Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Disrupted Day

I didn't ride to work this morning. I didn't go because I have to run some errands at lunch and after work as it's my wife's birthday tomorrow. This decision turned out to be propitious as the kids missed the school bus. Karla had headed off to church to get the service bulletins prepped for June 5 and 12th. June 12th we're doing a service at the Lake Harriet bandshell (10AM, be there or be square) so you can come hear us sing.

Anyway, it was about 9:15 and the kids called and sounded pretty panicky. School's seven miles away, south of our house, and I work five miles north. I trooped back out through the parking lot, drove home, picked them up, and took them to school. It was another gorgeous day, and there were plenty of bikes out. I sort of wonder what all these people do who are riding around at 10 in the morning on a Tuesday. I also mulled over what I would have done had I ridden my bike to work; probably I would have had them catch the 61 bus west, transfer to the 84 down Snelling and get off by school. I haven't read the schedules, but I wonder if that would have been faster than riding a bike home and then driving them. They've never done the city bus by themselves, so that would have been mind-expanding for them.

In other bike news, the light bulbs I ordered last week showed up. These are 5 and 10-watt MR-11 replacements for my VistaLite Lightstick. I gave them a quick try and they all worked, and both Henry and Karla complained when I shined a 10W bulb at them so it must be pretty bright. With birthday preparations, I didn't have time to really try these out, but I'll compare all three bulbs in the dark to see which I like best.

Separately, I also got my work assignments for the Stillwater criterium July 12, the afternoon after we sing at Lake Harriet. I'm a race marshall then help with course teardown. This is all part of the Great River Energy Bike Festival/Nature Valley Grand Prix bike race, and I'm also volunteering Wednesday (Saint Paul) and Friday (Minneapolis). They are still in need of volunteers, so if you have an interest, go the site and there's a spot under Home for Volunteers. The Course Marshall stuff is very easy to do, so don't worry about needing lots of instructions and training.

I'm not a big bike racing fan, but it is a very accessible sport, and volunteering like this is an easy way to support it. It is spectator-friendly since you can get very close to the course and be right by the action. You can also move around the course to get different vantage points. At one time there were Grand Prix car races in Des Moines and Minneapolis, at about the time we moved here. The setup took weeks and the downtowns looked like prison camps, all concrete barriers and chain-link fences. When the raced, the cars flashed by in a cacaphony of exhaust and noise. The bike races, by contrast, setup, run and teardown within a day. You'll see some photos from the races I volunteer in a week and a half.

On the news tonight the weatherguy said this is the first May since 1983 where we didn't get to 80 degrees. It felt cold and wet and the last couple of spectacular days have only started to erase the damp chilly memories.

Monday, May 30, 2005

A Perfect Day

This, this is the day you live for in the Twin Cities. It's sunny with puffy white clouds, gentle breezes, seventy degrees, low humidity, no mosquitoes and a daughter who would like to go for a bike ride. After a morning of file-sorting productivity and a bite of lunch, we headed out, my eleven-year-old daughter Geneva and I, with no real plan.

One of the things I'd like to do is write up some Practical Cycling tips, especially how to deal with the major obstacles in the Cities, namely, railways, highways and rivers. To start with, we skirted Como Lake and headed down Chatsworth. Chatsworth ought to be a bicycling superhighway for north/south traffic in Saint Paul. It has its own bridge under the north set of mainline railway tracks, then what you might think of as an informal crossing of the south set of mainline tracks, shown below:

Informal Chatsworth crossing of rail tracks

There was a train off to the west and I had thoughts of waiting to take pictures of it, but there was also a pickup with lights on coming our way. It occurred to me that this might be railway personnel who wouldn't altogether approve of this crossing point, and we moved on south.

The neighbourhood south of the tracks is part of the Frogtown area of Saint Paul and is not a socio-economic demographic that everyone would feel comfortable with, though I ride through pretty regularly. We moved on south. You cross University on a stop-sign, then come to another obstacle, Interstate 94. Chatsworth again reigns supreme, with a pedestrian bridge right across the highway. Here Geneva rides on across:

Informal Chatsworth crossing of rail tracks

It's funny how south of I-94 the neighbourhood rapidly changes. By the time you reach Summit Avenue, the most beautiful street in Saint Paul, you are only a stone's throw from the Governor's Mansion.

