May 31, 2009

Good Times

Few things are more enjoyable than wading the shallows of some lake with a fly rod, tossing poppers to sunfish and bluegills. Taken today on Horseshoe Lake, near Nisswa, MN.

May 28, 2009

The Holy Grail?

With a nod to Bike Snob for finding the photo, I have to say this could be the Holy Grail of bad bike set-ups (yes, I confess to being a fan of bad bike set-ups).

It looks to me like this nice Bianchi has had the stem raised all the way up (the sheer nakedness of this disturbs me). Plus, it looks like the stem has been turned around to aim at the rider (more comfortable due to shorter reach, no doubt). What's more, the drop bars flipped up to the classic DUI bar position (not flopped and chopped, which would at least score some points for cool). BUT we are not done yet - We've also got aero bars, too.

Now that's a combination that is going to be hard to beat; this might be the Holy Grail of bad set-ups.

Despite mocking the road bike/cruiser thing going on here, I have to say that the guy riding the bike seems to be really happy. Hmmm.  Maybe I shouldn't knock it 'til I've tried it....

May 27, 2009


In general, Blogger seems to be less buggy than when I started this up, but it's still got some issues as far as I am concerned (see below for an annoying example). 

Smart Cycling 101 Coming Up!

I received the following email today from the MPLS Dept. of Public Works and am passing it on in case others are interested:

Greetings everyone,


You expressed an interest in taking a Smart Cycling 101 Course – the pre-requisite for becoming a League Certified Instructor for the League of American Bicyclists.  In this certificate course you will learn basic maintenance, safe street riding practices, and on-street practical experience. This course will help to develop your skills as an urban bicyclist and give you confidence to navigate the urban landscape safely and successfully.


The Bike Walk Ambassador Program will be offering several upcoming courses.  The first is coming up quickly this Friday and Saturday, so sign up soon if you’re interested!  All of these courses are multi-day; you have to be able to attend all sessions, and bring a bike in good working order and a helmet.  Please register online for the courses here, or contact Jacqueline Scott-Hopkins at 612-333-3410 or email her here.


May 29-30

Midtown Bike Center

Friday: 5-8PM

Saturday 9AM-3PM


June 1, 2 & 8

Bottineau Park Recreation Center

5-8PM all days


June 26-20

St. Louis Park City Hall

Friday: 5-8PM

Saturday: 9AM-3PM


July 6, 7 & 13

Transit for Livable Communities ( St. Paul )

5-8PM all days

I am interested in taking the class, partly to see what it's about and partly because I think it would be worthwhile to get my LCI. I might also learn something. Unfortunately, the close local one does not work for me due to a prior commitment. I may have to work a little harder to get this under belt it seems.

May 25, 2009

Copenhagen Cycle Chic

I am very fond of the blog Copenhagen Cycle Chic. I love the photos of people out and about, doing there thing on bikes. No roadie gear, relatively few flashy bikes, and never a helmet to be seen. It looks so civilized and enjoyable.

May 24, 2009

Milwaukee Bicycle Company Visit

During my Memorial Day trip to The Ancestral Homeland, I managed to make a side trip to Ben's Bicycles, home of the Milwaukee Bicycle Company, in South Milwaukee.

Ben's is a nice shop - they have family bikes in the classy little building on the south side of Lincoln Ave. and fixed gear and higher-end road bikes in the store-front on the north side of the street.

This is a sampling of one of the built bikes on the floor. It's the Cream City custom track, and was sporting a custom paint job (asphalt camo) that the photo does not do justice to.

They had other Milwaukee frames on the wall as well.

The Milwaukee frames are manufactured by Waterford, and the finish is very nice. I suspect these will quickly become collectors items due to the manufacturer and the local appeal of an homage to the Cream City.

Political Dissatisfaction

I had a lot of windshield time to think today as I drove back from The Ancestral Homeland. So, for better or worse, my thoughts turned to politics. 

It makes no sense to me that the political parties in local government reflect the political parties in national elections. Every election, I get to choose from a sampling of DFL, Republican, and occasionally an Independent candidate; same as with national elections. But as far as I can tell, national issues such as economic and international policy, have very little to do with local issues such as neighborhood livability, crime and safety, complete streets and local economic development.

I have yet to hear either of the major parties take a stand on any of the issues that directly affect my day-to-day quality of life, which in my mind, would make much more of an impact on the people of Minneapolis than, say, national-level debates such as abortion rights or economic stimulus.

Jim Kunstler predicted that the major political parties (or at least the Republicans) are about to disappear, much like the Whigs did before the Civil War, because they are simply not taking on relevant issues. I hope so; neither party seems to be in touch with what is going on right now.

