Thursday, June 30, 2005

Second Class Citizen

Today, I discovered "my" commuter route has been closed south of downtown Saint Paul.

Let me digress. The new residential development along the river has been the bane of my commute for an entire year. In the morning, they frequently irrigate the bike lane. There is simply no avoiding the water- which mostly ends up on the pavement, rather than in the grass. Secondly, it was construction debris that ultimately precipitated my crash last August. Today, in the middle of the commuter trail, nowhere near an intersection, the entire path was closed and fenced off from Shepard Road to the river. There was no detour, no rerouting across the street, nothing. It would be like closing a freeway (with no warning signs like "road close ahead") in the middle of nowhere- with no exit or intersection. My choice was to spill across the grass and hop the curb onto Warner Road where there is no shoulder at all and cars flying by a 60mph, inches away, or plan B.

I opted for plan B, and moved the barricades, thereby moving the fence. At least in Minneapolis they create marked detours for construction across bike lanes. I guess in Saint Paul they'd prefer we ride against traffic? Of course, the city's indifferent neglect of what could be a valued city resource has resulted in a gauntlet of broken glass, presumably from phantom chronic inebriates who haunt the riverfront. At least in Minneapolis, they maintain commuter trails. I'd call city hall, but I live on the wrong side of the river.


The Northfield Crit is coming up on Monday. I am dreading it. I raced it last year, and I was pulled for the first time ever in my much vaunted racing career. To be fair, two-thirds of the field was pulled because an insanely fast sandbagger lapped almost everyone (he was something like the state champion time trialist as a cat 4).

Anyway, the course is built for suffering. It has a nasty hill that becomes dreadful after five or ten laps. It is just long and steep enough to peg the heart rate. It is right after a corner where the pavement narrows just enough to make it difficult to power through it. Inexplicably, there seems like there is little time for recovery, considering the rest of the course is non-technical and rather down hillish.

Who really wants to suffer on a holiday? Of course, I probably wouldn't miss it for the world.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

GT&F Revisited

Tonight at GT&F, which is basically a lycra-clad critical mass alleycat through the hills of St. Paul, the "group ride cop" showed up. I had never seen this guy before. First of all, I may have mentioned how this ride seemingly possesses the sole objective of dropping everyone possible in a series of hills in St. Paul. I mention this because it has no regrouping points. It is an urban ride with many stop lights, which can serve as a brief respite for regrouping. More likely, they become a barrier that separates a rider from the group. This of course promotes bad riding behavior as riders run lights, stop signs, and so on to stay with the pack.

The ride started out with maybe 30 or 40 riders, but was quickly broken up into maybe 15 or 20 in the front group. As normal, the front group rode as if one unit. In other words, at a stop sign, the first guy sort of slows down and rolls through with everyone else rolling through in tow. With the accordion effect, the riders toward the back often end up accelerating through the stop sign. This is rather typical group ride behavior in most clubs. Nobody treats a stop sign like the bikes are a line of cars, with each coming to a complete stop, individually, and starting again, one by one, thereby becoming completely split up and scattered amidst vehicular traffic. GT&F is, however, a bit more anarchic, and riders tend to aggressively do whatever they can to catch up, since there are no re-grouping points (like a truly well-organized ride should have). Did I mention they don't ever re-group?

Anyway, while waiting at a light, some guy I'd never seen before starts whining, "Nice stop at Ford Parkway." I turned around and he looked right at me and said, "I didn't see anyone stop back there." I wondered what his problem was. He didn't appear to be a ride leader. Anyone who has ever ridden this ride knows that this is normal behavior for this group. As we continued, he kept complaining, apparently to no one in particular. Finally, as we were stopped near the high bridge, he sarcastically announced, "I will be turning off at the top of the high bridge. It has been nice riding with all of you."

The odd thing about this group is that it is most inclusive. The other Tuesday shop ride (from a different club- and not my team) in the area is much more cliquish- and too far away for me to attend without driving to the start- which I abhor. To my knowledge, my team doesn't offer a Tuesday ride at all.

It was, to its credit, a wicked tough ride. I saw heart rates higher than I normally even see during a race.

Thankfully, another series of Tuesday crits begins in a week or so.

Monday, June 27, 2005

What State Road Race?

I missed the State RR on Saturday- by design. We have relatives staying with us, and we headed out of town to a cabin for the weekend. Summer has just begun and already the road races are finished for the season, unless I count the Wisconsin races. I don't understand this. We live in Minnesota. Why are the bulk of the races in the ungodly month of April?

I raced one Wisport event two years ago at the urging of a friend. I will never race another. They are not governed by US Cycling, so they tend to attract a different element. Plenty of experienced racers still show up, but there are plenty of participants whose only goal is to finish the race. They don't break the race up into categories, so there can literally be a thousand races on the course. The Firehouse 50 felt extremely dangerous the year I rode it (I've never seen so many crashes) so I skipped 2004- when a rider actually died. Of course, last year it was scheduled the same day as the state criterium, so I would have missed it anyway.

I'd like to think I had more fun at the cabin anyway. There is more to life than biking and racing, although there are times I need to remind myself of that fact.

Friday, June 24, 2005

What Statistics?

It seems each cycling fatality is written up in on line forums and highlighted with a weight disproportionate to the statistical realities involved. As a counterpoint, if we estimate that approximately 45,000 people die in motorized vehicles annually, and divide that by 365 days, we have about 120 deaths per day. Imagine the handwringing if the media profiled each one of these deaths, and daily they were compiled and regurgitated in internet forums?

Organizations like MADD have exhaustively exploited alcohol-related statistics to promote their agenda- in a relative vacuum. DWI laws in the US are extremely permissive compared to much of the world. When it comes to vehicles, it is still the wild west. It took years to pass seatbelt laws. Lawmakers agonize over lowering the legal BAC limit from .10 to .08. Speed limits have risen and are lightly enforced at best. The judicial system appears to have an uncomfortable relationship with the ciminalizing of driving offenses. It is so skewed that I know of more people afraid of flying than driving. Vehicle safety isn't even on the radar. It is taken for granted.

Not a day goes by during a work commute by car that I don't see an accident scene of some sort. But I won't dwell on that, either.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Win, Win, Win Situation

We bought a bike case yesterday.

Before I get into that, I must invoke a flashback to last August when we traveled to Norway for a few weeks. We traveled there several times in the past to see her family, but I hadn't ridden a bike of any type there. To be fair, our travels had generally been in the winter. I wanted to ride this time.

