Apr 27, 2009

What a Mess!

If you have not been to downtown Minneapolis at rush hour lately, you are not missing much. This is the grid lock at 7th Street and 4th Ave. Note the cars turning right in the bus stop and the buses staged back to mid-block or further because they can't access the stops, which has been relocated to accommodate the Marq2. This when a bike can actually outperform a car, but road rage is running fairly high downtown these days, too.

Apr 25, 2009

The Logic of the Idaho Stop

There has been a lot of attention in MPLS over the last year or so on bicyclists ignoring or rolling stop signs. Here's a pretty good video on bicycles, stop signs and the "Idaho Stop". Makes a lot of sense to me. Especially the part about having more to lose in a collision than a car. 

Apr 24, 2009

Must be Grumpy Tonight or Something...

I became a Facebook "fan" of Transit for Livable Communities recently. I have a friend that's pretty active with this group, and in general I support transit and public transportation so it made sense to became a "fan", I thought. In fact, while I was at it, I also volunteered for a few things on the TLC site as well.

Today when I got home I saw this video link which was posted by TLC on Facebook. I've got to say, it turns me off. If they think this is going to be effective advocacy, this might not be the group for me.

Go ahead - fund the buses. I agree 100%. In fact, I'll be happy to write a letter, send an email, or maybe even speak at a public hearing to support this. But, I will not be very hopeful that goofy community theatre happenings will help to get this done.

Please support House File 1309.

Apr 22, 2009

Speedway Cycles - Anchorage

Despite my prediction of no extracuriculars, fate took us to Speedway Cycles tonight after work.

We had a chance to inspect the fine rides on the floor, including some high-end Kona's, a BMC and a Parlee...

as well a whole row of fancy, sleek Looks.

But the real thing I was seeking was this ultra-high-end Fatback that was shown at the NAHBS event this year. The bike was not for sale, as far we could tell, and no one would hazard at a price if it were for sale.

Neither of us were about to buy one of these dream machines tonight, but I did manage to score some really nice socks that were in my price range.

Another Reason to Loose a Little Sleep...

Here's an energy wonk post for you since I have not done one of those for awhile...

On April 16, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff from the Office of Enforcement gave a presentation on the State of the [Energy] Markets. The presentation is quite interesting, if you follow energy issues, because it provides a little color commentary on what proved to be a very strange year in the natural gas and electrical markets.

Of particular note, the presentation states that market fundamentals alone do not explain the wide flux in natural gas prices seen in 2008. While there are several discrete factors that helped to influence price volatility (decrease in LNG import, a tight gas market, etc.) “…none of the market fundamentals were extreme enough to explain why spot Henry Hub prices reached $13.31/MMBtu by July 3.”

Interestingly, the presentation goes on to say that “…the rise in natural gas prices coincided with a global increase in many commodity prices. This increase in commodity prices occurred as large pools of capital flowed into various financial instruments that essentially turn commodities like natural gas into investment vehicles. Ultimately, we believe that financial fundamentals along with a modest tightening in the supply and demand balance for gas during the first part of the 2008 explains natural gas prices during the year.”

Now, wait just a cotton-picking minute....

Don’t those two statements kind of contradict each other? It seems more likely to me that the coincidence of commodities speculation has more than a little to do with this issue, but FERC only goes as far as to note the coincidental timing, but reverts to believing it’s fundamentals after all.

Why would they take this seemingly contrary position? Because they regulate the energy markets, but they can’t regulate the free market and commodity speculation, that’s why.

Chilling. No pun intended.

North of 60 Again

Spring is slowly but surely coming to Anchorage after a winter that was made longer by the fact there really was no summer to speak of in Anchorage last year*.

After a long flight (and by long, I mean 6 hours in a middel seat) we were treated to beautiful weather on arrival - sunny and highs in the upper 40's, and this forecast is predicted to hold for the rest of the week. The snow is gone and the Mew gulls have returned and are busy setting up housekeeping on the roof-tops downtown. Sunset is 9:30 PM or so and first load of tourists arrived on a north-bound cruise ship in Juneau yesterday.