I'd like to see a New Urbanism Party take root in Minneapolis. The platform could be walkable and bikeable communities, quality local schools, mixed development, environmental sustainability, and preservation of place and community. I think this would sell like hotcakes, because no one else seems to be offering this tasty combination.

I'd vote for that candidate.

May 21, 2009

Dennis Dumm Funeral Information

From the Alexandria Echo Press:

Dennis B. Dumm, 31, Minneapolis, formerly of Alexandria, died May 20, 2009 as the result of a bicycle accident. Mass of Christian Burial will be held Saturday, May 23 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Alexandria.Visitation will be Friday, May 22 from 5 to 8 p.m. with a 7:30 p.m. prayer service at Anderson Funeral Home and one hour prior to the service on Saturday at the church. Arrangements are with Anderson Funeral Home in Alexandria;

What's Wrong with this Picture???

Minneapolis is second only to Portland in percentage of the population that uses bikes to commute to work. Yet, our very own police department describes riding you bicycle downtown as "very, very dangerous". No less than one week after all the fanfare from Bike/Walk to work week no less.

The tragic fatality yesterday has really got me thinking about the situation. Dennis Dumm was killed by a semi-truck making a left turn across the bike lane on Park Ave., the same route I take every time I ride to work.

I'd love to see the media do an investigative report on how the City is really accommodating bicycles downtown. I am even searching for some good ideas to help them figure this out.  I think it would reveal that things are not as fair and sunny as you would maybe believe. Yes, we have a greenway, yes we have a painted bike lane on some streets, but all in all, I'd have to say the city is pretty firmly car and bus focused in the CBD.

My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Dennis Dumm. The accident was a tragedy and should never have happened.

May 19, 2009

Malicious Compliance

At work we use the term "malicious compliance" to describe employee behavior when they will do what they are told... but just barely, and usually not in a meaningful or useful way, and usually with a chip on their shoulder. For instance, a malicious complier will do things like complete a marketing report but not put any information in it that's actually useful. They simply do it "because it's required" and they could care less if someone actually needs to use the information. The Malicious Compliance types do not last long at my office, thankfully.

Here's a good example of that kind of behavior in a marriage:

Mr. Ex-Bike Rider: "Oh, Snuggliewugglie - we should clean out the garage. Would you put those old bikes on Craig's List and maybe sell them this week?".

Mrs. Ex-Bike Rider: "You bet, Sugarpants! I'll do that today!".

Trek bicycles - $50 (Saint Paul)

Reply [Errors when replying to ads?]
Date: 2009-05-19, 3:09PM CDT

Don't know that much about them. 
It's my husband's deal. 

May 18, 2009

Lab Safety

I like that this guy is wearing a helmet on his bike. He's a good role model for children and impressionable adults like me. Also, I want to get angel sensors for my bike; it would be good know if they are around or not.

Hang up and Ride

Twice last week I got caught behind a woman on a tricycle recumbent in the bike lanes on either Portland Ave. or Park Ave. Yes, her Catrike takes up most of the lane, but it's a cool bike, I support anyone commuting by bike over car, and I usually not a problem to go around.

But BOTH TIMES I caught her last week, she was toodling along on her 'bent while talking to someone on her cell phone. If you going to do that, at least get a velomobile or something...

I have been known to occasionally ride around with a bluetooth headset (bad form, I know), but if it ever rings I pull over, get out of traffic and safely complete my conversation (or maybe I stop so that my caller can't hear my labored breathing and subconscious mutterings and assume I'm some kind of deranged person).

May 17, 2009


Molly and I went for a slow, meandering ride today. The weather was finally a little warm and it was wonderfully sunny as well. We headed west after breakfast and birded Lakewood Cemetery (American Redstart and Caspian terns were the best birds at Lakewood for us), then stopped for a light lunch at The Tin Fish on Lake Calhoun. That was nice - I had never been there; kind of like Sea Salt in Minnehaha Park (casual, open air seating, etc.) but right on the lake. Pretty reasonably priced, too.

From there we ventured north past Cedar Lake, through Theodore Wirth park and circumnavigated Wirth lake before heading back to the Greenway and over to Freewheel for a coffee before returning home. All told it was a leisurely 25 miles or so.

This was the maiden voyage for my brand-new Keen bike sandals. I had resisted these because they seem over-priced, but I got a 15% off coupon from REI on Thursday at the Bike/Walk event so I splurged a little on Friday and picked these up (mission accomplished, REI).

