Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

16 January 2018

An Ocean And A Desert

The temperature felt more like New York in March, or the coast of Belgium in any month besides July and August.  And while strong wind is not unusual in this part of the world, I have never felt it for days on end during my visit.

At least the colors and light at Matanzas Bay looked more like those one associates with Florida:

So did those of Painters Hill

Some places, though, looked more like deserts.

During my visit last year, there were palm trees and littoral plant life here.  The storms that struck a few weeks ago have laid them to waste.

Believe it or not, this is a roadway:

Old A1A, to be exact.  It's closed.  Even though I was riding the beach cruiser, I didn't ride this road:  I managed to go only a few meters before the wind whipped me around and blew enough sand in my face to make me even less of a navigtor than I normally am!

Still, I had a great ride.

15 January 2018

Pedaling A Parallel Universe

Yesterday I pedaled into a parallel universe.

All right...You might think Florida--or anything south of the Potomac, for that matter--is a different world if you come from anyplace north of it.  You would not be wrong.  But I am not talking about culture, politics or even climate.  Rather, I mean a waterway that, for about 5000 kilometers, runs as close to the Atlantic Ocean as it can without actually being the Atlantic.

I am talking about the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, which runs just inland of the Atlantic Ocean all the way from Boston to the tip of Florida.  The purpose of it was to provide navigable waterways for shipping along the Atlantic Coast without having to deal with the hazards of the ocean.

 One hardly thinks about the AIW in Massachusetts or New York or New Jersey because it's known by other names.  Actually, in those states, it's a series of rivers, bays and other bodies of water linked by canals. 

The stretch I rode yesterday is one of those canals.  It hooks up with the Halifax River to the south. Its shoreline is dotted with gazebos on piers:  the sort of thing one envisions when thinking about life in Florida. 

The weather, however, was another story--overcast, which I didn't mind, but colder than yesterday and colder by the end of the ride than at the beginning.  And windy, again. I was reminded of why I don't have kickstands on my own bikes:  Using the one on the bike I rode today virtually guaranteed that it would be toppled.  Such falls wouldn't damage the bike; still, I laid the bike on the ground when I stopped, figuring that I would have had to pick it up anyway if I stood it up.

One interesting feature of the trails that line the Intracoastal Waterway, and connect it to several parks, are bike maintenance stations operated by the city of Palm Coast and local businesses.  

They include small tools such as screwdrivers, adjustable wrenches and tire levers attached to cords, and a tire pump.  

I actually rode a technical section of a mountain bike trail near Herschel King Park (one of my favorites in this area).  And, no, I didn't need those tools--or anything to repair my body!

14 January 2018

They're Gone!

A couple of friends are gone!

On Thursday,  I rode by the City Market Place near my parents' home in Palm Coast.  During my past few visits to PC, I've stopped by the Market Place to see an old friend:

but I found this:

an empty lot where they "rode"!

I am trying to find out what happened to Wes Cackler's "The Race".  I'm guessing--and sort of hoping--that it was knocked down in recent storms and will be reinstalled on that same site, or somewhere else.  

13 January 2018

A New Light And Less Heat To St. Augustine

Yesterday I rode into stiff wind,  though sunshine breaking through trees and opening clouds over the sea.  Then, as I had the wind at my back, a curtain of clouds drew across the sun and darkened, and I got caught in the kind of late-afternoon downpour this part of Florida experiences in summer.  Then again, by that time, the temperature, at about 27C, or 80 F.

Today I pedaled about the same distance--about 100 kilometers--as I did yesterday, but in the opposite direction.  I did that on purpose:  The wind,  not quite as stiff as yesterday's, was blowing from the north instead of the south.  That is probably what dropped the temperature by about 17 degrees Celsius to about 10 C, or 50F. 

The sky and sea even looked colder:

I never saw that kind of light before in Florida--not even at the place in the photos:  Matanzas Bay, where it enters the ocean.  

Under that light I pedaled, against the wind but full of good energy, all the way up Route A1A to the Bridge of Lions, which leads to the historic center of St. Augustine:

I think the temperature dropped by another 10 degrees Celsius when I crossed the bridge.  At least, it felt that way, even after I pedaled to the old fort.

I must say, though, it's a lovely place, even when it's (comparatively) cold and still full of tourists.

And, yes, the skies cleared for my ride back to my parents' house.  And I had the wind at my back.