I knew that NWA allowed bikes to travel internationally for free as checked luggage, and that they sold bike boxes at the airport. I inquired at about the quality of the boxes, and some local lurker delurked to ask if I simply wanted to borrow his Trico Iron case. He was even willing to leave it in his backyard for me to pickup. I was uncomfortable with that, and felt that I'd at least like him to meet me face to face before parting with a case that cost at least $250. At any rate, I borrowed the case and took a fixed gear to Norway. Since we were staying mostly on a very small island, I had to take the ferry to the mainland to do any serious riding, but I had a great time exploring the area.

Anyway, when the crew from work was planning for the California ride, they asked me about bike cases. I suggested they post an inquiry online, and three out of the four were offered cases for free on loan. The other was "rented" a case for $50 for the trip. One of the women mentioned that the man she borrowed her case from was interested in selling his. I had packed her bike in the case, and it was practically new. It was a Performance Bike case that had an actual latch, rather than the Trico style using straps. It was a actually a bit smaller than the Trico, but it worked fine. My coworker gave me the contact info, and the price was right. Additionally, my wife actually recommended buying it.

I contacted the seller by email. We agreed on a price. My coworker had the case at work and had been planning on dropping it off after work with a small gift to show her appreciation for him loaning the case to her. I ended up giving her a check to give to him and took the case. In the end, she had a free case for a week and helped him finally sell it.

The real issue of course is not the sale of the case, but the generosity of complete strangers when it comes to biking.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

That Takes Serious Balls

So I show up at GT&F- a 32 mile hill ride with maybe 1800 feet of climbing- and I see a guy with dyed-orange hair on a fixed gear conversion with full fenders, wearing bibs and a wife beater. I'm wondering how this will go over with the roadie snobbery that snubs a poor sucker who dares to show up with aerobars.

After the first hill, he is still hanging with the lead group. I ask him what he's using for gearing, and I thought he said 47 X 15, but I've never heard of a 47, so maybe it was a 46. We hit the second hill, and he's still hanging with the group. We hit two 40+ mph descents, and he is still with the group. He hangs with the front group on the high bridge. This guy was an animal, and he certainly knew how to handle his bike in the midst of a bunch of geared guys. He has my respect. He even made it up Ramsey Hill like it was no big deal.

Anyway, I had a good ride. It was the first GT&F ride I've attended this year. I don't know if it was slower than normal or I'm that much stronger this year, but it was easy hanging with the lead group. It was super hot today, and I quickly went through two water bottles. My calves cramped up a bit. That is the second time this year I've had trouble with them. At least now I have calves. All those years as a gym rat and I always had chicken legs. Even biking really didn't put them over the top. It really took a combination of elliptical machines at the gym during the winter and riding fixed to pump up the legs. Now I just need to figure out how to take care of them. Actually, I should have pre-hydrated before heading out. But there is always the urine management to consider as well. Why does like have to be so complicated?

I love the hot weather. This is a great start- the first day of summer!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Gears, Tears, & Fears

Last night I hitched a ride home with my wife. It was Monday. I was tired. It was very wet outside. I could have ridden home, but it was relatively optional. I would have needed to spend an hour cleaning everything, and it just wasn't worth it. Excuses, excuses.

Today I needed to drive because I have a meeting in Burnsville and West Saint Paul this afternoon. Of course it was beautiful this morning.

We have a family of five staying with us- my wife's uncle's family. It looks like I'll be missing the State Road Race this weekend, since we'll be taking a trip up to a cabin. I was ambivalent about this race anyway, and I've lacked any focused preparation for it. Just the same, I would prefer to hit every race possible. I generally have an underlying, subtle feeling of desperation that it only becomes more and more difficult to "train" and race the older I am- that I don't want to miss a single opportunity. It is similar to the feeling I have early in the season, that when it is nice outside I simply MUST be riding- like it is the LAST nice day we will ever have. Ever. Of course this is not true, but at times my wife needs to tolerate and redirect my grumpiness as I am "forced" to participate in other activities.

Lately, I've shifted my attitude about racing, travel, and life in general. I've decided that no matter where we travel, my attitude will be that someday we will return. Several years ago, I traveled to Paris for the first time, and I took photos of everything. I was stressed out trying to see all the sights. We went together this spring, and we had already seen most of the sights, and the real appeal of the trip was in sharing it with each other. It was far more relaxing. I still plan on returning. We've traveled so much in recent years that I don't look at any travel as being "the trip of a lifetime."

Likewise, with racing, I keep thinking that someday I'll "retire"- whether by choice or life circumstances that make racing and training too time-consuming or difficult. Lately, I believe I've integrated biking into more areas of my life. These areas, such as commuting, are ultimately more meaningful and purposeful than merely racing. Racing is a purely gratuitous display of one's performance. You always end up right where you started- albeit exhausted. That's not to say that I don't love it, but it is almost like running on a treadmill. And then there is the time invested in training. But I don't ever really need to quit. I can do this forever- or at least until the appeal naturally wanes.

Switching gears slightly, I'm thinking of riding Gears, Tears, and Fears tonight. It is a club ride sponsored by a non-racing club that I've drifted from. I think I showed up once or twice last year. It often interferes with Tuesday night crits, but there are no races scheduled for a few weeks, aside from the road race this weekend. I have ambivalence about the GTF ride as well. It is a sort of free-for-all club ride that is the antithesis of a "no-drop" ride. The goal seems to be to drop as many people as possible, which in turn promotes very sloppy group riding, like blowing through lights and stop signs to catch up. It is not sponsored by my racing club. If it were, it would sensibly regroup after each hill. Most of the guys who show up for GTF are not racers. I bumped into a regular at a party a month ago, asking why he wasn't showing up at crits anymore. He responded that he was afraid of crashing. I guess, for appearances, GTF serves as a race (of sorts) for non-racers.

The other option is a group ride that leaves from County Cycles. That ride is quite cliquish- not very welcoming. I'd much prefer there was a crit tonight. Maybe my own club has a shop ride tonight. Oddly, most of the guys who showed up at the few I attended last year were never anywhere to be seen on race days. I'll check the message board. At least I'm not ever adverse to riding solo.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Should Be a Fun Commute Home Tonight!

Image Hosted by

This morning the forecast was for a 30% chance of rain.

Edited 6/21/05: Full storm report here

Gas is Cheaper than Water?

OK, I don't drink Evian or Perrier when I ride, but I do burn an extra 1700 calories or so in a round trip commute. Which is cheaper: paying for 40 miles worth of gas, or eating and extra 1700 calories of reasonably quality food? 1700 calories is a decent meal. I'm guessing gas is cheaper. By the gallon, gas is definitely cheaper than milk.

Now I don't commute to save the environment, or to save money. I love to ride and would need some sort of workout anyway. I guess I save on my own mental health when I ride. I just haven't quite figured out the economics of it yet. On the flip side, I could build another fixed gear conversion for less than I paid to have a serpentine belt replaced in my car the other day!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Why Do You Wear Tights?

