Saturday, March 31

Tractorball X

The X got some good utility mileage today. I made two trips to Home Despot and the family went to Echter's. Wood for a shed has been ordered, plants were planted, and I made the second trip back to Home Despot to get replacement parts for the grill. So for the first time in a long time we had burgers (GRILLED!) and we were so tired we could hardly chew.

At Echter's we got two blueberry plants and two raspberry plants. Lily and I got them in the ground and then I finished up pruning the apple trees. We now have, in addition to the apple trees, two blueberry bushes, two raspberry plants, two blackberry vines, our garlic patch, some trial potatoes and strawberries that still need to be planted.

We haven't even really started on the vegetable garden yet!

And...I turned over 500 miles. The official tally for March is 502. That gives me a 380 mi/mon average for 2012. Not too bad considering...

I've got to say, the Cannonball makes a pretty good tractor. I hauled the four plants and a bale of peat moss back from Echter's. It then just made sense to haul the peat moss around the yard on the apocalypse buggy.

Tomorrow I need to do some much needed bike maintenance. The Cannonball needs a tuneup and The One has had a rear flat for a few days. I've got to get those sorted out. I also need to put Mandy's new tires on her road bike.

Ah, and how could I forget, I met a local cyclist named Jim at HD this morning and we talked bikes for quite awhile. I got to give him the under-the-hood tour of the Xtracycle. It's always good to meet fellow cyclists who have a similar outlook on life and cycling. Double bonus when they live in the same town as you.

Friday, March 30

Dramatic Resurrgence of the Moto-Fascists

I didn't want to do this, but the whole thing wrecked my afternoon yesterday.

I picked up Lily-Bean at Lindtopia and headed home. She'd had a sleepover so we had lots of gear lashed to the Cannonball. But it was no problem.

We had a relatively uneventful ride until we were almost home. As I approached the railroad crossing at Tabor and Ridge Road I took the lane. I've been doing that a lot lately because immediately after the tracks there is a hard right turn followed by a three way intersection. For most motorists there is just too much going on to give a cyclist the appropriate amount of attention. I've had too many drivers almost clip me because as soon as they hit the tracks they slow down to my speed and come on back over to the right, assuming they've completely passed me.

Today was no different, except that I had taken the lane. And as I crossed the tracks a lady, who I assume would be as nice as any elderly gramma-type person, passed me in the opposite lane as ANOTHER CAR WAS COMING AROUND THE CURVE.

I was angry at the lady because it was poor judgment on her part for passing in that location. The whole reason I take the lane is to eliminate (as much as I can) the possibility that someone will force me out of the road or clip me there.

The moto-facists were the couple in the oncoming car. Even as gramma was running both them and us out of the road the other couple was screaming at me, cursing and indicating that I was a blankety-blank and that I should get out of the road.

I was really hoping they'd turn around come back to finish the conversation. They didn't.

But their moto-fascist compatriots buzzed Lily and I continuously as we cranked on down Ridge Road. I was in a foul mood by the time I rolled to a halt at the Bikeport.

Of course when I got inside there was a story on the TV news about a man in Boulder who had spit on a cyclist. When the cyclist confronted him at the next intersection he brandished a machete and threatened to kill the cyclist. MFer's in jail now.

The apocalypse can't come soon enough.

The upside of my evening was meeting a fellow bike commuter at Home Despot. He was an employee of the Big Orange. As he helped me get together a list of materials for a shed someone commented on my Salvagetti t-shirt. Turns out the Home Despot employee is a big fan of the shop as well and commutes on a fixie to HD. Then I remembered the flat black fixed gear bike I'd locked Minus up next to out front. So that was cool.

Today was the last day of Jeffco Schools' spring break. Traffic has been light all week (except for last night obviously); expecting that to change dramatically come Monday. Summer vacation can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, March 28

Wednesday Propaganda: Raging Climate Change

I've said it before, and I'll say it again for the record: I'm sort of a climate change agnostic. I don't deny something wonky is going on with our climate. I won't deny that humanity is pumping huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and ecosystems of the planet to great effect, and I don't believe God will save us from our own stupidity. Stopping just short of complete omnicide, we humans have the capability for massive amounts of destruction to ourselves and to the earth.

BUT...having said all that (while risking the complete confusion of people at the extremes of our political sliding scale) I don't think focusing on climate change is as productive as tackling other issues. Why does no one talk about pollution anymore? Why aren't we talking seriously about resource depletion? We have still have a hundred year supply of oil! Hooray. What will our grandchildren do to fuel their 2112 Corvettes? Oh, I forgot. Science fiction will take care of those problems. So we should buy more sci-fi novels so the sci-fi industry can create jobs? Something like that...

This month is going down in the record books as the driest March in modern Colorado history. Dry periods led to mass migrations in the past. Whole cultures vanished because of drier years in an arid climate. But modern man, no, we're pretty darn stubborn, and we ain't gonna budge no matter how dry it gets! Right?

The Lower North Fork Fire has burned over 4,500 acres. 28 homes have been lost so far. Two people are dead and one is still missing. 900 homes have been evacuated.

For comparison, the most expensive wildfire in Colorado history was the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder. It burned 6,181 acres and 169 homes were destroyed over 11 days. Fourmile occurred in early September of that year after a dry summer. We're still in March and facing a fire that could potentially exceed the magnitude of the most expensive fire in state history. The major difference is that the Fourmile Canyon area is/was much more densely populated than the area where the Lower North Fork Fire is burning now.

Day three of the Fourmile fire there was 0% containment. We're into day three of the Lower North Fork Fire and have 0% containment. In a parallel timeline, Fourmile will be 40% contained tomorrow and 56% contained on Friday. We'll see what happens with Lower North Fork.

Let's return to the driest March on record for a moment. It is, after all, our current reality. I've been in Colorado four years. I found good comparative data for the first three years, and then a figure for Golden for last year, and the local news station's report of 0.03 in Denver for this year. Not perfectly comparable, but close enough for argument's sake.

The breakdown looks like this:

March 2012
0.03 inches in Denver
March 2011
0.24 inches measured in Golden
March 2010
3 - 4 inches in the plains
5 - 6 inches in the foothills
March 2009
1 - 2 inches in the plains
0.5 - 1 inches in the foothills
March 2008
0 - 1.5 inches in the plains
1.5 – 3 inches in the foothills

Typically the worst fires are in the foothills of the Front Range. Fourmile, Buffalo Creek, Hayman and now Lower North Fork were/are all located in relative close proximity to the metro area and below the sub-alpine zones of the eastern slope of the Continental Divide. Fourmile was the most heavily populated and Hayman the least. Hayman was historically the largest area burned in the state and Fourmile was the most expensive with the most homes lost (to date).

And what about severe tornadoes in January, February and March of this year? If the climate's not changing, then I am failing to accurately remember my childhood. I seem to remember big snows (even in Kentucky) in the winter and tornadoes in the summer-ish season. I can remember clearly back thirty years.

So what does all this mean? Why am I rambling on about it on a cycling blog? Well, warming and drying trends are dangerous for a sprawling metro area in an arid region. Denver (and most other Front Range communities) pumps water from the west side of the Continental Divide as well gathering it from all available sources on the east side. Western water law is more convoluted than anything Congress can knot up these days.

If we don't reduce our impacts on the environment, if we don't cut back on the rate at which we're taking black stuff out of the ground and shooting it into the air, if we don't begin to live more in harmony with our environment the consequences are going to begin snowballing and approaching a critical mass.

We're staring down the gunbarrel of reality, and for the most part we don't even realize it.