If I were going to be up here more regularly, I would absolutely ship a bike up for the summer. This is a great city for riding a bike. With a bike, I doubt very much you would need a car at all in summer. In fact, commuting by bike in Anchorage was great - much better than Minneapolis, in retrospect. The route was about 6.5 miles, of which 1/3 was on neighborhood streets, 1/3 on city streets, and 1/3 on a multiple use trail (MUP) that led into downtown. Each leg was generally safe (a few intimidating intersections, but nothing really bad), and portions were quite scenic. Of course, there are areas in Anchorage where you simply can't ride a bike safely - I would say pretty much all of mid-town (the new, office and stripmall part of Anchorage south of downtown) is very bad. Working downtown, that was never a problem for me, however.

This is a short trip this time, so likely no time for extracuricular activity, but I wanted to get an update from the last frontier because it's been awhile since I have been up here. The photo is the view out my office window overlooking 4th Ave. downtown.
That's it for now. Back in the L--48 before you know it!

* Many people that have not been to Anchorage think it is often cold and dreary (like Seattle or Vancouver) in summer, but Anchorage is sheilded by mountains and is usually very dry and mild in summer.

Apr 19, 2009

Howard Lake and Not Riding the Luce Line

Roof Rack
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
We got out of town to spend some quality time before another business trip that I have coming up. This time, we headed out west on Highway 12 to Howard Lake.

We took the bikes along with the good intention of riding the Luce Line Trail. Unfortunately for the bikes, we were distracted by the migrants on Saturday (saw our first Yellow-headed blackbird and what we are 90% sure was a Wilson's snipe as well as the Yellow-rumped warblers, field sparrows and American white pelicans, plus other more mundane sightings). We also had our first ticks of the season - luckily these were the large-easy-to-find kind and not the small- hard-to-find-and-then-you-get-Lyme's-disease kind.

The Luce Line trail starts (or ends, depending on your perspective) in Winsted, about 6 miles south of Lake Howard. The trail is crushed rock but turns to grass(!) on the west side of Winsted. We found the headwaters of the trail, but there were really no markers or parking. This may be coming in a later stage of development, but for know it seems Winsted is keeping quiet about the Luce Line. We planned to ride it this morning, but woke to 42 degree rain, so we bagged that idea and just came home.

I think a "Length of t he Luce Line" ride would be interesting. I have mixed feelings about the rails to trails experience, but to do one start to finish might spice it up a bit. It would be a 68 miler with just the trail portion.

We stayed at a nice (brand new) bed and breakfast called the Dutch Lake Farm Guest House. The place is right on the eponymous Dutch Lake, and has a canoe and walking trail, and a stand-alone guest house that is very comfortable (good places to read, which is a common oversight in many B&B's).

We only took one lousy photo on the trip, and it's not even a good one - Molly's Breezer and my Rawland on the roof of the car at a coffee shop.

Apr 17, 2009

It's a Small World After All

This week I got made a "contact" of Flickr by ENCICLIKA CORPUS FIXIE, a guy from Barcelona, Spain. He apparently found me on Titanium Bicycle Addict (TBA asked me to post some photos of Fatbacks I took in Anchorage last winter on their site). My Spanish is rusty but his English is pretty good. He's wild about bike polo and has some pretty good pictures on his Flickr. 

I have been corresponding with him this week and pointed him the MBL site so he could sample a little MPLS bike culture. He apparently liked it, because he sent me a message today pointing to his blog, with a post about MBL, among other things.

I've also been invited to look him up the next time I find myself in Barcelona. He's got an invitation from me to ride around MPLS as well. It would be really wild if either of us ever followed up on this.

Deer Tick - Art Isn't Real

With a nod to HTATBL, I am posting a video for the weekend. This is Deer Tick, originally from Providence, RI. This is the theme song for the Kunstlercast podcast, so I have the snippet a hundred times, but I finally listened to the rest of the album and liked it.

So, here's Deer Tick.

Apr 16, 2009

Bicycle Goals for 2009

My spouse asked me the other night what my goals were for bike riding this year. She's more into defining goals than I am, at least in the context of personal life. I can goal-set all day at work, but at home, my goal seems to be to not have goals.