We decided to blow off the Grand Old Creamery ice cream shop, east of us, and head west to Izzy's. We rode off down Summit Avenue. This is a terrific street to ride on, lined with houses that range from cheesy suburban models at their most modest to huge robber-baron mansions built when domestic staffs made such large houses possible. Summit also has terrific bike lanes. Here's Geneva heading west down Summit:

Riding the Bike Lane on Summit Avenue

We cruised down to Grand Avenue to see if Wet Paint was open, which it wasn't. While waiting at a stop sign on Grand a young woman rode by on a bike with an Xtracycle. It's the first time I've seen a female on one! Cool! A female bike nerd! We cruised by Saint Mary's Episcopal, where we used to go to church before having some priestess issues, stopped by the Wheelers on Dayton but they weren't home, then went to Izzy's for an ice cream. It couldn't have been a more perfect day out. Here's Geneva enjoying her ice cream:

Geneva has an ice cream

Well, we'd come this far, let's just cruise on down Marshall and go across the bridge. This bridge is Marshall Avenue in Saint Paul and turns into Lake Street in Minneapolis, probably the most diverse street in the Cities as you ride down it. We got across the bridge slowly, enjoying the view you miss from the car. First we stopped at the east approach to take some picture, including this one of my daughter:

Geneva on the Lake Street Bridge

Out on the bridge itself, you could look up the Mississippi River and see downtown Minneapolis in the distance and a bit of boat traffic on the river. A friend of ours has a boat, and I've been up this stretch of river, and south of the Lake Street bridge the river is so far down in the gorge that you can barely tell you're in a city. It's part of the overall attractive physical setting of the Twin Cities. Here's the view upriver:

Downtown Minneapolis from the Lake Street bridge

The Mississippi north of Saint Louis is mostly a collection of pools contained behind a series of 29 locks and dams, which drop the river 420 feet in total. Some of the pools seem pretty dormant, but there is a definite current here. You can see it pulling at the buoy in the river;

Current pulling at buoy in Mississippi

You can see it against the bridge pier as well:

Current against Lake Street Bridge Pier

One of the nice things about living in Minnesota is the high level of public services. People bitch about the taxes and our Governor took a no-new-taxes pledge so that he in recent weeks vetoed a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax (a tax which hasn't been raised since the late 1980s) because that would be a new tax but then proposed increasing the taxes on cigarettes under the guise of a "fee". What an idiot. I've been to some of those low-tax states. Ever been to a public park in Texas? They're shitholes. People don't move to Minnesota for the weather and many of the things that make this place attractive are paid for by taxes; good education, good parks, clean rivers, decent roads. They also show up in things like this rest spot in the middle of the bridge, utterly impractical from a transport point of view, but a delightful stop for people on foot or bike:

Current against Lake Street Bridge Pier

We rode up the west River Road, seeing a fox carrying a bit of prey cross the road ahead of us along the way. We rode up to the West Bank Dinkytown, the local name for the aggregation of businesses that accrue around universities, to stop in the Freewheel Bike Shop. They were closed for the day. Probably a good thing, with the spring we've had, trying to work on a day like this would be tough. We rode up alongside the light rail train tracks (more taxpayer-supported improvements) to downtown, refilled water bottles at the Mill City Museum, and then went east across the Stone Arch Bridge. Tax dollars paid to keep this old railway bridge open for pedestrians and cyclists. You see a lot of funny vehicles down here; there are the usual assortment of bikes, there's a tour company that runs tours of the grain milling district on Segways (the Sidewalk SUV) looking like string of ducklings following their leader, and there were several unicycles. This pair, for instance, took my Two Cities Two Wheels things pretty literally:

A Pair of Unicyclists on the Stone Arch Bridge

Hey guys, I meant two wheels EACH!

You can appreciate the power of the river from the bridge. This power allowed Minneapolis to thrive as a grain milling and lumber center. There are still raceways for the water. Of course, now all the old grain mills are condos and museums so when someone wanted to put in an actual hydroelectric generator, one using existing waterways, the ample drop, and producing electricity with no emissions or waste products that last for millenia, the condo owners objected. The useful productive image is nice, but God forbid we put in any actual productive industry. Those cranes you see in the background of this photo ain't puttin' up grain mills and factories!