I know a lot of people think its an imposition on their freedom to cut back. I mean, shouldn't we be free to drive as much as we want? But the best way to look at that is if we squander the resources and use more than our "fair share" then what about the "freedom" we'd be taking away from our children and grandchildren? And truly, the only way to know what our "fair share" is would be to go back and calculate "fair shares" after the resources are gone. Whoops! The generations that came of age between 1980 and 2020 used wa-ay too much! By then it's too late.

Go ride your bike.

Tuesday, March 27

Roasting Beans

At four o'clock on the dot yesterday I stepped out into the fresh air above Golden. Wait, that smells like...smoke...wildfire. Wildfire!

As I headed over to the babysitter's off South Golden Road to pick up Bean the normal backdrop to my commuting life was haze-obscured. I asked the babysitter if there was a wildfire and she said there were wildfires, plural, and it didn't look good. The wind was kicking in Golden around 4pm as well.

In fact, the wind blew me and Bean home in nearly record time: 35 minutes for a 9.5 mile commute with stopover for the pickup.

I went back out while Mandy was fixing dinner, Bean tagged along, and we got a few photos of the plume of smoke that originated from the Lower North Fork Fire, which is now over 200 acres. There is also the Sawmill Gulch Fire near Genesee and a fire in Larimer County. These aren't the first fires we've had in 2012 either. It's only March.

One thing these fires have done for me is to inspire a different twist to my bicycles-of-the-apocalypse story. More to come on that later.

I carried my camera this morning, hoping for a spectacular sunrise at least, but when I got over to Ridge Road, and had a clear view to the south, I saw that the huge smoke plume was gone. I'm hoping that means the fires are out.

UPDATE: Over 3,000 acres have been affected by the Lower North Fork Fire alone, and at least 25 structures have been destroyed. No word on if that includes outbuildings or if that number only reflects homes.

Monday, March 26

Could It Be Any More Monday...

...and not be the apocalypse?

I'm still feeling the effects of Saturday (for sure) and maybe Friday. I was absolutely not going to ride yesterday, but I needed to go to Home Despot and I couldn't justify driving the car a mile and a half. But I only rode a little over three miles and I took it easy.

I woke this morning with about eight hours of sleep under my head, and I still felt wrecked. Stiff, sore, tired...and I thought about calling in.

Some deeply ingrained brainwashing kicked in, and I threw down my better judgement. But I made one concession: I would not push myself to get to work in an expedient manner. I would meander, dilly-dally, amble, meander...wait, did I say "meander" already? Anyway, I would procrastinate, cruise, coast, ramble, chase my own tangents, drift, etc, etc.

Well, I got out the door late, and despite my inner-affirmation that I would not push myself I eventually was kicking at my normal pace, and even gearing down and standing up on the pedals to get into and through the construction on South Golden Road for the NREL Moss Street extension ahead of auto traffic.

When I crash landed outside the building I really started regretting my decision to not follow my initial instinct to call in today.

Of course, if I'd stayed home I don't think I would have rested. I'd have gone down to Home Despot, ordered the lumber for a shed and if they'd been able to deliver it today I would have started on that project. Not pushing pedals, but still wearing down my body and mind all the same.

On the upside of this hot mess I'm already over 400 miles for March and I have four commuting days left. I might crack 500 in the third month of 2012! And...AND the weather is looking fantastic into the dimness of the future.

I need a weekend from my weekend.

Sunday, March 25

The Leadville Chronicles: Hike-A-Bike

Part V

Was Saturday "Take Your Mountain Bike for a Hike Day?" 'Cause I did.

Oh, I tried to ride it. I tried really hard, but my body wasn't going to let my mind have the satisfaction. They don't get along so well.

The whole story began...

[wavy lines and cascading music]

...on Friday.

I commuted up to Boulder for my Watershed to Waterwise class on The One. The weather was perfect. I felt good and strong. But as I passed through Superior I felt sluggish. I actually stopped along Marshall Road to see if there was something wrong with the bike. Air pressure in the tires seemed fine. Maybe the front brake was sticking a little, but not enough to make me feel so slow.

As usual, the long downhill of Marshall Road wasn't the screamer it seemed it should be, further solidifying in my mind that I was running seriously behind. Then as I cruised along Broadway I noticed the Flatirons in full sun. Yeah, it felt late in the morning. I was going to be cutting it close...

I finally made it to the Wolf Law Building (LEED platinum) and locked up The One. Then I took out my phone to text my wife and checked the time. 7:55. I was supposed to be in class at 9:00am. I'd left Arvada at 6:10 because my last commute had taken 2 hours and 20 minutes. Friday I'd made it in a lean 1:45. I'd managed a 12.4 mph average, and the commute isn't flat.

Sustainable Practices Program, Watershed to Waterwise class, CU Boulder

The class was good, and at 5:00pm sharp I pedaled away from CU. I imagined that afternoon traffic and the mental and physical baggage of a day sitting in class would slow me down. I rolled into the Bikeport at 6:45. Another 12+ mph average!

Mandy and I went to the 9:15 showing of The Hunger Games in Olde Town. We'd both read the books over a year ago and had been looking forward to seeing the movie. It didn't disappoint.

It was a late night so we slept in on Saturday morning. Then sun never lets us sleep too late though, and as we lay in bed trying to decide what to do with the day she suggested I go do a training ride for Leadville. I was torn. I knew I'd pushed hard the day before. But I didn't want to pass up an opportunity to get in a good dirt ride. It was an easy decision, but I still wrassled with the balance: train or be productive, train or be productive?

Within nanoseconds after Mandy had suggested I go for a ride I had hatched a scheme. It was an ambitious scheme, and in my mind it seemed possible. Sometimes my brain doesn't correctly apply physics to the plans and schemes it comes up with.

The scheme? Ride from home to the foothills, White Ranch Open Space to be exact, and then ascend Belcher Hill, drop down paved Golden Gate Canyon Road, then head up Lookout Mountain and descend Apex Open Space, and then...move on down to Matthews-Winters OS? Mount Falcon? Green Mountain? Anyway, the concept was just to start north and work my way south until total system failure. Like I said, there is a disconnect sometimes between my schemes and reality. Sometimes I surprise myself and pull it off, but usually I bit off way more than I can chew. Of course, I try to build in minor successes within my schemes, so if I ultimately fail I won't feel as if the effort was a complete waste.

The problem was that I had to pass North Table Mountain on the way to White Ranch, and I decided to incorporate it into my scheme. Weh-heh-hell, that was a good ride in itself, but it didn't do much for my success in climbing up Belch Hill (White Ranch).

MTBer on Belcher Hill Trail, White Ranch OS

I walked the steep gully up the eastern gully to the Mesa Top Trail. At the top an older couple was taking in the view of the western suburbs.

"Nice day to walk your bike 'eh?" the gentleman asked cheerfully.

I laughed. "I like to get it out for a walk now and again."

I was tired long before I reached the lower White Ranch trailhead and started up Belcher Hill Trail. I kept at it, chugging away, for quite awhile, but eventually I came off the bike, and I spent very little time on the bike as I climbed up to the upper trailhead.

To my credit, there is a lot of technical, and sometimes loose, climbing. It's consistent, sometimes steep, and it just goes and goes and goes.

After a long slog, some riding, some hiking...lotta hike-a-biking...I finally reached the upper trailhead...with a rear flat. Well, it wasn't flat, but I had a slow leak and it was low.

Pumped it up and rolled out the road to the main road. Stopped and put some more air in the tire and then turned my front wheel toward the long descent into Golden down Golden Gate Canyon Road.

