Friday, June 29, 2007

Well, I was going to ride all the way...

I found out that our company's data center is only a few miles further away from my apartment than my office. Yesterday, the forecast looked like it was going to be dry, but it's still soggy. In fact, I don't think it's stopped drizzling since it started earlier this week.

If it dried out, I was going to attempt a ride all the way to our data center, where I'll be testing a new product my company is thinking of using. Since it didn't stop, I am back on the bus. It's a little more difficult to get down to the data center in the morning just via bus. I have to go downtown on a Johnson County bus, then transfer to the Metro Area Express, take that way down south on the MO side of state line, then transfer off of the express route onto a local route that will drop me off within a mile of our data center.

Basically, I start at 87th street 6 miles from state line, go up to 10th street in downtown KCMO, then go back down to 63rd street right near state line. I probably put 60 miles on 3 different buses to travel 16 miles to the data center.

Anyhow, I'm on the MAX now, patiently waiting to get back down south to 63rd street.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The entire country must be "soggy"

... because I posted that it was soggy today. So did Apertome. So did Dan. I'm sure a few others out there in the blogosphere did the same. I just thought it was funny.

Oh yes, everyone welcome another local yokel, Jason to the list of gotta-read blogs. He hasn't written about how darned soggy it is yet, but I'm sure he'll get around to it.

Language rant

I don't usually rant about non-bicycling stuff, but this kind of thing really bakes my noodle. What is up with otherwise intelligent people who have no command of their native language?

I know I'm not perfect. I've let a few misspellings, mis-punctuations, run-ons and other grammar blunders slip through the cracks. If I find them on my initial proofread of the post, I'll go back and fix them. Even still, I'm certain there are a few problems here on my own blog.

The occasional linguistic offense is forgivable. I don't mind those.

I'm talking about people who don't understand certain basic rules of the American English language. "Apostrophe S", for example, is to be used to show possession or as a contraction of "is" or "has" added to a word. This isn't rocket, science, folks! Here are some examples of how to use 's in a sentence. The car's paint glistens in the sun. There's an alligator in our swimming pool!

How can one use 's incorrectly? Let me count the ways! Usually, it's a problem of using 's for pluralization. "There are 15 car's in the parking lot." "My wife has pretty eye's." Or in the case of the monthly e-mail at work, I got a list of "July Birthday's" today.

Mis-use of it's and its also drives me nuts. Although "The cat cleans its fur while laying in the sun." (correct) sounds like a possessive, you have to use "its" in this case. "It's" is reserved only for times when you can say "it is" or "it has" in the sentence.

Along the same line as "its", there's the entire topic of homonyms. "Your welcome." "I am to tired." "My kids finally finished there homework." I see stuff like this every day. These monstrosities cause gnashing of teeth and clenching of fists whenever I see them.

Keep in mind that I forgive the occasional typo. I see these errors on signs in businesses, though. I don't think I could ever bring myself to become a patron of a business that can't take enough pride in their own language to get things right.

This is stuff I probably learned in first or second grade. It was bludgeoned into my mind every year thereafter until I graduated from high school. If anyone wonders why I seemed bored in school, it's because for the sake of the many, they had to teach and re-teach us everything we'd ever learned since kindergarten. Somehow, people make it out into the wild lacking comprehension of these simple rules after a decade or more of reinforcement.

If all of the offenders were under-educated, it would be one thing. I'm seeing managers, secretaries, and some of the brightest technical people I know that are just as guilty, though.

I just don't get it. This concludes today's English lesson.

Mmmmm! Soggy!

Another fun-filled day of slogging the Diamondback Sorrento out to the Mall. The deluge that was trying to push through finally came yesterday evening. This whole time, it's still been sprinkling and spitting when it's not dumping buckets of water on us.

My wife and my mother got to the old apartment about an hour before I did. With them, I spent about 3 hours scraping, scrubbing, wiping, abrading, packing, and piling. I couldn't get the explorer loaded up last night because the rain was coming down too hard and there's almost a 100 yard hike just go get to the closest parking spot from our front door. I wasn't going to get everything soaked.

I'm hoping that the rain holds off a little this afternoon so that we can get everything loaded up. I'm hoping beyond hope that we can get everything squared away tonight. We have to turn the keys in tomorrow sometime, and it would be really crappy if I had go go back out there to load more stuff up tomorrow, too.

