Tuesday, January 31

Clean Coal

First off, let me say, I don't believe there is such thing as clean coal. The title is a reference to my adventure on Saturday. My impromptu hiatus has as much to do with having blown my mind with my little adventure, wrecking my body and my new homesteading fantasy obsession. But more on that later.

My day started off with a short ride to Olde Town and La Dolche Vida for breakfast and coffee. I took my time, reading some of Yvon Chouinard's Let My People Go Surfing, as I finished off a nice mug of coffee.

I meandered home and put things together and then just before 11am I headed out on The One, going minimal as all good mountaineers should, toward the mouth of Coal Creek Canyon.

I blazed west through Arvada and as I approached the climb up onto Rocky Flats a gale force wind hit me full in the face. What had been a solid Leadville-esque pace turned into a wobbly crawl. By the time I was within sight of Plainview Road I was growling and muttering wordless curses into the deafening wind.

I dove under the bridge, locked up the bike, sucked down some calories and fluids and turned my full attention to the Southeast Ridge of Coal Creek Peak.

I tried to scope out the best approach and line of attack without over-thinking the image of a steep, rocky and wooded ridge above me. I have a lot of experience doing just that, so I plodded on, crossing the steep prairie flanks up into the trees below the beginnings of the exposed rock bands.

The craggy SE ridge offers great scrambling potential. I avoided the majority of it, to speed myself up the spine of the ridge as I raced daylight, and to avoid chancing an injury on my solo jaunt. But you could occupy yourself for a full day up there just scrambling around on some very, very cool rock.

At first I decided I'd turn back at 2:30, but then at 2:24 I looked up and despite not being able to see the summit I believed I was close. So I amended my plan. Turn back no later than 3pm. That would put me at two hours on the mountain and a long, arduous descent with less than two hours to get down. I wasn't worried about my return bike ride home, as I had brought the Laser, both for visibility and for vaporizing rabid bears.

The higher I got, the more antsy I got, as I couldn't tell how far I had to go for the trees and continuous rock bands blocking the view ahead. But finally it felt as if the angle was easing off significantly and I knew I must be getting close. I didn't slow to check the time. Summit fever had settled into my bones, and I was finally moving in a state of FLOW, rock to rock, gliding over fallen trees, the weariness draining from my limbs...and then...there was nowhere else to go. I stood on a small, exposed and windblown summit. The view down on the southeast face of Crescent Mountain was stunning, the view north over Eldorado Mountain and the Boulder Group was even more stunning, and I felt fantastic!

I lingered only a few moments, and then I was racing daylight back to the plains.

Down, down, down, down I went. I tried to keep my speed slow, to save my 38 year old knees, but also to keep a steady and brisk pace. Down, down, down, down, over vertical steps, traversing exposed ledges, hopping over fallen trees, stepping carefully on loose talus...down, down, down, down...

At 4:25 I was unlocking The One from it's hiding place. By 4:30 I was refueled and slowly pedaling onto CO 72. And then gravity had me, and the ghost of the tailwind I would have had earlier in the day. The One screamed down from the mouth of Coal Creek Canyon, into NW Arvada and then I was pedaling at a more modest, but steady pace all the way home. It took an hour and fifty minutes to wrassle my way up to Coal Creek Canyon and right at an hour to return home. Solid!

The effort left me ragged. The next day my shoulders were sore, I was tired, and my thighs threatened to lock up from time to time. By Monday I was mostly recovered, but fighting a cold. Though I felt at my limit of mental endurance a couple of times on the climb (and before on the ride) I know this was only a small effort compared to those I have planned as I train for Leadville. And to be honest, I'm considering this little jaunt as my first real training effort towards Leadville.

I love it when a plan comes together!

Saturday, January 28

Cyclo-Mountaineer: Coal Creek Peak Adventure

My lovely wife told me I could do whatever I wanted to today. So I opted to abuse myself by riding The One up to Plainview Road and then hiking/scrambling to the summit of Coal Creek Peak.

I don't have it in me to give a full report, and I'll tell you why:

13.5 mile bike ride with 1,168' gain
1.75 miles to summit with 1,785' gain

15.25 total miles (one way) with 2,953' total gain

4 hours 5 minutes to summit
6 hours 30 minutes total

I'm beat.

But it was awesome!

There was a wicked headwind once I got up on Rocky Flats. I almost gave up.

Just below the rocky part of the southeast ridge I almost gave up.

Near the summit, above the last steep section I almost gave up.

Coal Creek Peak is 8,484' and a fine summit to bag via the southeast ridge.

Thursday, January 26

Bikes in Science Fiction

I recently read a short story called "The Waveries" by Frederic Brown. Brown wrote the story in 1945. Brown also wrote the short story "Arena" on which the Star Trek (original series) episode of the same name is based. His amazingly short story "Answer" seems to have influenced Douglas Adams' Deep Thought.

I won't reveal too much of the story, but in the face of imminent apocalypse (due to an alien invasion that slowly renders all electrical devices useless) two of the characters come to some interesting conclusions:

George shook his head slowly, in wonder. He said, "Streetcars and buses, ocean liners-Pete, this means we’re going back to the original source of horsepower. Horses. If you want to invest, buy horses. Particularly mares. A brood mare is going to be worth a thousand times her weight in platinum."

"Right. But don’t forget steam. We’ll still have steam engines, stationary and locomotive."

"Sure, that’s right. The iron horse again, for the long hauls. But Dobbin for the short ones. Can you ride, Peter?"

"Used to, but I think I’m getting too old. I’ll settle for a bicycle. Say, better buy a bike first thing tomorrow before the run on them starts. I know I’m going to."

"Good tip. And I used to be a good bike rider. It’ll be swell with no autos around to louse you up."

And later, after some time has passed:

"How’s New York?”

“Fine, George. Down to its last million people, and stabilizing there. No crowding and plenty of room for everybody. The air-why, it’s better than Atlantic City, without gasoline fumes.”

“Enough horses to go around yet?”

“Almost. But bicycling’s the craze; the factories can’t turn out enough to meet the demand. There’s a cycling club in almost every block and all the able-bodied cycle to and from work. Doing ‘em good, too; a few more years and the doctors will go on short rations.”

“You got a bike?”

“Sure, a pre-vader one. Average five miles a day on it, and I eat like a horse.”

Another quasi-post-apocalyptic short story that at least begins with a bicycle is "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby. Since there are no "external" inputs of fossil fuels the first character we're introduced to is delivering groceries by bike.

For a good cyberpunk short story check out "Bicycle Repairman" by Bruce Sterling.

Wednesday, January 25

Dreaming Hippie Dreams

Ah, hippie dreams! It's amazing where the impetus of the bike has taken me so far, and where it directs my thoughts, hopes and dreams now.

Oddly, cycling has pushed me more toward a lifestyle where a bike would almost cease to be a necessity. Self-sufficiency. Off-grid. Homestead. Of course I would never cut the bike out of that deal. But it's utility in that context would be much reduced.

My lovely wife emailed me yesterday with a link to a real estate page for a 150+ acre forested property 12 miles from our hometown in Kentucky. It has a water source, lots of southern exposure, a ridgetop, cleared land and some structures. Her message was: "If we were to ever move back and start a hippy commune--"

When her email came I was researching rammed earth construction techniques. It's like we share a brain or something...

In the midst of my fantasizing I mapped a potential bike commute to town from the land. 12.8 miles with only 390 feet of elevation gain (on the trip home). My current commute is between 9 and 11 miles with 600 feet of gain. Of course bike commuting conditions are vastly different there. And it rains A LOT more.

But the possibilities stormed through my head all day. And last night we brainstormed the idea for quite awhile. It's tantalizing.

The major obstacle, as always, is money. After all, I was not born with a bamboo spoon in my mouth. At least one of us would have to somehow be gainfully employed to make the mortgage payment. We'd have to pay property taxes. And we wouldn't leap fully formed from Zeus' head as a sustainable homestead. There would be a transition period, to go from partially self-sufficient to fully self-sufficient. The transition period would be the crux and the make-or-break time.

There would be some costs. To be 100% off grid we'd need at least a modest PV system. We'd need tools. We'd need certain supplies. It would take time. But it would be an amazing life adventure.