I am very pleased with these things. For as much walking and time off the bike as we had today, they were great to walk in. They do fit quite a bit narrower than my old Keen's, but I actually like that more than the regular Keen sandals, which my feet seem to roll around on quite a bit because they are so wide. They are easy to engage and disengage in the pedals, too. I expect these will quickly become my favorite cycling shoes, and once it's warm, I bet I'll use these a lot more than my Sidi MTB shoes.

Tomorrow starts another work week, but I've got some travel coming up so that will shorten the week some, and then it's into Memorial day weekend. Speaking of which, we saw that Lakewood Cemetery is having historic tours on Memorial Day. We may actually stop by if we are around because it's beautiful in Lakewood and whenever else would you get to tour a cemetery?

May 15, 2009

Making Peace with Marq2

If you have been here before you will know that I am a little opinionated on the Marq2 Project. It's not the project, so much as the profound lack of planning that surrounds it. This project has the epicenter of downtown tied up in freaking knots right now, and it impacts my commute significantly, so it's become personal.

Surprisingly, this is not another rant; I am actually making peace with the Marq2. Sometimes it takes a large and powerful force to move us from our comfort zone.

Lately, I have been leaving the IDS Center in the customary fashion mid-block on Marquette Ave. between 8th and 7th Streets, but instead of going south to my tried-and-true bike lane on 10th Street (which no longer exists), I am now "going with the flow", as they say, and merging into the construction-delayed north-bound traffic on Marquette, riding bumper-to-bike-wheel up to 6th Street, two blocks north. I then turn right on 6th and head... east-ish, through the metroscape to Portland Ave and then gun it for home. The DT section is slow, narrow and bumpy, and has stretches of gravel. It's gritty, urban and loud. But I kinda like it; but yes, it does take some fortitude to get out wade out there into traffic.

So far, so good. I have not gotten into any dangerous situations, have not gotten any static from the cars, and it's been kind of.. thrilling to dance with the cars and buses. I may yet have a bike messenger career ahead of me if executive-level management does not pan out...

May 14, 2009

Bike to Work Day

Morning came early for me today. It was the official, by God, Bike to Work day. Despite the fact that we've been celebrating Bike/Walk all week, this was the Big Day. I took advantage of an open invitation from some other Bike Lovers to hit a few stops offering free food and/or swag to celebrate the occasion.

Here's the run-down:
6:30AM: Freewheel Bike Co-op on the Greenway -

Freewheel was dishing out WAFFLES! Here's mine, which they handed me before the syrup came out, but I ate it and was grateful, unlike some kind of uppity lady that came in after we did...

7:00AM or so: Bedlam Theatre -

Bedlam had a very nice hot breakfast spread, complete with eggs, biscuits and gravy, coffee, etc. I tried to heckle some woman into coming in for free food, but she was a bike salmon, bound and determined to head upstream to work, and she could not to be distracted by anything.

7:30AM or so: Minneapolis Government Center -

Pretty big crowd when I pulled in about 7:30 or 7:40. The best swag was from Calhoun Cycle, which was giving out free water bottles with Park tire levers inside (sweet). I also got a really bad trail map, a Penn Cycle sticker (thanks) and a free copy of Momentum, which is free (thanks, again).

Although it was kinda cold and windy, I am glad I hauled myself out of bed for this. It was fun to meet some more Bike Lovers and do something different before work. Thanks MMason, Dorianhawkmoon and Vik Strong for letting me tag along on this boondoggle.

May 13, 2009

Pick-Up-Sticks 2009

Every year around Mother's Day, my in-laws organize a work weekend at my Mother-in-laws farm in rural south central Minnesota. We have participated in these events since probably about 1991 or so, although we have missed a few of these when we lived in Connecticut and Alaska. 

The specific chores vary depending on what needs doing the most; one year we rebuilt the walkways with salvage telephone pole cross ties, another year we demolished an old shed, etc.

This year, the big project was cleaning out a large storage building that had gathered a lot of junk and dust to make some room for my niece and her husband to pursue their dream of organic farming.

There are a bunch of photos of the event on the Flickr site, but the photo in this post is one of my favorites because I think my Father-in-law, who passed away in March, may have just snuck into the photo. He always loved the corny, posed photos, and he loved Pick-Up-Sticks as well. I know the Old Man would not have missed it, and it looks like maybe he didn't. Yes, it was dusty in there, but the location of the orb is just to perfect for this to be a coincidence.

I always come back from these efforts inspired to buy some more tools and "get handy". My brothers-in-law are incredibly capable and crafty. I always feel like a humble understudy at these things. I am pretty capable with the ceremonial bonfires, however...

May 12, 2009

Bike Walk Week Kick Off

May 11 - May 16 is officially Bike Walk Week. I registered our office in the event (first time we have ever participated, as a matter of fact) and have been lucky enough to have a few co-workers step up and lead this effort.