That said, I put some thought to this and came up with the following list:
  • Commute regularly to work on my bike. I have commuted fairly regularly in the past, but now that I have turned in my parking pass that ups the ante and makes the bike less of a decision compared to my other option now, which is the bus. I thought about making the goal "commute every day on my bike" but I recognize that sometimes I have to wear a suit and tie, and I am kind of a fair weather rider, so I am not going to set the bar there. I have a sub-goal to push this and keep track of how many days I ride rather than ride the bus to keep me honest.
  • Make the bike part of my everyday life. We generally think nothing of jumping in the car and running to Target to pick up a few things. I want to get to the point where I think nothing of hopping on the bike and running to Target to pick up a few things. I have the gear to do that; what I need is the time and the motivation. If you think about this one, it's actually a pretty big goal - I would either need to get over feeling like I have to dress for the bike, or wear these clothes more of the time. We'll see how this transpires.
  • Ride a Century. I debated this one; I don't really feel like I have the time right now to become a long distance biker, but I would like to take on the challenge of a Century. There are a number of ways to do this (supported rides, group rides, solo) but I have not decided yet what I am going to do, or when I am going to do it. Realistically, I don't have enough miles in my legs right now to survive 100 miles, but maybe mid-summer will be the time...
  • Ride More Miles in Wisconsin. Might seem odd, but I grew up there. The roads are fantastic. I miss it. Maybe this means bringing a bike down to the parent's house, maybe this means some weekend trips to Northwestern Wisconsin. We'll see...
  • Sell my car. I began considering getting rid of the Mighty Tundra in March when I turned in my parking pass and found I rarely drove it after that. Although this sounds kind of radical, I think it's actually closer than one might think, since my spouse has a car and I can get to work on the bus if need be. No timeframe for this goal. I need to take this step-wise and see how goal number 2 comes along before I decide anything, but it's something to think about.
What's on the fence:
  • Buy a tandem. My spouse and I like to ride our bikes together, but we have some speed differences. I am beginning to think that a tandem might be the solution. I could honk along as fast and hard as I want and she could be right there next to me nonetheless. It's expensive, it's another bike in the garage, it might not get use much, but it's on my mind...
What's not on the list:
  • Regular or very active participation in TCBC or other group rides. I have mixed feelings about the whole roadie scene, so I am a little cool on TCBC, and I am not much of a joiner, so even the social rides, like Hiawatha are a little bit of a challenge. While I have had fun on some TCBC rides, I am not sure that they are for me. I can keep up just fine on the B rides but find the social dynamics to be a bit odd, and I get bored on the C rides except for when we stop for tacos. I like the more casual Hiawatha rides, but it's more for the social aspects than the biking or the workout. I can always add miles or ride harder on the commute, and that's the plan for upping miles and increasing endurance this yet. I plan to do a number Hiawatha rides, but I have yet to decide on TCBC this year.
  • Black Dog Time Trials. Yes, it's the Race of Truth, but I did a lot of time trials in my college years and I don't need to do anymore. My Race of Truth is now the ride home from work, and I am entirely fine with that. I don't need the hassle of roofing a bike, driving out to the 'burbs and gutting it out with a bunch of people I don't know. I'd rather ride a route I know and test my time in the privacy of my head.


More often than not, there is a Mallard duck sitting on the roof of a house just north of 48th Street on Bloomington Ave. at 7:00 AM.

Apr 14, 2009

Bear Bike

Best MPLS Craig's List post in a long time:

Circus Bike - $110

Reply to: sale-ybvyu-1122560669@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
Date: 2009-04-14, 5:28PM CDT

My bear Elmer has been riding this bike in our circus act but he wanted new one so this one is for sale. Schwinn frame, single speed, 29" standover (a little big for the average bear), riser bars, real comfortable saddle (specially designed for bear butt, should be OK for most humans), good tires. Most of the miles were in the center ring but occasionally Elmer would pedal down to the c-store for a frozen pizza for us or a jar of honey for himself. Bike is good for many more performances or miles. Probably fine for chimps as well as bears. Watch those chimps, though

Apr 13, 2009

Have a Great Monday!

I almost always enjoy reading Jim Kunstler's blog, Clusterfuck Nation. He's truly a modern Jeremiah, shouting his warnings of economic ruin and peak oil and the demise of the suburbs and the end of life as we know on a weekly basis. What I like about him is that at the core, he is an urban geographer and planner, and I have studied a lot of what he talks about in college and thought a lot about it since then. Kunstler's stuff is almost always topical and relevant, and it's always thought-provoking. The trick to Kunstler is to see what he has to say and then think about whether or not I agree, where he might be wrong and what I think about his topic.