I was concerned that at the bomb-run speeds of a canyon descent, even a slow leak could be dangerous. I was trying my best to get down while I still had adequate PSI. When I reached highway 93 I was still doing good.

I rolled dusty into downtown Golden. The main drag was hoppin' and I hitched up The One out front of D'Deli and got in line. They have the best sandwiches anywhere in Golden.

I left D'Deli with a half sandwich (Italian bread, turkey, bacon, mozzarella, guacamole, mayo, lettuce and tomato) and two cans of Coke. My skin was crusty with salt and my body underneath felt hollow and weak. My D'Deli haul didn't stand a chance!

It was a bit ambitious to attempt such a ride after Friday's effort. I managed almost 30 miles on Saturday, but I averaged about 6 miles an hour. If nothing, the effort was a good benchmark, and next time I can improve on the effort.

I'm going to go back to portaging Bean to and fro. I've missed my commuting partner and I'm looking for a change in routine.

Thursday, March 22

Relaxed Speed Thursday: No Concept of Time Edition

Some scheduling finagling and I got out of work at 1:00pm this afternoon. Well, Bean was pukey at 5:55am this morning so her mom stayed home with her. Then mom started feeling bad, so I had to go to the rescue.

Unfortunately, as I blazed home in all of my (N - 1) glory, I failed to track my time due to an errand I had to run in Golden. I estimate I did the 11.7 mile ride in about 40 minutes. No Ramming Speed Thursday on Minus...

Since it was a midday ride I headed out of Golden on 32nd which was really nice. Then I jogged over to Ridge Road. It was the most countrified commute I could manage.

Tomorrow I'm back to Boulder; again on The One. I don't expect a Ramming Speed Friday either considering the heinousness I have to traverse to get there and back again. There's a lot of climbing, which will be absorbed deep in the musckles of my legs, and raggedy-rude traffic along Simms and then in Superior on McCaslin.

The upside is that it will be my first commute back from Boulder after class, and it will be in full daylight. Of course, surfing traffic at 5:00pm on a Friday afternoon in the metro area is like oiling yourself up with lemon juice and then wallowing on a pile of razorblades.

Assuming I survive the crossing, my lovely wife and I will be headed to Olde Town to catch a later showing of The Hunger Games.

And just so you know, we both read the series after she got her Kindle for the Christmas of 2010. We're no teenybopper-johhny-come-latelies. No, no way! We're hardcore aficionados of young adult fiction. Even though we're not young adults anymore. Well, I'm not. Forty. Soon.

My mileage is looking better for March. Assuming I'm not ambushed by wet railroad tracks before the end of the month, and I survive commuting back from Boulder, I should crack 400 miles for the first time in 2012.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 21

Sci-Fi Review: Memory Boy by Will Weaver

I recently read Memory Boy by Will Weaver to my kids. An apt subtitle might be: Recumbent Bikes of the Apocalypse.

The backstory is that Mount Rainier has been obliterated by a catastrophic eruption that made the 1981 eruption of of Mount Saint Helens look like a popping party favor. Ash has obscured the sky and coated the landscape. City life has become tense, and 16 year old Miles Newell and his family decide it is time to exit stage left from the Minneapolis suburb where they live and head to their summer cabin at Birch Bay.

Miles is a talented young man with a knack for both mechanical things and remembering conversations in intricate detail. As the story unfolds we are introduced to Miles, his younger sister Sarah and their parents: Arthur and Nat. We are also introduced to the Ali Princess, a vehicle of the apocalypse worthy of a Mad Max film.

Weaver describes the Ali Princess:

"Perched on her six bicycle wheels, the Ali Princess looked like a gigantic grasshopper poised to spring away at first touch—or a dragonfly ready to take flight. Down her center, like an exoskeleton, was a bicycle built for two. The tandem bike with in-line, recumbent seats had belonged to my parents...Attached to the main bike, like legs on a water-strider bug, were two regular bikes...Their pedals, chains, and sprockets were hooked to the tadem bike through a common axle...The Princess, shaped roughly like a triangle, had a cargo bay of four lightweight aluminum lawn recliners bolted to either side ofthe main frame and secured to a wire-mesh floor...Straight up from the center of the Ali Princess rose my true inspiration: the sixteen-foot wooden mast and sail that had belonged to my father's boat..."

Miles' family strikes out into the unknown on the Ali Princess. It's no easy journey they experience as they look for a refuge from the post-apocalyptic world of Memory Boy.

A parallel backstory is that of Miles meeting an elderly Mr. Kurz at a nursing home as part of a class project from before the volcanic eruptions. Miles listens with varing degrees of interest as Mr. Kurz tells of living in the woods on public land near the headwaters of the Mississippi before being tricked into the nursing home by his meddling family. When things don't exactly work out at the Newell family's summer cabin they head into the unknown to look for Mr. Kurz's hidden cabin.

The book seems to be targeted to young adults. The topics are serious, but not terribly sinister in nature. Having said that, I questioned my own judgment at times as I read the book to my five year old and my eight year old. I really doubted myself when my son asked me one day not too long ago: "Dad, is the apocalypse real?"

The book has a lot I like. It's post-apocalyptic fiction. There are bikes. Recumbent bikes. There's a secret cabin in the woods; and a bit of woodlore. I think the story would have been stronger with some more survival elements. As it is, there's a lot of good post-apocalyptic fare without going overboard. The characters still have one foot in the real world and have hopes of going back to "normal" one day soon.

While not the best post-apocalyptic work I've read, Memory Boy has a place within the genre and fills a unique niche. I have come across very few PA stories that involve natural catastrophes as the impetus for apocalypse.

I have to admit, Memory Boy inspired my current family emergency plan: apocalypse version. If ever we had to flee Denver we'd do so on the cargo bikes and towing the "apocalypse buggy."

In the event of apocalypse, trailer would be laden with survival gear and not wheelbarrow

Tuesday, March 20

Save the Cannondales: Another Rescued Classic


I get the distinct urge to begin a "Mid-90s Cannondale Mountain Bike Rescue." M9CMTBR? Doesn't flow off the tongue exactly.Or across the keyboard.

A few weeks ago a reader emailed me with the story of finding a 1997 M300 SE by a dumpster. Geez! Some guys have all the luck!

Mark M. wrote and asked what I would do with the Cannonball if I had it to do all over again. So I gave him my two cents, minus Xtracycle conversion, on how I would rebuild the Cannonball as a commuter/offroad bike.

I surprised myself with my response. Basically, the Cannonball v3.2 would begin here:

And I would add the Jones H Bar (necessitating a threadless headset), upgrade to the Alivio shifters, add at least a front disc brake with a fork change, possibly add a rear disc brake, better panniers, slimmer commuter tires and of course, the dazzling blue powder-coat finish I have now. And now in retrospect I would change the front chainring to include a bigger big ring. I've found that I don't really have a strong top end. The bike climbs like a billygoat, but I fight too hard to catch my roadie rabbits.

Basically, it would be the Cannonball X minus the X. And how could I leave off the X?

Well, I could see if I somehow found a better donor bike I might convert the Cannonball back to a conventional bike. But the replacement donor would have to be a really stellar specimen.

Mark M. seems to have found a good specimen for just a good all around bike or the donor for an Xtracycle conversion. My research shows that the 1997 M300 SE frame was still built in the US. No matter where it was made a free bike is a free bike!

Good luck with your new bike Mark M.!


In Peak Oil news: Newt Gingrich is a great example (but not the only one) of how out of touch our politicians really are.