OK, I wasn't wearing tights- just regular bibs with a regular jersey- out and about on an after work ride last week. I was heading home and wanted to avoid Lake Calhoun, so I was riding east on the Greenway toward Bryant when a kid of indeterminate gender blurted out those words as I rode by: "Why do you wear tights?"

It made me pause. Was this some smart-ass remark or a sincere inquiry? This isn't part of the usual menu of harrassment endured while biking. I don't really have a canned response for this sort of thing. I was out of my depth.

I turned around and asked the kid, who I then also noticed was of indeterminate age, if he/she was talking to me. I should maybe mention that this person had rather wild dreadlocks, was blonde, and was with two other "kids" who appeared to be more male. My initial inclination was to ask why he (I was settling on male as the gender at that point) had his hair like that. It truly was a serious problem, if you ask me. But I took the higher road and asked if he was asking a serious question, to which he replied yes.

I offered a very brief explanation of the practical reasons for wearing bike shorts, and I soon watched his attention-deficit ridden eyes start to flutter. I'm sure he regarded me as a freak, as I know I regarded him as a freak elite in the making. At least this tatterdemallion wasn't throwing rocks at bikers or smashing bottles on the pavement. Then again, I usually need to ride further east to experience those pleasantries.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Games People Play

(Or kids in big bodies)

In Alaska, I reconnected with three cousins. One was particularly sentimental about a time when we were playing whiffle ball with my brother when we were kids, and apparently I was mercilessly tormenting him by pitching the ball at him, rather than to him. I had apparently repressed the entire incident of inflicting trauma to my only sibling, but my cousins recounted it with painful clarity.

To make matters worse, they arrived at our home in Minneapolis last weekend, a day after we returned from our trip- bearing an early birthday present for me. A whiffle ball set. To be accurate, it wasn't an official whiffle ball, but it was close enough. To make matters even worse, they insisted on going down to the creek to actually play. It was fun enough, I guess- a bunch of grown adults playing with a plastic bat and ball. The trouble was, neither the ball or bat has much mass, and throwing and hitting was bit more stressful on my shoulder than I had anticipated. Whiffle ball meted its revenge.

My next foray into corrective childhood experiences involved a corporate "fun day" that I was drafted into organizing. My administrative coworkers derisively "volunteered" me to organize our next outing that was scheduled for Wednesday. In the past, we ice skated, which was new for me, being from out of state. We have also watched a few movies. We usually go out for lunch afterwards. My idea was paintball. I had never tried it. I wanted to be outdoors and do something a bit physical. I independently polled each coworker, and everyone was agreeable, although a few mentioned they didn't like the idea of "shooting" anyone. With even the slightest affirmative interest, I counted them in. One coworker, who is maybe two weeks pregnant, opted out. I really don't understand anyone going out of her way to remind everyone she is barely pregnant, but this was another opportunity for her to remind me. Of course, no one is "supposed to know," but everyone does, since she can't help but tell everyone.

Anyway, Wednesday arrived with rain. I packed some junky clothing and boots and decided to make the best of it. My plans were nearly upstaged at the last minute when coworkers decided to celebrate the CEO's birthday at the office at the same time we were scheduled to be at the course, but we eventually were on our way. What the splatball organizers didn't tell us was that even an SUV was considered light duty for traversing the gauntlet of water-filled potholes. Certain sections of the long, one-lane gravel road were entirely submerged, and I felt as though I was fording a stream. Adjacent to the course was a game farm. I could vaguely hear banjo music off in the distance. This was western Wisconsin, after all.

As we were waiting, the manager was describing his $2000 paintball gun. Biking, paintball- no matter what the hobby, there will always be those who carry their passion into the extreme. I'm sure he wouldn't understand why anyone would pay $2000 for a bike frame- or an entire bike. He also described how last weekend they had over 800 people out there playing a massive game. I couldn't figure out where that many people would park, or how they would navigate the one-lane road. These guys looked so serious they probably parachuted them in. He also described how next weekend they are having celebrity paintball- featuring such luminaries as the actors that played Pugsley and Wednesday Addams. I truly had no idea!

Eventually everyone straggled in, grumpy as hell, and dragging their feet, cursing my existence (and the presence of porta-potties, rather than proper facilities). We heard frequent real firearm fire off in the distance. I finally managed to corral everyone, sign everyone in (waivers promising death or blindness if the rules weren't followed), and we finally began. Our three hours were already whittled down to two. We started our first game, capture the flag. Having never played before, I quickly thought I was hit when I was splattered with dye from balls that were impacting on tree branches in front of me. The referee indicated that I'd know when I was hit. The CEO nailed one of her teammates at close range in a painful case of friendly fire.

We won the first two flag games, and then switched to an elimination game on a different course. By this time, my coworkers were getting into the game, and I was seeing an aggressive side I'd never seen before in some people. In the last game I decided to use all my ammo and go Rambo on everyone. I took out a coworker trying to hide behind a narrow tree. I then charged another and hit her in her facemask. She nailed me in the process, and I realized there was no question whether I was hit of not.

It was the last game, and I still couldn't judge if people were having fun or merely tolerating the activity. Yesterday, however, everyone was still talking about the day, and how much fun they had. Most people mentioned that they wanted to do it again. I definitely want to play again, although probably with a different crew. I had a blast. I really think most adults (myself included) spend far too much time acting like adults. It had been a long time since I had played out in the mud, or played a game of "shooting people"- that is no longer considered "politically correct." Mud washes out of most things anyway...

Friday, June 17, 2005

Overslept Commute

I prefer to leave home by 6am, although due to some glitch in the space-time continuum, ten minutes always disappears as I walk upstairs from the basement and the earliest I can ever leave is 6:10am. Today I woke up at 6:45- suddenly remembering my wife telling me she was planning on sleeping in after hosting the book club. In the past, that has never meant the alarm was changed. At any rate, I was faced with a dilemma: do I drive on such a nice day?

I chose to ride. I'd still be at my desk well before 9am. Actually, the main reason I like to leave earlier is that I wear regular cycling clothing and shower at work. I work in an office, and have endured moments of being called "Spandex Man" by an obnoxious coworker whose only connection with biking is having watched "American Flyers" once upon a time. He's also known to sing opera music when I've entered the building. I ended up putting a stop to this nonsense by earnestly asking him if he thought it was "leg warmer weather" or "tights weather" during some of my later fall commutes. Still, there are those that do not understand. There is no way I'd wear civilian clothing for a twenty mile commute. I also do not want my coworkers to question whether I am showering on company time. I want to set a good example- and, I guess I'm a little paranoid, but I also need to remember that the novelty of my commuting has probably worn off by now.