12 January 2018

Sun, Sea And A Summer Storm In January

Since I've come to Florida, I think I've seen every kind of weather one can find when the temperature is above freezing.  Today, I thought I was entering a path of sunshine.

Light and warmth threaded through those tree limbs and filled the sky as I rode the Lehigh Trail, which begins about two kilometers from my parents' house and extends for five kilos to Colbert Road, which leads to SR 100 and the bridge to Flagler Beach.

There are few things in this world that I love more than descending a bridge to an ocean I can see on the horizon

even if I turn right at the end of the bridge and pedal 50 kilometers straight into a 30 kilometer per hour wind that, at moments, gusted to 40 KPH.

I mean, how could I complain when my ride was filled with the wind, the light and the hiss of the ocean--which meant that they were filling me>

Like Flagler Beach yesterday and today, Daytona Beach did not lack for people walking along the sand on the warm day.  At Flagler and Daytona, however, swimming was not allowed.  No one was allowed even to enter any of the beaches along the 50 or so kilometers of Atlantic Coast between them.

After savoring two of mom's meatball sandwiches and polishing them off with some strawberries and a mandarin orange, I started my ride back.  After the ride down, it was almost too easy:  the wind I'd fought on the way down was blowing at my back.  But that wind also brought something else:

gray clouds thickening ahead of me.  The fact that I was riding about as fast as my body could move the ballon-tired beach cruiser under it meant that I could ride right into the rain.

Which is what happened after I turned left from the Flagler Beach pier onto the SR 100 bridge.  After climbing away from the ocean and descending on the "mainland", a cascade dropped from the sky on me.  There was no prelude of light showers gradually turning to rain; that storm dropped straight on me.  It was like the "instant storms" that often soak this area, momentarily, late on summer afternoons.  The difference was that this storm didn't include lightning and thunder.  But it ended about halfway into the Lehigh Trail--about fifteen minutes before I got to my parents' house.

11 January 2018

In The Sunshine State, In A Cloud

The rain that pattered the canal yesterday turned, for a time, into a barrage last night.  When I woke this morning, raindrops were poking ephemeral pockmarks in the face of the water.

But, by the time Dr. Phil's show ended (Yes, I watched it with my mother and father.), the rain had stopped and the sun looked like it was trying to wedge itself between clouds.  I got on the bike a while later, and the clouds closed ranks on the sun.  Still, I managed to ride along some trails to the Palm Coast Parkway Bridge, where the scene changed just a bit.

Of course, when you see something on your left, you look to your right.  Or is it the other way around?  Who told me that, anyway?

In any event, I looked to my left and saw this:

I thought, for a moment, it was sea mist.  After I descended the bridge and turned onto the Route A1A bike/pedestrian lane, it thickened faster than the makeup of a reality TV star.

The shrouded area is known as Painters Hill.  It's a very lovely area where, on many a day, breezes skip across sea oats and other grasses and shrubs on the dunes that line the ocean.  I would have loved to see how a painter might have rendered it in the light I saw today.

The Flagler Beach pier jutted out into water that dissolved into mist.  The eponymous beach, about 10 kilometers south of Painter's Hill, was the only one open along  A1A from Palm Coast to Ormond Beach.  The area is still recovering from recent storm and the surf was rough.  Nobody was swimming at Ormond, but of course, a few surfers flung themselves into the tides.

Finally, as I reached Ormond Beach, the fog began to dissipate and the sun that, earlier, had been trying to get a few waves in edgewise pushed some clouds aside--and shone through a light mist.

I must say, though, that I don't recall much, if any fog in my previous two dozen or so trips here.  Certainly I had never before seen what I saw today.

10 January 2018

Sunshine, With Irony

So...where in the world is Justine Valinotti now?

OK, you know this isn't the Ponte Vecchio.  Or the Pont Neuf.  Or the Tower, Verrazano or Golden Gate Bridges.

For all I know, the local transportation authorities don't even classify it as a bridge.  It doesn't connect countries, states or even two sides of a neighborhood. The houses on each side of this bridge are even considered part of the same development.

The body of water spanned by that structure looks like this:

Seeing that birthday party baloon floating in the effluvium surprised me more than seeing a creature that could have caused me harm would have--or, for that matter, almost anything else I might have encountered.

It's a canal, and from what I've gathered, it was used for irrigation, as it doesn't look terribly navigable. (Now tell me, who else  uses phrases like "terribly navigable"?)  It runs behind the house where I'm staying.

