May 31, 2011

Saving the Day. Or the Evening, Actually

Twilight from my front steps
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
This evening, after dinner, the Spouse and I went for a toodle around Lake Nokomis. This short casual ride is sort of a little treat for us in the evening, and between the wind and the clear sun, it was a sparkling evening to be on a bike.

As we worked our way along the north side of the lake, a Hispanic guy riding with his young son asked if we had a tire pump. I did, so I pulled over and gave them a hand. The kid's front tire was entirely flat, but we got out the little hand pump and they were on their way in less than 5 minutes.

How Dad happened to pick me out of all the others riding around the lake, I'll never know. Maybe it was the Yehuda Moon-sized Carradice bag strapped under the Brooks saddle of Old Clanky, maybe the lack of lycra and logos, or maybe I look old and wise enough to carry a pump (ha).

This is my first road-side rescue of 2011. I keep track of road-side rescues for some reason. I had two of these last year; the first was a teenage girl whose chain got sucked into her crank and the second was a Bike Lover that flatted and didn't have a 15 mm wrench or pump that day.

At any rate, we got them rolling and got a nice "thank you" from Dad and big smile from the kid in return.

May 30, 2011

The Quiet Serenity of Humiliation

Made It!
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
The weather window opened wide enough today to allow a fellow bikelover and I to ride to Coon Rapids Dam and back this afternoon. I was glad to get a longer ride in, and I am glad to learn more about the northern 'burbs, which I NEVER go to, but there's some good riding up there.

The extent of the damage from the recent North MPLS tornado is sobering; I have looked at a friend's photos on Flickr, but it's much more powerful to see the damage in person, even though I am sure some clean-up has been completed. Nevertheless, we had to hop barricades, go off-path to avoid large downed trees, and were shocked at the extent of the damage to North Mississippi Park.

The ride up was wonderful - conversation, topography, scenery (for better or worse). Fantastic. After resting up a bit at the Dam visitors center, we crossed to Coon Rapids and turned south - straight into 21 mph headwinds. I am not talking a cross-wind or a breeze here; I was f-ing sandblasted by road grit for miles.

The wind, combined with the sudden heat and humidity (and the admitted lack of miles in my legs) combined to make for a, um... "bad" finish to the ride. I didn't exactly "bonk" but after getting lost on the way home and dragging myself miles off course, I was spent. I think I could have made it pretty easily if I didn't get lost, but when I figured where I was and sized up my options, I hung my head and called in for a dust-off. Given the time, my state of mind and level of fitness, it was the right decision, but it still irritates me that I was a DNF on my own ride. What is the cycling equivalent of "eyes bigger than stomach?".

Despite my irritation with myself, I feel wonderful after a shower, a beer and supper. The exertion, the miles, and the mental gymnastics that come with riding with another person have soaked up a lot of stress and worry, and nudged my state of being into what I can only describe as serenity (albeit, with an suggestion of annoyance at needing a sag wagon).

Still - this ride was good for me. It's really the only longer ride I've done so far this year, and it was good to get to know someone I only yuk it up with on the internets.

We'll see how I feel about riding to work tomorrow....

Rain then a Silver Lining, perhaps?

This is the story of my life (at least my life so far this year). Today's Plan of Operation today had called for a reconnaissance of a used RV that we are contemplating acquiring, followed by lunch somewhere on the river downtown, and then a meet up and ride to Coon Rapids dam and back with somebody I've been wanting to ride with. A nice agenda for this Memorial Day if I do say so.

This morning's radar is less encouraging than last night's forecast, however. This mess might blow through soon enough, in which We Ride! If it continues soggy, once again we shall reschedule yet another ride for yet another date in the future. I am past tired of this Spring. What a waste of season...

The RV is an exciting new prospect; if we had stayed in Anchorage longer, I think we would have probably bought one of these units because it's not like you can pull into any town and find a motel in AK. What's gotten our attention is a smaller VW Rialta - it's only 22 feet long, gets somewhere between 17 and 22 mpg (as good or better than my truck) and would be great for two people that get along, and as far as Rialta's go, it's pretty affordable. If it's in decent shape we may take this around the state on various and assorted birding and biking adventures this Summer and Fall. It also takes care of our lodging at the upcoming family reunion in deepest, darkest Southern MN.