The next issue is that I noticed yesterday that the door knob to my shower room was missing. Someone had also stored a giant dry erase board in there. I inquired about the knob and was told one of the restroom doorknobs was broken, so maintenance "borrowed" one from the shower room. It is the sort of gesture that reminds me how little respect many employees have for these accommodations- that were specifically established by the CEO for serving needs of commuters. On the other hand, without a knob, I need my multitool to even open the door.

The ride in was beautiful. I left home by seven, and noticed far more bikes than normal. I also experience much more traffic along Minnehaha Parkway. In the mornings I always take the road. In the evening, traffic is usually backed up for blocks at many of the intersections, so it is actually faster to take the trail- especially considering there is no shoulder and no room to pass on the right. Along the river, I noticed a huge turtle in the same place as yesterday, prompting me to wonder if it were actually alive. The river seemed quite high and was spilling over the concrete apron along the banks. The barges that were empty yesterday were now full, sitting low in the water. It reminded me of a piece on public radio the other day commenting that barges displace water, raising the level of the river as they pass. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that one, especially on a river as large as the Mississippi.

My arrival at the office was uneventful. 8:15 and it was still largely empty. It is Friday, after all.

When Good Rides Turn Ugly

Today was a beautiful day- almost cloudless. I had an excellent commute to work, and saw more bikes out at 6am than any other morning. Ever. I had a very fast ride with dry roads and a little push from some road bikers that were breathing down my neck. At least one of them figured out I was riding fixed and made some trackstand comment at a light I felt obligated to stop for.

After work, I was really into my ride back to Minneapolis with temperatures in the mid 70s, no clouds, and seemingly no wind. I decided to try a different route and headed up Grand to Summit, rather than following Shepard Road. Shepard is quite depressing. While Summit has more lights, I probably made better time overall. My legs had that nice springy feel to them, even uphill, rather than that sometimes dead, its been a long day at work feeling. We'll see how I feel tomorrow.

On my commute home, my friend who had been building a fixed gear bike phoned me to ask a few questions. I told him I'd stop over to help. Rather than riding directly home, I rode around the lakes (bumped into a teammate heading to a shop ride and then two friends- I always like bumping into people I know- it might be the small-town boy that is still in me) and hooked up with the Greenway to end up at his house. He had a few glitches to sort out. He was trying to hook up a front brake, but he didn't have any stops for the housing. While he ran to the LBS, I shortened his chain by a half link- noticing that the shop had given him a 1/8" chain for his 3/32" drive train. Oh well... it won't be pretty, but it will work. The half link did the trick for his rather short dropouts, and the brake was finally installed. I helped him wrap his bars and discovered a type of tape with no adhesive backing- not that I'd want to buy it, but it might come in useful for his stem, which is not a front loader. This Serfas tape would be easy to rewrap.

Anyway, it was getting a bit late and we headed out on his inaugural ride. He was a bit all over the place as he rode, trying to clip in, which made me nervous, but he eventually had stopping and starting down- which is probably the hardest part of riding fixed. I warned him about pedal scrape, toe overlap, and a few other unique hazards of fixed as we rode to my house. Arriving home, I noticed people were starting to arrive for my wife's book club, so I said a hasty goodbye so I could quickly make myself more presentable. He left to return home.

Moments after I was out of the shower my cell phone rang. It was a strange number. I thought it might be work related, but it was my friend phoning to report he had hit a pedestrian and needed to go to the hospital. He was calling to see if I would pick up his bike. The accident occurred about six blocks from home.

As I drove to meet him, I couldn't find him. Then I saw the two police cars, the fire truck, and the ambulance. Apparently when the call came in to dispatch, "bike hits pedestrian" was interpreted to mean "motorcycle accident." My friend was sitting on the curb, being attended to. The EMTs thought he might have a dislocated shoulder. I packed up his bike in my car and offered to take him to the hospital, where he also worked. I didn't want to ask too many questions about what happened with the police there, so I waited until we were on our way.

Apparently two children walked out mid-block on a long descending street. They froze when they saw the bike, and my friend hit one and went over the bars. His shoulder and back hurt, and his helmet was cracked. His handlebars were bent, but that was the only damage to the bike. Somehow, my friend insinuated that he would have been able to avoid the accident if he were riding a geared bike. I tried to tell him that he would have actually been riding faster, since he could coast down the hill. It really doesn't matter anyway, since he was riding fixed. At least the accident wasn't his fault. I also heard the kids' father was very apologetic.

I drove him home to unload his bike. He changed clothes so he wouldn't have to wait hours in his bike gear. We then went to the hospital and I dropped him off at the ER- where the security guards, who apparently knew him, gave him a hard time.

I hope he doesn't spend too much time off his bike. I also hope this experience doesn't sour him toward riding fixed. Accidents are accidents- no matter what type of bike is involved. Looking at the bright side, my wife was hosting her book club tonight, and had encouraged me to find something to do away from home.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Don't Get Mad, Get Even?

Anyone follow this story?

SMU prof indicted in cycling incident

Dolkart is accused of hitting man on bike at White Rock

Thursday, July 29, 2004

By ROBERT THARP / The Dallas Morning News

What started with yelling and hand gestures on a Sunday morning in May near White Rock Lake was quickly punctuated by the sound of crunching metal as car struck bicycle.

On Wednesday, a distinguished law professor was indicted, accused of using her Volkswagen Passat as a deadly weapon in what police and cycling advocates describe as an extreme case of road rage.

Jane Dolkart, 56, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. If convicted, she faces two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Southern Methodist University officials said Ms. Dolkart remains on the law school faculty while the case is under review, but she is not teaching classes this summer.

According to police reports and court files, tensions escalated quickly as cyclist Tommy Thomas and a friend were riding single-file on West Lawther Drive south of Mockingbird Lane about 10 a.m. on May 2.

The two men told police that a motorist in a green Passat started following them closely, honking the car's horn, yelling and gesturing "in an unfriendly manner," according to police reports.

"I said, 'Wow, this is not right, this person has got some anger here,' " said Paul Schoenberg, who was riding with Mr. Thomas. "Obviously she was in a hurry ... she was right on us."

Moments later, a witness described hearing a scream, followed by the vehicle accelerating and then the sound of "an awful crunching noise and brakes screeching," according to court records.

His shoes still clipped to his bicycle pedals, Mr. Thomas was dragged under the car. When the car stopped, Ms. Dolkart commented as Mr. Thomas called 911: "Oh please, I didn't even hit you. ... you were in the way," before driving off and waiting at a nearby parking lot, court records say.
Mr. Thomas suffered pain in his left shoulder, elbow and leg and had a long "road rash" his forearm.

When police arrived to investigate and found Ms. Dolkart in a parking lot nearby, she reportedly described her actions as an attempt to let the cyclists "know I was there," according to court documents.