You can appreciate the power of the river looking north from the Stone Arch Bridge:

The Mississippi upstream from the Stone Arch Bridge

That's a lock on the left. I'm not sure what it's called, Lock and Dam No. 1 (of the 29) is at Ford Parkway/46th street a couple of miles downriver. This one is lifting out of the pool above that to above the St. Anthony Falls shown here. At this point, the traffic is local barge traffic only, not the big multi-barge tows which run to Saint Paul and up the Minnesota River a bit.

We clattered across the cobblestones at the east end of the Stone Arch Bridge and stopped to fiddle with the suspension fork on Geneva's bike. While doing this, a guy came riding from the left and, appearing to show off, powered through the turn. The vestigal railway tracks took him by surprise, he had to adjust his turn wide, ran into the curb, flailed along for several feet and then crashed hilariously into the grass alongside the road. Geneva and I managed to contain our laughter and feign concern. He was unhurt, other than his ego, which had a compound fracture or two. His bike looked nice, too, some touring Cannondale.

We cruised on home, heading up Como through Northeast Minneapolis and into Saint Paul past the cemetery, the State Fair Grounds and through the crowded Como Park to home. We came in through the back gate, 22 miles after setting out. I put my stuff away and opened up a beer, one of a batch of British Bitter I brewed earlier in the year after a several-year-long hiatus from home brewing. If I never lose weight from cycling, it will be because of this:

Enjoying a post-ride brewski

Oh well, there's a long tradition, my father, an Englishman, used to ride his 3-speed Reynolds 531-framed roadster around Warwickshire and Worcestershire to, among other things, go drinking in pubs.

What a great day, and what a fun ride. Geneva and I did nothing Practical, it was sheer enjoyment. And I can't say enough about how fun this is with the kids. I don't think you really know what love is until you have children of your own. My son is great (he was at home writing a paper on the Tokugawa Shoguns of Japan, this school is relentless right to the end of the year); my daughter is terrific, and the relationship between father and daughter is something special. She's at a real sweet spot right now, too, a fully-engaged person and not a snotty teenager (yet)(maybe never, that would be great), and thinking nothing could be better than to go bike riding with Dad, 22 miles for an ice cream and taking pictures. I couldn't agree with her more.

This is going to be a terrific summer.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Ibex Wool Jersey deal

I'm a big wool guy, I like wool garments for a lot of reasons, and not just for cycling. Ibex, a company which deals mostly in wool clothing, has a web deal on until May 31 on a long sleeve wool jersey made of 18.5 micron merino wool for $47.40 instead of the usual $79.00. You can see this deal here. I'll probably order one. Note that this is not a cycling jersey per se so doesn't have the pockets in back or any big zipper down the front to show off your manly (or womanly, depending on how you're built) chest. If your chest is like mine, this lack of a zipper is no big deal. Now, which color to choose? Hmmm....

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Mobile Recliner

I spent the morning going through bills, documents and files. They can really add up. I've been organizing them and scanning to PDF things I wouldn't mind keeping but also wouldn't mind dumping the paper. Finally I ran short of files, and the internal debate began.

C'mon you big weenie, ride your bike to Office Depot.
(in whiny voice)But those files might weigh a lot!
What are you buying, a file cabinet?
(whiny again)No, but those paper goods get heavy.

Finally I ate lunch and got on my bike and rode towards Office Depot. This goes pretty close by County Cycles so I decided I might as well stop in to see if there is anything I can't possibly live without but which may temporarily have slipped my mind. I pulled up right behind a guy on a weird tandem recumbent tricycle. This you don't see everyday. I put the Marin up on the always-handy two-legged kickstand and talked to this guy. Here's his bike:

Steve K on his Greenspeed tandem trike

This is a Greenspeed GTT (I think that the model is right). It's a 10.5-foot long recumbent tandem tricycle. It was pretty cool. I don't know this Steve guy at all but he was clearly enjoying the new machine, which he'd bought last week at Hostel Shoppe in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and on which he and his wife have got 100 miles in already. I'd enjoy this, too, if it were mine.