"Contrary to popular belief, America has more energy than any nation on earth. All that's keeping us from becoming energy independent is a lack of political will to do so."Newt Gingrich

As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, some other factors will keep us from being energy independent: namely, the fact that we can't meet our own demand with our own supply. Infrastructure is as important as the resources in meeting a growing demand. The lack of infrastructure is one reason renewables haven't taken off faster. We lack the transmission lines from area with adequate winds and high insolation to the area where electricity is consumed in greater quantities.

But Gingrich, and the other panderers, fail to grasp that our energy problems can't simply be solved by drilling more or building more pipelines. We must diversify our energy portfolio, reduce our overall consumption, and look to better living arrangements than our current unsustainable suburban nightmare. Kunstler (and others) calls our suburban experiment the "greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world." We've pushed human-scaled development out of the picture and replaced our feet as the measuring stick with the automobile. Resilience ultimately comes by relying on, or designing for, the most simple and most reliable form of something. Walking, and human powered transportation, provides the simplest and most reliable mode of transportation, and if we had kept our units of measure in step with that in mind we wouldn't be in the energy mess we're in today.

Asking modern Americans to scale back is not an effort to quell freedom, but to return to sustainable levels of freedom; to accept the nobility of being good stewards of that which we've been blessed with.

The political rhetoric these days includes a lot of talk about "jobs." I am certain the reason for this is because the politicians recognize that a good number of their constituents have "jobs" pretty high on their to-do lists and care a lot about "jobs."

But the rhetoric does little to actually address or solve the problem of "jobs." It's just another empty word that gets included as a part of the campaign package in 2012.

In reality, should we preserve the jobs of today at the expense of future jobs? The jobs of our heirs? If we create "work" to give jobs to those unemployed souls of today, shouldn't we give heed to the total costs, now and forever, of those jobs? If we employ a person to drill that last bit of oil out of the ground to be consumed in the motor of a race car, or to make a few hundred more plastic bottles, or another iPad, is that job somehow more sacred than the jobs of the future that could have come about by the careful conservation of the last drops of oil?

I'm not saying we're about to run out of oil, but just using that scenario as an example.


In honor of it being the first day of Spring I give you a photo from last spring. So far I haven't seen much blooming here in Colorado, but reports from Kentucky are that everything is abloom.

Monday, March 19

The Stresses of Being a Car-lite Family

The car-lite lifestyle is awesome! I've been car-lite and car-free as a single person in a past life, and now as a father and husband my family is car-lite. We have just one motor-powered vehicle and a fleet of bicycles to fulfill all our transportation needs. When we can, we rely on the bikes instead of ole Forester Gump, but there are times the bikes limit us because of geography and meteorology.

While car-free would be a more noble goal to achieve, it is certainly a more onerous challenge at this point in our family's development. With a five year old and a (nearly) nine year old, getting through a Colorado winter with no car would be difficult to say the least. While we did try to arrange our lives in a more condensed fashion, when we were looking for houses nearly two years ago we didn't have the luxury of choice and were limited by financial constraints.

We looked for homes in a neighborhood that was less than a mile from where I work, where we go to church, and where we occasionally shop. The only housing options in that neighborhood within our price range were scary multi-family developments and one decent apartment complex with no vacancies.

The most proximate we could get to our daily destinations and be in our own home was 9.3 miles from where I currently work. That's not a huge distance; but still not walkable and still not a place of strength and resilience.

When we moved into the place we live now my wife home-schooled and my whole family stayed home each day. A few months later my son was enrolled in a private school and my wife began teaching there. That place is 9-ish miles in the opposite direction from where I work. Again, not so much a choice of geography, but one based on what we felt was most important for our family.

We're a bit scattered, especially for a car-lite family, but we make it work. I believe the majority of our car-lite-related stress is due to the scattered nature of our daily destinations.

You may ask: what is the nature of that stress?

When I say "stress" I don't necessarily mean spousal arguments. Part of the stress is on my shoulders, being the primary breadwinner and being dependent on the bicycle is stressful. What if I crash and seriously injure myself? In fact, that happened last summer, though it wasn't as serious as it could have been. What if I get sick? Hit by a car? Bad weather? The daily stresses of bike commuting are able to be mitigated, but that doesn't eliminate the psychological effects.

My wife feels the effects as well. The nature of bike commuting means my 20 mile round trip commute involves about two hours on top of the ten I spend at work each day. Her day with the kids is long and when I get home I hardly want to deal with real life, much less go the extra mile. Both of us are physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the week. There are things we want to do for ourselves and for our family that we can't find the time or energy to accomplish.

Those are the normal stresses. When our schedules and obligations have us going different directions we are often faced with transportation conundrums. When my wife has activities at school it is difficult for me to get home early if I need to keep the kids home. When there are activities at the school that involve the kids I most often have to opt out of participating or spectating, as making the 18 mile trip from work to school through the metro area between 5 o'clock and 6 is nearly impossible, and most definitely unpleasant.

There are many times we want to choose the bikes for our trips but are unable. My wife would love to be able to commute to work by bike, but the logistics are prohibitively challenging for her to do so. There are many days we would love to jump on the bikes to do activities with our family, but the reality is that we don't have adequate time or energy or good weather to pull it off over the distances we face. It is stressful to want to do the right thing and be unable.

And there's nothing worse than being all ready to take off and discover a flat, or some unseen factor that shoots the whole plan down, or a last minute change in the weather that makes the plan unfeasible with kids.

It's good we have a car, or I think at times our stress levels within the family would cause too much strife otherwise. As much as I hate to say it the car saves us at times. I know...I'm certain if we didn't have the car our "normal" would be to just ride. Just ride.

The reality is that being a car-lite or car-free family isn't all sunshine and rainbows. It's definitely harder than being a car-lite or car-free individual. But, having said that, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Facing the challenges of car-lite living makes us more adaptive, more creative and much more resilient. We save a lot of money by focusing on the bike as a fundamental component of our transportation solution. And we have a lot of great experiences traveling by bike.

Being able to face down adversity is a trait to be sought after and cherished; not one to be shunned. If we challenge ourselves beyond what our day-to-day lives throw at us, we will be able to deflect the disasters that come at us when we least expect them. It's not secret that Americans live relatively soft lives compared to much of the world. Our conveniences are a windfall directly related to our access to cheap and abundant fossil fuels. In the past we had an abundance within our own borders. These days we have access to an abundance of fossil fuels through dubious politcal and economic means.

I make an effort to reduce our stress. I keep an eye open for work opportunities closer to home, or closer to my family's daily destinations. I also look for better routes to and from our destinations. I am always remapping my world, looking for a better network of paths to and fro. Thinking, ever thinking...

Small and cheap (or easy) changes that can improve our efficiency of movement are key to reducing the stresses of the car-lite lifestyle. And sometimes, just the benefits alone offset the stresses. A good ride to town with the kids can wipe away the darkness of a bad commute.

Sunday, March 18

Mean Pink Machine

Got new tires for the little pink princess bike. Now it looks like a proper mountain bike:

Maybe we'll be Team Pavement's Edge at Leadville.

Saturday, March 17

Going Green

The kids and I rode our bikes to Olde Town to check out the St Patrick's Day Festival. Lily rode all the way there and back, except for about half a block after her front tire exploded. Got to fix that soon...

Thursday, March 15

Chainsong: Chorus of Man and Machine

I won't be commuting by bike to Boulder tomorrow, so this afternoon was my official last-commute-of-the-week. With my strong showing this morning on the ride in I was certain that being melded to The One with my clipless pedals would ensure a solid "Ramming Speed" pace.

I opted to detour over South Table Mountain, and that singular massive speed bump slowed me down. I don't know: mesa, headwind, hard morning ride followed immediately by leg-presses...I think I have a pretty good suite of excuses for not knocking down a Ramming Speed Thursday.