This morning's ride was definitely soggier than yesterday's. Also, I don't know what it is, but my upper legs just HURT this morning. I only put on 6 miles yesterday, and maybe another 2.5 to 3 this morning (I haven't checked the computer yet). Perhaps it's the inefficiency of the mountain bike. Different geometry? Using a few different muscles than I do on my road bike? Platform pedals vs. the clipless I'm used to? At any rate, it's one of those things that hurts so good, it's not really uncomfortable, just present. I'll try stretching a little more before and after riding to see if that helps, but I don't plan on using the Sorrento that often.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Raining today. L route, then my old B route bus

Last night, I spent literally three hours at the old apartment arranging the last of the things we're keeping, and throwing out most of what we're not. I couldn't quite load everything onto the Explorer, even with stuff lashed down to the hitch-mounted 5' x 2' rack on the back of it. Today, I am going back out there, and with the help of my wife and parents, cleaning the place thoroughly. I plan on it being a two-afternoon task, so I'll probably be back out there tomorrow evening as well.

We had a gullywasher pop up out of nowhere yesterday late afternoon, and ever since, it's been sprinkling and threatening to unleash another deluge. I shelved the Trek this morning and dug out my trusty mountain bike to ride to the L bus again. Tonight, to get to my old apartment, I'll take the B route out of downtown. As I run out of obligations and if the weather stays nice, I'll be riding the whole trip a lot more often. I think it's kind of lame that I was so gung-ho to ditch the bus, but just ended up ditching the slow D route and I haven't actually stopped using the bus except for Monday's full trip by bike.

Mark my words, though. I am not falling back on the bus on nice days unless I'm simply too wiped out to do it. Even on the "nice" L route, people were shoulder-to-shoulder this morning, just like on the B route. I was practically sitting in someone's lap as it was quite literally the only seat open on the bus. Thanks to time spent loading my bike onto the rack, I was the last person on board, too. Seats are first come, first served, and I was the LAST one.

Riding to the mall, waiting for the bus, and riding the bus downtown takes 40 minutes. That instead of 50-60 minutes on bike still doesn't seem beneficial. On my bike, I am free. I don't have to listen to other people gossip. I don't have to smell what they had for breakfast... or what they are STILL having for breakfast if you count SEEING stuff stuck in their teeth. I don't have sick people hacking, grunting, choking, sneezing, or sniffling around me. Sure, I get a lung full of hydro-carbo-nitro-sulfate-whatever on occasion, but it pales in comparison to what I have to put up with on the bus on a bad day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Going to check out the L

After work today, I need to go old apartment to finish loading up any little things that are left, and to start hauling junk out to the dumpster. In the name of having some semblance of energy left when I get home, I'm going to make the ride to Oak Park Mall to check out the L route. There's a huge viaduct that spans Interstate 35. This stretch of road would probably be pretty harsh in rush hour, so we'll see what it's like coming back home.

Last night's group ride got cut a little short because of some computer problems at home that I had to figure out. I still managed to squeeze more than 32 miles out of the day, though. The heat and humidity from yesterday morning were even more pronounced in the evening with ambient temperatures between 85 and 90 degrees and a heat index even higher than that. Don't forget the obdurate sun, relentlessly infusing everything with its scorching rays. Despite wearing sunscreen, my neck still got charbroiled. My arms, ears, and face fared a little better, bronzing nicely since they had already become a little tan from being outside a lot recently.

Monday, June 25, 2007

No bus today :)

Only one of the KC Bike Commuters showed up to ride this morning. I'm not really expecting this to gain momentum too fast, though. Eric posted about it on his site, though. We'll see if that helps.

The ride in was nice and easy, despite 70 degree temps and humidity that made me think about using a scuba tank. It did make me sweat quite a bit more than usual. I can definitely see this being a daily ride. The only think freaking me out is what the ride home will be like in the thick of the late July/early August heat waves. 4:00 PM can bring ambient temps up over 100 degrees. Pavement temperatures can exceed 140 degrees and cook you from underneath, too. I may end up needing to invest in a hydration pack, as I'm not sure two water bottles will cut it.

I also found out that there are some good bus options (Route L and Route E in addition to my current Route D) that stop at Oak Park mall, less than 2 miles from my apartment via some really treacherous arterial roadways. (edit: scratch route E, they dropped OP Mall) The roads will probably be okay at 6am though. The L route is tempting as Oak Park Mall is the last stop, so it could probably get me to work pretty quick.

I'm going to stick with the bike for a while, though. I'm digging this.

Distance: 14.2 miles
Rolling time: 53 minutes
Avg Speed: 15.8 MPH

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Johnson County to KCMO Commuter Convoy

I'm going to be taking my bike a lot more often, and so I'm working with the KC Bike Commuters Group (put together by Eric from to find people interested in a regular bike commute convoy. There are a lot of people who live in Johnson County but work downtown. There are also a lot of people who live in Johnson County that own bikes.