Tonight he had a particularly dreary post, however on The Coming Age of Austerity. Among other things, he foretells pitchfork riots sometime between Memorial Day and July 4. To help underscore this point, he illustrated it with the painting above, The Triumph of Death, by Pieter Bruegel.

Let's hope he's as accurate on this one as he was on Y2K, which came off pretty much without a hitch despite his dire warnings about that.

Apr 12, 2009

Test Riding the Rawland and the 2009 Commuting Opener

After taking a sick day on Friday and laying around like a slug on Saturday nursing this cold. we were able to salvage the weekend with some outside recreation today. 

I was just too under the weather yesterday to ride the new bike, but made up for that today with a leisurely ride around South MPLS. The Rawland passed the first-ride test with flying colors. I like the handling/fit a lot better than my Cross Check. It's agile but stable, handles really well at low speeds, and when I took it off the pavement, it was hands-down better than the Cross Check - very, very capable on single track/grass. It's not sluggish, though. I'll take it on a group ride here soon and see how it keeps up compared to the Cross Check, but I suspect it will be at least as good at higher speeds. It climbs well, too. Maybe the magic is in big tires, maybe the compact geometry, maybe the Rando bars... maybe all of the above; who knows? 

The high point of the ride was spotting a Great Horned Owl being hassled by some crows behind the VA hospital. That's the second GHO that crows have found for me, and we both had pretty good looks at him. Shortly after the owl sighting, a VA cop cruised over to us and rolled down his window. I figured we were going to get yelled at for biking around the VA (hey you kids, what do you think you are doing?). No such bad luck - he was looking for a loose dog and wanted to chat a little.

Tomorrow's the 2009 bike commute opener for me. I have ridden in to the office a few times this spring, but on Saturdays; so far no rush-hour rides. I have previously admitted to being a fair weather rider, but with a good weather ahead, better day light in the morning and a new bike in the garage, it's now time to get back on the saddle again. Marquette Ave. is again devastated by the cursed Marq2 project (and will be for all summer, apparently), so the last two blocks will be a major pain in the neck, but otherwise the route looks good. Hopefully it will be a good, safe season.

That's it. I hope you all had a great Easter and enjoyed the weather. Gird your loins for another week and be careful out there!

Edit - the photo is Guilford harbor and has nothing at all to do with this post.

Apr 10, 2009

Strategic Reconfiguration - Phase 4: Rawland Sogn

I been making systematic changes to my bike armada over the winter to get rid of bikes that were too specialized and/or that I found I was not riding for whatever reason. This began with Phase 1, which involved selling a Pugsely that I found on CL. The Pug was a lot of fun for short rides or specialized conditions, but too I found I rarely used it and there was an eager buyer, so it's gone to a better home.

Phase 2 was adding a Xtracycle to the Cross Check using the funds from the Pugsley sale. That seems like it was a good move and I think the X will be very useful for errands and such. I lost my regular all-around bike in this deal, however, and I found that created a void.

Phase 3 was the addition of a used Marin mountain bike to sort of replace the Pug and provide a capable bike for bad weather/ice and occasional single track. I thought this might be more useful as an all-arounder, but the mountain bike handling and low gearing would take some getting used to. It's also a cool bike - older high end bike, steel frame and good components, and it was a good deal, so I'll hang on to that one and run studs on it when I need to.

Phase 4 is now complete with the sale of a used Raleigh frame that was built out as a fixed gear and filling the empty bike hooks with a Rawland Sogn. The Rawland is built for 650B wheels, which might be a bit of a fad, but I think the advantages of the Sogn frame are very real. Tons of room for wider tires, handling that is a lot like a road bike but stable and smooth like a mountain bike, with road bike gearing. The Rawland soaks up the bumps well and is very sure-footed based on its relatively short test ride home.

It's got more of a "Grant Peterson" set-up than I am used to. The bars seem kind of high to me, particularly compared my other bikes, but I am going to give this a fair try before I bring it back to have the fork cut down a little more. I am trying disk brakes on this set up as well, so we'll see how we like that. I am particularly fond of the wheels, Jim suggested going stealthy black (Velocity Synapse rims, black spokes, Deore hubs). They look sharp.

I anticipate starting regular commutes on it Monday, and hopefully I can ride it a lot over the weekend as well, assuming the head cold that currently has me on my knees breaks.