The One's chain is a bit dry. The One's Small Block 8 tires sing like a bluegrass tenor. Music to my ears...

Now that I have one each cargo bike, road bike and mountain bike I have come to the distinct realization that the mountain bike best suits and responds to me. With the change to clipless pedals The One offers the best combination of speed and agility while maximizing my transhuman potential.

Don't get me wrong, I feel uber-fast on Minus, but the road bike still feels squirrelly under me as I zig and zag through pre-dawn suburbia. Being on the more substantial mountain bike gives me the confidence to grind over any obstacle. I'm still waiting for my first crash on Minus. I know it will occur because I slam the pedals down, heedless of the squirrelly feelings, beyond what my proprioceptive sense can handle on such a speedy machine. I've nearly taken myself out by taking curves too fast and clipping obstacles on the outside.

On The One I feel as if I'm ONE with the bike, the earth, and with the Matrix. Er, something like that...

Anyway, have a great weekend!

They Grow Up So Fast

I went back to the eggbeaters this morning. I hadn't ridden in bike shoes in a long time. As much as I hate to say it, I think they contributed to a faster commute on The One. 45 minutes over my usual 50-55.

So is this the new norm:

Anyway, to less self-centered news:

My daughter has finally learned to ride her bike without training wheels. A little over a year ago she had learned (she was only four) but after two or three crashes demanded I put the training wheels back on. She went back to careening all over the place, tipping over on one training wheel as she barreled around curves, but never expressing an interest in committing fully to only two wheels.

Occasionally we'd ask her if she wanted to try learning to ride again, but she has gracefully (well, not really) bowed out time and time again. She does love riding her bike, and when we talk about going on a family bike ride she always assumes she's going to ride her bike along with us, when we typically mean for her to ride on one of the longtails.

Lily's first ride to town

The return from Lily's first ride to town

A few days ago we were talking about it again. The weather had turned nice, she's just learned to tie her shoes, she tears around on the little pink princess bike like a stunt rider; it just made sense.

She was game, so I put her on her "big girl bike," a larger Trek pink princess bike. The training wheels won't fit, so I had put the buddy bar on it last year. It's still kind of big for her, but she's grown quite a bit in the past few months, so I tought we could give it a try.

Well, the mud boots got in the way, and we just couldn't adjust the seat to a place where it was low enough for her to touch the ground but not so low that her knees weren't in her armpits.

After a few frustrating tries she decided she wanted to ride her "little bike."

I assumed she just wanted to ride, so I was headed back inside.


"Yeah, Lil'?"

"Can you take the training wheels off?"

So we took them off and mom and I stood back. It took a little while for her to get the hang of it. I think we took the training wheels off on Saturday and day before yesterday (Tuesday) something finally clicked and she was riding like a pro. There was drama along the way. There was suffering (She sufffers?). There was elation when when she managed a good run. For the most part we just stood back and let her go.

Tuesday night at sunset we went down to the park. As she chased after her brother going 'round the paved path, little pink-clad knees pumping furiously, pink snow-boots jamming up and down like pistons, she cried: "Sucker!"

There's a lesson to be learned in all this I'm sure.

Wednesday, March 14

Bikes Are Freedom

Our cultural mindset is that the car is a symbol of freedom, but the truth lies closer to the fact that personal mobility, in whatever form, represents freedom to the individual. Bicycles have been attributed as having been an important component of the women's suffrage movement, but, the automobile, had it come first in historical context, could have as easily been that great vehicle of change. The major difference is that the bicycle, at least these days, is far more liberating in an economic sense than the expensive to own and maintain automobile.

For those who do not have a great deal of so-called disposable income, the automobile becomes an oppressive necessity. It can seem like a ticking timebomb. That high school graduation gift evolves into a clunker after a few years of negligent maintenance due to serious cashflow problems. Who knows when the transmission will go? The water pump go out? Computer malfunction?

Working-class college students, and working-class high school graduates, rarely have the money to throw at mechanical problems, and suffer from a deficiency of time and resources to do the work themselves. And with the inclusion of more sophisticated technology in automobiles, the days when a poor car owner could tinker and intuitively solve any mechanical problems are long gone.

Instead of making cars more reliable and rugged, or making them easier to maintain or repair, automakers have gone the opposite direction and created infinitely complex pieces of junk.

On top of all of that, predatory "lot-financed" car loans, the societal pressure to own greater symbols of status in car form, and the perception that each adult-shaped person in the world should own a car compound the problems of complexity and the built in planned-obsolescence of modern car industry.

As a young man, I initially didn't understand why motor vehicles could not be built to be reliable beyond the term of the loan held by the initial owner. But it quickly became apparent to me that if each car owner in the Developed world owned only one car throughout their driving years then the automobile companies would fail to bring in the large sums of cash they were used to.

It makes no economic sense for automotive manufacturing companies to produce a good that never needs maintenance or would seem to have no reason to ever be replaced. On the other hand, it makes no sense for potential car owners to purchase vehicles that do not have a lifespan exceeding their own, yet this is where supply and demand fall apart. The demand is for long-lasting goods; the supply consists of only those vehicles that become obsolete in such a way that their replacement is nearly guaranteed at the sole expense of the purchaser. Does this sound like freedom for the individual?

It's no wonder that a free-thinking person would come to the conclusion that bicycle ownership—even a series of bicycle ownerships paralleling the normal number of automotive purchases—would be more economically feasible than individual car ownership.

I'd take a "lemon" bicycle over even the most reliable car any day. In a very short time period I have taught myself to do all of the normal maintenance tasks associated with bicycle ownership and many of the more complex or difficult tasks as well. No amount of DIY effort ever yielded an acceptable amount of reliability from any motor vehicle I've owned. You could make the claim that I am not mechanically inclined, but then explain why I can work on bicycles successfully.

With new car ownership comes a loan with interest, high-cost full-coverage insurance, parking problems, significant fuel costs, long-term maintenance costs, the reality of planned obsolescence, the potential that the purchased vehicle will not meet a variety of transportation needs and the perpetuation of a set of cultural ideals that are unhealthy for individuals and nature.

With new bike ownership comes simplicity, no liability insurance, hardly ever a parking problem, nearly zero fuel costs, minimal long-term maintenance costs, the beauty of a timeless design, flexibility to meet many different individual needs and the perpetuation of a set of cultural ideals that promote health and vitality, community, self-reliance, resilience and freedom.

I would vehemently argue that the car is not a symbol of individual freedom, but that personal mobility symbolizes man's freedom from the group. Whether freedom from the group is a desired outcome is elsewhere debatable, but if individual freedom is what you seek, then personal mobility by an efficient, reliable and economic means is the way to go. When you compare the Single Occupancy Vehicle (Motor) with the bicycle in any of its forms you will most assuredly come to the conclusion that a bicycle is a better vehicle to freedom than the motor vehicle. Personal mobility, in its simplest iterations, provides the greatest range of freedom over oppressive economic, social and cultural issues.

Once you own a bicycle you have little need for a massive infrastructure of petroleum extraction and refinement, very little beyond the occasional replacement tire, and you can travel thousands upon thousands of miles with far less cost and hassle than is involved with motor vehicle ownership. You become free from the concerns of rising fuel prices, fuel efficiency standards, traffic jams, parking shortages, and a host of other nightmarish realities that are the daily lot of most of your contemporaries.