After talking to some cyclists, it seems like the biggest thing holding them back from commuting on their bike is fear of getting hit. Some of these people have no problem going on group rides, though. Why not organize a group ride with the goal of getting somewhere?

I'm not planning on seeing a lot of people participating yet, but it would be nice to have one or two other cyclists to ride with. It would be an awesome sight to behold if we could get 10 people together, like a train of bicycles heading downtown every morning. That will come later. If you want to join in the fun, e-mail me with the contact form on the right side of my Blog, or better yet, join the KC Bike Commuters Group and participate in the discussions already going on.

Almost moved

Photo: My computer desk set-up. The illuminated Sun Ultra 5 and Solaris are obvious. Lurking in the shadows: A SparcStation 5, MacBook, AirPort Express, and M-Audio MIDI keyboard. The blue crescent is the yoga ball that is the cheapest and best office chair I've ever owned.

So yesterday, Frogman came over in his pick-up truck to help me ferry the remaining large items at the old apartment. We ended up only needing the pickup for the dresser, then made a few more trips in the Explorer. It was nice having some extra hands. Yesterday, we basically completed the bedroom. I'll get pictures of that soon enough. The kitchen, dining room, and living room will take a while, as we have new furniture coming in a few weeks.

Except for getting to and from work, I haven't been riding much at all during the transplant between apartments. I miss it a lot. I haven't looked at my spreadsheet, but if I recall correctly, I haven't gotten on my bike "just to ride" in almost 2 weeks. Hopefully as the madness winds down, that will change.

Friday, June 22, 2007

My first return trip

Elapsed Time: 1:05
Rolling Time: 1:01
Trip: 13.9 Mi
Rolling Average: 13.5
Bike: Trek 1200 with panniers, medium load with laptop.

I had a hellacious headwind of death coming back into town. I didn't feel like hassling with the bus, and I've been slacking on miles this month.

Not much to say other than the fact that southbound always seems harder and that this time of year, the wind coming out of the southwest probably has quite a bit to do with it.

Riding on the short bus

I know, most of you probably think that I should be no stranger to riding the short bus. I've never tried to actually shoe-horn a bicycle into one though. The short buses don't have bicycle carriers, so I got hosed today. I still don't know why they sent a short bus today.

I left the apartment this morning a few minutes later than I wanted to. While riding to the "official" bus stop, I pondered riding all the way in. As I rode along, though, a thought manifested itself. My parents are coming over to see the new apartment tonight, and I still have a bunch of boxes in the Explorer to bring up. Furthermore, there are many boxes already in the apartment that I need to either put somewhere or unpack. I figured I'd better save my energy. I thought this was my old friend "better judgment" speaking to me. Boy was I wrong.

First off, I've acclimated to the bus running a little ahead of schedule. Today it was late. Then, when it shows up, it's a short bus that's already pretty full, and now I have to figure out a way to load my bike inside. There's room for it in the handicap spot, but getting it ONTO the bus was the chore. I ended up opening up the emergency door on the back and lifting the bike into the bus that way.

Since I was on the short bus, I left my bike helmet on. :P

I do believe I'm sick of my new bus route. Monday begins the new deal. Unless the weather's bad or I'm too tired to use my bike, I'm not using the bus anymore. It's a hassle. It's slow to get me between my destinations. It's unpredictable. I'm done.

I finally got my Delta Vincent bike rack set up last night. Since it's hiding in the storage closet, I'm also using it to hold most of my bicycle tools and supplies. The rack is light and functional. It took me a while to get accustomed to getting the bikes on and off the rack. As you can tell, the bikes hang a little close together, so the handlebars kind of interfere with each other a little. It would probably work better with a pair of road bikes. All in all, though, it provides some much-needed storage room for my bikes and other stuff. I couldn't beat the price, either, as it was a dirt-cheap Craigslist find.

The shelving and hooks give me a place to put my toolbox, bungees, and cleaning supplies. It keeps them out of the way, and still looks pretty good, not like anyone will see any of this stuff hanging in my locked storage room.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hoofed it today

I walked the grueling 200 yards through the parking lot to the street today, and flagged the bus down. It worked this time, but I got the second bus instead of the first. It landed me downtown after 7:00, but not by much.