We'll probably come to regret this at some point what with peak oil and the rescheduling of the rapture, but in the meantime, this could be a lot of fun, and would fit in nicely with my plans to enjoy life more. As an added benefit, the cat seems to really enjoy car trips, so we could take the chow-bag along for some of these adventures, too.

On another note, mark your calendars for next Sunday, June 5. We'll meet at Midtown Freewheel at 11:00, ride to 48th and Chicago and encourage the local merchants to improve bicycle parking facilities. I need to get off the dime and make some flyers and fire up the P.R. machinery for that little advocacy project.

May 29, 2011

5 a Day!

Yummy Produce
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
We are redoubling our efforts to get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I am a little hard pressed at this point to come up with ways to do this that do not include Bloody Mary's and Salty Dog's. But we'll get there.

Earlier today we picked up a veggie grilling tray, so tonight I grilled a boatload of Vidalia onions, bell peppers, brussles sprouts, zuchinni and portabella mushrooms. It looked lovely and was delicious. But that's just one meal...

May 26, 2011

The High Cost of Doing Good

I signed up for the League Certified Instructor (LCI) course this evening. The LCI certification will enable me to teach Traffic Skills 101 class, lead Bike Rodeos for kids, and teach Confident Cycling classes.

I've been interested in bike education for some time, but it's kind of an ordeal to go through all this. The LCI course has a prerequisite of TS-101, which makes sense. To register, you also need to join League of American Bicyclists, which provides the LCI certification and you need to be affiliated with a group (in my case, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota).

By the time you add this all up, the total cost for the memberships and course work totals $320. That's a lot less than some training (Wilderness First Responder is about $800, but it's also an 80 hour course). Still, at that price, it's a barrier to a lot of people, I suspect.

I am scheduled to complete the LCI course work in late June, so hopefully I'll pass (not that I am worried about that) and be able to get some teaching in yet this summer.

Legislative Update: No E-Bikes, but Nothing Else, Either

Another of my Sunsets
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota staff posted a very informative update on Bike Love today regarding the results (or lack thereof) of the recently concluded legislative session as it concerns bicycles.

The upshot is that essentially none of the pro-bike legislation passed; that means that the Mississippi River trail is on hold as is the legislation that would have increased penalties for drivers that cause serious injury to cyclists or pedestrians.

Too bad, but I expect these will not go away and we might win next year. On a brigter note, the bill that would have allowed E-bikes on state trails also failed to pass, so that might those things at bay for the time being.

Here is the link to the discussion of legislative results on Bike Love.

May 25, 2011


I am about to pass through a gate, metaphorically speaking. It's not unanticipated, and it's probably past due. Still, crossing the line, and closing the door seems kind of intimidating.

The sense of excitement and unbounded opportunity is absolutely invigorating, but the undercurrent of bitterness and frustration makes this sublime.

I "friended" the Dali Lama on Facebook the other day and that's been useful. Many of the posts are about appearances, but he always seeds in a few words of wisdom to keep us subscribed (he's no fool). Today's post:

"Whatever path our activity takes, if our intention is to make ourselves useful to others, there is a good chance our conduct will be useful; whereas activities generally considered to be good, such as the practice of religion, risk causing more harm than good if they are not motivated by a desire to help our fellow beings."

That seemed appropriate this morning.

MPLS Bicycle Master Plan Map

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
My well placed sources were kind enough to email a copy of the May 4, 2011 revision of the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan map. The map has been the subject of several rounds of comments is probably close to complete.

Yes - the map is illegible, but if you click on it, you'll go to my Flickr page. From there, select "actions" and then "view all sizes". Select "original" for some high resolution map readin'.

It would be nice to see this level of infrastructure become a reality. Here's to hoping and persistence.....

May 24, 2011

Time for a Name Change

I have determined that I need to rename this blog.

When I started it, I simply took a screen name from a on-line forum that I frequent. That was simple, but it doesn't give any clue what this blog is about and it's kind of a stupid name anyway. I'll probably leave the URL the same for those that pick this up on a feed or something, but the name has to change.