Reached Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Dolkart said that her attorney had instructed her not to comment about the indictment. In an earlier interview, an attorney no longer retained by Ms. Dolkart described the incident as an accident that happened when Ms. Dolkart tried to make a U-turn and Mr. Thomas stopped suddenly in front of her.

In December, Ms. Dolkart struck two SMU second-year law students as they crossed Hillcrest Avenue near the university campus. Ms Dolkart told police that she had not seen the pedestrians because the sun was in her eyes. A police report ruled that the sun would not have blocked her view of the pedestrians and that she had failed to check the crosswalk.

Bicycling advocates praised the indictment Wednesday and described the incident as an extreme example of what occurs daily for cyclists who share the streets with vehicles.

Brian Hasenbauer, a former professional triathlete who frequently rides around White Rock Lake, said he has survived being struck by vehicles on three occasions, as well as numerous encounters with agitated and aggressive drivers.

"Dallas is not very cycling-friendly," Mr. Hasenbauer said. "I definitely feel it is something that should be prosecuted if it's done on purpose or if it's an accident and it's done by negligence."

It gets better:

No jail time for SMU prof
Dallas: Jury agrees she hit cyclist deliberately, gives her community service

01:05 PM CDT on Tuesday, June 14, 2005

By ROBERT THARP / The Dallas Morning News

A Southern Methodist University law professor who was found guilty of aggravated assault will not have to go to jail.

A Dallas jury today sentenced Jane Dolkart to five years of probation and two years of community service.

On Monday, that same jury determined that Dolkart intentionally struck bicyclist Tommy Thomas with her car at White Rock Lake last May.
Jane Dolkart

The tenured labor and employment law professor bowed her head and sobbed after the verdict was read on Monday, and bailiffs began taking her fingerprints. She was allowed to post a $2,500 bond.

Witnesses said Ms. Dolkart was visibly upset and honking the horn of her Volkswagen Passat as she followed Mr.Thomas and a friend along West Lawther Drive near Mockingbird Lane in Lakewood.

Mr. Thomas testified that he feared for his life when Ms. Dolkart's car struck the rear of his bicycle and dragged him under the car several feet. He suffered bruises and abrasions to his left forearm and a sore shoulder.

A police officer who investigated the incident testified that Ms. Dolkart acknowledged "tapping" Mr. Thomas' bicycle because he was blocking her way as she drove to meet friends to ride her own bicycle at the lake about 10 a.m. on a Sunday. During the trial, Ms. Dolkart denied making that statement.

Testifying in her defense, Ms. Dolkart said that she did not intend to hit the bike but that Mr. Thomas slowed suddenly as he pedaled in front of her. In closing arguments, attorney Mike Gibson said the incident was nothing more than an accident and disputed the argument that Ms. Dolkart's car was a deadly weapon. He said the victim's account of the collision was "exaggerated and full of mistakes."

"If distracted driving was a crime, we'd have to build five courthouses because people do it every day," he said.

Prosecutor Danny Oliphant said witness accounts and physical evidence from the accident proved that Ms. Dolkart's driving was deliberate.

"It wasn't just an accident. It wasn't just a mistake. This was an intentional act," he said.

Herein lies the problem: she was found guilty of aggravated assault. The jury determined that she deliberately struck the cyclist. So far so good. The problem is in sentencing- no jail time.

This sends the message that vehicular crimes are not really crimes at all, that you can literally run someone over without consequence. Imagine if she had shot the cyclist in the foot- just to get his attention.

Here is a case where the cyclist and police did everything appropriately. It is a best-case scenario. A rare situation. How many similar cases are never brought to trial because there were no witnesses, or police refuse to take a report, or the incident is plea bargained into a meaningless traffic offense, rather than fully charged as assault with a weapon? This incident had all the right ingredients. They dropped the ball in the sentencing.

I don't understand why the US is so reluctant to criminalize vehicular offenses. We have all sorts of DWI repeat offenders- many of whom are picked up with at least twice the legal BAC while driving without a license. Many of these drivers ever see real consequences for their actions.

We are always taught not to provoke motorists, to call the police, to report "bad drivers" to the DMV. If this is the best the justice system has to offer, I'd argue it literally promotes street justice. Unfortunately, it is more likely the cyclist would be charged with some sort of crime.

Why can't we all just get along?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Nigerian Scam

I recently listed a recording mixer on craig's list- for local pickup only. This mixer was old and huge- shipping costs would outweigh its actual value. Anyway, I see this so-called Nigerian scam all the time for bike related listings (hence my obligatory cycling-related tie-in). I was almost giving this mixer away. I hadn't used it in years, since I'd moved to digital, and in fact lent it to a coworker for more than two years. Like a bad check, it eventually came back, so I listed it.

The selling process reminded me why I now love ebay: there are no tire kickers and time wasters to contend with. I had all sorts of local responses, mostly trying to lowball me, or offering some convoluted story how they will have money next month, or they want to trade warez software for it. I had a flashback to selling a synthesizer many years ago to a guy from Ham Lake, who came over, apparently all strung out on something with his girlfriend (who was falling out of her clothes) and some friend who appeared to live under a bridge. I honestly thought they were just casing the place, since they only appeared to want to play around with my gear. Musicians can be the oddest lot, and I really don't need to deal with someone's dysfunction at my low asking prices.

But the responses that interested me the most were like this:

"I saw your advert for (MUSCIAL INSTRUMENTS ) over the
web in and am much interested in
buying it. I live here in the canada , I will be
responsible for the shippment down to my location, so
please kindly write me back with your last offering
price. I will also need some of its recent pics, and
will like to know its present condition. Note that
payment will be made via postal money order,so pls
mail me too with your details.....ok pls remain
blessed in the lord .
7a richmond hill
..ottawa canada"

He really didn't need to bless me, but it was a nice thought.

I responded:

"This is not available for shipping. It is too large and heavy."

He persisted:

"Hello ,
I got your mail, thanks for the response, the final price $125 is ok by me.I will like you to remove the advert from the website. You'll be recieving your payment as soon as possible through my associate who's in US. I'll instruct him to issue out a cashiers check in your name the total amount he his oweing me on our last transaction which is closed at $3000, you'll receive it as soon as possible, Immediately you get this cashiers check, i want you to take it to a cashing centre nearest to you, cash it deduct your $300,and the excess is for my shipper for shippment payment every thing is in care of my shipper and you'll wire the remaining balanceto the shipping agent through Western Union MoneyTransfer, for them to comefor the pickup in your place without giving you any stress. They will usethe funds to settle some customs problem and transport their self down toyour place with immediately effect and some hotels
bill and someother feeSo i do hope i can have your trust about the excess which is meant for myshipper.Note that you are not going to give theshipper anything, i am goingto responsible for that. Let me know if this is ok with you....So if its okay with you try to send me the followinginformation for the process ofthe cashiers check from a reputatable bank in thestate.
full name......
home adress......
phone number both home and mobile I await ur this info so that i can fax it down to my client that will send u
the cashiers or a us postal money order check.
I await your soonest reply.