You've probably figured, by now, that I'm visiting my parents 

in "The Sunshine State."

It sounds like a corollary of Murphy's Law:  You escape from the cold only to run into the rain.

We might get more rain tomorrow.  I might chance a ride, but if I don't, skies are supposed to clear--and the temperature drop--the day after.  I wouldn't mind that.

Nor do I mind today which, so far, has included a leisurely lunch with my mother and one of her friends.  It's fun, and part of my education!

09 January 2018

Honor Among Whom?

Some of us have difficulty with authority figures.  It might be the result of experiences with teachers, parents, clergy people or agents of the law.  We might be scolded for talking back or other forms of defiance, but those who scold us sometimes tell themselves, and each other, that one day we will "grow up" and "grow out of" our distrust of people with power over us.

But some of us learn, as we get older, to be even more skeptical of anyone we're supposed to obey or "respect".  I mean, how many--ahem--elected officials make you want to be a more compliant and amenable to those who have license--however they might have attained it--to make decisions that affect us?  And, given the scandals we've seen everywhere from the church to the entertainment industry, what would persuade anyone to give more credence to someone just because he or she has a title, money or a reputation, however any of those things were acquired?

Of course, the question of who merits our obedience and respect has been around for as long as humans have organized themselves.  Practically all philosophers, and more than a few poets, writers and artists have dealt with this issue, if obliquely.  And past as well as recent events give us reason to wonder just who, exactly, should be obeyed, much less revered.

One such event occurred 75 years ago this month in Flagstaff, Arizona.  The previous month, gasoline rationing had begun in the US.  Interestingly, the reason was not that petrol was in short supply.  Rather, rubber was, because the attack on Pearl Harbor a year earlier cut off most of the supply--and military needed whatever was available.  Thus, it was believed that the best way to reduce rubber usage was to reduce driving.  So was gas rationing begun.

Five different kinds of ration cards were issued. One, the C ration, was given to "essential war workers" (including police officers and letter carriers) and did not restrict the amount of gas they could use.  In Flagstaff, one recipient of the C ration was a fellow named Reverend George Gooderham.

That didn't sit well with another Flagstaff denizen--one Perry Francis.  But he wasn't just an ordinary citizen:  He was the sheriff.  

So how did Sheriff Francis express his resentment toward the Reverend?  Get ready for this:  He took the minister's bicycle.

A few hours later, the man of the cloth realized his wheels were gone and went to the local constabulary.  The folks in the sheriff's office led him on for a while before "finding" his bicycle and returning it to him.

It's often said that there is honor among thieves.  But what about cops who steal--from clergy members, no less?

08 January 2018

On Google, You Can Find Everything...Except Their Bikes!

Which will come first:  a perpetual motion machine, or Donald Trump not taking credit for something?

Or a bike share program without theft or vandalism?

A little more than two years ago, I found a Citibike that someone attempted to camouflage with gold rattle-can paint.   That bike was one of hundreds that have been stolen from New York's bike-share program during its four and a half years of operation. Most other large-city share programs have had to deal with prodigious pilferage; some, such as the one Rome had, ended because of it.

Turns out, municipal bike share programs aren't the only ones whose bikes are swiped.  On its sprawling Mountain View, California campus, Google offers bikes for its employees to use.  The problem,it seems, is that not everyone who avails him or self to that service is an employee--or remains on the campus after grabbing the handlebars.

It seems that some local residents view the bikes as part of "the commons" and "borrow" them in much the same way some folks "borrow" shopping carts from their local supermarkets or "find" milk crates nearby. Some of the bikes have been found on lawns of nearby homes, roofs of hotspots and even in a local TV commercial.  Even Mountain View's mayor has admitted to riding one of Google's bikes to the movies.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Google's bikes are adorned with the Lego hues of its logo.  While this makes them distinctive, it hardly makes them impossible to camouflage.  While Citibike and most other municipal share bikes are shaped differently from most bikes you can buy, Google's frames, with their sloping twin-lateral top tube, have a form similar to that of many European-style city or commuter bikes--including at least one from a certain company located at the other end of Silicon Valley.  Thus, it wouldn't be too difficult to disguise a purloined Google bike.

That might explain why some have been found as far away as Alaska and Mexico, and why one turned up at Burning Man in Nevada while others ended up at the bottom of a local creek.  It also explains why Google is now doing something that, frankly, I'm surprised they didn't do earlier in the program:  They are attaching GPS tracking devices to the bikes.

