Monday, July 25, 2011

Open letter to Scott Friedman on his commercial about cycling in Texas

Link to commercial:

Dear Scott,

I recently saw your commercial on NBC Universal Sports on the joy of cycling in Texas.  As a fellow cyclist, I'm glad to see coverage of this activity in the media.  In my years of cycling in this great state I have had multiple encounters with drivers who are unaware of the law with regards to the use of bicycles on roadways.  These drivers create hostile and dangerous situations on the roads with everything from honking,  verbal assaults, objects thrown from the car, and even speeding up and swerving around close enough to me that I have feared for my life.  I have heard from many other cyclists who have had similar encounters.

Thankfully, for every ignorant driver there are hundreds more who are polite and courteous.  However, this is a matter that I feel needs attention at a high level by public outreach to a broad audience.  Is there any chance you could do a follow up to your commercial that promotes a message of "share the road" or even a news segment on the rights and regulations of cycling in Texas?  That sort of coverage would be very welcome from the cycling community.   


End of the Line Century

White Rock via Frisco is probably not the way most people would get there from Farmers Branch.

I left the house at about 4am to try and escape the heat.  There was a slight breeze most of the day, but not bad enough to be detrimental to speed or energy.  And that early on a Sunday traffic is almost non-existent.  It was my most pleasant century to date, without a doubt.  I've learned to pace myself much better using my heart rate monitor and not having the sun beat down on you makes a huge difference.  

I looped the lake twice and took it to the end of the Santa Fe Trail.  I don't know why, but I envisioned an urban hip little downtown area with a few shops.  Eateries.  Coffee shops.  Maybe a small park.  A historic site.  Heck, even a historic marker.  I mean, really, this four mile stretch of nice paved trail has to be taking people somewhere...

An ungraceful end to the Santa Fe Trail
Or I guess not.  Some graffitied signs, a field, a few industrial "businesses" housed in corrugated tin buildings with junkyard dogs, and a literal end to the concrete is all there is.  Not even a nice little round-about or a water fountain to look forward to.  At least it was a shady spot to eat my PB&H before heading back in.

Speaking of dogs, on the way back I ran across two that were hanging out on the trail.  Luckily, after our experience on Cow Creek, Jason picked pepper spray for everybody, and I had just attached it to my handle bars with a fat rubber band.  They didn't look like the friendly type, so I ripped the spray off my bars and readied it, a little concerned with the limited space to maneuver on the trail, and charged forward to their position.  Surprisingly, they were more startled and wary of me, both jumped back a little as I zipped past.  Crisis averted and pepper spray put away.

After my second loop of the lake, I headed back home and did a few miles with the kids to finish out the century.  The heat was really starting around that time and I very glad to be done with the ride rather than right in the middle of it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Open letter to Kenny Marchant, Kay Hutchinson, and John Cornyn: please support federal funding for bicycling

I just received an email from People for Bikes, an organization that advocates for cycling.  This is the opening paragraph of that email:
Today, Congressman John Mica of Florida, Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, outlined his plans for the new transportation bill and called for the elimination of dedicated funding for biking and walking programs, which he suggested, “do not serve a federal purpose.”
Please take a moment to write to your representatives and ask that they continue to support federal funding for bicycling infrastructure.  People for Bikes has made it easy for you - click on this link to get started.

My open letter to Kenny Marchant, Kay Hutchinson, and John Cornyn: please support federal funding for bicycling.

Please support continuing, dedicated funding for bicycling and walking programs in the next federal transportation bill. 
I personally ride my bicycle around my neighborhood, to the store, to work, and just for fun and exercise.  I have ridden all over North Texas as well as multiple other states in this great nation and it would be a great loss to me personally as well as the country to lose federal funding for bicycling as a mode of transportation.
Americans face problems of dependence on fossil fuels (both domestic and foreign), rising gas prices, rising rates of obesity, pollution that produces smog in our cities and ultimately contributes to greenhouse gasses and global warming.  An easy, simple, and clear solution is available for all of these issues:  replace driving a car with riding a bicycle as often as possible.
Bicycles are much smaller than most cars and that allows many more people to use the road simultaneously.
In my experience, cyclists are helpful and friendly, often stopping to help each other out with a flat tire.  How often do drivers do that?  Cycling keeps transportation human:  the other person is clearly visible and we see each other as a person riding a bike, not just another car on the road.  That difference is subtle but important. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Check your patch kits

I got a flat on a ride a few weeks ago.  No big deal as I carry a patch kit and pump.  However, when I pulled out the rubber cement vulcanizing fluid* from the patch kit it was like it had evaporated - there was nothing in the tube - even though I had never used it before.  It must have dried out or leaked over time.  Good thing I had a spare tube as well otherwise I would have had to make a pleading phone call.

Awhile later, I went to patch up the tube.  I pulled out another patch kit and it was the same situation - the  rubber cement vulcanizing fluid was dried out, as well as the patches themselves were not very pliable.

As far as I can tell, there's no "best used before" date on these kits.  You might want to write the purchase date on them and then toss them after some time (maybe a year? 6 months?  who knows).

* Note that "rubber cement" is not the same thing as "vulcanizing" fluid.  Vulcanization means that the two layers of rubber are actually chemically bonded.  Regular rubber cement (depending on the formula) may simply stick the two layers together without vulcanizing them.

It's a sickness

"Hey, we should ride to Mineral Wells and camp out!"
"That sounds like a terrible idea."
"I know, let's do it!"

I lugged this banana almost 100 miles through heat and hell.
It started off as a perfectly ripe, yummy looking banana.
Now it's all brown, beaten, abused, mushy, and destroyed by the heat.
It's a metaphor for this ride.