I'm still planning and scheming. Fantasizing with better data.

We left Kentucky because I couldn't find gainful employment. But we left during a period when I had skewed goals. I believed I needed to make as much money as possible to get by. I don't believe that anymore, and Mandy shares that belief so long as our basic needs are assured.

I'm not saying we're planning on moving back as of today. Our conversation so far has been an exercise to define the boundaries of what we want, where we want to go and what we want to do. Even if we spend the rest of our lives in Colorado this thinking helps us to pin down some goals and better define our dreams. But who knows which direction this line of thinking will lead?


And then there are possibilities I had not even considered: Carbon offset payments through the Appalachian Carbon Partnership

Tuesday, January 24

The Sustainable Cyclist: Riding With No Handlebars (Part I)

There is an interesting post over at Bike, Noun, Verb that got me thinking (all the best posts do).

I think I've been hinting around something like this line of thinking for some time, but didn't have an angle, didn't have a well formed concept, so I just kept hinting.

Here is my response in answer to the ultimate question (What effect does singularly focused bike growth have on the overall goal?):

I will have to say that, despite being an avid outdoorsperson for years, that until I committed to a car-lite lifestyle (for economic reasons), I didn't begin to consider my overall footprint.

Being a cyclist, and reading cyclo-centric literature I was exposed to a lot of concepts I might otherwise have avoided, but imbedded within different articles, books (Hurst's Cyclist Manifesto comes to mind) and blogs I may not have started seriously working to reduce my overall footprint if not for the impetus of the bike.

If you read the BNV post in its entirety my following diatribe will make some sense.

Of late I have been less apt to fall on my sword in shame when I've chosen to use other modes of transportation. Carpooling has become less evil. The prospect of taking the bus up to Boulder has become viable. And I've even been considering (GASP!) the second vehicle for our family.

Let me take you back a bit. I posted this article on February 8, 2010. At the beginning of 2010 I was dreaming about being a full time bike commuter. Now, at that time I had quite a few miles of bike commuting under my saddle. At the time my commuting miles far exceeded my recreational miles. We had just sold my car and I was claiming we were a car-lite family, even though I caved and drove many days.

It wasn't until October of 2010 that I had to put my money in my mouth. Er, something like that. From October 2010 until the end of 2011 I was a dedicated, full-time, on principle bike commuter. "Need a ride?" "HECK NO!" "Did you ride today?" "Absolutely cage-dweller!"

So even though it was only a little more than a year, I think I paid my dues. I know what it means to be dedicated to the lifestyle. I know what the implications are. You look at the bike propped up behind the couch and you look out the window into the dim pre-dawn at the snow and you know it's going to be a long slog in. And you grin and bear it. Sometimes the grin just freezes there, and sometime it remains long after your face thaws.

I think that's why I'm okay with relenting a little, and why I think I'm still better off after an intensive year of bike commuting.

I've learned a lot...not just about cycling, and bike commuting, and about myself, but about the environment, about carbon footprints (I already knew a lot) and about our society. I'm more engaged in the issues and I'm better educated to discuss and implement programs to reduce the carbon footprint of individuals and of organizations. That's one reason I am terribly excited to be enrolled in the Sustainable Practices Program at CU Boulder.

It's all because of "the impetus of the bike." I wasn't a craven earth-killer before we sold our second car, but I didn't own some of my own loosely held beliefs. Instinctively I think Mandy and I have always been conservation minded, but most of the time we have conserved out of frugality, and not in the context of any other issues. Combining that frugality with a sense of our place in the whole scheme of things, and accepting our responsibility to make sure our children have a better world than we entered into ourselves, is what will drive us to make truly impactive changes in our own family and within our community.

I have to say, in the final analysis, that you cannot be "singularly focused" on bike growth at any scale, but that focusing on it at some point in the process, and singularly so, will help move the thinking along to other productive trains of thought. Staying focused on bikes as a solution to all our ills will not cure or correct even a fraction of our problems. But I think bikes as a major component of problem solving is key.

As Joshua Robin said at the National Bike Convention in 2004 (as quoted in One Less Car, Furness): "There are several reasons why a bike saddle makes a fine soapbox, protesters say."

People take notice of bikes. While a bike is a common accoutrement to modern society, it is also less in the forefront of our vision each day. Driving up to Eldorado Canyon the other day we passed through the "town" of Eldorado Springs. I saw many, many, many bikes hitched up in various places around the homes and buildings of the small community. You couldn't help but notice them, they were so numerous, however, many of the bikes were of poor quality (dept store variety) and some had literally eroded into the ground over time. People own bikes, but people do not necessarily know what they own.

I fantasized about cleaning up Eldorado Springs, going door to door and asking if I could take their unused bikes. I could take them home and build a fleet of bikes to either start a community bike-share in my town, or give them away to people who would actually use them. Bikes empower, but you have to apply power to them.

Looking back on that article I read in February, 2010 and I think that I may have fulfilled that one wish I had at that time. I'd like to continue being that person, but I am open to other possibilities and not holding to the bike strictly on principle anymore. I have accepted that you can choose other modes of transport and still be acting responsibly. But keeping the bike as my primary, personal mode of transportation will keep me grounded and focused on what is important.

Monday, January 23

On Being Gruntled: Time After Time

Part of my disgruntledness of late is due to feelings of being trapped in a routine and within a societal framework which I just don't think makes much sense.

Within the context of my thinking of late I came to an interesting realization sometime between last night and this morning. While I don't hate my morning commutes, there are days I find it very difficult to motivate myself to get off the couch and pedal in. Many days I wait until the absolute last minute—or sometimes even beyond the last minute—to head out the door and pedal in to work. What I've realized is that when there is pressure to make my commute within a set timeframe it is far less enjoyable than on those days when, for whatever reason, I get out the door early and can either take a longer route or take my sweet time getting there.

My magic bicycle commuting talisman is the memory of all of those horrendous commutes I made back when I was wading through my undergraduate sentence. Twice a week for a few years I drove 50 miles to work at UPS early in the morning, then I drove about 35 miles from work to school and then after a full day of classes I drove 45 miles home. I absolutely hated those days. I felt free on the days I didn't have class; just doing the 50 miles to work and then 50 miles home. I remember one day as I drove my triangle commute I calculated my daily miles in my head. I vowed I would never miss that commute, and that I would never make a conscious decision to put myself back in that sort of situation again.

So when I am really struggling with finding the motivation to ride I always try to think back to that moment and relive it. I try to remember how it felt to spend about two and a half hours a day in the car. I would much rather spend two and a half hours on the bike in any kind of weather. Front Range winds, thunderstorms with hail, lightning storms, snow, ice...you name it, I've faced it down. And I've chosen discretion over valor at times when it was just not safe to be biking out in nature.

Back to the timing of my morning commutes...cutting it close stresses me out. Giving myself extra time significantly reduces my stress and lets me enjoy an activity that should be thoroughly enjoyable. The same can be said for my evening commutes, though there is typically less pressure to get home in a certain timeframe. And when there has been pressure to get home or to an appointment by a certain time I know I've been more stressed and have enjoyed the rides less.

The time crunch is part of life. I can't bemoan the necessity of needing to get to a place by a certain time. It helps to realize that I can mitigate the effects of a stressful ride by giving myself more time.

Of course this morning I waited until the last second to go out the door. And then I got to the end of the street and thought I had forgotten my employee ID. I hadn't...


GACK! Leadville is 200 DAYS AWAY!!!

Saturday, January 21

Eldo Kiddos


"Yes Boone?"

"Can we go climbing today?"

I. Love. My. Son.

Mandy had play practice at school and rode her Giant up to Westminster. So I took to kids to Eldo (Eldorado Canyon) and we climbed around on the Whale's Tale. We didn't have a lot of time, and got to the base of the formation after the sun had creeped out of the canyon.

Lily actually climbed 60 or 70 feet. She hiked up to the anchors and stopped. When she turned and looked around she...freaked...out. I mean, she's turning five on Monday, but she's just not used to being up so high on the side of a rock.

They both claim they had fun, and Boone wants to go back tomorrow, though the weather is supposed to be cooler. We may just go hiking somewhere tomorrow afternoon.

Of course Boone and I discussed the possibility of biking up to Eldo for a day of climbing later in the year. We're gonna do it man!