I have a few ideas in my head, but I would welcome suggestions. If you have an idea, please post it in the comments below.

May 23, 2011

A "How To" for Bike Season

Cycle Twin Cities ran a "How To" article that I authored today.

I am re-posting it here on my site in case any of you Cats are not hip to that scene. Dig it.

May 22, 2011

The Week(end) in Review

Wet Clunker
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Another weekend draws to a close and I find myself surveying what I accomplished (and didn't). Thankfully, we were unscathed by the tornadoes that struck the Twin Cities today...

I was signed up for the Lake Pepin 3-speed Tour this weekend, but ended up canceling last week. Lack of planning, or rather attention, on my part, plus the other things competing for attention on my calendar ruled the day, and I sent the Shirt-Tail Organizer an email last week canceling. Hopefully someone else was able to get in because I canceled. Then again, with the weather we had this weekend, that may not be much of a good deed, after all.

I put my time to good use, however. I shot Saturday (literally) by taking some friends to the range to give them some exposure to target shooting. I love shooting, but don't do it very much. I find it very meditative - the amount of concentration required to accurately fire a pistol or rifle requires one to push every other thought from their head, and to pay attention to breathing. Few other things we do require that level of concentration. Drawing comes close, but not much else I can think of.

We sampled a wide range of calibers, but kept the distance close to yield positive results. The immediate feedback on a range is interesting. There are few other areas in life where you can take some sort of action and get immediate, definitive feedback on how you did. Endless opportunity to improve, experiment and learn. Plus, guns are involved!

Sunday was spent running a few much-needed errands and completing some chores, including yet another shake-down on the 3-speed. I now (finally) have the bike dialed-in like a frickin' F-16; the pesky cone tension problem is resolved and it's silky smooth (as least as silky smooth as a 40-year old bike can be).

On that note, I need to plan the next TC3-SAS ride. I am thinking two weeks from now (first weekend in June). Something casual and scenic. Details will be forthcoming...

Meanwhile, the TC3-SAS spoke cards are back from the printer and they look great!. I will be giving these away to anyone that shows up for a ride and wants one. I may leak some to friends as well - I seem to have plenty.

Now to gird the loins for another work week, which should prove to be interesting and significant. Details to follow on that as well.

Be well, do good, appreciate what you have.

May 19, 2011

Ghost Bikes

I have been intrigued by Ghost Bikes since my first encounter with this back in February of 2008.

Looking back at this blog tonight, I've posted about Ghost Bikes in one fashion or another no less than 5 times. Therefore, this post marks the 6th to touch on Ghost Bikes.

If you are not familiar with the concept, Ghost Bikes are small and somber memorials for bicyclists who are killed or hit on the street. A bicycle is painted all white and locked to a street sign near the crash site, accompanied by a small plaque. They serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street corner, and as quiet statements in support of cyclists' right to safe travel.

Click the link for more detail.

Recently, the City got a complaint about one of the Ghost Bikes out there. The caller stated that this bike was an eyesore and asked for the bike to be removed. The bike in question commemorates Dennis Dumm, who I did not know. He was younger than I am, he was an artist and photographer, he rode the same roads I do, he was loved, and he was killed in a truck-bike collision on Park Ave. at about the time I ride that same road. Now, I see this bike every time I ride Park Ave. to the office.

I stopped by there tonight on the way home to size up the situation and see if the bike was in fact an eyesore. It was not bad, but it needs some maintenance. I cleaned up the easy stuff and will return tomorrow on my morning commute with a few tools to do a little bit more. I've sent an email to the City telling them that we are working on this and to ask for some time to fix it up, as well as another to the MPLS Ghost Bike people to see if it's possible to do more - the bike needs to be repainted or replaced.

I have an uneasy relationship with Ghost Bikes - I support them, but I can't help but feel for the people that live or work next to one of these. Honestly, I would not like the reminder of this in front of me every day, so homeowner or landowner approval seems really important to me. Maintenance is important as well. Installing a Ghost Bike seems noble, but an unmaintained Ghost Bike could easily become an insult to the victim and an eyesore to the community.

Lots of responsibility placing these, it seems. Hopefully this one will be spiffed up and Dennis's life commemorated appropriately.