These reasons and more are why the bicycle must be an integral part of any modern paradigm shift. It is a vehicle to freedom, and to change; the vehicle of the poor, the revolutionary, the enlightened, and the downtrodden. The bicycle carries the resourceful and resilient individual to a place of strength and power. No modern vehicle carries as much symbolism, as much empowering vitality, as the bicycle. For pushing on the pedals awakens your true inner strength and warms your muscles, both physical and mental, to more efficient action.

If you have any doubts, then you must make an experimental comparison and utilize the bicycle for a fair amount of time for the trips you would normally employ a gasoline powered monstrosity. Given an equal opportunity to perform, the bicycle is very likely to convince you of it's superiority.

If you're going to embark on my suggested experiment then I recommend that you do so astride a cargo bike. Cargo bikes take many forms. The most efficient and versatile are longtail cargo bikes such as the Yuba Mundo, Sun Atlas, Kona Ute and the infamous Xtracycle FreeRadical extension. The longtail rides like a bike, looks like a bike, and adds the benefit of a trunk and backseat to your two-wheeled machine.

Tuesday, March 13

Spring Cleaning

Okay, I know, I have thrown out some bloggular litter that needs picking up. I did a post on sustainable cycling touted as "Part I."

Where the heck is Part II?! you demand. Or III...or IV for that matter?!

I have no good answer. Part II is intended to be a piece on cyclo-centric companies that are committed to sustainability, beyond the fact that they support cycling which is only surpassed as a sustainable form of transportation by recreational jogging. I've got some preliminary research, but I want to flesh it out a bit more. If you could simply come by my house and encourage my children to clean their rooms without a parent having to dedicate much time suffering on the couch in front of the TV whilst yelling across the house for them to clean, just, for the love of all that's HOLY, CLEAN THEIR ROOMS!!! then perhaps I could crank out a few reams on the subject.

Or—alternately—convince my bosses to let me shirk ALL responsibility and write to my little heart's content. Or perhaps direct me to the job posting that reads:

Hack cyclo-blogger to spend days writing about various subjects. No deadline, no expectations. Will provide per diem, office space in Olde Town Arvada and large antique desk and Macbook.

Qualifications: See above.

Duties and responsibilities: Total freedom of expression. Nights, weekends, the noon hour, random mental-health days, snow days, wind days, rain days and all holidays (bank or not) off. Hours are 9am to whenever you can't stand being inside any longer.

Alternately, you may work from a table in the local coffee shop.

Compensation: Er, just name a figure, we're loaded.

Dream job: sip coffee; tap a few characters; repeat until bored.

The third installment of the Sustainable Cyclist is intended to be a guide for how to use cycling to make your lifestyle more sustainable. I think. At least, that's what my notes seem to indicate. But let's not jump too far ahead of ourselves, okay?

And then there was that don't remember it do you? Good!

But in case you do...I put a survey out there and vehemently promoted it for a couple of weeks or so. I was trying to get a handle on the female cyclist's perception of cycling infrastructure and/or the male cyclist's view of the female cyclist's perception of cycling infrastructure.

I know, I know...I didn't forget it, it's just that I have no experience figurin' up the results of a survey, so I've been conveniently avoiding the task, hoping Bjorn would just do it and write the piece. Bjorn? What the am I paying you for? Bjorn?

I've also been slacking in regards to our bike fleet maintenance, my future goals and ambitions, my online Sustainable Practices classes and the random bit of personal hygiene (you guess which). If I could just take a sabbatical...all would be well. And once I got back from sabbatical in a few years I could attend to all of those things. Maybe my kids would be ready to go to college then, and I wouldn't have to look at their messy dorm-rooms.

I've never heard of a cubicle monkey taking a sabbatical, have you? Didn't think so.

And there is one last bit of spring cleaning that I need to take care of (notice I am only listing the items needing to be cleaned, not ticking anything off, except Bjorn) and that is:


"Just 'cause you're a slack Knight!"
~ a real genius

Nah, I'm actually working on this one. I'm a bit behind schedule, and I blame that entirely on a three week bout of some funk I had, combined with winter, maybe SAD, I don't know, but it's not my fault. This morning was my third session on the leg press with a round of core conditioning afterward. I nailed another 45 minute commute on Minus, and I am hoping really soon to drag that number down into the muck. 40...and 45 on The One? Yeah!

For now that's it. Or at least, that's all I'm willing to share at this juncture. Please don't get the idea that this measly update represents all the cobwebs that need to be cleared from my brain.

Monday, March 12

Taking Care of Living Things

If you're human, like me, every so often something happens that just strips your gears. You might be spinning in place for the day, or for a week, or for longer. It always happens. No one is spared.

Saturday my family of four headed out on the Cannonball and the Ute for a ride up to the school in Westminster. The second night of the school play was Saturday and my wife, the assistant director, had asked if I would take a group photo of the kids so they could print it and give it to the director as a gift.

Bean was on her mom's bike and Boone was riding with me. As we approached 72nd on Kipling Boone said: "My stomach hurts."

He'd not been himself all morning and had complained about his stomach earlier in the day, but he seemed okay.

I asked him if he needed to go to the bathroom, or thought he was going to throw up. He said no. I replied in my parent-of-the-year tone: "Well, I'm not sure what you want me to do for you." I then asked if being on the bike was causing his belly to hurt worse and he said no. And then he said yes.

We were going through the big intersection at 72nd so I couldn't just stop at that point. I decided we'd go up a couple of blocks and pull off at the fire station. We were riding along in the very nice bike lanes on Kipling between 72nd and 80th. I glanced back at him and in my blurred periphery he seemed a bit pale, but Boone is naturally pale anyway so I didn't think a whole lot about it. I did keep expecting for him to puke all over my back.

Suddenly the bike ripped sideways in my hands, dragging the world to the right, and putting the bike squarely on the leftmost painted line of the bike lane. I instinctively planted both feet, the bike tilted wildly under me. When I looked back...Boone was hanging off the side of the bike, upside down, his head only a few inches from the pavement, his feet were caught in the FreeLoaders and holding him partially on the bike.

I was off the bike, holding it steady with one hand and pulling Boone up by his wrist with the other. An older couple in a convertible, thankfully in the left-hand lane, had stopped. As I got a good grip on him and eased him back upright I waved to them and called out that were were okay. They waved back and slowly drove away.

Mandy had reached us on foot and helped me get Boone on his feet and then she took him over to the far side of the sidewalk as I got the bike out of the street.

We had him lay down and try to drink a little water. It felt so warm because the temperature was much higher than it had been, and it was a sunny day.

Without discussing it, we parental units came to the conclusion that I would ride home and get the car while Mandy waited with the kids.

I was adamant that we go up a half a block to the fire station and get him in out of the sun. There was really no other shade along Kipling along there, and if he got worse while I was gone he'd be in good care.
We walked up the sidewalk and Boone started looking slightly better. He was still disturbingly pale. Well, more disturbingly pale than he normally is.

The firemen met us at the door and let Mandy and Boone hang out while Bean and I raced home to get the car.

When we passed a stopped RTD bus she pumped a fist and cried: "Suckers!" When the bus overtook us and passed us she cried: "Awww!" and slammed her fist into her thigh.

I don't think she was terribly traumatized by her brother's blacking out. That would come later.

Long story truncated: we got the car and went back to the fire station. Mandy drove the kids home as I brought the second bike back. We took it easy all afternoon, giving Boone fluids and watching him closely. It seemed to be dehydration.

He improved as the day went on, so in the afternoon I rode Minus over to Olde Town and unplugged from the world in a corner of my favorite coffee shop to work on some writing. I pedaled back after a couple of hours so we could get ready and head up to the play.

Boone seemed to have perked up when I got home. We asked him if he was up to going. He said he felt better. So off we went.