I also renewed our annual pass, so we're set to go to Elevenmile, Golden Gate Canyon, Eldo, etc, etc.

70 feet up the West Face of the Whale's Tale

Friday, January 20

Energy Slaves in the Kingdom of Surreality

Ages ago, a play on words in my head evolved into an idea.

Surreality is the perception of reality through a filter. Personal perspective. Your beliefs. But I like my word: surreal + ity or sur + reality. Surreal reality. It is a sensical word, in that things can seem real or surreal. And we consider the things that are real as reality. I have this concept of Reality versus Surreality. Reality is the same as reality. Take a textbook definition and you have "a real thing or fact." Reality/reality is the incontrovertible facts.

Forgive my self-indulgence for a moment and please bear with me. I was pondering random things as I rode to the rec center from work last night and that's where this line of thinking came from. Well, it was the culmination of different lines of thinking over several days. Don't even get me started on my recent reading of Ursula K LeGuin's The Dispossessed.

I was thinking as I left work that I was leaving the Surreality of a contrived life and stepping out into the reality of Reality to ride my bike home. And as I descended away from work into the affluent neighborhood on the south end of Illinoising in Golden a motorist blazed past me in the dark. The speed limit there is 25 and I was doing a cool 20. The driver must have been pushing the gas pedal hard enough to make the car go at least 40 mph. And I thought of it in exactly that context. Small movements having big impacts on the world (pushing a gas pedal) and big movements having small impacts on the world (pedaling a bike).

Then my concept of Reality vs Surreality hit me full in the face. Luckily I had a firm grip on my handlebars.

What connected it all to me was this: when the motorist blazed past me in the darkness I was enjoying the fine, clear evening. The sky was amazingly clear and it was just after sunset. The air was unseasonably warm and I was just enjoying the Reality/reality of my ride. The motorist had never escaped the Surreality. Probably not once throughout the entire day.

We woke in our homes in Reality, both of us, and got ready for work. There was an expectation of time, that we both needed to be at our workplaces at a certain time, except that that time has no bearing on reality and is in fact a contrivance of our society. It does not correspond with the sunrise, with the circadian rhythms of those subject to it, or with any natural patterns. When we allowed ourselves to be subject to the artificial construct of a "start time" we entered the Surreality.

If we drive a distance that is not scalable on human terms we are living in a Surreality. The problem is not that things are so insanely bizarre, but that the insanely bizarre things that occur have become commonplace enough for us that we see their continuance (to our benefit) as a right.

Those of us that are part of the Oil Generations have come to believe that our continued access to nature's treasure trove of energy slaves (fossil fuels) is our birthright. That access to oil, coal and natural gas is our Right. As long as we live with this misconception, this Surreality, we are little more than slave masters, diverting our energy needs to the individuals of humanity that will live on this planet not too many years hence.

We should be counting our energy needs in "human power," not "horsepower" or watts or joules. If we measured our energy usage in human power we could not ignore the stark reality that we're robbing life energy from future generations. Even the term "horsepower" belies our natural tendency to employ energy slaves.

I was engaged in Reality as I rode my bike home. I was empirically experiencing the world as it exists. The motorist was locked in Surreality, speeding through darkness, heedless of the potential energy they were building up, heedless of the Reality that other people were using the roadway and adjacent areas with less protection from the reckless potential energy build-up.

And I've felt this sublime truth before. I've walked from the building where I work out to my car and have marveled in those brief moments about the beauty of the evening, the "unreal" quality to the light and air. And then I've gotten in my car and growled my way home in traffic, quickly forgetting the natural world that I experienced only for a brief moment. But the natural world I glimpsed was Reality, my movements took me from Surreality briefly through Reality and back into Surreality behind the wheel.

Riding the bike it has been easier to revel in those longer moments, but I am also in danger of being ripped back into Surreality by having to interact with traffic. Traffic follows no logic, no reason, no care for others. And I now believe that is because we allow ourselves to stay in the state of Surreality long after we've left our places of employ.

We no longer pursue professions or trades. We simply occupy space and collect vouchers for more energy slaves until we can't stand the space any more. And we carry these feelings into our vehicles of transport because deep down we don't feel right about them either. Moving so fast and so far is not something that is Real for a human being. Don't get me wrong, it is exhilarating, but our minds were not designed to be exhilarated all the time.

I should refine this idea, distill it down into something more concise and coherent. There are so many different related issues that I could flesh out and explore. This was just the easiest one for me to tackle. I banged this out kind of as a free write as I tried to recapture my thoughts from last night and then the new ones from my ride this morning.

And honestly, I think if I could just capture my stream of consciousness in text—with some kind of neural transcription machine—I would be such an amazing writer. I do my best thinking on my bike, or hiking, or climbing, or whatever, as long as my body is constantly moving I tend to be able to order and arrange my thoughts into amazing mosaics of ideas. But the moment I stop to jot them down the ideas fail to hold together and flit off into the ether faster than I can write. In these rare moments when I can remember a strong enough thread to grasp back onto and pull hard I can sometimes recreate a portion of the ideas.

I think well in space, not so much in time. I am the farthest thing from a mathematical thinker as you can get.

One last (sort of) related thought:

We're in such hot pursuit of our wants that we neglect our needs; so then we think we don't have enough.

Enjoying some Reality

Thursday, January 19

Do-Over Week

This week, Tuesday was a Monday and things have gone downhill since. We found out Tuesday that our family dog—Roger—died back in Kentucky. When we moved he stayed behind.

Our landing was uncertain in the beginning, and we were fairly certain we were going to touch down in a small apartment. And we did, and bounced into a second one before coming to a halt in our modest ranch with a modest yard. By the time we had room for the big lug he was ten years old. We just couldn't justify moving him so far, into a drastically different environment, only to have the kids get newly attached to him and then watch him die. Ugh! Was it a good decision? I can't say. I wish he'd been with us this past four years, but I know it would have been very difficult for him and for us.

Anyway, I started out the Tuesday-disguised-as-Monday with a flat on the Cannonball. That made me late for work. Once I finally got settled in I checked my personal email and found the message from my mother-in-law about Roger. It hit me harder than I expected it would. By the time I got home Mandy and the kids had just found out. They were understandably distraught, and I could finally start to process the reality and deal with my own feelings about the matter.

When I got home I noticed an odd pain in my right knee. It felt distinctly like the tendonitis I've suffered with in my elbows since my days of hard core bouldering. This is something I've been fearing all this past year since I've been totally dependent on the bike for my transportation. Chronic pain, chronic damage, is not something you want to be a factor when you depend on your body for your daily needs. But in trying to console my family and myself I ignored the pain. By bedtime I was noticing it more.

I was on the fence the night before, but I was planning on riding. That is truly the best strategy: plan on riding, have a backup plan. In the morning, Mandy and I lay in bed in the pre-dawn gloom discussing whether or not to send Boone to school. His class is reading Because of Winn-Dixie. At least it wasn't freakin' Where the Red Fern Grows, or Old Yeller!

Anyway, it would have been just fine with me to stay home with Boone, give my knee a rest and let him have a mental break to deal with his grief. But in the end I screwed up my courage and acted "grown-up" and decided he'd go to school and I'd go to work. But there was still the issue with my knee. The pain was mild, but distinct this morning. I'm hoping against all hope that I just overdid it on Monday riding out to Coal Creek Canyon and that this is not the beginning of tendonitis. Or worse. I don't mean to sound like a Debbie Downer, but being a realist, it is a distinct possibility.

In the end, to balance reality and my fears, I opted to carpool. The forecast for Wednesday included 90 mph wind gusts in the western metro area. And to be honest, I didn't even factor that into my decision making. Maybe if nothing else had been going on I would have considered that, but I had enough to deal with without even thinking about the wind.

By the end of the day yesterday my knee felt better, there was only the specter of pain. I'd been planning on going to the Arvada Sustainability Advisory Committee Meeting last night. Seems I got my dates messed up. The meeting was last week. Ah well...there's always next month.

My knee(s) felt much better on my ride in this morning. I took it slow and easy, and because I am a cyclo-ninja I was able to dodge the wind all the way to Golden.