One of the things we are doing at my office is collecting photos of the commute/commuters. We'll post them on the intranet after the event is over. My Monday photo is of the carnage that this Marquette Ave. right now. I took this from my bike, waiting for the light to change.

Today's photo reflects the realities of bike commuting to a downtown office job. I do pretty well all-in-all. I have two pair of dress shoes that I leave at the office - black wingtips and  cordovan oxfords (Allen-Edmonds, very nice) as well as matching belts, a few collar stays, some Wet-Ones and some pit-stick. I take a dress shirt, some dress pants and such in a pannier or messenger bag, and I have generally done this enough to not screw things up. Until today...

For whatever reason, I malfunctioned while packing this morning and forgot socks, so I ended up sporting some crisp charcoal gray slacks, my black wingtips and some really ugly gray athletic socks. The good news is that this look has now caught on and executives at Target, Thrivent and Ameriprise were wearing the same thing by the end of the day. (That last sentence was not entirely true).

Despite the embarrassment of forgetting something, I survived just fine. I admit that I was a little self conscious in the morning, but frankly I forgot all about it by the afternoon. 

Tomorrow (Wednesday, May 13), I am meeting co-workers and anyone else in the world that wants to come, for an informal "Bike Bus" from May Day Cafe to downtown. May Day is located at 35th Ave. So. and Bloomington Ave. If you want to meet up, consider this your invitation. We'll probably roll out from May Day a little after 8:00, so time is of the essence. Be there or be left there...

The big event is downtown on Thursday at the Gov't Center. I may stop by, and if I do, I'll post a picture or two.

Happy Bike/Walk Week! Ride safe and give it a shot - it's not that bad despite the sock thing.

May 10, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

Making Fire
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I spent my birthday at my in-laws, doing my part for the annual "Pick-up-Sticks" effort. Pick-up-Sticks is an annual event that takes place on or about Mother's Day. It's called Pick-up-Sticks because traditionally, the largest and most tiresome chore involves patrolling the large yard and picking up all the sticks that drop off the trees over the winter before lawn-cutting season starts in earnest.

This year the large project was cleaning out a large shed to get rid of junk (big junk, like ancient combines and a dead tractor) plus a lot of old hay and scrap wood. I helped out with some electrical work, so now there's light and power in the shed as well.

Between chores, we birded the farm and were rewarded with several Harris' sparrows.

The Pick-up-Sticks effort culminates with a large bon fire on Saturday night where we burn slash from brush clearing, scrap wood from construction projects, and such. This year the weather was perfect - calm wind, and a little rain fell just before we lit the fire. Here's a little of my brother-in-law getting it going. Don't try this at home.

May 9, 2009

How Much I Care

I had to go the basement and get my micometer to determine just how much I cared about Lance Armstrong's Shepard Fairey-decorated Trek Madone.

You know who Shepard Fairey is, even if you don't. He's the artist who came with the red-white-blue Obama headshot with the optimistic phrase beneath it that has become an internet meme that now graces a lot of people's Facebook pages.

The snazzy bike and matching helmet are supposed to raise awareness for Lance's "Stages" art exhibit. Lance was/still is amazing, and I support his Livestrong campaign (I even bought a wrist band), but I am getting a little weary of the promotions.

By the way, the answer on how much I cared was 0.015 inches.

May 7, 2009

May 10 - 15 is Bike/Walk Week

Next week, The City will be celebrating Bike Walk Week. I think that's a pretty weak name - it used to be called "Bike to Work" day, but I guess we are reaching out to pedestrians now to leverage more funding, be inclusive or broaden the base or something.

It's kind of unfortunate that downtown Minneapolis is tied up in knots due to what seems like construction and lane closures on every block, but hopefully some people will be courageous enough to give it a shot despite the adverse conditions they could encounter.

Our office is publicizing Bike Walk week for the first time this year (yes, I had something to do with that) and the staff seems pretty stoked to give it a try. Several people mentioned to me that they have been meaning to try and ride to work for awhile this is the nudge they need to take the plunge.

I also enlisted in Metro Transit's Commuter Challenge today, effective May 1. We'll probably roll out the Commuter Challenge at the office next week as a way to sustain the Bike Walk week motivation through the rest of the summer. On that note, if anyone out there wants to challenge me, click the Commuter Challenge link above and search for Snak Shak and issue me a challenge. I return, Challenge every last one of you, as well (or at least I will if you are brave enough to shot me a comment or email and give me your challenge name/screen name).

That's it. The weather is getting nice, so turn off your computers and get on your bikes or something this weekend. And be careful out there!