This thing had a lot of nifty features. There are a couple of S and S couplings in the frame so it can come apart and be somewhat shorter. The bottom bracket has some sort of gearing arrangement so that it can be geared either direct drive or at a ratio of 2.5:1 for really low gearing. There are big motorcycle-like disc brakes on both front wheels, which turn in sync with a tie-rod between them. The bike also is equipped pretty luxuriosly. I couldn't help but notice the speakers behind the front seat; does it have a stereo?

Rear bottom bracket with mongo chainring, iPod and GPS unit

Both seats get a stereo, and the iPod mounted by the rear bottom bracket provides the music. The other device is the GPS unit. The large chainring looks pretty scary; it's a 65-tooth unit! Of course, the drive wheel is 20-inches, so bigger rings are needed, but it's still impressive at first glance.

Steve said that he and his wife have a regular tandem but that his back ends up hurting and his wrists get uncomfortable after a while. This Greenspeed is still pretty new, but he finds it really comfortable. You can see the relaxed seating in this view:

Steve K on his Greenspeed tandem trike

On the way up to County Cycles I had been thinking how high up I sit and what a view it is; on this Greenspeed it must be like being on a mechanic's creeper and I'd worry about being visible to cars as well. On the other hand, the air resistance must be low and they have a big orange flag sticking up to catch the attention of passing motorists. He's also got dual mirrors in front, and a single one in back, so the riders both have some idea what's coming from behind.

Bikes are cool in part because they can be such a reflection of the owner's thoughts about cycling. Again, I've never met this guy before, but he sure seems to be an enthusiast who knows exactly what he wants in a bike, and this Greenspeed is set up unlike any bike I've seen before.

While I was ogling the trike a couple came out with a pair of Bianchi Milanos, 8 speed internally-geared bikes, one a men's frame and one a ladies. This was an older couple, and the lady looked pretty nervous getting started on the bike. I would have gone and offered some unsolicited advice except this Greenspeed was pretty intriguing. I hope they liked those Milanos, they'd be good Practical Cycling bikes.

Anyway, I headed off to Office Depot to buy my folders and office supplies, then rode home. I've got this far in my blog without showing my bike, so here is a picture of it with the Office Depot load still in the grocery pannier. Note the upright handlebars, bell, two-legged kickstand, fenders, cable lock stowed on the seatpost, leather seat and grocery pannier. This bike is a 20.5 or 21.5" frame but is still too small for me, hence the high stem and lots of seatpost. My new Atlantis frame is a 27" frame (68cm) so ought to fit better without me dwarfing it.

My bike after getting home

The bikes in a really low gear because I had to ride one-handed through the yard. I had to do this because I decided on the way home from Office Depot to pick up my shirts from the laundry. The cleaners are about 3/4 mile from here, shirts don't weigh much and it seems daft to ride home then drive over to get them, so I got my shirts (light starch on hangers) and rode slowly back with only my right hand on the bars/rear brake. It was ok. I took quiet roads.

Anyway, back to work at my files with only a quick run to the grocery store half a mile away for milk for tea and strawberries for breakfast.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Looks Like Ireland

Friday mornings just before 7:00 our local NPR news station KSJN has University of Minnesota Climatologist Mark Seely on to talk about the weather. Although May isn't quite done, he pointed out several fun facts about May and Mays.

  • Seven of the last eight Mays have been wetter than average.

  • Four of the last five Mays have been cooler than average.

  • This May had the least amount of potential sunlight (34% of possible) of any month since 1960.

I sure know how to pick a month to start my biking blog!

It wasn't actually raining this morning so I rode to work. It was 55 and overcast. I wore long pants but I think that any time it's over 50 I might as well go to shorts, what's comfortable standing around outside the back door is different from what's comfortable once you're moving. Once at work I parked the bike and rubber-banded a plastic bag over my leather Brooks Champion Flyer saddle, figuring it might rain. I was right; by 10:00 it was coming down fairly steadily.

On my regular website I have posted the Standard Minnesota Weather Forecast. I think this weekend's supposed to be Partially Shitty, then Increasingly Shitty later in the week.

Fortunately, by the time I left work, the rain and downpours and hail and sleet had stopped and it was a sunny interlude, albeit chilly. I zoomed home, trying to warm up by riding fast.