You know how some things seem like a good idea at the time?  This didn't even sound like a good idea when it was proposed.  And yet, somehow I found myself sitting under a tree, somewhere in the middle of nowhere god-forsaken small town Texas in the 102*F heat with Dan laying down on his back, sunglasses on, trying to get his heart rate and body temperature back within normal human limits.  I kept an eye on him to make sure he was still breathing. The other eye watched the sweat roll down my arms, the ants wandering in the grass, and the incomplete shade of the tree slowly crawling away and the death rays of the sun edging nearer my skin.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, en media res as it were.  The day actually started off well.  We left a little later than planned, but got on the road when it was still a balmy 85*F outside.

Dan all fresh and ready to ride, blissfully unaware of the torture this day will hold
The first 16 miles were great.  We were on familiar roads and trails and the miles just clicked by.  We even stopped in a historical park and got a quick history lesson before setting out again.

This will be a great MUT once it's finished.

End of the MUT, on to narrow sidewalks. We diverted to the road shortly after this.
We passed by the Tarantula Train, which is a vintage train that goes between downtown Grapevine and the Fort Worth Stockyards.  It's a great way to get from one place to another really slowly.  One day I want to race the train on my bike - it will be a close call.

The Tarantula Train.  Just like a bicycle, it doesn't have air conditioning either.  Ask me how I know.
A roundabout!  This was the last fun thing we did.
As we cruised down the road, riding side by side, a gray corvette gunned his engine and buzzed Dan so close that I was seriously concerned about a wreck.  Any closer and he would have taken Dan out with his mirror.  Normally, I blow off rude drivers and go on about my ride, but Dan and I simultaneously shot him a one finger salute.  I'm not saying it's the right thing to do, but it was my immediate reaction.  Then, the guy pulled in front of us and literally stopped in the lane.  This is not a good position to be in.  I doubt he'd scratch his fancy paint job, but any car can easily back over a cyclist and be gone in a flash.  The driver yelled that we were breaking the law and had to ride single file.  I've learned that you can't reason with stupid, so I started memorizing his license plate.  Dan was more optimistic about this jerk's mental capacity and tried to explain the law.  (I'm using "explain" loosely here).  I pulled out my phone and yelled that I'm calling the cops, at which point he drove off.  I reported the whole incident to the local police.  I know that nothing will come of it and that this guy will keep harassing cyclists until someone gets hurt, but I want to make sure there's a record of his misdeeds.  There really, really, really needs to be more cycling advocacy and education in the USA in general and in this area in particular.

That incident really took a chunk of time that would have been better spent riding.  By this point, the mercury had climbed from "stay inside and enjoy a nice glass of iced tea", past "hell's antechamber" and straight in to "immediate concern for health and well being because you physically can't consume enough liquid to stay hydrated".  Of course, we then got stuck at a train crossing waiting for the world's longest train to move at about 1 mph.  We blame this on that jerk in the corvette.  If not for him, we probably would have made this crossing.  It took so long we actually cut out of traffic and took shade next to a building.

This took awhile.
We eventually got through, and then it was on to chip seal, rolling hills, and more heat.  Thankfully the wind wasn't too bad.

It's even hotter than it looks!

We should have stopped for a swim to cool off.  Or possibly boil ourselves.
Not much to report for awhile other than fairly frequent stops to cool down as much as possible, check the map, suck down a bottle of water, and then keep on trekking.  We eventually reached a gas station and stopped to resupply.  We bought 2 gallons of water and a bag of ice.  The water all but disappeared in to our camelbaks and water bottles and what little remained was chugged and dumped on our heads.  We took the ice and dumped it down our jerseys and shorts and held it on our heads and necks.

He looks happy because he has ice in his shorts

Salty carbs!

Here's a word problem:  a cyclist takes off from a gas station headed west toward Mineral Wells at an average velocity of 15 mph.  He has ice in his jersey and stuffed in to the vents of his helmet.  The ambient temperature is "bake a potato on the sidewalk", the terrain is rolling, and the surface is chip seal.  How long does it take for all the ice to melt?

The answer is about 5 miles.

As soon as we hit something resembling civilization we took refuge under a tree.  There was serious consideration about calling in the SAG wagon.  25 miles remained between us and our campsite.  We both had some degree of heat exhaustion and Dan looked ready to call it quits.  We stayed in the relative cool of that tree for a good 20 minutes before summoning up the willpower (or stupidity) to press on.

He's alive.  I checked.
Somehow, somehow, we made it to the Mineral Wells Trailway.  It's a really fun rail-trail that's hard pack dirt with a light layer of pea gravel on top.  Our road bikes handled surprisingly well, though I had at least one scary moment when my front tire hit some deeper gravel.  I've done this trail several times as part of a loaded-touring overnight camping trip.  But, I had the good sense to do it in the fall.  The trees provided some shade but it was still ridiculously hot.  Surprisingly, we didn't see anyone else on the trail.

Mineral Wells Trailway

Salt stains like this are a good indication that you are sweating too much

90 miles in to a hell ride this seems like an excellent way to park a bike

We finally made it to camp.  Dad was already there, and after sitting for a few minutes we hit the park showers and went to dinner.  We devoured the majority of an enormous ribeye steak, a double helping of chicken fried steak, fries, a whole sample platter of appetizers, and salads.  I had previously sworn off fried food after a ride, but this hit the spot pretty well.

Made it!

Dad wondering at what point in our upbringing did we decide that things like this were worthwhile activities

We slept under the stars that night beneath a moonless sky.  This was part of the bad idea from the beginning - sleeping outside in the 80*F heat after riding all day!  I woke up frequently, sweating on my ground pad, gulping more sports drink to stay hydrated in the dark.  It wasn't comfortable, but it was a fitting end to the day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2011 Tour de France

The 2011 Tour de France started on July 2.  You can watch it live on the net - check for websites that carry it.