UPDATE: The good people at Ghost Bike MPLS are on the case! Yea and thank you!

RESCHEDULED: Time for Direct Action

I have been trying to get the local business association at 48th and Chicago to add a bike corral to improve bike parking. Background is available here and here. I've run into a dead end and need your help to get this un-stuck.

Parking is not great at this intersection, but there are a ton of destinations that draw bikes (Turtle Bread, Townhall Tap, Pepito's, etc.). I have spoken to the President of the business association and lobbied him on this issue. He's supportive and brought the issue to the association members. The consensus is that they are supportive of trying a bike corral, but they do not want to spend any Association money on this, nor are any of the merchants willing to pay for this on their own.


I would like to put together as many cyclists as we can on Saturday, May 28 Sunday, June 5 for a short, fun group ride. We'll meet in front of Midtown Freewheel, ride en masse to 48th and Chicago and drop leaflets with all the local merchants asking for improved bike parking. While doing that, we will let them know that we are continuing on to Buster's/A Baker's Wife/Angry Catfish to spend money of coffee, food, beer and bakery at a location with better parking. The merchant can then watch us ride over the hill and think about the merits of on-street bike parking.

I am not trying to be a jerk here, but I don't know what else is going to make them see that bike riders are good customers.

Meet at Midtown Freewheel at noon, Saturday, May 28 SUNDAY, JUNE 5. We'll roll out by about 12:10, make it to 48th and Chicago in time for the peak of lunch, do the drop and talk and be at Buster's enjoying a cold drink by about 1:30 PM.

Anyone and everyone is encouraged to come along - for this to be effective, I'll need a lot of cyclists, so if you can fit this into your weekend, I would really appreciate it.


May 17, 2011

Unintended Consequences

I realized today that my migration to bicycle and transit commuting has resulted in an unintended consequence: I can no longer tolerate driving in rush hour traffic.

I had a late afternoon meeting today in Golden Valley. The meeting was productive and I was in a good mood when I left at about 5:00. I eased onto I-394, waited at a metered ramp, slowed and merged again around Highway 100, and then came to a complete standstill in the lane that goes to I-94 east, trying to get back to the safety and serenity of So. MPLS.

I-394 was a frigging parking lot. I got more and more wound up as I inched along until I finally said "Bucket!" (except the "B" was actually an "F"), and exited on Dunwoody, thinking I could meander south and east on City streets.

Bad idea, SS. I got swept into Hennepin Ave. at rush hour and crawled along for another 15 minutes or so until I could finally turn east on 28th and get out of that seething mass of humanity. To be clear, pedestrians were keeping pace with me and the fortunate few on bikes were essentially wrinkling time as they whooshed by. Buck! (remember, "B" is "F" for this post).

Apparently, I have lost any ability to deal with traffic jams. The bus might be a little poky, but I can at least read while we inch along, so the time passes productively. The bike lets me bypass the whole mess at my usual pace and gives me a little exercise to boot. Plus, it improves my naturally gloomy demeanor.

By the time I got home, I was frothing at the mouth, honking my horn at others and inventing new and exciting swear words.

I need to go lay down now.

May 16, 2011

Another Fun Bike-Related Exchange!

Faithful readers may recall that I have a cyber pen-pal of sorts in the farthest reaches of southern England. We have a sort of mutual admiration society going. I envy his bikes, commutes and history, and he envies, um... MPLS bike culture, I guess? I don't have much else to offer a person with a couple of Singulars in the stable and easy access to the loveliest rides I've ever seen.

During the darkest and coldest stretch of winter, I offered a small token of appreciation to readers of this blog from overseas. Overly Curious was a recipient of that offer, and reciprocated with a little thank you gift from the lovely green hills of Torbay. It was a fun little international exchange, and I think we both enjoyed it. I've posted a few pics of Overly Curious's bike with the spoke card, so perhaps some have seen this, but if you have not, it's a MPLS Bike Love spoke card overlooking the English Channel (photo credit to Overly Curious Bystander).

I have a similar deal on the go again. A more recent reader, Adventure!, admired my TC3-SAS spoke cards. I enjoy his blog and was happy to set a few aside for him - he organizes 3-speed rides occasionally and is currently planning an epic tour that will take him through the Twin Towns, so hopefully I'll be able to hand the spoke cards over in person. You can help make that possible by making a small contribution to his fund-raising page. Give a little - it'll feel good...

