piece of equipment, by the way).  When it's not in use, it and the board don't take up nearly as much space as a floor-standing model.

I used it yesterday while fine-adjusting my rear derailleur, and while I was at it I put some new brake pads on the front.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Another Tour de Fat in the books

My two local granddaughters, Mackenzie and Bonnie, joined me once again to ride in the Tour de Fat Parade on Saturday, August 15th.  We crossed paths with friends, and a good time seemed to be had by all.  (How not?  A lovely day - a delightful activity - and boisterous but not TOO crazy participants.  The "official estimate" put the rider count at about 11,000 this year.  Fantastic!  That's a LOT of bikes and bike riders!  If I'm not mistaken, people are still leaving the staging area as the first-out riders are getting back, making it a full circle.)

Besides the fun, the event raised right around $450,000 (!!) for the local bike-oriented nonprofits.  Way to go everybody - especially the army of dedicated volunteers who work behind the scenes to make it happen.  (Yeah, not everybody just magically shows up on Saturday morning, nor does the event magically transpire.)

CLARIFICATION: The $450K figure (which I got off the Boise Bicycle Project website) is the grand total for all the Boise Tours over the years... approximately $45K was raised this time around.  (Thanks, Clancy, for your diligence in keeping things straight.)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Extreme pavement makeover

We are deep into chip-seal season again, here in Ada County.  And it's official - they've put gravel down on every road that I ride.  (Well, not really, but it sure seems like it.)

The chip-seal is a surface coating for area roads, that's more economical than other options.  First they prep the road by sealing cracks, etc., and sweeping it.  Then they lay down a thick coating of sticky, gooey stuff, and drop gravel on it.  Then they turn traffic loose on it for a week or two.  The gooey stuff hardens with the gravel - "chips" - glued into place.  It's kinda like peanut brittle for pavement.  Once it's set up, they sweep off the excess gravel, and put another surface coating of the gooey stuff on.  Generally, that keeps the road in pretty good shape for seven years or so, when they repeat the process.

Obviously, us skinny-tire cyclists would prefer glass-smooth asphalt.  But us taxpayers appreciate the notion of going the least-expensive route.  And once the process is completed, the finished product is tolerable.  In fact, it's pretty good on the roads that are designated as "bike routes," because they use small-caliper 1/4" gravel, which makes for a smooth surface.

I may have discovered an experimental treatment.  In between the gravel and the final coating, lay down a squirrel here and there, for an even smoother final product!  (Noticed and snapped right at the end of my street.)  But based on early wear, I don't think the squirrel will prove to be durable.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fewer dead bike kids, more dead bike guys

A study of bicycling fatalities from 1975-2012 illustrates some non-surprising trends.

Kid (under 15) fatalities decreased 92 percent! Fatalities among cyclists aged 35-54 nearly tripled, and 87 percent of those fatalities were men. Fatality rates for women remained steady.

The decline in child fatalities might be "attributable to fewer child bicycle trips." Do you s'pose? When I was a kid (too early to be included in this study), there were probably 150 bikes parked out front of Roosevelt Elementary. Nowadays there are maybe a dozen bikes out front of Monroe Elementary, where my kids attended and my granddaughter now attends. (She can't ride her bike - her grandma is absolutely certain she'd be either run over or abducted somewhere along the 3/4 mile ride.)

How about those grownup guys that are getting kilt? Well... the study says from 2000-2012 "the number of U.S. workers who traveled to work on a bike increased 61 percent," and mostly among men 25-64.

Fatalities varied from state to state, with Florida having the most (I assume by percentage), and Vermont the least. Overall, the fatality rate dropped from 955 in '75 to 717 in '12.

What else has changed in the past 40 years? As a casual observer, I'd say a primary change is... there were zero cellphone/"smart"phone users in '75, and nowadays pretty much everybody has one, and many are yammerin' or pokin' as they drive along. And obviously if they kill a few bike riders, society considers that acceptable "collateral damage."

The study suggests better bike infrastructure, enforcement, helmet use, and better education on safe bike/motorist behaviors as keys to reduce fatality rates. I agree, particularly on the enforcement and education.

Story HERE.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fat guy's transcontinental bicycle journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bicycle transportation - more savings today than yesterday

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 22, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Boise is upgraded to Silver

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

Why the upgrade?

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

New river crossing - open for business

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

The situation has improved noticeably this year.

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

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

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

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

Looking north from the south side:

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Perfume in the air!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Almost a reality - bike/ped bridge in Garden City

Over the past couple weeks, I've ridden out to see how the new bike/pedestrian bridge west of Garden City is proceeding.  Significant progress is being made... 2 Sundays ago, a fella was on duty out there (most likely to keep over-enthusiastic pathway users from trespassing).  He told me they thought it would open "in one to four weeks."

On Thursday (May 21) I rode out there again.  The security guy was gone.  The pavement is all in place, on the south side where I was.  The fence was still in place.  (You'd a-thunk they could've just blocked access to the bridge, and let people proceed on by... but what do I know?)  They seemed to be working feverishly on the north side.

I got excited and emailed the contact person on the Garden City website.  (It's confusing - you pass a sign that says "Leaving Garden City" a half-mile before you get to the bridge.  But supposedly Garden City is managing the project.  Perhaps it's Garden City on the north side.)  I asked her if it would be open over the Memorial Day weekend.

She replied, "The bridge is not going to the open this weekend, but it is anticipated that it will be substantially complete by the end of the month."  That's a bit ambiguous, but I'll optimistically interpret it to mean that the bridge will likely be open for use by the end of the month.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pedal Power Parade '15

In the early afternoon I started asking granddaughter Mackie if she'd like to ride in the Pedal Power Parade, which she's done probably 5 times in her 8 years.  She hesitated and said, "I don't know."  Which means "no," unfortunately.  Now that she has to provide her own power on her own bike, it's not as easy as back in the Glory Days, when she was in trailer or on tag-a-long.  Her choice.  Hopefully something will make her see the value of regular voluntary exercise.  (Half-price shakes on warm summer evenings are usually more compelling.)

Anyhow... I put on my "CARS SUCK" T-shirt (that I bought from the Aerostich motorcycle people), and Bonnie and I headed for City Hall about a half-hour before start time.

The crowd was smaller than in years past, mostly on account of the unsettled weather, but those who took the gamble were well-rewarded.  Nary a drop of rain, and lots of enthusiasm.

As we rode, I enjoyed a couple of good conversations about cycling in Boise - with Lisa Brady, president of the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance (our most effective advocacy group, and a primary organizer of Boise Bike Week), and with city councilwoman Elaine Clegg.  Both are enthusiastic practitioners and advocates.

I also had several people accuse me of being the Bike Nazi... and tell me they read the blog regularly.  What a gratifying thing!  I thank them.  It's great to occasionally hear from others who share my opinion... that there's no better place to ride a bike than right here in the Boise area.