Hmm...Can you imagine if supermarkets and dairy companies started implanting chips in their carts and crates?

07 January 2018

Both... Or Neither?

Was this ever a functioning bicycle?

Or was it intended as a bike rack?

Could it be that whoever created it is laughing at people like me for spending time--and a blog post--on it?

06 January 2018

A Mercian I Can't Ride

If you've been reading this blog, one thing you know is that I'm a Mercian fan.  I generally like traditional-style lugged and fillet-brazed steel frames, and Mercian is making, in my opinion, some of the best iterations available today.  And, of course, their older frames are great examples of everything I (and, possibly, you) love about vintage bikes.

Still, there are a few Mercians I would never ride.  Actually, the ones I wouldn't ride are, mostly, the ones I could not ride.  Here is one:

Of course, the reason I never could ride such a frame is that it's waaay too big for me.  The seller says it's a 71cm frame.  All of my Mercians--as well as my Trek and Fuji--are in the 56 cm (center to center seat tube) range.  So were most of the bikes I've owned and ridden for nearly four decades.

If I were a collector, though, I would want that frame.  How many other people have a Mercian with lateral tube inside the "diamond"?  I know a few bike makers and marketers, such as Rivendell, make or offer bikes with similar designs.  And, I would imagine, Mercian and other builders would make such a frame for you as a special order.  I would guess, though, that they would want to build such a frame for you if you really needed it--say, if you were very tall (as the owner of that frame probably is/was) or were going on a world tour and carrying all of your worldly possessions along paths that make the Ho Chi Minh trail look like a Beverly Hills street.

If you've been reading this blog, you probably can tell that I like the colors on that frame, too!  Just sayin'....

05 January 2018

Is Five Feet Enough?

He survived a slaughter or a massacre, depending on how you view it.

Paul Gobble, a photographer and rider, was out for a weekly Tuesday-evening ride with fellow cyclists of "The Chain Gang."  

At that moment, police were searching for a blue Chevy pickup truck after, within minutes, three separate callers reported that it was being driven "erratically" along roads near Kalamazoo, Michigan.  

One of those roads was the one on which Gobble and his friends had been riding.  But the police couldn't get to that truck before it plowed into "The Chain Gang."

Gobble is still recovering from the brain injury and broken bones he suffered that day, in June of 2016.  But Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Suzanne Sippel, Debbie Bradley, Tony Nelson and Larry Paulik have no such opportunity:  They were killed almost instantly as that truck plowed into them.

Like many of us who haven't (yet) been as unfortunate as he was on that day, he says there is "a great deal of ignorance" about cyclists' right to use the road.  Moreover, he says too many drivers are "just angry that we're out there." So, "they yell at us" and "drive aggressively toward us," he points out.

The implication of his remarks, and those of other Michigan cyclists, is that the Wolverine State has been slow to protect cyclists.  Perhaps that is not surprising in a state that is home to Motor City, a.k.a. Detroit, where many workers' jobs have been lost or threatened in recent years.  Since I am not an economist, I will not get into all of the reasons for the decline of the auto industry in Michigan and other parts of the United States.  But I think it's fair to say that some whose livelihoods have been sustained by the internal combustion engine might see--inaccurately--cyclists as "The Enemy", or at least a manifestation of all of the changes that, in their minds, endanger their way of life.

Of course, such thoughts may not have been in the mind of Charles E. Pickett, the driver of that truck.  His vision may well have been impaired by substances rather than a faulty socio-economic analysis that day.  No matter:  He drove into a group of cyclists, killing five and injuring four others, including Gobble.

Other than stopping someone like Pickett from driving in the first place, what can prevent motorists from running down cyclists--particularly those like Gobble and The Chain Gang, who had more than a century of cycling experience between them?

Most planning and lawmaking related to this question seems to be predicated on the notion that bikes and cars must be separated as much as possible.  That, I believe, is the thinking behind most bike lane construction.  It also seems to be the philosophy behind laws like the one that has been proposed in Michigan.  It would require motorists to give cyclists a five-foot berth when passing them.  Current Michigan law stipulates only that vehicles pass at "a safe distance."  Furthermore, that regulation has been interpreted to apply only to motor vehicles, not bicycles.