Adventure! has offered me a poster he created for the Portland 3-speed ride! Sweet! I'll be watching the post for this and look forward to hanging this in a place of honor in my humble home.

Perhaps this is the start of a detente between Portland and Minneapolis?

May 13, 2011

TC3-SAS Rides Again!!

TC3-SAS Front
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Supposedly, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result at some point.

Nevertheless, I am going to try another Twin Cities 3-Speed Adventure Society (TC3-SAS) ride this Wednesday evening. The first one was a rainy, windy adventure (and by "adventure" I mean "ordeal") and the second ride that I led was a complete wash-out. Between those two, Bikesmith led a successful ride, but I was out of town and missed the whole thing.

So, here's the deal. We'll be meeting at the Nice Ride station on 8th Street, next to the IDS Center at 6:00 PM. Bring your bike, or if you want to try Nice Ride, here's a good chance to do that.

I figure we'll do some ultra-urban rambling, maybe swing through Loring Park, explore the river front and perhaps stop at Aster Cafe for refreshments.

Hopefully the weather will be better. It can't possibly stay this miserable all month, can it?

The graphic with this post is the first public unveiling of a TC3-SAS spoke card that's currently in production. These limited edition, promotional pieces are sure to be collector's items. The best way to get one is to come on a ride with us, but I hear those TC3-SAS guys can be bought off for the right price, too.

Dancing with Cars

Despite an entire week of continued illness, I managed to get at least one thing done. Hopefully this is not bronchitis.

May 10, 2011

Career-Ending Injuries

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I have been getting my hair cut for the past two years or so at a small barber shop in the Medical Arts Building on Nicolet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. It's a classy old building - it's kind of an ornate building. It used to be full of medical specialists, but now it's mostly occupied by vendors selling "product" to Target Corp.

The building still has that classy "downtown commerce" vibe, though, and there is an old school barber shop on the first floor. My barber, "Al" is great, and the barber shop is pure Norman Rockwell. There's a Playboy magazine from 1997 or so and some Sport's Illustrated's in the magazine rack, plenty of brass, and warm shaving cream. Each visit promises a few off-color jokes and bitching about the Twins or the Vikings, depending on the time of year, and a good haircut. Ear hair is trimmed without comment.

As I got the mane trimmed today, Al was running me through current events. He told me that he hurt his knee since the last time I was in - he was bending down to pick something up and as he stood back up, his knee gave out.

He went to the doctor when it didn't get better on its own and he found out that he torn his miniscus (sp?) and has bad cartilage - he basically needs knee replacements at this point.

I asked what was involved with that. Al told me that recovery from this would probably take six to eight months - he'd have to retire in order to get this surgery since he can't leave his customers for that long and expect them to come back. It would be a shorter recover for people with an office job, but if you are on your feet all day, the recovery is longer.

Al is planning to retire in two years, and the doctor thinks he can keep Al upright until then, so for now I don't need to find a new barber.

When I think of career-ending injuries, I tend to think of football players getting knees blown out, pitchers with rotator cuff injuries, and roofers with bad backs. Still, the fact of the matter is that this kind of thing can happen to anybody at any time.

I am fortunate that I can't think of a career-ending injury for myself - I have a desk job, work in a handicapped accessible building, and with adaptive devices, I could probably overcome just about anything and still be pretty effective at my job, I think.

Still, I bet Al never thought his knees would take him out of the haircutting business.

May 8, 2011

Recovery and New Camera Day

After yet one more nap this afternoon, I finally feel like I beat this cold. I was coming down with it Wednesday and missed work on Thursday and Friday. I felt pretty lousy on Saturday as well. Sunday was better, but I have been hacking like a sea lion since the middle of last night. My wife has really been appreciating my performances, I am sure.

The exciting news is that today is New Camera Day. I've been carrying around a little Olympus Stylus, which I love because it's small, takes reasonably good pictures and it's tough: shock-proof, waterproof and cold-resitant, which I need because I generally carry my camera in a cell phone holster on my messeger bag whenever I ride.