That's rather funny, since I indicated I wasn't interested. So here we are... this guy trusts me with thousands of dollars- of his money. And, he is willing to toss in a little extra for my trouble. And I don't even need to worry about shipping. It is stress free. Problem solved! Someone will pick it up!

I rewarded his persistency by providing my work address and some bogus phone numbers. I then forgot all about it, since I'd already sold it locally anyway. Several weeks passed. I no longer checked the gmail account I'd used specifically for craig's list (so responses to the ad weren't lost in the morass of spam I receive). When I returned from vacation, I noticed three fake postal money orders had been mailed from the UK from some guy from NYC, each in the amount of $950.

I visited the US Postal site to find that the maximum money order amount is $1000 domestically, and that the fakes were lacking the embedded security strip, the bleeding red ink, and the actual watermark. I also checked my gmail account to find further correspondence:

How are you hope all is well with you and your
family?,i just said i should email to confirm the following details from you.i will like to know how much will be deducted for cashing the check and also what will be the charges for sending the funds via western union to my shipper by coz the check as been sent and it will be delivered to you by any time. I want you to know that am Asking for all this to know how much will be sent to the shipper as soon as you receive the check. I want you to complete the transaction same day you receive the check, by sending the excess funds to my shipper via western union for him to come for the pick up immediately.My shipper will be at your location to do the pick up immediately upon receipt of payment via western union, the shipper will give you a call as soon as he get's to your location to do the pick up, but that will be after he has recieved the funds from you via western union . I want you to find out the total amount that will be deducted to get the check cashed immediately at your bank and in other to have the check cashed for you at your bank easily without any delay or stress,i will like you to double sign at the back of the check and also the western union charges for sending the funds to my shipper immediately the same day , to avoid demorage fee and also delayment on shipping funds.About the shippers information for the wire transfer via western union, i just got off the phone speaking to the shipping company concerning the shipper asgined to do the pick up, but I was told they will send an email to the both of us with the shipper's information before the arrival of the check . i await your soonest reply with all this details as soon as regards to you and your family.


"Hello ,
I called my client today and he told me you will be recieving payment first thing tomorrow afternoon or today . so as soon as you recieve the check i want you to have the check cashed and deduct your own money and send the balance to my shipper via western union money transfer. The funds sent will be used by my shipper to arrange for the pick up from your location.
I want him to come to your location very soon as time coincides with the shippment of my goods in the states. I called his company (shippers world clearing and forwarding ) and i was told that he just got in to NIGERIA yesterday to handle some export duties on behalf of a firm based there. Here is the shippers information which will be used to get the funds sent to him , via western union money transfer as soon as you receive the check.

Mr Joseph Larson
512 Iceland Avenue
Lekki Victoria Island
Lagos Nigeria 23401.
Cell Phone Number: +2348028862252

After you have sent the money for shippment through western union , i will require the following details from you :
1. Sender's name and address (your full name and address used in wiring the funds)
2. Reciever's name {Joseph Larson}
3. Mtcn (money transfer control number).
4. Test question and answer(what is your favorite color).answer(blue)
5. Amount sent..........
6. A scanned copy of the western union receipt..............

Note: All charges to get the check cashed tomorrow and all western union charges should be deducted from the amount that you will be sending to Mr Joseph Larsonl.
I await your soonest response. this is because my shipper has to be in the states as soon as possible.Remember that he also has my goods to pick up together from your location. he will be at your location in the next 24 hours upon the receipt of the funds via western union by tomorrow. I also want you to deduct $100 for your runing arround to get the transaction completed as soon as you receive the cashier's check tomorrow.
I will ask my shipper to contact you through his private e-mail box ( SHIPPERWORLD009@YAHOO.COM) concerning the shipping funds and all other shipping arrangement. I await the transfer details from you as soon as you have sent the shipping funds to the shipper tomorrow when you receive the cashier's check.
Regards ....."

and finally:


My question is this: does anyone actually fall for this sort of thing? This is such a widely known scam, and so poorly executed. Weeks ago, the shipper was allegedly to be picking it up within 24 hours. You'd think he'd give up after the deadline was missed. Also, I don't know about you, but I'd be rageful if someone had tied up or taken $2850 of my hard earned money, which presumably I have, if the money orders weren't so fake.

I haven't responded further, and I won't. And finally, what's up with the horrible spelling? I'd expect nothing less, but I work with Nigerians, and they are all above-average spellers.

People like this ruin it for all the Nigerians who actually do have legitmate clients in the US who owe them money... and who actually do have shipping agents who will pick up a purchase, no matter where you live.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Why I Hate Bike Lanes

I was riding on Mississippi Blvd last night during rush hour, heading south, riding southbound in the bike lane (which is oddly lacking northbound). I had forgotten that route is an unmarked freeway during rush hour, despite its posted speed of 25 mph. Anyway, like most bike lanes, it is full of debris along the curb, prompting me to hug the white line. The trouble is, vehicles drive like I have my own lane, so they often drive inches away from me- much closer than if I were taking a lane.

Sunday I rode Summit back to the river. Again, I used the bike lane. In this case, portions of the lane are actually in the "dooring zone" of the parked cars, prompting me to hug the white line, again. The other issue with Summit is that there are more intersections. I don't feel that I can always be easily seen be vehicles waiting on arterial streets. Again, cars pass me much closer than if I had no lane.

I really don't mind riding in traffic. My issue with the bike lanes is based on principle. I feel set up in the notion that I really can't (or shouldn't) take the traffic lane when there is a dedicated bike lane. And, again, cars offer far less room while passing. Finally, lacking vehicular traffic, they become debris traps. I wish Minneapolis would adopt Chicago's bike lanes that are marked by a series of more "forgiving" V's, without a lane line running parallel to traffic.

On a different note, riding down by the river on West River Road- again, at rush hour- I was a bit frustrated at its use by motorists as a freeway- again, despite a posted speed limit of 25. While I normally abhor speed traps, last night, Minneapolis' finest were out in full force near Franklin Avenue. I guess those speed humps weren't quite doing their jobs?

Nature Valley Grand Prix

I don't know what it is about the NVGP, but it seems I'm always out of town that weekend. A friend of mine worked as a volunteer, and mentioned that the organizers were disappointed with the turnout for the amateur races. I wasn't there, so I don't have any idea what the turnout actually was, but I don't know how thrilled I'd be about participating.