*cough* SOME PEOPLE *cough* think my sleep schedule is a joke. Let me tell you about last night. I think I finally schlepped my haggard carcass to the coffin around 3:00AM. There was no way I was going to be eager and willing to skip my happy ass to the curb by 5:45. I needed at least 3 hours of sleep. At least we got our mattresses and box springs set up last night, so my slumber took place on a real bed instead of some queen size balloon.

I am capable of functioning on as few as two hours of sleep per day for a short period of time. Alternatively, I can go as many as two consecutive work days without sleep, provided I'm given the opportunity to get plenty of rest before and after such a sleep-deprivation marathon.

Some great things came from yesterday's festivities. For one, my Sun Ultra 5 is finally set back up. I packed it away several weeks ago, and have been missing it ever since. It's pictured abstractly above, in whole in this photo or you may want to read my review of it here if you like nerdy hardware talk. It's kind of slow, but it does exactly what I need a workstation to do, and does it well. Next, of course, is our big (for us) television. I don't like TV too much, but my wife and I do enjoy watching movies. The bed was a welcome addition to our apartment last night, and we finally got our fish tank and microwave moved over as well. Things are coming together quite nicely at the new pad. I hope to get my new Delta Vincent Bicycle Rack hung up tonight, although my Interior Designer suggests that it gets displayed inside the storage closet, so you won't be likely to see cool bikes hanging from a wall in my living room as shown on the product's website. Once my wife and I have everything in place, I'll snap some photos.

Finally, I have a question for my readers. I don't have the time to set up a formal poll. What should I do when accounting for walking? I have a spreadsheet where I count bike commute days and miles. Keep in mind, I already do a fair amount of walking around downtown. Do I:

A) Get some fresh batteries in my pedometer and track walking miles just like I count my bike miles?

B) Ignore walking entirely, not logging any car-free commute miles if I hoof it.

Or do you have a better suggestion? Let me know!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wow, they sure do run this route hot!

I ducked out of the parking garage at 4:00 sharp and guess what whizzed past me? The friendly neighborhood D bus. You know, the one that's supposed to be 3 or 4 minutes away?

I had to hammer it to pass the bus to beat it to the bus stop. I rode by as he was picking up a passenger and told him to hold on a sec. I have a feeling that this bus route is going to cause me more trouble than it's worth. I'll give it a week or two before I write it off. If it keeps up like this, I'll be tempted to cancel my bus pass for the summer months and just rely on the darn bike. Sheesh.

Missed the bus...

As some of you know, the bus actually passes right by my new apartment. I got outside this morning to try to catch the bus just in time to see it whiz by the parking lot. I stepped out at 5:49. I guess I have to be out there by quarter-to-six if I want to ride the bus. Our apartment complex isn't an official bus stop, but the buses will stop if you flag them down. As such, I was just guessing what time the bus would come through, splitting the difference between the timed bus stops before and after my apartment. This morning, I failed.

In order to get to work before 7:00, I have to catch the first bus on this new route which will land me at my office at 6:41. Since I missed it, I was going to get in later than I'd wanted. Disgruntled, I decided to ride my bike in this morning. Sure, I only got about 3 hours of actual sleep. Sure, I was sleeping on a back-bending air mattress because our bed hasn't been moved yet. Sure, the cats were waking my wife and I up all night. Oh well.

I didn't quite beat the bus, but I pulled in at 6:46 after leaving home on bike at about 5:50. If I pushed it a bit harder, I might have been able to shave a few minutes off of that time, perhaps beating the bus to my destination.

I forgot to reset my bike computer this morning, so I'm not 100% sure how many miles I rode, but from what I can tell it was just about 13 miles. Needless to say, my average speed probably sucked, but I was pretty tired to begin with.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Quick update

I took today off to start moving into the new apartment. As you can imagine, it's been really busy. I'm eager to try out my new transportation options this week :)

Monday, June 18, 2007


I saw this lady this morning on my way to work, and again while waiting for the bus.

She's one of the city's so-called "Bees" - Civilian volunteers. They're kind of a cross between janitors and neighborhood watch. Anyhow, both times I saw her, she was riding in the street without a helmet and listening to her headphones. If she gets in a wreck (likely since she can't hear traffic), we'll just say she won't be doing any long division. Of course, for all I know, she's not doing any long division now. This kind of behavior is foolhardy and cavalier at best.

Next, my new lock. Today, I swung by the bike shop and rummaged through their trash can for the perfect inner tube. I found a big, fat inner tube with a rectangle patch on it and I knew that was the one. This thing is dripping with MacGyver-rigged ghetto juice. Just the way I like it.

I has a lock!