There's a lot of other stuff going on in my brain that I don't want to commit to the permanence of the internet. Needless to say, I want to go back to Monday and do a do-over. I would even be willing to give up my MLK holiday to start over fresh and just have a normal week.

Tuesday, January 17

A Peak Oil Elevator Conversation

This past Friday I had my second class along the path to a professional certificate in the Sustainable Practices Program at CU Boulder. One of the assignments was to write a quick elevator conversation imagining that someone sees you reading a magazine article about sustainability while waiting for an elevator. Of course, I chose peak oil as my "sustainability issue" and drafted up a quick conversation. I wasn't entirely happy with it, even though I mirthfully ended the write up with: "Argument won by the fifth floor." We were hypothetically supposed to be going ot the tenth floor.

In my original elevator conversation I tried to ask questions, but I didn't give the other person much opportunity to respond. I think I did repeat my main message—that the evidence for peak oil is everywhere—by pointing out easy to see indicators such as the dogged pursuit of unconventional extraction methods and sources. While I know I'm not the best face to face conversationalist/arguer, I decided I would share my final rewrite of my peak oil elevator conversation here, just for fun.

Stranger [pointing to my magazine]: So what do you think about peak oil?

Me: The evidence is apparent. Political policy and the global economy point to a rising cost for oil and other fossil fuels. Those rising costs permeate all facets of society.

Stranger: Nice conspiracy theory!

Me: I thought so at first too. But if you look at the evidence you begin to see some startling patterns. Why is the price of a barrel of oil averaging significantly higher than in past years as we begin tapping into unconventional sources? Why are we exploring those unconventional and more expensive methods for extraction if the cheaper, conventional methods still exist?

Stranger: But the tar sands and and Bakken formation oil booms are good for the economy.

Me: The energy return on investment isn't good for the economy. It takes almost as much energy to extract those unconventional sources, such as the oil sands, the Bakken fracking, deep water wells and the like, as they provide. When it takes more than a barrel of oil to produce a barrel of oil we are working at a loss. Of course someone will still be benefiting from the process...for a time. But in the long run the pursuit of tar sands is futile. The firms pursuing those expensive techniques are doing so in hopes that oil prices will remain high, or go higher, to justify the exorbitant costs associated with those unconventional operations. Do you think the firms making those high risk decisions are basing them on the reality of peak oil, or because they're just naturally reckless?

Stranger: But these methods will help us become less dependent on foreign oil.

Me: Not completely. In 2009 the US consumed over 18 million barrels of oil a day. Bakken is estimated to yield only 2 million barrels a day. And the Alberta tar sands are technically a foreign source regardless of their yield. Regardless, our consumption continually increases while our ability to produce oil ourselves continues to decline. Because, let's face it, the US passed its production peak back in the '70s, as predicted by M. King Hubbert. We have long lost the ability to meet our own needs without seriously cutting back our consumption.

And think about this: as sources of fossil fuels become more scare, competition for those sources is going to become more heated. China and India are growing at an alarming rate, and even as their demand for oil rises, so does ours. How do we decide who gets the dwindling supplies of oil?

Stranger [quickly, as the door opens]: This is my floor...

Me [calling after]: Have a nice day!

Would my "elevator conversation" be effective? I don't know. I've had few opportunities to talk about peak oil in face to face conversations. I no longer worry about being a conspiracy theorist. I do see evidence everywhere. And its not just quacks warning about the implications of the issue.

Monday, January 16

An Adventure in Cyclo-Mountaineering

The snow has finally started. It threatened all day as I rode. Now, I sit writing this, looking out the kitchen window into the friscalating dusk-light, I see flecks of snow flitting out of the gray sky. As I pedaled west toward Coal Creek Canyon earlier I could see snow pouring out of Boulder Canyon to the north and dumping on the People's Republic, and I could not see Golden—tucked behind North Table Mountain—for the white wall of snow screening it from view from the north.

Now I sit and reflect on the ride as my coffee brews.

My planned route turned out to be pretty good. There was some fast traffic on highway 72 west of Indiana, but there were shoulders all the way from Indiana to Plainview Road, where I turned around. On the east side of Indiana, from Kipling out, there are nice bike lanes along 88th (which turns into 72 at Indiana). I will definitely do the ride again just for the sake of the ride.

My reason for riding up to the mouth of Coal Creek Canyon today was to scout out the approach to Coal Creek Peak. Near the mouth of Coal Creek Canyon are three uber-rugged peaks: Blue Mountain to the south, Crescent Mountain on the north side and Coal Creek Peak also on the north and just east of Crescent at the mouth of the canyon.

I climbed Crescent almost four years ago via a very distinct southeastern ridge. The ridge has 1,800 feet of elevation gain in less than three quarters of a mile. That translates to an average 40ยบ slope. Very steep. Very hard. There was some distinct hard 4th class and easy 5th class terrain with some spectacular exposure.

Crescent Mountain blew my mind. It forms a very complex and formidable wall on the right as you ride or drive up Coal Creek Canyon from the plains.It looms over the canyon bottom in a deep, dark section of the canyon. Route finding is difficult because the south face of the mountain is so steep and complex you can't see the entire route from the base of the climb along highway 72.

Bagging that peak was incredible! The views from the summit ridge of Crescent are indescribable. And you can see the summit of Coal Creek Peak off to the east along what appears to be an easy ridge. But the flanks of CCP fell away in similar rugged and complex terrain, dissuading my tired mind from pushing my tired body over to it from Crescent. I would have had to descended unfamiliar Coal Creek Peak which looked to be a feat in itself. Instead I descended a nightmare gully of steep, loose talus and scree to the west of the ridge I climbed up.

In the years since my mind has wandered back to Crescent and Coal Creek Peak. Both peaks are surrounded by a jumble of private and public lands. Access is tricky and uncertain. But finally I decided I just needed to go back up there and scout out the access situation for the eastern point.

Coal Creek Peak juts up from the edge of the Rocky Flats plain in a steep, rocky, tree clad cone. You can't miss it from highway 93, but it still seems to be a bit obscure. There is Jeffco and Boulder open space on the southeastern side and the peak is circumscribed by the railroad on the south, east and northeast sides. From aerial photography there does not seem to be a distinct trail to the summit, but there is a recognizable south-east ridge that has softer contours than the other aspects of Coal Creek Peak.

A long uphill pedal, 13 miles from home and 1,200+ feet of elevation gain, saw me to the open space parking area along Plainview Road. The sun came out and shone on the prize. It didn't do much to take the chill out of the air, and I had the long descent still ahead of me.

Donning my balaclava and wool hat I cranked back out to highway 72, turned east and let gravity take me all the way back to Indiana. I had to pedal a bit here and there as 88th undulates along the south side of Standley Lake. And as I rode along I decided I'd swing by the city's recycle drop off point on Olde Wadsworth. Mandy and I have decided that even though our waste pickup doesn't take recycling we are going to take the initiative and do it ourselves.

Getting to Olde Wads from my return route took my east on 72nd from Kipling and then past Arvada Bike. I had to stop and show Richard the new setup on the Xtracycle. He helped me pick out the Titec H-bar and shifters after all.

"You rode that out to the mouth of Coal Creek Canyon today?!"

I just grinned.

"You need a road bike."

After leaving the LBS I headed home by way of the recycle drop off. Piece of cake!

The temperature seemed to have dropped all day. Of course that was the forecast. And I had only been home a little while before the snow started in earnest. Richard said it had snowed on and off at the bike shop all afternoon.

It was a good jaunt to the foot of the foothills. I now know what it will take to bag Crescent and Coal Creek from home on the bike. Let the cyclo-mountaineering fun begin!

Our Next Car

There is a reality creeping which ultimately must be dealt with. I've hinted at it in the past, but now I think I want to call it out pure and cold and watch it melt.

Our 1999 Subaru Forester, Forester Gump, is approaching 280,000 miles on the ole odometer. For now he runs fine. For now he serves our purposes faithfully. We cannot expect an indefinite term for our faithful family motor vehicle though. Life happens and cars wear out.

Where will we look next? Will we simply replace like for like? A new Subaru? It is the official Colorado State Car after all. You can't swing a skier by the tail without hitting a parking lot full of them around here. We've been driving Subarus since about 2003. And we like them.