May 4, 2009

The Good News and The Bad News

The good news is that the bike life is being good to me so far. I seem to be in okay shape already, and I scored many miles (relatively speaking) today despite a typical Monday work day. And, I feel no ill effects whatsoever from those miles. I commuted in to work early this morning, then back home again around 5:00 (hellish - more details below) and then rode over to MMRB tonight to try and fix some bikes for them. Got home about 9:30 tonight and according to the bike computer, I spent about an hour and 35 minutes on my bike. Pretty good for working full time and doing some volunteer work in the evening.

The good news continues in that the Rawland delights me. It's nimble, lively, accelerates and climbs well. It is comfortable, it fits me, and it's frickin' bomb proof, too. What's not to like? I even got compliments on it today at the bike rack from a lawyer riding stealthy Voodoo mountain bike and another guy on a sexy, sexy Kona. 

The bad news is downtown Minneapolis. I would not wish this on my enemies. The Marq2 has turned Marquette Ave. and 2nd Ave into a scene from WW1 (think trenches full of grim, desperate-looking men who need a bath, surrounded by relentless noise and dust, but with lots of office women in SUV's, Audi's and silver Lexus sedans impatiently waiting to drive through the battlefield). 

As much as I bitch about Marq2 on this blog, I can live with the inconvenience of what amounts to two blocks of construction on the last little leg of my commute into the office due to that project. The last straw, the line in the sand, the final insult, is that The City has now closed the bike lanes on 9th Street (one way going west to the IDS Center from Park Ave.) and 10th Street (one way going east from Nicolet/Marquette Ave to Portland and South MPLS). This puts a serious hitch in my giddyup (see my usual downtown route to appreciate the horror of this development).

Where the hell am I supposed to go? Not to be melodramatic, but I feel like a neotropical songbird whose rain forest has just been chopped down. I guess I am supposed to walk the bike from Marquette to Third Ave. and 1oth St. or succumb to temptation and ride on Nicolet (breaking the law and dancing with buses only to hike down 10th again) or just elbow my way through the cars to Portland, It sucks and I am not happy about it. I sent an email tonight to The City. We'll see if I get a response. 

Just a little room, that's all I ask.

May 2, 2009

Hiawatha Ride

We went on the Hiawatha Cyclery group ride this morning. It was good to reconnect with some of the regulars, although I was not all that chatty this morning. We rode about 16.7 miles or sow with the group (with a pause mid-way for breakfast at Kramarczuk's in Northeast). The total ride was somewhere around 23.4 miles long factoring in the ride to Hiawatha and back.

The disappointment of the day was that apparently Kramaczuk's is no longer doing the big breakfast spread. They still have the always popular Polish breakfast (we split one) but not much else on the menu this morning. Best find of the day was a pedestrian/bike bridge on 5th Ave. NE that crosses I-35W. I've never noticed this before, so that's a handy thing to file away.

Beautiful weather for a ride, and it was good to get the blood moving a little bit as well. I continue to be very pleased with the Rawland, but I continue to tweak the fit a little bit here and there. It's almost dialed in now, finally. Hopefully some more riding tomorrow (maybe out to the Depot), but probably solo this time.

May 1, 2009

Car Co-ops

I saw a post on Planetary Gears today that got me thinking about cars. Or rather, car ownership. I have been moving toward car-lite beginning in March, either taking the bus or riding my bike into the office and trying to be more conscious of driving only when I need to on weekends. It's been easier than I thought it would be, but I can still see a place for cars in most people's lives.

A couple of friends and readers of this blog have encouraged me to commit to the car-free life (I will not say "pull the trigger") and sell my car. They make the point that for the money I would be saving I could easily afford to use an Hour Car now and then or rent a car for trips.

I agree - selling my car probably would remove a temptation, save some money and not greatly inconvenience me to, but I think I may have a better idea...

Vancouver, Ann Arbor, Minneapolis and a few other cities have organized car-sharing arrangements. In Vancouver, you can apparently join a car share group, get an electronic access card, and then walk up to any car in the program and borrow it (they have designated parking places so you know where to look for a car). I have not used Hour Car in MPLS, but I think this works by making a reservation, picking up your car, doing your errands and returning it, much like a short-term rental car.

People of Earth, I have a more radical proposal.

Screw the middle-man. Do it yourself. Go in with a few friends and buy a used car and make your very own car co-op. Park in a spot convenient to everyone, share insurance and maintenance costs, and always bring it back full. Simple, much cheaper than owning your own car, and you would probably have more flexibility. The trick to this would be letting the right people into the co-op, but that's the case with any kind of co-op situation.

I give this idea to the world free of charge.