Thanks to Hiawatha, Jim and Mark for the build!

Apr 8, 2009

Jinking the Grid

This is scary. 

A news article in the Wall Street Journal today reports that foreign powers have infiltrated our electrical grid and planted software that could disrupt operations or shut down the system. I have heard of this issue before, and I know firsthand that a lot of attention is being directed to maintaining security for pipeline control systems (SCADA) for this very reason.

It would be easy to make a joke out of this story ("Gentlemen -I am pleased to announce that if the American's attack, we can now shut off their televisions!" "Excellent, Comrade! That will bring them to their kness!"). However, if you think about the amount of economic terrorism that could be unleashed by something like this (disruption to business, electric funds transfer, and God knows what else) this could be a very serious threat.

It would also be easy to take the jaded, cynical position that this story was planted, er... informed, by the industry with the support of the Obama administration to build popular support for the "smart grid" and other infrastructure investments included in the bail out legislation of the Recovery Act.

I am choosing to split the difference. I believe this is a real issue and needs to be taken seriously. I also believe that if energy had not been perking along as an on-going issue and the Recovery Act had not singled out electrical infrastructure so much, this story would have received less favorable reviews from the WSJ editorial board and might have never seen light of day, because it's not necessarily a new issue.

Censorship in Anchorage?

The Anchorage Daily News ran a rather lengthy story earlier today on a comic book that will be coming out in June. The article was long enough that I did not take the time to read it at work (what with being the boss and all), so I sent the link to my email address so I could look it up when I got home.

Just a few hours later, I checked the link, and here's ALL I found:

Apr 5, 2009

Spring Classics

Despite waking to an inch of wet snow this morning, I am assured that winter is now in the rear view mirror. While many people are getting excited about the impending baseball opener, I am more focused on the Spring Classics opener.

The 2009 Ronde de Vlaandrenen (Tour of Flanders) ran today. For those the don't follow professional bicycle racing, the Tour of Flanders is the first, and perhaps one of the truest of the Spring classics. I've been waiting at least a month for the Classics to start, and I hoisted The Lion of Flanders Flag at the house to mark the occasion.

Classics are fun to watch - these are typically long, one-day races that really test each rider. The Ronde, like many of the classics, is brutal - it's got some awful climbs (sometimes pros walk up them), often the weather is cold and wet, and they race on cobble stones for a good part of the way.

I have ridden on cobblestones; I cannot imagine racing on them. I don't even like riding on the bumpy part of the West River Parkway, for God's sake. There's a stretch of cobbles on the north side of the Stone Arch bridge that I have also sampled on many occasions - try these (at over 25 mph and 100 psi for extra credit) and see what I mean. To rides miles and miles on these things, at speeds that I can barely attain on a good day, would be difficult to say the least.

The roads used for many of the Classics also get very narrow. As anyone who has been on a fast group  ride can attest, it's sometimes hard to find a place to be in a pack of riders. That's particularly true when everyone is hammering along and the roads narrow. To race up these kinds of roads just makes my head spin.

Stijn Devolder won the Ronde today. He's the former Belgian national champion, so all is right in the world tonight, and this is his second win of the Ronde (second in two years, as a matter of fact). Here's the full story from Pez. A tip of the hat to every last guy that finished this race.

Next week brings us Paris- Roubaix, another legendary race. 

In my book, this beats baseball any day.

Apr 4, 2009

Target Rubs It In

Our society imposes subtle, but real, discrimination on married people that don't have children. We don't have kids. We are not going to have kids. And both my spouse and I are entirely cool with that. Rest assured that we are just fine. No sympathy or intervention required (nor tolerated, for that matter). We love our lives and we are happy, and don't need to add kids to the equation for any reason. That's just where we are - it's not a value statement, so don't get all worked up about it.

I can't tell you how many times I have been asked by clients or colleagues at social functions or dinners: "do you have a family?". WTF? Of course I have a damn family. I have a Father, a Mother, a brother and not one but TWO sisters. I have tons of cousins/aunts/uncles/nieces/nephews and even a grand parent. And I have a metric boatload of in-laws to match that. 

What kind of question is that? I'll tell what kind of question that is - it's leading question. What they mean is not "Do you have a family?", what they actually mean is "Do have children?". 