There are a few lines of thought floating 'round our house on the future of transportation for the family. One thought is that we should go diesel so we can utilize biofuels. Our favorite mechanic adamantly denounces Volkwagens. We've discussed getting a Vanagon. Some friends have one, the second we've seen them with, and we covet it often. An old VW bus would be pretty cool too, but again, our mechanic would probably disown us. He already dislikes the fact that we own a Subaru. He's a GM man through and through.

So stemming from a conversation with him I came to the conclusion that a '90s era Jeep Cherokee would be a good choice. 4WD, family sized and dependable, a Cherokee would serve us well, though would be a gas burner and not fuel efficient at all. But we've so reduced our dependency on fossil fuels so far, I don't think we'd break the bank, so to speak, by going with a 6 cyl. Jeep.

And then there is the unspoken option of looking into other modes. Electric? Hybrid? Horse?

Our family transportation needs at the moment require us to have a vehicle. There is no way it would be feasible for Mandy and the kids to bike year round to school. There are factors which make it extremely difficult. I know my wife would embrace the opportunity if it was feasible for her, but the reality is that bikes just won't solve our transportation needs 100% at this time. The longtails do make it feasible for us to reduce a significant number of local and short trips though, and we are committed to doing so for as long as we can.

Car share is out for us, because the nature of our daily needs. We need a car daily, not just occasionally. Mass transit is a possibility, but not a favorable one for a mom with two young kids in tow. I know so many do it. I know many must live by the bus schedule, but unless we have no other choice I just don't think it would work well for us. Though I do think having better working knowledge of the bus routes would be a good tool for us to have, to make us more resilient in the case that we may not have a working car at some point.

As our finances seem to be somewhat improving, I wrestle with the prospect of getting the second car before the sole four wheeled vehicle in our driveway gives out. It's not a dire situation as of today, but it may become so in the next year. For now our arrangement works, and works fairly well with only the occasional hiccup. And we have the luxury of planning ahead for our next car purchase so hopefully we make the best decision for ourselves and for the future.

Saturday, January 14

Carpooling Our Resources

"The car became both a blessing and a curse in the early twentieth century as urban and rural populations in the United States either embraced the freedom of driving or were forced to adapt to the car's spatiotemporal trajectories." --Zach Furness, One Less Car

This week has been a low mileage week for me. We had more snow this week, and the snow came late in the day while temperatures plummeted. So I chose discretion over valor and caught a ride Wednesday and Thursday to work and I carpooled to class today. It would have been a rough 22 miles with the lingering surface snow from earlier in the week.

I used to hate the idea of carpooling because it took away from my overall mileage. But I've also come to value the opportunities to give my body a rest. So lately, when I can easily catch a ride, I have been doing so. So in this sense the car has been a blessing to me. My needs are not creating additional car trips, and I'm only taking advantage of the trips of others. I'll get to the broader implications of this at the end of the post.

Being a carlite, one car family makes it necessary to have backup plans. Getting back and forth to work using public transit is difficult for me, but as long as I make arrangements ahead of time carpooling has seemed to be a pretty effective tool.

So why don't I carpool every day and forego the bike altogether? For the same reasons many give that they want to continue driving over mass transit or vanpooling: I like my alone/quiet time and I like the freedom to come and go as I want and need. But the occasional shared ride doesn't infringe on my lifestyle choices too bad, and gives me an easy out when I would struggle with the motivation to plunge into a snowstorm.

Again, I'm not falling on my sword in shame because I have ridden in a vehicle for six trips this week. I could say that instead of accepting the kindness of strangers in the form of benevolent car rides that I should be riding my bike on principle alone and trying to convert my motorist friends to cycling, mass transit or walking more. I won't necessarily say that.

I came to Transition and sustainability through a desire to be free from the slavery of conventional thinking. I tire easily when it comes to trying to keep up with the Jonses, making sure I have the latest version of any electronic gadget and pleasing the masses with my conformity. Adding the bike to our transportation choices gave us more freedom and resilience. And now, allowing myself to carpool also gives me a low-impact option and makes me a little more flexible.

My journey has also impressed upon me the need to conserve fossil fuels by reducing my use of them.

I fully plan on exploring mass transit for my needs to get to school in the very near future. I have no fear of doing it, just some apprehension at the mechanics of figuring out the nuances. I have confidence in myself.

On a side note, the kids and I swung by Arvada Bike to look at a used Bianchi road bike they have in there. I like it okay, but I'm not sure if it would be one bike too many. As a married man I must always keep one equation in my mind: n-1.

N = the number of bikes that will result in divorce. Therefore, n-1 is the proper number of bikes to own. Would the Bianchi keep me at n-1? Hard to say.

While I was there Richard showed me another used bike they got in. It was a steel fixed gear bike. I'm not sure of the brand or model, but I liked it. I'm pretty sure the Bianchi and the black fixed gear would be at least n+1.

What I find completely unfair is that N equals a much higher number if you're a woman. Men have a much lower n value. When I'm king that will change.

Wednesday, January 11

Just Call Me Crazy...But Expect Retaliation

"Did you ride your bike today?"

I grit my teeth. I know that if I say yes the person will call me "crazy," and I've gotten to the point where that will offend me, and I won't keep silent. If I say no, then the person will gush "Oh good!" and go on as if I had been saved from certain death, but it won't end there, they'll go on about how I would have been crazy if I had decided to ride.

Ride Today? Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery

I'd like to think my coworkers are just concerned about their own greedy interest, like Thistle's, but I know they're not. There is no office pool where I work, just over-reaction to a perfectly sane mode of transportation.

I used to think they understood my riding. But this past cold weather season the slamming comments have gotten worse. Even from those coworkers whom I believe I have mutual respect with.

I've started calling people on it.

"It offends me when you say I'm 'crazy' for riding my bike."

But they don't take me seriously. And I am offended by it.

Four years I've worked in the same place, and four years I've been at least a part time bike commuter. The past year and I half, all through last winter, I have been a full time bike commuter. I've ridden in rain, snow, wind and blistering sun. I don't complain to my co-workers when I've had a rough commute, and in fact, I do as much as I can to mitigate the visual, auditory and olfactory impacts to them. It's just common courtesy.

And when they ask I try to be as frank as possible, without sugar coating the issue.

"Yeah, it was cold, but I was sweating by the time I got to work."


"It was cold, but I was comfortable once I got warmed up."


"Yeah, I got caught in the rain, but I had a rain jacket so it was no big deal."

The one plus I can claim from the whole affair, is that when the weather is bad, they do recognize that I'll be riding, that other people will be riding, and hopefully that makes them more aware as they drive in to work themselves.


For the record, I did not ride my bike this morning. When I woke up the snow was insignificant, but the wind was blowing. Since I won't need a ride home tonight because I'll be meeting Mandy in Golden, it made more sense to see if I could catch a lift with someone headed that way. So I made a phone call and arranged a ride. And then a half hour later, when I would have been halfway to work on my bike, the snow in Arvada started coming down fast and thick.

The snow has gotten worse since that time, and it would have been a long treacherous ride in, but I would have been fine.

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Tuesday, January 10

Trying to Be Friendly

League of American Cyclists style...

My town is applying for Bicycle Friendly Community status again this year. Last year it held a bronze level designation and hopes to bump that up to silver in the near future.

Arvada has a population of 108k, a land area of just over 35 square miles (which translates to a population density somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 ppl per square mile) and in the past five years has had zero car/bike fatalities and only 77 car/bike crashes.

There are 8,935 bike racks in the city; though there are not any businesses designated as Bicycle Friendly.

There are 96 miles existing and 38 miles of planned bike lanes, 55 miles of shared lane markings, 180 miles existing and 38 miles of planned signed bike routes, 116 miles existing and 17 miles of planned paved MUPs, and there are 25 miles existing and 20 miles of planned natural surface MUPs.

The City sponsors two Bike-to-Work Day breakfast stations.

Oddly, my commuting takes me instantly out of Arvada and through another town (Wheat Ridge), then an unincorporated area of the county and then through Golden, which is also a bronze level community.

Riding around town you can tell there is a difference between Arvada and other non-designated communities. Mandy and the kids work and go to school in Westminster, and to give that city credit, it seems as if they are making the attempt to be more bicycle friendly (recently put in its first new bike lane). But if you compare the existing streets in Arvada and Westminster there is a distinct difference.