I also ordered some light bulbs to try in my VistaLite Nightstick experiment. I ordered up 2 MR11 10W/6V bulbs with different light patterns and 1 5W/6V bulb presumable much like the one that's in the light. I got these from Harrington Lights in New Hampshire and they're $23 with shipping, hardly more than the cost of one official VistaLite replacement bulb. I did try sourcing locally, but the commercial lighting suppliers aren't open weekends and didn't have 10W/6V bulbs in stock anyway, and driving to Eagan at lunch isn't altogether practical. Funny how the web makes it more practical to buy bulbs from New Hampshire than to find them in the same metro area. We'll see how this lighting experiment goes.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Mr. Consistency

Thursday's golf league at work, so I never ride to work on Thursdays (well, I might in September, as our golf league ends at the end of August). My weaseliness is driven home by the constant stream of cyclists going by on the road which bisects the course so that we cross it between holes 3 and 4 and again between 7 and 8, and play along the fenceline on 7. I happened to be along the fenceline where my drive had gone when this guy came by. I'm on the seventh hole of the Executive 9; that's the fourth hole of the short 9 across the road. That was always a hazardous hole for me as my slice would carry my drive into the road which could be fairly hilarious depending on the passing traffic.

Biker at Gem Lake  May 2005

Crossing between 7 and 8 a scooter and car were approaching from the right. The scooter slowed down and stopped, which meant the car had to as well. The car honked his horn at the scooter, and the guy turned around and pointed at the Crosswalk sign as we walked across the road. Traffic's required to stop, though it pays to be a prudent pedestrian because often it doesn't. I yelled "Thank you!" to the guy. Us two-wheelers have to stick together.

We had been caught in a thunderstorm when at the far end of the course and waited it out. It had passed by the time this guy rode by, which is why the road is wet and the sky so dark. Weirdly, despite the rain and delay waiting out the storm which even dropped hail on us, I scored the best golf score I've ever had at Gem Lake, a 40. The prior weeks have been very consistent, with 55-53-55, so this is a massive improvement. I'm happy with this, but then I was happy with the 55s, I'm not a serious golfer. I expect I'll be back in the mid-50s next week. I took some photos during this afternoon's game which you can see at Golfing Like Hail if you're bored.

In a couple of weeks there is going to be the Great River Energy Bike Festival which includes a series of five races from Wednesday June 8 to Sunday June 12. I'm volunteering in Saint Paul June 8, Minneapolis on the 10th and Stillwater on the 12th and would encourage anyone reading this (all four of you, hi Dad!) to go watch a race or two and to volunteer. The course marshall stint is pretty simple, you wave a flag and blow an annoying whistle to keep crowds off the street when the peloton is coming. Last year I did this in belting rain that delayed the races for most of an hour. In a show of manliness, one of my buddies is riding his bike up from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to hang out and also volunteer on the same days (leaving Thursday and Saturday open for heavy drinking).

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Straight Talk from a Straight Shooter

Here's President Bush yesterday in Greece, New York:

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

The particular bit of propaganda he was catapulting there was his plan for Social Security reform. Don't get me started on fretting about the potential problems in the Social Security program 75 years from now as we spend money like a drunken sailor right now, including hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of soldiers' lives keeping troops on the ground in Iraq and Kuwait to feed our oil habit.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Discipline to Ride Slowly

I rode to work today. Very heroic, no? I'm trying to figure out the temperature/speed range that is cool enough to avoid having to take a shower at work. I rode at a pretty leisurely pace to work. It takes some discipline to not, er, shred the road, or something. I wore a new t-shirt I got on clearance at Marshall Fields that has kind of a waffle weave to keep the shirt from plastering against you, and changed in the lobby bathroom. I changed pants, shirt, and socks and mopped myself off with a damp paper towel and put on some deodorant, then padded up to the office. I keep a pair of dress shoes and a belt in a drawer there for when I ride.

Going home I ran some errands. First the bank, then to Target, which has a bike rack right by the front door, to pick up some film, then to Batteries Plus. I had them do me a 5-sub-C cell battery pack for my Vistalite Nightstick. I bought this unit in September 2000 and it came with a Nicad battery pack. I have been very pleased with the light in part due to its simplicity. There's the light head, which has a simple and effective clamp for the handlebars (or fork, I've done both), a 6v battery in an aluminum tube that nestles in a clamp under the downtube water bottle cage, and a coiled cable to hook them up. The Nicad batteries, as they are wont to do, eventually lost their ability to hold a charge for any useful amount of time. I had Batteries Plus make me up a 5-sub-C set with the Nightstick connector using Nimh batteries rated at 3000 mAH.