Eight other states have laws with language much like that of Michigan's.  Thirty other states, and the District of Columbia, mandate a three-foot berth.  One of those states, South Dakota, requires 6 feet when the motor vehicle is traveling at 35 or more MPH.  North Carolina specifies a two-foot berth, except in no-passing zones, where four feet are required.  Pennsylvania stipulates a four-foot buffer zone in all situations.

While some laud members of the Michigan Legislature for giving long-overdue attention to the safety of cyclists--whose numbers are growing--others wonder just how effective such laws actually are.  Studies have reached conflicting conclusions about whether three-foot laws, as they're often called, actually keep cyclists from being struck by motorists.  For one thing, such laws--like the ones prohibiting cell phone use while driving--are difficult to enforce.  For another, it may be close to impossible for a driver to give such a berth on narrow roads, especially if there is oncoming traffic.  

Most important, though, I think that such laws are most useful after the fact because they provide "something you can ticket," in the words of Becky Callender, whose son was riding in a single file of cyclists on a rural road near Lansing  when he was struck by an SUV.  They are not a substitute for driver awareness of, and courtesy toward, cyclists.  But, I suppose, having such laws is better than not having them--or a poorly-designed bike lane.

04 January 2018

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Wind...But Any Combination Of Those Things?

Now I'm really glad I went for a ride, however brief, yesterday.

According to the weather forecast, there's more on the way--snow, wind and cold.  In fact, absolute temperatures of near O degrees F, and wind-chill temperatures of -20F are predicted for the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  

I don't think it's been so cold in at least a couple of years.  That, in and of itself, wouldn't deter me from riding.  But with winds gusting to 60MPH (100 KPH)--at times blowing the snow horizontally--I don't feel much incentive to go out. In fact, I'm not sure I'd ride even if I had a mountain or fat-tire bike.

I'm such a sissy, right?

03 January 2018

I Wooon't Park There!

I confess...I haven't done a lot of riding since my latest trek to Connecticut.  That was almost a month ago!

Since then, I commuted until the end of the semester and, last week, took a ride to the Rockaways with Bill.  But for much of the week before that--including Christmas Day--I was languishing with a virus frolicking inside me.

I am feeling better now.  I started to notice improvement after that ride with Bill, last Thursday--before a snowstorm.

Today I took another, shorter ride before--you guessed it!--another snowstorm that's coming our way tonight.  The coming snow squall, like the one we just had, shouldn't leave us with a lot of white stuff.  But the weatherfolk are promising lots of wind and colder temperatures.

So I felt I just needed to get out today.  I wasn't going to stop for anything--especially after seeing this:

Noooo parking.  No, I woooon't park.  And I won't ride sloooow.  At least, I'll try not to!

02 January 2018

A Bicycle Beltway?

During his 2016 campaign for the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders said he's "not an inside-the-Beltway guy."

What he meant is that he isn't part of that insular world of government officials and members of the media in and around the nation's capital who concern themselves with matters that are of little or no importance to most Americans.  He was implying that he has a vision that includes the whole nation and world, and not merely the incestuous dysfunction that seems to rule the corridors of authority.

The "Beltway" is a highway--Interstate 495, to be exact--that encircles the city of Washington, DC and its suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.  In this sense, it is similar to Interstates 128 and 285, which enclose the cities of Boston and Atlanta, respectively, along with their immediate suburbs.  

One of the ironies of these "ring" highways--and those around other cities, such as the Boulevard Peripherique in Paris--is that they were designed to alleviate the traffic tie-ups in central cities, but now they are among the most congested roads in the world.

Well, now it looks like Washington's regional Transportation Planning Board is about to endorse a "Bicycle Beltway"  plan for the US capital.  Interestingly, it will include trails through the heart of the city that will connect the outer arcs of he 45-mile (80-kilometer) outer loop.  

Much of the network already exists.  The plan, if approved (as expected), calls for improvements to existing paths in the Maryland suburb of Bethesda, and building new trails in neighboring Silver Spring as well as in the Virginia suburbs of Arlington and the southeastern part of the city itself.  These new and improved paths will connect the already-existing lanes to form the proposed "Bicycle Beltway."

Now I have to wonder whether this plan, when completed, will spawn a new breed of "Inside the Beltway" cyclists.

01 January 2018

Hello, 2018!

Happy New Year!

From Bicycle Utopia

The band plays on.  Let's hope 2018 is full of cheerful, vibrant tunes!