So, instead of picking up a big and expensive U-Lock from a bike shop, I went lo-tech. Jeff, who lives down the street from my office, told me about a nearby hardware store. I managed to pick up a nice heavy-duty padlock and about 4 feet of chain for less than half of what I would have spent on a the cheapest of U-Locks.

As I rode in the elevator with my bike, the looks on peoples' faces were priceless.

Made it all the way

I made it all the way to work via bike today. The road bike's predicament seems to be resolved. It was a nice, quick, smooth ride today. No more flat-spot on the wheel. No more brake problems, no flats this morning. It went ALMOST just like it should go every day, with one exception:

I forgot my bike lock.

Yep, it's always something, isn't it?

I darted into CVS looking for a bicycle lock -- even a cheapo one -- to no avail. They have 20 different kinds of padlocks, but no cable locks, u-locks, or even chains to use with a padlock. When I got outside, it had started to rain a little bit. Fortunately, I was a mere 3 blocks from work.

When I got to work, I quickly shuffled the bike into the elevator, zipped up to my office, and threw it in an out-of-the-way storage room, completely against company policy. I don't have any other choice, though. If I leave it parked downstairs without being locked, it WILL be gone when I get back.

I'm hoping to ride to River Market Cyclery over lunch to pick up a good, solid U-Lock that I can just leave dangling from the bicycle rack in the parking garage. Here at work is the only place where I leave my bike in harm's way for any length of time and I can't justify the weight penalty for hauling around a giant chunk of metal that I only need at one location.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Update on the bike situation

First, I tuned up the Outlook last night and took it for a spin around the parking lot. After dealing with RapidFires on the Sorrento, and Tiagra STIs on the Trek, Grip shifters took a while to appreciate again, but I do still like them. The front derailleur is a lot less finicky when you have a non-indexed ratcheting shifter.

Today, I rode it 7 miles. I met Jim, a member of my bicycle club for the first time at The Daily Dose to help him troubleshoot the club's site as he migrates it to a different web host. Of course, I started at JCCC, went to The Dose, and rode back to JCCC.

You know what? I give my Outlook a lot of smack-talk that's not always deserved. Sure, the bottom bracket is cheap and unreliable in the wet, but this bike is still great! I'd almost say for short distances, it's better than the Trek. If I sprung for a real cargo rack (it has braze-ons) I might actually use it more often.

Going up hills, I think it actually climbs better. It still has "mountain" gears for the most part, which helps. Going downhill, I can cadence-out, but I'm going more than 40 MPH by the time that happens. I can get my Trek up faster than that, and I've never been able to wring my legs out all the way on the Trek, but for practical purposes, the Outlook is about the same speed as the Trek going downhill. In the flats and up slight hills, the Trek shows its true colors. The problem is that there really isn't that much flat land on my commute. So, while the Trek is hands-down the most efficient bike I own, the Outlook is perhaps the best bang for the buck.

Once I move to Lenexa, I think I'll be doing some round-trip bike commute experiments with these two bikes. I have a feeling the Outlook might not fare too poorly against the Trek 1200 in terms of speed. Build quality and fun factor will probably skew the overall results toward the Trek 1200 though.

When I got back to JCCC, it was after 10:00, and the bike shop was open. I took the wheel, tire, and ruptured tubes off my Trek to the shop.

Somewhere along the line, my brand new Bontrager Select tire got a slice in the sidewall, again, right near the rim. This wasn't anywhere near the flatspot, but Kevin at Bike America pointed out the slice, and when I told him that I'd mounted the tire the same way both times (with the stem pointing right at the Bonti logo) he knew it was probably the sidewall, and started pressing his finger around the inside of the tire. It didn't take him long to find a minuscule slice. He said it looked like the kind of slice caused by chunks of glass or metal in the road. It wasn't very big at all.

So, I bought my new wheel, had them put YET ANOTHER new tire and tube on the new wheel, and swap the cassette off my OEM wheel. Yes, Bike America gave me the uber-hookup yet again, and I appreciate it. I haven't had a chance to give the Trek a proper shakedown run yet. It'll happen soon enough, though.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I'm Famous... Or something?

Bike Commuters interviewed me earlier this week and asked for some photos from my commuting adventures.

Never mind the scowl on my face. I was having a pretty rough day that involved getting chafed by riding in my jeans without a liner, getting 80 minutes of sleep, and settling for a positively bland source of caffeine to get me through the work day. Check it out!

Bike Commuters - Commuter Profile: Noah


That's it. The Trek 1200 is getting shelved until I can buy a new wheel. It's done. Not using it anymore. I'm furious. I'm talking about the "drank my last beer" kind of anger.