Five watts is pretty bright, but more would ok. With the 3000 mAH battery pack, currently trickle-charging away out in the garage, the 5W light will run twice as long. Or, I could try 10W. The Bicycle Lighting Systems site recommends that the light not draw more than 70% of the battery's capacity. With 70% of 2000 mAH being 1400 mA, a 10W bulb on a 6V circuit would draw 10W/6V = 1.67 amps, exceeding that recommendation. However, with 3000 mA, 70% of which is 2100 mA (2.1 amps), the 10W bulb becomes possible. I think it's a standard MR11 bulb, so if I can find one I'm going to give this a try. It isn't exactly a HID light to blind oncoming motorists, but would be a nice upgrade. The 5 sub-Cs shrunk-wrapped and wired cost me $37, by the way. I'll let you know how this goes.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Walking the Dog

I read other people's blogs and they're riding with a pack of racers 50 miles through snow. Me, I rode to the mall. I had errands to run, with stops at Radio Shack, Batterys Plus, Marshall Fields and Walgreens. Nothing was going to weigh very much, so off I went on my slow 7 mile odyssey. On a quiet street in Roseville I caught up to this cyclist.

Walking the Dog  May 2005

He was going really slow, which was nice for the dog. You know, if you got a Huskie or two, they could tow you from place to place. Hmmmm, now there's an idea! Of course, if a squirrel happened to run across the street you might find yourself being towed over the curb, across the lawn and through the ornamental shrubbery.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Getting My Bearings

My Phil Wood front hub came back today. I bought a set of Phil sealed bearing hubs in 1977 and used them on my Motobecane. I built the wheels myself and rode them for about five years. In recent years, five years of riding wouldn't add up to much, but I was young and rode more then.

I built new wheels for that bike, with clincher tires rather than sew-ups, took apart my Phil wheels and the hubs sat around in boxes for all these years. A buddy of mine sent my rear hub off for servicing several years ago but I couldn't find the front one at the time. I later found it, and in early May sent it and $45 to Phil Wood in San Jose for new bearings. About two weeks later, it's back!

Man, it's smooth. Phil Wood is one of those companies I just really admire. Whatever they make, Phil makes the best there is. I also like their motto: "Build it strong. Keep it simple. Make it work." When I ordered my Atlantis I got it with the Phil stainless steel bottom bracket. Now I'll be able to build up a Phil-hub front wheel with a hub I bought 28 years ago and it will yield nothing to current hubs, except maybe serviceability. The current hubs are field-serviceable; the old ones, like mine, weren't.

It's silly to think so much about a stupid hub, but one of the cool things about bikes is how intentional you can be about how they go together. You can make every component choice for as detailed a rationale as you like (and you can spent a ton of money if you so choose) and the bike reflects those choices, your reasoning and you. Or, you can buy used or off-the-shelf and never think about the stuff as long as it works. Either way is valid, either way is fun.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Good Weather for Bowling

How can I avoid riding to work, let me count the ways. Let's see, today it's golf league after work, so I drive with my clubs, though if I were more dedicated I could buy a Traileron and tow my clubs to the course. Yesterday, it was a Newcomer's Party at church, in south Minneapolis, and it was the whole family. Tuesday? Raining in the morning. Monday? I don't remember. Rain, or sloth and laziness.

I did ride to Blockbuster after we returned Star Wars Episode IV without the DVD in it. Oops. It's pathetic to relate a ride of this length, less than a mile round trip, but on the other hand, it is precisely this sort of short, unburdened errand that would be very practical for almost anybody. It's not necessary to fire up the car to drive a 2 ounce plastic disk to a store half a mile away.

The paper says this weather is not unduly bad, but it seems like it's been wet and dreary for a couple of weeks. Last Thursday our golf league was rained out for the first time in a couple of years; it was 47F, wind out of the east at 18mph with driving rain. I was ready to go, it sounds like summer in Scotland, but the course called it off.

