Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Starting over again

A new semester starts tomorrow.  New students and new classes will make for a fresh start in the middle of winter.

I'm sitting here, drinking fresh-brewed Smokejumper, letting the black magic settle in to my system.  I have added new routines to my mornings with checking the weather and planning for the clothing needed for the day's commuting.  I rode the Xtracycle in the headwinds yesterday.  I had to grab 10 lbs. of hydraulic cement from Lowes and I wasn't about to let that break my commuting schedule.  The reality of that decision struck home as I hit tremendous headwinds while riding up a long climb.  And then to add insult to injury, the wind blew so hard that I had to pedal downhill in order to keep from being blown to a stop.

The Xtracycle always gets curious looks.  The overall look of the bicycle is so noticeably altered that even the most casual glance sees the difference.  Many of my coworkers checked it out and wanted to ask questions about it.  I love those conversations that come from people being curious.  I love to talk about bikes and riding, especially rides with everyday purpose.

What I don't like is the recent tendency of coworkers to feel compelled to explain to me why they can't ride a bike to work.  While the reasons are many that I have been given, none states the fact that the person doesn't normally ride a bike to begin with.  I will talk passionately about commuting and cycling in general for as long as I have a voice, but I don't look down on people for not doing it.  I wish more people would ride bikes, obviously, but not riding isn't a sore spot for me.  No, the person in the H3 Hummer that pulls up beside me at the light at Smith's Crossroads and then floors the accelerator like a drag racer when the light turns green, now that person makes me feel bad for humanity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hey, it's called a hand signal

I rode to work everyday last week.  No small feat given that monday through wednesday all had high temps below 20 degrees in the morning portion of my commute.  I discovered that below 17 degrees really requires a kitchen sink approach to clothing, i.e. wear everything you own that is warm.  It was great riding a dedicated commuter bike in my work clothes and regular shoes.  I spent some time on monday fabricating some mounting hardware for my panniers so that they could be mounted to the Haul.  For all of the obvious care and attention that Specialized put into designing the new Globe line,  little things like the rack tubing diameter being larger than a standard pannier mount leave me scratching my head a bit, but no worries, about 5 minutes worth of fabrication time and I'm all set.

I've been riding a couple of different routes to and from school.  I expect a certain amount of incredulousness on the part of the car-obsessed teenagers that I teach, but the inattentiveness of some drivers is a little over the top.  A colleague pointed out to me that I ride into school which is a nexus of inexperienced and inattentive texting-while-driving teenage drivers.  When you put it that way, it seems unsafe, but the reality isn't that bad.  My worst problems are occurring when I try to turn onto the greenway on Powell Ave.

As I approach the entrance to the greenway, I move into the center of my lane, left arm extended in the recognized "left turn" signal configuration.  I squeeze the rear brake (left signal still in effect, mind you) and slow down as I approach the very large speed table in the road that marks the greenway crossing.  Just as I begin to initiate my turn, a car will accelerate around me to make a pass.  This has happened 3 times, with 3 different drivers!  Have they changed the rules on me since last I was at the DMV?

All in all, I would rather ride my bike than drive my car.  I don't know why, I just know that's how I feel.  I've decided to sell my car and do without one for this year as an experiment in simple living.  Sure, we still have a car, but I want to be a one car household rather than the 2+ car household standard.  I think it is pretty doable and it will give me something else to talk about with all of the people I work with who already question my sanity.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Thin line

In case you hadn't noticed, it is a wee bit chilly outside.  It isn't as extreme as Roald Dahl's childhood stories of people dying in the winter, their bodies left outside because the ground was to frozen to dig, until the bodies froze solid and then the body's legs would be sharpened to a point and then the body would be hammered into the ground. No, not that cold, but damn close.

There is a thin line between passion and crazy.  Unlike Joan of Arc (who I have determined was absolutely bonkers after watching Luc Besson's The Messenger recently), I have opted to maintain my last few tenuous threads of sanity and foregone the morning bike commute until the sub-arctic weather abates.  Though my heart (and by dint of connectedness: the rest of my cardiovascular system) and my fresh holiday mid-section bulge urge me to do otherwise, I am firing up the Mercedes and driving it to school each morning.  Now granted it is a diesel, so the odds of me making it to school are only slightly better than riding a bike in this freezing heinousness we call weather.

While people from around the country will smugly retort that our current temperatures are no where near as cold as they are experiencing, they are forgetting that just because the temps are the same, doesn't mean the cold is the same.  For example: my house is heated by a heat pump.  No matter what,  it is never warm.  But walk into a house with a fireplace and the heat is a palpable, living presence.  Cold is the same way.  Go out west where the humidity is low and twenty degrees feels tolerably chilly.  But step out into twenty degrees here with that high moisture content in the air, and you feel an entity seeping into your joints and spreading through your bones.  It can take all day to warm yourself after short periods of time outside.  It is insidious.

With no break in sight, extremes of motivation are being mustered to try and get out and ride.  The trainer and rollers are calling, but they are such cheap imitations of the real thing.  I'm ready for a flight through the woods no matter the weather!

There is going to be a trail day this Sunday at the Wilson's Ridge trail in Wilson's Creek.  I'll let you know more details as I get them.  Also, the Caldwell County Pathways organization is looking for members and anyone interested in being a Board Member.  Contact Tony Deal if you are interested.  Lastly, throw some support IMBA's way this year. It is time we take the bull by the horns and make our home the way we hope it could be: a bike friendly, outdoor recreation destination! Give time (and money if you can) to help make these things a reality.

Friday, January 01, 2010

taking stock

The end of the year is inevitably a time of reflection.  Our New Year's Eve was no different.  The McClinton's graciously invited us to their home for a party.  With Owen in tow, we arrived followed shortly by Jeff and Shelli.  It was a small gathering of friends and it was the perfect way to spend the evening.  Taking a 3 year old to a New Year's Eve party can be dicey, but with a long, late nap under his belt, Owen was very excited about going to a party.  Thanks to Diane McClinton pulling out a large collection of wooden blocks and Lincoln logs, Owen had a great time and didn't even show a hint of tiredness until nearly 11 o'clock.

This holiday season has been great with the small downside of having weather that has not cooperated with the idea of doing much riding outdoors. This has coincided with my normal post 'cross season break, but it has put the total damper on getting into the woods and doing some fun and relaxing mtn. bike rides.  I have made up for it with eating lots of food that I shouldn't and drinking way more than normal.  But now it comes to an end has the holiday season ends and the world shakes off its festive reverie and returns to the normal day to day.

My hope for the coming year is that we all find greater happiness and success in all of our endeavors.  I want all of us to remember that cycling is what we do for fun whether it be racing or casual riding.  Try to explore new and different forms of cycling.  Do a bike tour, ride the greenway, go mountain biking, enjoy a long road ride, commute to work.  Keep that two wheeled perspective on life and see if you aren't just a bit happier for it.

Thanks to everyone for being not just our customers, but our friends.  Thank you for spreading the word about us; it makes all the difference in the world.  Thanks to everyone for helping us not only survive a tough year, but actually thrive. I hope we can all work together to strengthen our cycling community and work to improve our area in the process.

To that end, Caldwell County Pathways is looking for members.  These fine folks work hard to bring us the fantastic Greenway system and they need not just your donation of money, but more importantly your time and volunteerism.  If you are interested, contact Tony Deal at tonyraydeal@gmail.com

Here's looking forward to another great year!