Last night, I put the finishing touches on the bike to prepare it for a long commute this morning. I took the headlight off and mounted it on my helmet. I put my LED headlight on the handlebars so I have something blinky in front. I got both my rear LED lights charged up. I aired the tires up to 100 PSI. I re-lubed the chain. I packed the extra stuff I'd want for a long haul. I got my gear put in the panniers, and the panniers strapped down to the rack. Life is good, right?

About 20 minutes after I'm done working on it, I'm all the way on the other side of the house. For no reason whatsoever, the tire pops. It sounded like a gun-shot, not like a PFFFFFFFFfffffffffffffffsssssshhhhh like usual. I knew it was my tire, though.

I go out there, unencumber the bike of all its stuff, invert it, and take the wheel off. Upon examination, I have a hole in the inner-tube facing the rim. The hole looks like someone shot a BB through my tire. It's a hole at least 1/8" around and with jagged edges. I replace it with a patched tube, air it up to 100 again, and put it back on my bike. This was a little after midnight.

I went to bed. About 3 something, my wife interrupts my slumber to tell me that my tire popped again. Keep in mind that my bike is still upside-down in the front hallway. This morning, I grabbed my bike computer off of it, gave it a scowl, made a kicking motion at it, and went out the door with my mountain bike.

I'm probably just going to let it rot in the kitchen until after we move. I'm done dealing with it. I officially no longer like my Trek. It's going to take a long time for me to regain trust in my road bike.

The only good things about this morning are that I still carried my coffee press on my way to work and my mountain bike made it to the bus in about 12 or 13 minutes via my usual route, which isn't a lot slower than my Trek carries me, although it was a hammer-fest and my MTB has platforms. I had to work a lot harder to make good time on my Sorrento. I also had to revert to the sweaty backpack again.

I would have taken my hybrid but it hasn't been used but maybe once in the last six weeks. It needs a once-over and a shakedown run before it's ready for duty. I might work on tuning it up tonight.

I am NOT riding my mountain bike all the way to the new apartments. My wife won't let me, and I don't want to do it. She'll come downtown to pick me up.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

One last time...

Photo: "cold setting" my vertical bottle frame allows my travel french press to fit on my bike. It will help tomorrow morning.

I'm going to try to make the full trip to work one last time before I move. Tomorrow, my wife and I have an appointment to meet a manager at our new apartment. Unfortunately, the bus can't get me there before they close, so I'm also going to ride straight from work to the apartment complex, thus beating the bus and getting to the apartment on time.

I didn't get to ride much tonight. Just a little bit to navigate around campus and to run some errands. My wife left my car at the college last night, so I had to drive home from JCCC with my bike in the hatch. I'll obviously make up for the mileage tomorrow.

11 minutes flat

No, I didn't get another flat. I arrived at the bus exactly 11 minutes after I left. I took my old, old, old commute route on 119th street. I initially left home as planned, right on time to get to the bus, before realizing that my bike lock was sitting at home next to my mountain bike. I was already half a mile out, but I wasn't going to go to work without a bike lock! I turned around and went home.

Knowing full well that I was going to miss the 6:30 stop, I departed from home for the second time at 6:21. I decided to take 119th since it's almost half a mile shorter. I had to fight with traffic, but it paid off. I rolled up at 6:32 and the bus was just starting to roll. The driver saw me and waited, though. Thanks! I wondered why he'd be leaving late, but now that I'm on the bus comparing the time on my bike computer with the rest of the universe, I see that it's running 2 minutes fast. I think I did that on purpose last time I had to adjust the time. It's been a few months. Rolling time of the first part of my trip (out and back home to pick up the lock) was 4m 35s. The rolling time of the second part of my trip was 10m 10s.

I remember when I had my first x-mart bike, this trip used to take me 20 to 25 minutes every day. I don't like this route at all, but it's fun to compare it to last September when I was just starting out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A different kind of Wednesday ride

Photo: A picture of the trails in Shawnee Mission Park I found on Flickr (thanks, felixtcat).

Today, Chris and I were seriously considering crashing the Discover ride. Not in a bad way. In a commuter way. Later on in the day, we'd decided it would be much more interesting to break out our mountain bikes and do some honest-to-God single track.

See, I haven't actually been on a formal mountain bike trail. I've used deer trails. I've made my own first tracks. I've even ridden on 4x4 trails. Although I can tell the stuff I was riding on really isn't that technical, it was the roughest stuff I've ever subjected any bicycle to, and it was also the longest time I've spent bludgeoning a bicycle in these kinds of conditions.