It seemed the amateur races were more or less "tacked on" to the already existing race schedule. As such, there was little room for fleshing out categories and age groups. As a masters 4, I would be able to race in Mankato with the 3s in a 3/4 race, or in Red Wing with the 4/5s- neither with any master's distinction (although Red Wing did have an open 40+ category). I wouldn't have a prayer racing with 3s, and I'm really not interested racing with a 5 half my age (or with half the experience).

I would love to see more races around the area. Earlier today I was excited to receive a flyer touting a road race in Clear Lake, Iowa on July 10. I know the area well enough to know it is completely flat down there, and it isn't far from where I grew up. Of course, it turns out it is the same day as the Hopkins Crit- which last year provided my best finish.

It was rainy this morning, so I drove to work. Of course it was nice all day, despite the ominous forecast. I managed to sneak two hours of riding in with a friend after work... the guy who worked the NVGP. His fixed gear bike still isn't up and running, so I gave him a front brake and lever. Maybe later this week I can watch him learn how to ride fixed?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Alaska Photos

We are finally home.

Bike trail photos- these are cross country ski trails... apparently.

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Moose shot:
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Thursday, June 09, 2005


The wildlife here is amazing- moose, bald eagles, and more mosquitos than I've ever seen in Minnesota. I will issue a full report when I return to the lower 48. A few quick updates: first of all, it completely freaks me out that there is daylight until almost midnight. I went on a "night" mountain bike ride a few nights ago.

Tonight, I borrowed the mountain bike and went on a quick, almost two hour ride. I'm finding my way around better on this, my third time out on a bike. Anchorage has the most amazing commuter bike trails on any city I've seen in the US- it rivals many European cities in accessibility. It blows any city out of the water in terms of the natural greenways and nature preserves. You can be in the heart of the city- and have no idea. There are spots that feel entirely remote and inaccessible. It truly is amazing. Tonight I explored off-road on a series of service roads to maintain some powerlines. Nothing too technical, as I'm much more of an urban rider. I followed the road until I found a series of rooty trails of some sort that appeared to have bike tracks. I followed those across a series of small hills and down to a boggy swamp. As I rode around the corner I found myself staring at a huge moose and two calves. I quickly stopped. The moose merely stared at me and refused to yield. The moose slowly walked toward me, so I decided it was a good point to turn around. I did not have my camera at the time. At least I figured there were no bears in the area.

I wound around what turned out to be a series of cross country ski trails. I was a bit lost, but found my way to the main trail. I ended up back on a paved path following a creek toward downtown and the coast. I then hopped on the coastal trail for a bit, then turned around to head back for a salmon feast. Yesterday we spent six hours on an open boat fishing king salmon. I ended up with an eighteen pounder. I caught a smaller one earlier, but gambled and opted to release her. The limit is one per day, five per year. My gamble paid off. Anyway, back to the ride home. As I was heading back, a guy heading the opposite direction mentioned to me, "moose on the trail." Again, there was a moose. On the trail. He wasn't in any hurry. Several bikers were waiting for it, offering a comfortable buffer. I don't know much about moose, but they are big, and they are wild animals. I don't feel the need to be too close to nature.

I hadn't mountain biked in years. I had an old hard tail- loaded with old technology from the early 90s, but it was so trashed when I was through with it that I literally left it behind when we moved several years ago. I am fully uncouth on a mountain bike. The bike I recently borrowed has a smooth 8-speed setup with a decent suspension fork. It weighs a ton, and has wheels that belong on a tractor, but I'm getting into it. I had planned on renting a road bike, but I'm having too much fun at the moment. I may well be afflicted, as I want one. We already have seven bikes between my wife and me, and now she is wanting a laptop... and I really wouldn't mind one either. Funny how being an adult is little different than being a child. It is all about toys.

Anyway, I guess I encountered four moose in one ride.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Mountain Climbing

Looking out the window I see mountains. These are small mountains... maybe they aren't even real mountains... what does a kid from the midwest really know about these things. All I know is that they have snow on them. Anyway, today my wife, aunt, and a bunch of cousins climbed one of them locally knows as "Flattop." There was nothing technical about the climb. You can literally walk up it with no special equipment.

I decided to wear my heart rate monitor to take a peek at the elevation. We started "walking" up the slope. It looked like it was a 45 degree angle from its profile, but I'm sure it was much less. I was surprised what the climb did to my heart rate. It was like a giant cardio stairmaster machine, and I was well into the cardio zone during the entire ascent. I'd estimate it was about a 1800 ft climb, but those Polars are based on barometric pressure, and are notoriously inaccurate. My calves and quads really felt it. At the top, I was surprised how much colder it was, and was amazed there was still a small patch of snow. We hung out at the top for maybe an hour. There were quite a few people there, including some maniacs that were literally running up, then down the mountain.

On the way down, my knees really were aching. I couldn't wait for flat ground.

Later that evening, my aunt's husband put on a DVD about some mountain climbing disaster. Now, I'm certainly not so gradiose as to suggest our endeavors earlier that day even approached "real" mountain climbing, but I watched with a new found respect. We weren't even dealing with the issues of lack of oxygen, sub-zero weather, technical climbing issues, etc. Those guys are truly crazy. Next time someone comments how dangerous ANY aspect of biking is, I will kindly refer them to mountain climbing. To my way of thinking, technical climbing at high altitudes is so risky that I cannot even begin to fathom the motives behind climbers. Then again, I've never come close to even experiencing a "runner's high."

Different strokes for different folks.... and thank god for biking.

Anchorage, Alaska

This trip is great... already. I'll post more when I have more time.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Random Musings from a Random Day

At work I helped the AIDS ride riders (it just sounds better than "AIDS riders") prepare for tomorrow's flight. One guy had trouble installing his computer, so I fixed it. He wanted help with his front derailleur. It wouldn't shift into to largest ring. I told him it was the limit screw, but I don't touch derailleurs. It is seriously bad karma- for me and everyone involved. There isn't a single part on a fixed gear I won't touch- but I won't allow myself to work on my road bike's derailleurs. Either one. Of course it was the limit screw, and they fixed it in short order at Erik's. I told this guy to ditch his SAE hex wrenches. I cringed as he said they worked on his seat clamp. I told him all he needed was a metric set and a 15mm wrench for his pedals. I'll bet anything he uses a crescent wrench.

One of the women needed help packing her bike in a Performance hardshell bike case. I used the Trico Iron case before, but this was a bit different and a little weird. It had a hard plastic insert, rather than soft foam (or whatever the proper word is) to separate the wheels from the frame. I heard the case's owner wants to sell it. I might be interested, but it is a funky design.