Around 80th and Wadsworth Boone began complaining that his stomach was hurting again. Before we reached 88th we were rolling down the windows, and I pulled off the road. Lily was screaming; she'd been traumatized by the sight of her brother emptying his stomach.

And...back home we went.

Boone and I stayed home, though he was finally looking better. He ate a little dinner as we watched the original Planet of the Apes. In fact, I had to force him to slow down. I wanted to see how he handled food on his belly before he consumed the usual horse-portions he's used to.

After the movie I put on the original Star Trek series. Boone and Lily love Star Trek, but vehemently prefer Kirk to Picard. Boone rolled over on the couch with his back to the TV and closed his eyes. It was only 9pm. So I got him in bed and he was out like a light.

The next day he snapped back. He was back to normal volume levels and in the afternoon could be seen running around the yard with his bike helmet over his face like a mask, looking like the Martian from The Martian Chronicles mini-series from the '80s, and playing at his usual intensity.

As of bedtime last night he seemed to be back to normal. Bad food? Stomach bug? Dehydration? Alien probe? Who knows?

He stayed in on Sunday while the rest of us hoed around in the garden. All of our garlic plants have sprouted and we have a nice little community of earthworms. Won't be long now...

Lily decided she wanted to re-learn to ride her bike yesterday. So we worked on it a little bit. First we tried the "big girl bike" with the buddy bar. For some reason it just didn't work...even after she took off her mud boots and put on regular shoes. So then she asked if I 'd take the training wheels off her little bike, so I did, and she spend the afternoon alternately howling with joy and screaming in frustration.

She's not there, but she's closer.

It was a weird up and down weekend. The family is on spring break this week, so things should be more relaxed. That's a good thing. This time change monkey-business should be against the law.

Friday, March 9

Ramming Speed Friday: Springing Forward

Sha-ZAAM! Like a thoroughbred out of the gate...19.2 mph!

It's hard not to have a Ramming Speed Friday on skinny tires. I think I am going to have to change the minimum criteria for the Fridays I ride Minus. Instead of 17mph, I think I may say 20. Ooh! Ambitious I know, but Leadville is only 154 days out. I've gotta get faster!

So, henceforth, a Friday (or any day really) will be considered an official "Ramming Speed" day if the average speed for the entire afternoon commute is:

17mph for fat tires

20 mph for skinny tires

I may up these numbers as the next 100 or so days pass. If I reach a level where these speeds begin to seem casual then I'll kick it up a notch.

Spring is sneaking back. I'm really happy to see daylight savings time return, though I wish the whole concept would just go away.

I'll be back in Boulder the next two Fridays, so RSF may be postponed or take on an alternate form. Looking ahead through April it looks like after today there are only a couple of weeks that will be "normal" and otherwise I will be traveling or in some sort of class. You may see a few "Ramming Speed Thursdays" and there is even the possibility of a "Ramming Speed Wednesday." Crazy, right?

Thursday, March 8

The Leadville Chronicles: The Need for Speed

Part IV

It's all about the buckle.

9 hours or less for the big one, 12 or less for the little one...little. Not so little, but not as big. BIG buckle is the goal.

The effort between the two is significant when you are not a professional racer. Between an 8.3 mph average and an 11.1 mph average over 100 miles with thousands upon thousands of feet of climbing is the difference of small (as the passenger-side door on a Honda Accord) and big (passenger-side door on a battleship).

Would it be worth it to expire Casey Jones-like in downtown Leadville on a late summer afternoon just to get to take home a battleship-door-sized belt buckle? Probably not. Likely? Most.

I've never been concerned with speed. Okay, okay...I KNOW! I know I go on about my average speeds all the time. Ramming Speed Fridays are ALL ABOUT speed. But my speeds are really not significant in the whole scheme of things. I feel pretty slow compared to most jersey-clad cyclists I see on the road. Just because I occasionally drop one, while on the Cannonball, out of fear of shame upon the MUP does not mean I am concerned with speed. Just because I brag of nicking 50 mph coming down Mount Vernon Canyon does not mean I care a whit about speed.

I'm a slow climber. That's a fact. However, I'm a rocket on descents. I proved this to myself early on during the 2009 Triple Bypass. From Bergen Park all the way to Juniper Pass I was more generally passed by others than I passed. But from Juniper Pass all the way into Idaho Springs my fellow riders were a blur as I screamed past; blowing almost everyone else's doors off; including a SAG Hummer H2. I attribute it all to stress-related weight gain. I'm not svelt in my lycra, noooo...I stretch the material to its ultimate limit. You can see skin between the strained fibers.

On long rides with significant elevation gain and loss I count on boosting my average speed on the descents. I rely on that tactic like a babe relies on its mother's mike for sustenance. And I crave the descent. In my mind, a long grueling climb is always worth it if there's a bomb-run descent on the other side, or if I can turn around and blast down the path I just crawled up to reach my apex.

For Leadville I realize I need to improve my climbing. I need to be able to maintain a steady, and elevated average speed even as I climb. The descents alone won't pad my average. I can't count on being able to maximize my downhill speeds in a crowd of other riders or on the technical Powerline, or coming back down from Columbine Mine. I've got to train to maintain. And I've got to maintain 11.1+ mph for just shy of 9 hours over torturous terrain in any conditions.

I know I'm smart enough to figure out this equation. What I need are some practice problems after doing the leg work to get to that level. Kingston Peak. Evans. At a Leadville Big Buckle pace...

Wednesday, March 7

Wednesday Propaganda: Shell Game

A recent NPR piece entitled "U.S. A Net Gas Exporter for First Time in Decades" paints a promising picture. But my newly hired research analyst, Bjorn—a Dutch-catholic refugee from Mobile, Alabama—has discovered a a gaping hole in NPR's factual representation of the universe. Darn you Bjorn! It sounded so good. You're fired!

Factually, being a gasoline exporter is vastly different than being a petroleum exporter. It's similar to the distinction between a logger and a carpenter.

While I surely hope the truth is that we are exporting petroleum extracted within our own borders, I have no reservation saying it very well could be that this "surplus" gasoline is being refined from petroleum imported from across the seas.

What is truly revealing is that the US does not have the capacity to move refined products within our own borders from places where gasoline is refined to places where it is consumed (destroyed).

NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten puts it this way:

The United States is both an exporter and an importer of gasoline at the same time. It's like we're two different countries. A lot of the oil produced in the U.S. gets refined into gasoline in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. It then goes into pipelines for distribution to East Coast states and other areas where gas is consumed.

Rob Smith, a senior analyst at PFC Energy, adds:

These pipelines are essentially filled to the brim, so to speak, and yet the East Coast markets still don't have enough gasoline. So they're forced to import.

What does this say about our presumed energy independence? The fact that we're exporting gasoline because we can't move it within our own borders effectively doesn't exactly tell a promising tale. We can't meet our own demand, even though we're producing a surplus. We'll never be energy independent as a nation if we can't solve this logistical problem.

But is this really a shock? Our country is polarized on the silliest of issues: mass transit is bad versus mass transit is good, consume versus conserve, help the poor versus help the rich, etc, etc. No, I don't think these are truly silly issues, but our polarization is silly. We're blinded to common sense by policy propaganda. Special interests rule our lives by keeping us divided and misinformed.

Until we can unite toward a common vision and goal this country is doomed to failure in such painfully stupid ways. You would think our oil producing regions would be better connected to our oil consuming regions. Some would say that being a net exporter is not a failure, but in light of the fact that every US president since Richard Nixon has promised to bring about American energy independence and we have so far failed says otherwise. So we're talking out of the side of our collective faces? We want energy independence, but we also want capitalistic success? Are those two ideas becoming more and more mutually exclusive?