Was it fun? You bet! We probably only put 6 or 7 miles on, but I'd bet I worked twice as hard as if I'd ridden 20 miles with the roadies this evening.

Chris might have more photos later. If so, I'll link to them.

Human Gremlins?

So, I don't know if it's possible for people to get gremlins or not. My bike seems to be sorted out, but the gremlins aren't gone yet. This time they're after my wife.

Last night right before leaving work, my wife started to feel kind of off. She had a strange upper abdominal pain that was causing her quite a bit of discomfort. After I ate a late supper, I did some laundry since my bike clothes were all nasty. This, unfortunately, got me to bed around 2:00 AM and asleep some 10 minutes later. Not really my ideal bedtime considering the alarm goes off at 5:30.

The problem is that I didn't sleep until 5:30. My wife's pain started to flare up to unbearable levels at about 3:30. Off to the ER we went. I brought the bike, since there's a bus stop about a mile from the ER. I'm on the bus right now.

So far, they still don't know what's wrong. They have a few different diagnostics to run. Keep my wife in your prayers if you're the praying type. As for me, I'm going to be operating on 1 hour and 20 minutes of sleep. In other words, riding all the way to work from home would take longer than the nap I got.

I think I feel a 20 ounce quadruple-shot mocha coming my way.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The verdict is in...

The out-of-round wheel is causing my brake pad to rub the sidewall of the tire while I brake. This is eating small holes in the sidewall of my tire, and eventually nicking the inner tube, causing the flats.

So, I got some more inner tubes, a new tire (the whole thing) and Kevin at Bike America gave me some tips on hacking the brakes. They won't rub anymore, but I eventually need a new rear wheel.

He also has a new wheel waiting for me, but even at the discounted price he will sell it for, I can't afford it until after I move. He actually ordered it as soon as he found out I flat-spotted it, but didn't tell me. He figured I'd eventually come asking for it.

This is getting ridiculous.



Hike of shame: 1.2 miles.

I forsee a trip to the bike shop tonight. I'm not even going to waste another tube on this contraption until a pro looks at it.


Excuse the hurried paintbrush-attempt at modifying the logo of a large nation-wide sandwich franchise.

On Tuesday, Subway has a deal where you can get a foot-long sandwich for the price of a half. This is an undeniably good deal. At the same time, it's a gluttonous amount food for the average human to gnaw on in a single sitting.

I won't lie. I was ravenous by 11:00. I still had to think twice about pigging out on a foot-long sub. I asked the lady behind the counter for a favor. All I wanted was a half sandwich with double meat and cheese, for the reduced price of a foot-long. This would give me the protein I need, without eating almost a pound of bread. They rejected my request. After arguing with them and pointing out the logistics that they are selling a WHOLE sandwich but only using half a loaf of bread (thus saving them money) they still wouldn't see things my way. I walked out of the store disgusted and carrying a foot-long cold-cut sandwich with only lettuce, tomato and black olives, and a side of apple slices for dessert.

Of course, when I sat down in the break room, I promptly disassembled the culinary cluster-eff of a sandwich, moved the toppings of one half onto the other, wadded up the remainder of the bread and made a perfectly doughy bank-shot into the wastebasket.

What a bunch of morons.

That wasn't so bad

Photo: The single-speed cruiser bike on the right has its handlebars mounted backwards. The end result looks like bastardized bullborn bars. On the left, a city worker walks her bike, preparing to wake up someone who's sleeping in a metro bus stop hut. You can't see it, but there's a bike on the bus behind her, too. Just another morning in downtown KC.

I arrived to the bus without any gremlins. My tires held air. My gears shifted. My speedometer and lights worked. Amazing.

I left home at 6:03 thinking I might have a chance at catching the first bus out of town. I usually consider the bus a write-off if I leave less than 15 minutes before the scheduled bus departure time, but worst case scenario, I miss this bus and get the next one 15 minutes later. Yesterday's ride was still present in my legs, I could feel the burn even as I put my shoes on for the ride.

There were clouds building to the south and west, and I swear I felt a little sprinkle on my way in. The wind was blowing northeast as usual, so I had some headwind to fight on my first leg. I got to the first stoplight at 6:07, about a minute or two behind when I usually get there. That means I'm a minute ahead of myself on my travel time. I hammered up the 127th viaduct and got to the intersection on schedule, at about 6:11 (I usually get there at 6:10 or 6:11 if I leave on time) and hammered my way to the bus. I got there just in time.