Inevitably, people that ask this question do have children, and they want to talk about them. I used to simply say "No" in response to The Question. That was a mistake I chalk up to youth and inexperience. It almost always resulted in an awkward pause and change of subject. Sometimes I would toy with the idea of adding that I've had a great career, or that we just forgot to have kids (Kids? Damnit! I knew I was I forgetting something). As I got more tired of this questions, I tried on the idea of answering "No - one day Thor dropped his hammer to earth and I sprang from the crater fully grown with the ability to throw lighting bolts", but I have not done that either.

Now that I am older and wiser, I simply say "no - do you? Tell me about them!" and the conversation goes smoothly on. And I have to sit there and listen to them tell me about their kids.

Today I stopped at Target to pick up something for dinner. I thought chicken sounded good, so I browsed the Target chicken offerings. I was quickly confronted with another example of Childism. Target's chicken offerings include only sad, single boneless, skinless breasts (clearly packaged for sad, single people) or HUGE freaking Family packs of drumsticks, whole cut-up chickens, or 4 breasts all packed together. Not a single package of two breasts, four thighs, or anything else that would be about right for two adults. Not one.

- sigh -

We had leftovers at our house tonight.

Saturday Morning Bike Ride and MMRB

I got moving early and was able to get a decent bike ride in this morning before the wintery mess descends upon us yet again one more time. I shook the dust off the road bike, pumped the tires up to 100 and ventured across the river to that mysterious land called St. Paul. I was pleased that I was not quite as woefully out of shape as I thought I was. Take that, Marshal Ave. hill!

Met up with Mike and Benita for a short ride around the Midway (they were on a great Schwinn Twin) and then we retired to Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles (their not-for-profit bike shop) to help celebrate their belated grand opening with coffee, snacks and some bike fellowship.

The shop looks good - a few of us went over there some time around Thanksgiving to help crank out some bikes for their Christmas Wishes program. Benita read a very nice thank you note this morning from someone that got several of the bikes we worked on that day, so it was nice to get a chance to hear what a difference that little good deed made to a family in need. 

They have been busy - 61 bikes out the door so far this year.

Apr 3, 2009

Cannondale Pulls Out

Cannondale announced yesterday that they will be terminating U.S. manufacture of bicycles. I believe this now means that there are no mass-produced bicycles that are still made in the U.S. of A. Most of the major U.S. brands (Specialized, Schwinn, Trek, Cannondale and even Surly) have relied on Asian manufacturing for a long time. There are still high-end builders in the U.S., but I don't believe there are any U.S. companies building bikes-for-the-masses in the U.S. anymore.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Cannondale - especially the older, over-sized aluminum frame units. I know some people refer to these as "Crack-and-fail" frames, but I thought they rode really well and I kind of like how they look. While I am not overly hung-up on "made in the USA", it is kind of sad that this era is over.

Tax the Bicyclists!?!

Good ran a short piece about a proposed tax on bicycle riders in Oregon. This seems like a shake-down to me. The plan would be to require people to register their bikes for a period of two years at a cost of $54. The argument is that bikes use the roads and should pay for infrastructure. 

I understand that, but I already own a car and pay for gasoline (which is taxed for road repairs) and I own a house (which is subject to special assessments when the road needs repair) and I pay property tax on the house as well. Plus, having recently bought another bike, I paid tax on that as well. 

Seems like a short sighted scam to me. I wonder how much they think they would actually drum up from this? I suspect almost everyone would ignore the law and not register the bikes, making this a waste of time (and tax payer's money).

Apr 1, 2009

Holy Smokes, I Might Be a Quaker!

I re-took the "Belief-o-Matic" quiz on Beliefnet.Com tonight at the Spouse's request (this is a cool site, by the way). I had taken this quiz once before and the Spouse doubted the results, so I re-did the thing and I am now posting it, because as we all know, "if it's on the internet, it must be true". 

Here are the un-doctored results:

This is a little disconcerting since I identify as a Catholic, but when it came to answering some of the questions, I knew the Catholic answer but saw another option that looked like a slightly better fit (forgive me Father).

I am skeptical of any on-line quiz, so I am going to keep my spiritual options open, but this has been a bit of eye-opener to me. I like the idea of being a Friend more than being a Presbyterian,(Pagan sounds fun, too), but since I have never even considered these options, what do I know?

That's it. Go with God, but wear a helmet and watch out for drivers on cell phones while you do that.