The piece closes on a bittersweet note, explaining some of the factors that have led to our current conundrum:

In part it's because the U.S. is producing more gasoline; more importantly, we're consuming less; ethanol is displacing some gasoline; we have more efficient cars. Plus, we are driving less, for reasons ranging from the economic downturn to the aging of the U.S. population.

So we're driving less because the economy is down and The Man is taking away our licenses as we become aged menaces upon the highways and byways. But, we are driving less, and we're producing vehicles that are more sustainable.

Of course, if we all rode bikes...

Tuesday, March 6


We're supposed to see 70ºF today. I am cancelling work on account of the weather. I'd be doing everyone a favor. We could put a note on the door that reads: "Go enjoy today."

This morning was my first commute on N – 1. I probably could have nicknamed the bike "White (with dayglo green bar tape) Lightning" as I pulled off the rare 45 minute commute. My normal short commute is 9.3 miles through Applewood, Denver West, past NREL and on through Pleasant View. I crushed it. Considering there's about 800 feet of elevation gain from Clear Creek to the Taj and I managed a 12+ mph average I am okay with saying I crushed it. It normally takes me 50 to 55 minutes on a good day; an hour or more if I'm lagging.

AND it was a no foot down commute as well! I know because Minus has toe clips and straps. I never came out of them.

The new bike is good. Of course I am unused to skinny tires, short wheel-base and such light weight. I'm more used to fat tires on a tank (CBX) or fast and fat (The One). It won't take long...and hopefully I won't crash myself as I re-learn skinny. Oh, I so need to re-learn skinny!

One of my short list bike projects is going to be to put my pannier rack on Minus for commuting in good weather. This will never be a foul weather bike, and not because I don't want to get it wet, but because I have enough trouble staying upright on fat tires.

Minus is going to give me some early distance training opportunities that The One is ill-suited for. I've decided I'm going to try and focus on flat distance early, as opposed to trying to ramp up distance and climbing over the next 157 days. I think you're going to be hearing about my second century within the next two months. Or at least a fair attempt at one. Minus is no climber, so this idea of a spring century would have to be focused on the plains. But if I can knock out long distances early, and then focus on speed and climbing at that fitness/endurance level, I think I will be much more effective in bringing home the Big Buckle.

Now, where and when to ride?

Sunday, March 4

Minus Shakedown

Went out for a twenty-miler on the Bianchi (Minus) this afternoon. Cranking up the Ralston Creek Trail toward Arvada Reservoir I dodged peds and dogs. I wasn't slow, but I sure wasn't fast either. I ignored "the Wall" as I crossed Ward. I'd been thinking it'd be a good measure of how well the new (used) road bike climbs.

I got a moderate test climbing up above the reservoir and across the flats to the north. Then I was at the midpoint and turning back toward home and with the wind. Instead of hardlining back along the MUP system I jumped over to 66th/Ralston Road and absolutely screamed east for a couple miles then cut north through the neighborhood back over to the MUP near Apex and then turned east again toward home.

As I crossed back over Ward I purposefully ignored "the Wall" again. Soon.

The bike is great. It feels squirrelly at moderately fast speeds and in curvy and congested areas, but I am certain that feeling is more my recent unfamiliarity on a short wheel-based skinny-wheeled bike. At the high end the bike moves. No, MOVES.

It felt good to go fast on skinny tires again. I missed that. I managed a 13.4 mph average which is good considering the headwind I faced as I cranked upstream and around the reservoir. I'm sure I was doing 35-40 (at the very least) across Ralston Road.

Find more Bike Ride in Arvada, CO

Saturday, March 3

N - 1

Back around Christmas Arvada Bike had a used road bike, a Bianchi Sport SX (mid or late '80s?), and a few days ago Bean and I did a recon to see if it was still there. It was.

We took the kids to see The Lorax for an early showing in Olde Town this morning. After fighting a mean Front Range wind back home, I dropped off the fam and pedaled the CBX over to Arvada Bike. Oh yeah!

I took the Bianchi for a test ride. I likey. So I came back, debated a bit, discussed with Richard and then took the bike home. I also snagged some new tires for Mandy's Giant (the "N - 2").

I'd have gone for a ride this afternoon but the wind is playing dirty. It's cold. Gonna try for a shakedown cruise tomorrow.

Friday, March 2

Almost Ramming Speed Friday: Greenwash Me Clean

Yeah, I don't care what day it is, as long as tomorrow is Saturday; or better yet Apocalypse Eve. I got too much work, not enough commute, not enough life. Work is not life. Life should have work within it, but pointless arrangements for the exchange of imaginary numbers in a computer should not consume your life energy.

The weather is crazy erratic these days and conditions rarely match what they are prophesied to be only hours, or even minutes, before. March is historically windy on the Pavement's Edge, and while wind has been a climatary component, spittings of snow and bluebird sunshines have been frequent as well. We're getting the lion's share of March: winter and spring all smashed together like a bike messenger's leg and the fender of a Mercedes Benzinger.

I'm working on a top secret writing project. I'll share it soon enough. But for now I wanted to share this little excerpt as perhaps a non-sequitur excuse for the seeming lack of pep behind my scribblings here on the Pavement's Edge of late. I feel like I've moved beyond analyzing the act of cycling and the interaction of traffic. I've moved beyond the simple merits and benefits of utility cycling. Those things are still important. I still ride the CBX. But the novelty has drifted away, leaving me with a void to fill.

I'm going back to my roots in sustainability. That may seem odd for some who know me outside of this virtual plane. But I assure you, my roots are in sustainability. I have always instinctively worked toward a sustainable lifestyle. So, enjoy a brief preview of...something:

Once you understand the impacts and implications of our overuse of fossil fuels and the ease with which you can replace the automobile with a bicycle in many instances it becomes hard to continue using a car for frivolous trips. And once you equate transportation energy uses with other energy uses the bike begins to be a tool to help you better see your overall impact on the environment, and more importantly on your fellow man.

When you embrace such a tool it starts to become more important to you than just a toy, a recreational implement or merely an alternate form of personal transportation. It becomes a soapbox, a platform for personal and community change, and it becomes a part of your soul.

So much greenwash, so little time.

Ramming Speed Friday? Nada, but a valiant attempt. I don't know what thwarted me. Maybe the March winds? Perhaps low PSI? It could be that my body is just being dragged down by stress-related weight gain. I struggled, heaving against the pedals, pushing, cranking, chest heaving...and only managed 16.4 mph. Maybe next week.

And...I'm now less than 2 miles of riding from 12,000 since the beginning of 2008.

On Your Left

Lefties rule:

Thursday, March 1

Monthly Mileage: February Recap

February 2012 goes down as my second best mileage February since 2008. At 260 miles it's still deplorable. The total average for Februarys since '08 is 205. My total monthly average in that timeframe is about 240 miles a month. So I'm above the averages at least. And again, here is the yearly February breakdown:

Past February mileage:
2012: 260
2011: 313
2010: 46
2009: 201
2008: 209

I only commuted 11 days in February and just 13 in January.

My yearly average so far is 319 miles. The January/February average last year was 338 miles. Last year's overall average ended up being 425.

What can I say? This past month has not been too bad in the whole scheme of things. I'm feeling August pressures in February. And of course, I just want to improve over past months/years even though the reality is that mileage will be up and down depending on a wide variety of factors.

Apparently March is really going to come in like a lion. There were bad storms across the Midwest yesterday and into today. We're supposed to get snow today, even though this morning's commute was rather nice.

Feb 23, 2012