Westminster is important, as is Arvada, because for major north-south routes between the Metro area and communities to the north, both are traversed. While topography plays a big role in the feasibility of north-south routes, there are some distinct connectivity issues in the entire Denver Metro area when it comes to north-south accessibility and in Westminster in particular.

Arvada could do better, but with a little research, the savvy cyclist can find a decent route up north and into Westminster. Lakewood, another bronze level community (though it doesn't compare in my estimation), lies to the south, but lacks good north-south routes as well. However, the South Platte and C470 bikeways provide good north south access on either end of the South Jeffco metro area (unincorporated Littleton).

What's interesting about the Denver Metro area (Denver proper is designated silver) in this context is that you can literally travel two blocks and see a drastic difference in municipalities and how they address the needs of cyclists. It is really a great case study on bicycle friendliness. Its the good, the bad and the ugly all rolled into one. And then of course you can take a day trip to surrounding areas like Boulder (platinum designation), Fort Collins (gold), and Colorado Springs (silver), and the above mentioned bronze level communities.

I really want to get out on the ground more in some of these communities and ride. I don't want to contrive visits, but to have real reasons to go and visit, or to pass through them. From what I have seen of Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs from behind the windshield, I can already see why they have achieved their higher recognition levels. But I want to experience those differences from behind the handlebars.

Looking forward to seeing how Arvada will fare this year...

Monday, January 9


In darkness I ride out of my neighborhood. Out on Ridge Road I catch the first sparks of sunrise over my shoulder, separating the land from the sky in a fiery line.

Most mornings the air is clear and the orange, yellow, red and pink clouds are a surreal backdrop to my journey. I continue on through Applewood and into Golden, and at some point there is invariably a moment when the quality of red light in the sky and the arid land around me makes it hard not to imagine I'm riding across the Martian landscape.

I enjoy my morning commutes because they take place during a time of waking, a time when the earth is changing from night to day, and a time of quiet and solitude.

Even when it's cold, my morning rides make me long for more commute and less work.

I should get up early more often on the weekends and go for sunrise rides or walks. When I was a teenager I remember someone talking about how special and amazing sunrises were and how much more rewarding it was to make an effort to wake early and watch the sun climb over the horizon.

And it is so true. Anyone can catch a sunset. There's nothing less visually amazing about sunsets, but the experience of watching or seeing a sunrise is different. Its something you own, something that is rarely shared and more often experienced alone, burned into the brain-matter in such a way as to quell the ability to articulate the memory.

Friday, January 6

Sustained Effort

As I headed off down my dark street toward my first class, "Introduction to Sustainability Coordinating," I was keyed up. I had 22+ miles of riding, some of it unknown, the effort needed unknown and a certain time frame in which to make my crossing.

Arvada was windy. That did not bode well for me, as I would have to travel through some of the windiest terrain in the area around Rocky Flats, 120th and east of Eldorado Springs.

Before I even got out of my neighborhood I was cranking furiously at an unsustainable pace.

I eased back, but the anaerobic damage had been done. It probably didn't help that I'd blazed through the darkness between Golden and Arvada to the rec center at a 17+ mph pace last night and then ran/walked for 20 minutes.

So I cut back on my pace as I neared Standley Lake. I was doing better, the sky was lightening and the sunrise was promising to be amazing. And then the whole affair almost came crashing down on my head. I cut across below the Standley Lake dam through the Big Dry Creek open space, aiming for a neighborhood on the north side and when I got onto the dirt path in the darkness I started picking up a lot of mud.

The last time that happened while I was riding the Xtracycle I ended up having to stop, take off the P-racks and dig mud out from between my wheels and fenders with a pair of pliers.

Thankfully that didn't happen this morning, but if it had gotten worse before I got off the bike and walked it through the weeds I would have ended up being late. As it was, the mud-caked tires slowed me down significantly for a good portion of the next leg of my ride.

The next leg through suburban hell...

I got turned around in the neighborhood, backtracked a couple of times on the winding streets, disoriented in the darkness, dodging early morning motorist commuters...

Speaking of which...does it seem odd that when suburbanites are leaving their neighborhoods in the mornings they go like their pants are on fire, like they have to escape the 'burbs at any cost? But then in the afternoon/evenings when they are returning to the cluster of cul-de-sacs they go just as fast, as if they found something worse they needed to escape during the day? Like their jobs? Anyway...

I found myself caught up in school drop off traffic near an elementary school and it was the largest snarl of traffic in such an innocuous place that I've ever seen.

But then I was free of the suburban hell and pedaling up a wide, four lane road with 35 mph speed limits and little traffic through an office "park". Of course every single one of those few cars tried to smash into me. Crazy cubicle dwellers!

I crested Simms at 120th, cut west to the City of Superior open space I'd used to get to the Dirty Bismark and with little further stress made it through Superior in about two hours from home. I had less than an hour to get to class!

The ride into Boulder was uneventful from there. I slipped in covertly, like a Cold War era spy into the former Soviet Union, and immediately began enjoying the low hanging fruits of a Platinum level Bicycle Friendly Community. As I cruised along into town the sun had finally broke over the horizon and splashed across the faces of the Flatirons.

And then I reached the building where my class was to take place. It had taken me 2 hours and 20 minutes to travel 22+ miles and I was beat.

An hour into the class my legs started to cramp, so I grabbed a complimentary banana and sucked down enough water to draw attention to myself.

The class was great, it gave me some good direction, inspiration and the right amount of confidence in my own thoughts and I can't wait for the next class. Our instructor let us go an hour early, at 4pm, and I was very thankful, as I was kind of dreading the ride home, knowing I would be riding a good portion in complete darkness.

And then in a moment of exquisite serendipity one of my fellow classmates, who happens to live within a few miles of me asked if I wanted a ride.

"Do you have a truck?" I asked--because you don't just sling an Xtracycle on a regular bike rack or stick it in the trunk--not imagining he would.

He said he did.

So the Cannonball X and I caught a ride down to Olde Town and I have a ride to class next Friday as well. It was the perfect end to a good day.

Thursday, January 5

Peeking at Peak Oil: The Un-Corking of Hormuz


We've been working toward moving troops into Israel over the past few months. I saw a headline on RT.com, just after my previous posting, and had to investigate a little further. A quick google search revealed that not a single US mainstream media outlet was carrying the story with enough prominence to pop up in a google search. On page 8 of the results of my search I found a blurb in a Ron Paul-related forum from this morning.

I tracked a little further and found a story from the Jerusalem Post dated 12/20/11.

It is highly disturbing to me that we are moving to bring about "the deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel" and "the establishment of US command posts in Israel...with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East."

What large-scale conflicts? We've pulled out of Iraq. We're still in Afghanistan. The Arab Spring has spread across the region and we dare not get into the middle of those scuffles. Iran. Simply, Iran.

Of course the Iranians see it as posturing for said large-scale conflict. They thump their chests. We thump ours. We bump our chests together and the fight is a nanosecond away from erupting on the world stage.

And what exactly are we fighting over? The EU wants to impose sanctions because of Iran's nuclear program. Of course, all of those countries already in the Nuclear Club, or tight with those who are, don't want to let anyone else into the club. Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that ANY country should that currently does not have nuclear weapons should be developing them. And we should be doing everything in our collective power to eliminate ALL existing nuclear weapons on the planet. But how pretentious is it for the nations with the technology to deny those without?

Of course Iran is angry. But they're also dangerous because they're different. Right? They don't pray the same way we do. They don't have a polarized democratic political system like we do. They don't want to buy as many cars, and Coca-Cola and iPads as we do. They won't play by our Corporatist rules. So they're dangerous.

So Iran is sick of the Western influence in their neighborhood. They're done being bullied by the West. Well, they have some leverage. They can put a cork in Hormuz.

Or can they?

The US is still a world military superpower, no matter what else. We have ships, aircraft carriers, submarines, tanks, missiles, bombs, stealth bombers, stealth fighters, F-22s, F-16s, F-15s, F-18s, F-14s, night vision goggles, laser guided bunker busters, chemical weapons...shall I go on?

And we're not afraid to shove all of those hi-tech weapons into the hands of our future and push them off in the general direction of some sand-eating camel jockeys. Are we?