The new camera is a Nikon P500. I got a demo of a P100 from a friend on the recent Flood Ride and was so impressed with the camera that I wanted one, so I treated myself to an early birthday present on Saturday. The Nikon P100 or P500 are small digital cameras with mega-zoom capability and good optics. It's not an SLR, which I refuse to use because I don't want the hassle, but I miss having a good zoom everytime I want to take a picture of a bird or something.

The Nikon operating system is different than the Olympus I am used to using, so I've got some book learning to do, but I took this out this morning for a short bird walk around Lake Calharriet and Lakewood Cemetery and it was great. It seems to do really well in low light; much better than my Olympus, which gets grainy in low light, and the flash is a lot more forgiving as well - it doesn't wash out the color and make everyone in the photo look like vampires, at least on the preview screeen.

That said, this camera is considerablly larger than my Olypus Stylus, so I'll have to relearn how to carry a camera. Have no fear, the trusty Olypus is still on my messenger bag - the convenience of that is just too great to give up.

Still, the added capability of this unit will more than make up for the inconvenience, I suspect.

Riv Reader

The Rivendell Reader is out. Check it.

Thanks, Bro Yam for the use of the photo and the fellowship at Sea Salt on Thursday evening.

May 6, 2011

Sick for the Second Time in a Week!

Last week Thursday, I came down with some sort of flu. I was still feeling creaky on Friday but was at work. Now I've got a bad cold.

I woke up to a sore throat on Wednesday morning and by Thursday morning I was in bad shape - my sinuses felt they had been packed with hot, wet cotton. It was disgusting.

I am still under the weather tonight, hence the photo of my commuter locked up in front of my house.

I did something productive today - I got the Bikebyshootings photo pool of Flickr pool mostly cleaned up. There's some good shots in that pool - check it out if you have not seen it and go ahead and add to the pool if you have anything to share.

May 4, 2011

Reminder - Beers for Bloggers on May 5

Originally uploaded by Matty Lang
Just a quick reminder that I have a beers for bloggers event on the calendar for tomorrow at Sea Salt. I scheduled this before I realized it conflicted with Greaserag, so we'll be careful to avoid that going forward, but I plan to be there tomorrow nonetheless.

If anyone can make it, that would be swell. I'll keep an eye out for bikey looking people nad hopefully see some over there.

May 3, 2011

Taking a Stand for Quality on the Internet

on bike
Originally uploaded by wvs
How cool is this?

I am a member of the Flickr group "Bikebyshootings". I love the group - it's devoted to photos taken from moving bicycles (a mildly hazardous avocation I enjoy a lot). Extra credit for photos that evoke the feeling of speed and motion. What's not to like about a group like this?

Actually, what's not to like is the fact that some of the members will post photos of just about anything bike-related in that group. A bike in the snow, a pretty girl holding a bike, it was all there. Nice, but not the point of the group.

The quality of the group has been in a slow spiral for awhile now, so this weekend, feeling disgruntled with things in general, I posted a comment that many of these photos simply don't belong here. I expected the comment to be ignored or deleted within a few days, but instead, I was given "admin" authority and free license to clean up the group.

Bikebyshootings is now cleaned up now and ready for new submissions. You all ride, at least some times, so bring a camera along and shoot from the saddle. Post up on the group if it's at all interesting!

The Bike Expo

Earlier today, Cycle Twin Cities ran a piece on last week's Bike Expo by yours truly. I was disappointed by the Expo this year but I couldn't put my finger on what exactly was bothering me. The Expo seemed smaller, true, but after talking to a few friends, I realized that what disappointed me was the lack of diversity in the cycling community at the Expo. As I said in the CTC post, I saw very few people over 60 or under 30 years old, and most of the vendors and presentations were aimed at the "drive-your-bike-to-the-trail" style riders.

There's much, much more here than that. I hope that next year the Bike Expo can add to presentations - a first person account of the Arrowhead 150 would be fascinating. An introduction to Alley Cats would be an eye-opener for most people, and a demonstration of obstacle riding by the people with skillz from MORC would be fantastic.

We need to celebrate all that we have, from the little kids who want to decorate bikes to the seniors who want to stay active, and everyhing in between.