On the other hand, we hosted the end-of-season choir party Sunday, about 50 people for burgers, brats, hot dogs, beer etc. after church. The kids had fun once they realized our garage looks like a bike shop. Can't have too many! There's a mountain bike each for Geneva and Henry, a Bianchi road bike the Youth Cycling League guys lent us last year, a Trek 620 touring bike I bought for $100 at the Spoken Wheel bike shop in Iowa Falls in April, Karla's Trek hybrid, my Marin Urban Assault Bike, my 1975 Motobecane Grand Record and, in back, my new Atlantis 68cm frame which I'm building up. I pumped up a heap of tires and the kids went riding (and scooting and skateboarding) in the neighbourhood behind us.

It also turns out that a couple of the choir folks are cyclists. Mark drives through neighbourhoods slowly looking for garage sales with bikes; a guy named Larry whose wife rings in bell choir raced while in college. We're pretty new to this church (Karla started as Music Director in January) so it's good to find some people with common interests.

We were fortunate that it didn't rain Sunday. We have an ample yard and 50 people out there are as nothing, but to wedge them into the house would be kind of tight. Although it didn't rain, it remained pretty chilly which worked out great because people didn't drink much of my beer or any of my gin!

In the meantime, the weather's supposed to be nice tomorrow and then this weekend. We have a Minnesota Boychoir Awards Dinner tomorrow night, but I will try not to use that as an excuse for not riding.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Ommmmmm Ommmmmm

The current issue of Newsweek (dated May 16, 2005, though today is actually the 10th) has a short bit in its TipSheet section under Sports titled The Zen of Bike Repair. I quote: "After a long winter, your bike is more out of shape than you are. You can pay $25 to $140 for a professional tune-up, or you can do it yourself at home." It goes on to give a few pretty useless tips and recommend going to a bike shop if you see large patches of rust, worn-down brake pads or gears that don't shift smoothly. It also recommends a couple of websites; Totalbike.com and bikewebsite.com. To those, I'd add Park Tool's Bike Repair and Maintenance site but of course they're local so I would like them. I don't know that I've ever seen an article, even a short one, touting the Zen of bicycle maintenance in the mainstream press and it's kind of nice to see it, though I don't think loads of people are going to be out buying pedal wrenches anytime soon. Bicycles' ease of maintenance is one of their attractions and in an era when you can hardly work on a car, bikes do give an outlet for your mechanical urges.

Monday, May 09, 2005


That's German for Epicaricacy, of course.

If you ever have evil fantasies about annoying cars you might enjoy the website
Wrecked Exotics, where you can view photos of bashed Beemers, wrecked Rolls Royces and, yes, hurt Hummers. You can filter the photos by car make and model, depending on which specific evil fantasy you have.

Every Parent's Terror

Last night I was watching the news and there was a report of two boys on bicycles, 11 and 13, hit by a Hummer in Stacy, Minnesota, about 30 miles north of here. It was a quick story, a bit of footage of some yellow lines painted on a road, then a small orange bicycle symbol also painted on the road surface. One of the boys had been airlifted to a hospital in Saint Paul, never a good sign.

Is there anything a parent fears more than a call like that? "Your child has been hit by a Hummer and is being sent by helicopter to Regions Hospital." My kids are 11 and 13, and a call like that would be horrible even when things end up working out ok.

I'm happy to say that today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that the boys are doing well. What happened? The Strib says "The two were crossing Chisago County Road 19 at 2:43 p.m. They were struck when the driver of the Hummer turned north from County 19 onto Chisago County Road 30." One wonders if this driver was distracted by, for instance, a cell phone. Happily, the boys are now sitting up in bed and playing video games. I hope that all goes well for them, that in 20 years they can laugh about the time they got hit by the Hummer like I sometimes alarm people by mentioning that while riding a motorcycle I once got rear-ended on the freeway by a van.

Ironic that it was a Hummer. Automotive traffic in general is bad enough, it seems like SUVs are more oblivious that other vehicles, and the Hummer H2 is sold as the most aggressive, in-your-face of the SUVs, even though it looks vaguely comical to me, like a corrugated Honda Element. The paper says charges are pending against the driver of the Hummer, whose name hasn't been released yet since charges haven't been filed. We'll have to see what charges get pressed. I wish the boys and their parents all the best and hope I never get such a call.