Wait, I thought the EU was imposing sanctions? Not the US...

Oh wait, if Iran corks the genie's bottle we have vowed to uncork it. We need the magic-genie-under-the-sand's special liquid gold. Without it our pumps will run dry and we'll have to ground our F-14-through-22s. Our aircraft carriers will have to drift close to home, not along foreign shores. And how will we get to the mall?

Well, we've got until next Black Friday to figure that one out. Right?

And what about this lack of coverage of troops being moved to Israel as tensions heat up with Iran? How about CNN's censorship of a soldier (who supports Ron Paul) as he begins uttering the words that would reveal all.

Bad things are afoot.

Johnny-Come-Lately Goal

I wish I had thought of this a little sooner. But still, we're in the first week of the New Year, so why not tack it on as a goal for 2012?

Historically I ride a 50 to 55 minute commute over 9.3 miles. This is an average speed of 11.2 to 10.2 mph (please don't check my math!).

To do Leadville in less than 9 hours I need to average faster than 11.1 mph for 100 miles. If I'm barely beating that on my short daily commute I cannot expect to best that on race day.

Therefore, my goal for the year is to establish 45 minutes/12.4 mph consistently for my to-work commutes by the end of February. I realize this may be difficult if the weather is bad over the next couple of months, and that's why I didn't shoot for the end of January.

I need to set a baseline for my to-home commutes, but since they are downhill I am not as concerned with my average speeds home outside of establishing a certified Ramming Speed Friday (17 mph minimum).

I think I will increase the goal as winter wanes. Beginning in April I may ramp it up to a consistent 40 minute commute which would be a 14 mph average. By consistent I mean 4 days out of 5 at that pace on any bike I ride.

How will I achieve this goal? Strength training, combined with better attention to my pace as I ride. And riding longer distances-- it's going to take minimizing my normal commute as one of the shortest distances I'm comfortable riding.

Tomorrow is the big test: commuting to Boulder for class. I'm going to leave early to ensure I have plenty of time. I think I've got the best route pinned down with combination of least elevation gain and least mileage. I know what I just said about upping mileage, but until I know what works for a 20+ mile commute I need to be somewhat conservative in my effort. Typically I do far better in new territory than I plan for.

So with that in mind I should get into Boulder early enough to do some exploring. But if I don't...I still should have more than enough time to get where I need to be.

Wednesday, January 4

Peeking at Peak Oil: Dire Straits


Are we really going to go to war with Iran over oil? I think there is more than a distinct possibility that we may. I think tensions will rise, whether the swords are drawn, or just rattled in their scabbards.

Great, we've pulled out of Iraq. We never should have gone in. Afghanistan was a mistake too. History should have told us that. The British, the Soviets...both expended far too many resources trying to control that land to no avail. Afghanistan was unofficially known as "Russian's Vietnam" with all the negative implications that go along with that. As a direct result of our support of the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan against the Soviets in a proxy war against our Cold War nemesis, Osama bin Laden developed an intimate hatred of the US.

At this point I think we've stirred up the hornets' nest of the Middle East to the point that we will never be able to exact peace through any means there. We are the infidels, all of us in the West, and they only put aside their differences long enough to lob a few satchel charges in our direction before going back to punching each other in the faces. The timer is ticking. The bomb of Middle Eastern war is on the cusp of exploding and it doesn't matter which wires we cut, it's all going to go boom.

This morning Brent Crude is at $111/bbl and WTI is at $102/bbl. As tensions rise around the Strait of Hormuz those numbers are only going to climb. And climb. And climb.

Iran has long been our (as a nation) nemesis, and they refer to the US as their enemy. We supported Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War. We are staunch allies with Israel, the infidel dogs of the Middle Eastern mind, and we've armed them and stood behind them in every aggressive stance they've taken.

We could walk away. We could leave the Middle East to its own devices. Except we can't.

We are addicted to oil in the worst way. No amount of pandering to the American citizens about independence from foreign oil will ever bring about results, because instead of facing the facts of our addiction our leaders are just asking us to "buy local" from a different supplier. The addiction will not change, only the source.

Every President since Nixon has affirmed that the US must kick its oil addiction--in a bitter ironic moment George W Bush even stated that "America is addicted to oil"--and in the nearly forty years since Nixon said (on the day I was born) "...in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need..." we have made little progress in kicking both our habit and our dependence on oil from volatile sources.

So in 2012 we go stomping giddily on the gas pedals of our SUVs bound to go out in a blaze of glory.

If we go to war with Iran, make no mistake, it will NOT be because Iran has somehow wronged us by exercising some control in their own neighborhood. No, if we go to war with Iran it will only be because we are unwilling to seek peaceful solutions to our energy problems. War with Iran over the Strait of Hormuz means we are staking our permanent claim on the fossil fuel resources in the Persian Gulf region.

War with Iran will not end well. And we will not come out looking so fresh-faced and wholesome if we escalate tensions there to justify the conflict. Of course we'll sell any war with Iran as only reactionary and due in part to their intentions to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction. We've used that one in the past with some "success", though I have a feeling that excuse for going to war won't settle well on the stomachs of the American people again.

It was a stretch to pin 9/11 on Saddam Hussein, but pinning it somehow on Iran after all this time just won't work. I think perhaps the statute of limitation may have expired by now. And the bitter irony is that now, as we're seeming to commit to pull out of Iraq and scale back in Afghanistan, that we would be kicking dust in face of another Middle Eastern antagonist is unconscionable.

How does this factor in to a cycling blog? Well, the reality of peak oil is floating to the surface of mainstream media. The concept got some minimal press in 2011. 2012 might just be the year that it leaps into mainstream consciousness and starts getting some ears tingling. And peak oil means that a lot more people are going to be riding bikes in the future than are riding them now.


I wanted to reflect a bit on the book I've been reading for my class on Friday. The book is Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose: Doing Business by Respecting the Earth (2009) by Ray C. Anderson.

Instead, let me just include here a couple of quotes. In COARI Anderson acknowledges peak oil, he uses the term, articulates the concept and urges the reader to act accordingly.

"The very same oil that once created so much wealth and power has become a source of profound weakness."

"...I'm pretty sure that if all the perverse subsidies for oil, coal, gas, and nuclear energy sources were removed and the externalities incorporated into the prices, we might see much the same thing happen to them."

"Turning away from the frantic and thoughtless consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas will not spell the end of the world; it's the beginning of a new world of efficiency and clean technologies—and new fortunes."

"The cheapest, most secure barrel of oil is the barrel that is not used through efficiency, or nega energy."

"When paradigms shift, early movers win."

"Isn't it interesting that the price of oil shoots up as demand for it grows, while the prices of solar technologies fall as the demand for them grows?"

Tuesday, January 3

Commuter Counselor: Tell Me About Your Mother

Cannonball X, ready to go the night before

One of the keys to being a successful and consistent bicycle commuter, especially in winter, is to be prepared before you need to head out the door. Nothing will quell the best intentions like realizing at the last second that you've forgotten something crucial. And if most people are like me, they lack the motivation to get up early enough to get everything ready in the morning. I tend to forget important things in the morning that I would not forget the night before.

I realized early on that preparing the night before would ensure I would have an enjoyable commute. And from hard-won experience I knew that being ill-prepared could result in bailing and begging a ride or even turning around and heading back home. No matter how strong your resolve, getting a flat and finding out that you have no new tube and you're all out of patches can quickly kill a bike ride.

Your first line of defense is keeping the necessary gear ON THE BIKE; or at the very least all together and ready to go on the bike. You should always carry one or two extra tubes (in goathead country I recommend two), pump, tire levers, patches (because you never know) and a multi-tool. Know how to change a flat. Know how to do minor repairs that will keep you moving toward your destination.

I'm a bit spoiled on the Xtracycle, in the interior pockets of the FreeRadical I keep all of the above mentions things plus an extra leg band, rain pants, a map of the metro area and my u-lock and cable lock. Give me the capacity to carry the kitchen sink and I'll do it. But these things are always with me.

If you are uncertain about the conditions or your abilities have a bombproof backup plan in case you get either all the way or part-way to work and cannot return. I keep a spare rain jacket at work in case the weather changes unexpectedly when I had planned for sunny skies. I also (sometimes) keep spare tubes, chain lube and tools at work. I've had to patch tubes on my lunch break more than once.