The bike's drivetrain was a travesty, an affront to cleanliness here and abroad. I think they lubed her chain with 10W 40 motor oil, or tar. I was filthy as a sanitation worker as I disconnected the SRAM powerlink. I managed to grease my work clothing as well. The real irony is that I have the same chain on one of my fixed gears, and I STILL cannot disconnect the powerlink on that bike, despite numerous epithets in a variety of languages. The other fixed gear and the single speed have the gold connector, which is very easy to use. I could probably accidentally disconnect one of those.

I raise the filth issue because my commuter seems to require constant chain lubrication. I use dry lube on my road bike, and the drivetrain is clean enough to eat off. Of course, it doesn't see the kind of all-weather duty that the commuter bikes see. The question at hand is whether to use an oil based lube that won't wash away so easily. But at what price? I really don't want to cultivate a sludge collection. Yes, I know I wrote about this issue this morning, but I am seeing it in a different light after handling this bike. And, I am a man obsessed. My hands are still dirty.

My ride home was pure heaven. The wind was almost at my back- a rarity, since I ride west, and a bit south, but mostly west. I took a slightly different route to avoid the Ford Bridge. I still made it home within an hour and fifteen minutes. Best of all, I didn't feel beat, and I've had a lot of miles this week. Then again, I didn't fight a head wind the entire commute. I wonder how much faster I could ride if I had gears.

On the way home, I encountered an odd fellow on a road bike with a BMX helmet. He wasn't particularly young, either. It is a discomfiting sight, and it made me contemplate using a Vikings football helmet for my commutes. It might be a bit warm in this heat, but cars might think twice before trying anything stupid- especially if I carried a huge samurai sword on my back. Perhaps some lead pipe nun chucks strapped to the top tube as homage to Napoleon Dynamite? Actually, I had a very uneventful ride home, and motorists were very respectful. When I consider what I tiny percentage of my miles involves rude or aggressive drivers, it really is no big deal. I suffer more indignities in my car. Thank you, drivers of the Twin Cities! I shall sing your praises in states afar.

Finally, I cut my hair tonight... or rather had it cut at the Juut down the street. The salon is maybe a mile from here. I drove. I didn't want to be a sweaty mess. My car useage is backwards. I only seem to drive for the short trips. Edina's finest were out in full force for their after work speed trap. No wonder their property taxes are so low.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Sunny Day Commute

It was so bright this morning that I felt like I was running late for work. No need for lights this time of year. There will be even more light tomorrow when we head to Alaska. I love this time of year.

I had a great commute this morning, although there was more traffic on the parkway than normal- probably because Crosstown is all but shut down between 35W and Cedar. I was half a block from home when I remembered I forgot to flip the wheel around, so I was running a 14 cog in the rear rather than my normal 16. I was flying with the wind at my back. On Mississippi Blvd. I encountered a road biker heading my way, which was a bit unusual. Again, it was nice having a 14, and I rode it out until I was east of downtown St. Paul. I didn't want to tackle the bluffs with it, so I stopped and flipped it. I also lubed my chain. Again. I love dry lube for my road bike, but I really need something more robust for all weather riding. I'll see what the experts at have to say about this.

I'm already looking forward to the ride home. I should be able to work on my biker's tan. Summer might actually be here!

Night Rider

OK, I have a Niterider headlight on my commuter. For some reason I always think of that horrific TV show, although in hindsight, it is probably Hasselhoff's finest effort. Anyway, I just biked home from the bar after class. It is only seven miles from the Black Forest to home, a bit south of Lake Harriet. Or maybe it is less. I don't have a computer on that bike. Only one vehicle passed me during the trip. The solitude is unlike any other time of the day. Tonight the flight paths from the airport were overhead across southwest.

I am intrigued by the juxtaposition. Earlier I dropped my parents off at the airport at the ungodly hour of 5:30am. Friday, we will also be flying to Alaska to join them. I love the extremes. In a perfect world there might only be planes and bikes. Nothing in between.

I rode to class in light rain tonight. I made the choice to ride in the rain. I don't know why I focus on the aspect of "choice" other than I'd guess that others likely bring certain assumptions when watching a grown man biking in the rain. When I arrived at class, I was welcomed by the sight on a classmate's bike already locked up outside. I'm not the only crazy one tonight. I could only hope the rain would end before class ended.

I rode the Cadillac bike- black lacquer and full fenders and lights. It weighs a ton, but is pure comfort. It's origin remains a mystery. I changed clothes at class. Afterwards it had stopped raining and I rode to the bar in "civilian clothing." It reminded me of commuters in Paris or Amsterdam. In fact, it was not that unusual to see people wearing jeans riding high end road bikes in the city. The US seems to be stuck on the idea of bikes as recreation- not transportation.

I won't pretend otherwise, but using a bike as transportation has required me to unlearn every aesthetic I've ever developed as a road biker. It is, however, a mode of transportation without equal. Even if it is only seven miles home. How else can I become intimate with the subtle glow of floating cottonwood seeds drifting through my headlight? These nuances are lost while driving a car. Or smelling blooming lilacs? While I detest them on the grounds of allergens alone, they remind me that I am outdoors, under a clear night's sky.

I met two other bikers riding the opposite direction. We stealthily pass, me riding silently fixed, appearing as a ghostly apparition- a light floating in mid-air. Are we living as though the apocalypse were now? Playing our role in some form of urban anarchy? No. The symbolism is not nearly so complicated. Biking is merely a great form of transportation. And the side effects are not so bad, either.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Real Bikers Don't Smoke

I've been "consulting" with a team of four riders from work that will be leaving tomorrow for the California AIDS ride. I'm heading to Alaska Friday, so I won't be riding. Anyway, one of the riders is still smoking. This completely confounds me. Unless you are Super Mario, thou shalt not smoke cigarettes and call yourself a serious biker. Than again, I don't know that a huge organized ride like that is really about biking.

I guess tomorrow I'm giving a demonstration showing how to pack a bike for a flight. I can't believe how much extra they have to pay to take their bikes on a domestic flight. Last year I carried mine free on NWA on a flight to Norway. It makes no sense, but who am I to complain? I'm thinking it is cheaper and easier to just rent mountain bikes in Alaska. Last I checked, Alaska was still part of the US (someone actually asked me if we needed passports to go there).

Best of luck to everyone in California. Stay safe... and remember, those are real mountains.

Small World

I stumbled across another racing blog the other day by a local racer who I "race against" (not that I provide much competition). What was interesting was reading his descriptions of some of the same races. Specifically, I noticed I was mentioned, although not by name, in reference to taking off on the final lap during one of the Opus races. Hey, at least it was noticed, if only anonymously.

He has a cool blog, and he also rides a Look.

Dan Cleary's Cycling Blog