Know the mass transit routes between your destinations. And no matter how heavy, make sure you have adequate locks to lock up and leave your bike for an indefinite amount of time. The one time you leave the locks behind you'll need to leave the bike somewhere and catch a ride home. Murphy's Law never rests.

My routine starts about 9pm the night before. Anything I need to take to work the next morning I pack in the bike or in my backpack. Wallet, keys, work ID, cell phone, etc. I get it all together on or near the bike. Then I get my riding clothing ready. After watching the weather at 10pm or in the morning I may amend my choices, but I make my best guess early. In very cold or wet weather I carry some extra things and I tend to keep those on the bike or in my pack. Extra gloves, dry socks, balaclava, ski goggles, etc, all stay on the bike during a stretch of nasty weather.

I also try to anticipate any drastic changes through the day. If its 30F in the morning, but will be 60F by my evening commute (this is the Front Range, it can happen) I make sure I have a t-shirt, lighter weight pants or shorts and non-wool socks for the ride home. And again, I keep a few emergency spares of certain things at work.

You should also keep your bike in good working order. If you rode the same day and your bike was working well then you should have abundant confidence concerning the morning's ride. If you haven't ridden the bike in awhile then give it a once over before bed. Check the tire pressure! Make sure nothing is loose, out of adjustment or nearing failure. And again, double check and make sure you have the ability to fix a flat and keep moving.

Once all of your gear is ready, the bike is ready and you are mentally prepared to get up and go the next morning then you're ready for bed. Sleep the sleep of someone who has the deck stacked in their favor and wake up ready to pedal into a harsh world with a surplus of confidence.

Monday, January 2

Non-resolution Joinings

First off, I want to encourage any of you that have been Yehuda Moon fans in the past to pony up and join the Kickstand Club. I was a big Yehuda fan starting about a year ago, and I enjoyed the free comics online until Rick (Smith, the creator) announced he was going on an indefinite hiatus. I was saddened, and somewhat shamed as I thought that as much as I loved the comic, made reference to it and share it with those around me I never contributed financially.

Well, I got my second chance. Beginning today, Yehuda has returned and Rick and company will be putting out strips M-F. You can join the Kickstand Club for, get this, ONE DOLLAR A MONTH!

I did, and you should too, if you love the comic and read it often. It's great to get to enjoy fun things for free, but the guys who write and draw the comics have to pay their bills too.

Anyway, this year is looking good so far. Mandy and I went for a walk this morning and we got to talking about potentially joining the local rec center. Before we moved to Arvada we were members of the Golden rec center and we definitely got our money's worth. As we were talking about it I got an idea: we'd ride our bikes over, seeing as how the weather was much improved today, and get some of our questions answered.

So after lunch we rolled the four and a half miles to the Apex Center over on 72nd and after satisfying a couple of concerns (mostly regarding child care) we signed up for three months.

We didn't think about today being the day other people were taking similar steps related to beginning of the year resolutions. Oops!

Our joining wasn't resolution related. We'd just not been members of a rec center for quite some time and we missed it. We went a lot when we were members at Golden. We didn't even live in Golden. I did get a discount because I am a County employee, but we had an eight mile jaunt through the snarl of the western suburbs to get there and we went like clockwork.

Mandy and I loved it, the kids loved it and it was an important part of our lives for a year. And then they cut back on the hours they offered child care during the summer and we just couldn't make it work. So we dropped our membership. Then we moved to Arvada and discussed joining at Apex, but until just recently money had been a little tighter.

It was time though.

This will change my evening commutes. If I meet the family over there after work and then ride home my mileage is going to go up significantly.

This month, at the very least, is going to be full of new routines and new roads pedaled. We had a good ride today over to the rec center with the kids. Total family trip miles so far? 36. We're off to a good start.

Sunday, January 1

What to Expect on the Pavement's Edge in 2012

So looking forward, I want to lay out the map and point you to the route I hope to be taking in the coming year.

You're going to hear even more about Transition and Resilience in the coming year. You'll see more here, both in the context of cycling and otherwise, concerning my family's transition to less oil dependency and more self-sufficiency. Part of that will be in regards to growing our own food and finding local options, and part of that will be our everyday adventures that we will use to build our confidence, our fitness and our independence.

I had deemed 2012 the Year of Sun Powered Transportation. Yeah, I'd hoped you'd forgotten, but just in case...

I'm not going to contrive some dietary restrictions even more onerous than most religions would mandate. Instead, I am going to focus on keeping it on two wheels, buying local, buying smart and building resilience. We can still call it the year of Sun Powered Transportation, but let's forget those contrived rules and goals I set for myself. I'm not giving up on any ambitious schemes, I just think the schemes I came up with a couple of months ago were somewhat unrealistic.

I will continue my daily commuting by bicycle. As a family I think we'll do even more riding and leaving the car sit idle. Our poor Forester Gump has almost 280k miles. We need to let him rest as much as possible lest we be forced to put him down. So you will be seeing a few (hopefully a lot) posts beginning with "Car Free Weekend:"

My mind tosses ambitious ideas up against the inside of my skull, and I think I will start letting a few of those get tossed into the light to be attempted. I think when the weather improves we'll take a short, overnight family bike tour. I know we can do it.

Once the family is free from school for the warm season we'll be getting out even more often. I think we should plan at least one big family bike tour (3-4 days), and to pull it off we're going to need some smaller successes. We're going to need to work out a system that works for all four of us.

To gain the fitness levels I want in 2012 I must improve the quality of my diet while increasing my activity levels. I know, everyone tells me that I AM active. "At least you ride your bike everyday!" they cry. But I want to go beyond that. I want to achieve the fitness levels I have sought my entire adult life. I want to be strong, long-suffering and just plain fit. And I want to take my family with me.

There will be some long suffering.

Mandy had expressed the desire to do a duathlon or triathlon. Since I am such a wretchedly slow swimmer I agreed to do a duathlon, so we're planning on doing the West Side Duathlon in September. As it occurs shortly after Leadville I should be in pretty good shape by then.

Outside of the cycling context I'll be working on a Sustainability Management professional certificate from the University of Colorado, Boulder's Sustainable Practices Program over the course of the year. I'm excited to finally be moving ahead with more education and NOT be pursuing a masters degree. My first class is January 6. My efforts at gaining new knowledge may distract my efforts here for a bit. I'm okay with that because I want to focus on quality here, and not so much on daily quantity.

Leadville is my main cycling goal. I haven't been guaranteed a spot yet, but I am very hopeful. In training for Leadville I'm going to have to rack up some dirty miles. There will be mountain bike commutes galore! Two schemes I have planned later in the year...1) Mount Evans from home: a Century with over 9,000 feet of gain, but all paved roads. 2) Kingston Peak from home: eighty miles with significant dirt portions to the summit of a 12er.

So few words to describe such magnificent suffering...

I want to recreate the Guanella tour experience. I'm going to convince Mandy (may already have) to do a similar trip, but to Stevens Gulch where we can strike out and summit the two highest peaks along the Continental Divide: Grays Peak and Torreys Peak. Ambitious, but I've been so close to the effort with my ride this past summer.

These are things I want to do. These are my schemes and plans. But as far as what to expect on this blog...

Hopefully I will exercise more discipline in my writing. I've outlined goals for myself for the blog for the coming year in an effort to craft this space into a quality cyclo-blogging experience. I am going to try to be more journalistic in my approach. I've wanted to do some interviews for the past year or so and I think this year is the year to do those. I will try and cover some more events with better images to go along with the write-ups. Of course I will cover the USA Pro Cycling Challenge as best I can this year. I'll improve my efforts from last year for sure.

I'm going to try and step out of my comfort zone a bit. My initial plan is to include some short fiction, both in an effort to mix things up and to motivate myself to hack out some finished pieces for mass consumption.

I'm going to ask for more input from my readers, maybe try to do something better than my lone lame contest. I'm thinking that the words "open source" should also somehow work to define my efforts in the coming year.

If none of this scares you then I invite you to follow my journey as I search for Biketopia, as I strive to improve my writing skills and as I share my everyday adventures here on the Pavement's Edge in 2012.

The road ahead...