Sitting ahead of me on the bus, I saw Chris, a fellow occasional bike commuter I've written about before. Like nerds, instead of shouting over the gossipy din on the bus, we exchanged greetings online and I told him how the Gringo's ride went.

With that, my legs are tapped, I'm drinking my pre-work Mocha, and I'm wide awake. Hopefully that's a good sign.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gremlins, Part Two

Photo: Riders for the JCBC Gringo's Ride (named after the Mexican place the ride starts and ends at, followed by various amounts of gorging of tacos and consumption of alcohol, of course) regroup at the fire station. The "slow" group is yet to arrive.

After I got off work, I grabbed supper for my wife and I, then headed off to a different Monday ride than usual. I've been talking on my bike club's e-mail discussion list and decided to see what the infamous Gringo's Ride was all about.

Whereas the Trek ride is about 25% slower than I'd normally go on my own just taking a recreational ride, the Gringo's ride had me pushing myself at least 25% HARDER than I'd normally go on a recreational ride. Dare I say this was more "training" than "recreation". Training for what? I have no clue. I am not training for anything. I don't have any brevets or centuries scheduled. I'm not signed up for RAGBRAI and I'm missing BAK as I'm typing this. The pace was around 16-17 MPH for 20 miles or so. I covered 18.2 of those miles. I'll get to that in a bit.

It was definitely more ride than I'm used to doing on a Monday night. In distance, it trumps some of my Saturday solo rides. In intensity, it trumps most rides I've been on, but its a draw when compared to the Wednesday night Discover Vision Center ride.

Anyhow, about 15 miles into the ride, coming up Ridgeview, I flat out for no apparent reason. It's one of those little holes that goes PSSSSSSSSHT-PFFFF-PFFF-pff-pff-pff as the wheel's spinning. Two riders, Nan and (I think) Jerry break formation to assist. I checked the tire and rim tape but found nothing. The hole was opposite the valve stem and apparently on the outside-facing part of the tube. I pulled out one of my other tubes (which had already been patched once) and replaced the damaged tube. I borrowed Nan's Topeak Road Morph, saving my CO2 for later.

About a mile later, that tube gives out. Bewildered, we pull off again. The existing patch didn't give out, there was another hole, this time on the rim side. I patched it and aired it back up.

As I sit on the road, ready to roll, I can already hear hissing. One of the patches has failed or something. That tube is a write-off. I stuff it in a pocket and pull out a brand new, fresh tube from my seat bag. Tired of pumping the Road Morph, I broke out the CO2 and got my tire aired up just as Kevin pulled up in his pickup to drag me back to camp.

So that's why I missed the last 2 miles or so of the ride.

I'm almost worried to ride my Trek tomorrow. Fortunately if I blow another tire, I won't be too far from the bus. I guess we'll see what happens. I'm down to one spare tube (with a patch) and I still have a lot of CO2 left. I'm not sure I Trust my Trek any further than I could throw my Sorrento, though.

So much for my parking spot... Thanks!

When I arrived at work this morning, I was greeted with literally tons of stuff piled up around the only bicycle parking rack in my facility. I was able to lock up, but I had to work my way around all the things in my way. The thing to the right of my bike is a Bobcat forklift attachment. It isn't going anywhere unless a bobcat gets within inches of my bicycle.

Unfortunately, I cannot bring the bike in with me, due to "liability, access, and maintenance issues" so I wrote a nasty-gram to the general manager of the property company, and attached the photo shown above. This is the same guy who told me I couldn't bring the bike inside. We'll see if he does anything about my problems. I explained to him that I park my bike in that rack every single work day, and that it's not just superfluous space that can be used for storage.

There aren't any other bicycle racks in my facility, so it's not like I can just park somewhere else like a motorcycle or automobile can.

This isn't the first time that my rack has been cramped for space, but this is admittedly the worst it's ever been. I'm hoping that the property company can bring these kinds of incidents to a stop, or else I'll be forced to blatantly disregard their rules.

UPDATE: I received email from two people at the property management company regarding the issue. They've chewed the hide of the people responsible for piling stuff there. I guess they had to re-paint the loading dock and decided that my parking spot didn't matter over the weekend. They intended to move it back, but hadn't gotten around to it when I showed up. I'm still pretty flummoxed about the whole ordeal, though. They also said that maintenance will refrain from parking right next to the spot as well. We'll see...

Oh yes, and my shifting gremlin from the previous post has vanished after I cinched my panniers down a little more. The drive-side pannier was restricting my rear derailleur, so it wasn't anything serious.

Uhoh! Gremlins!

I didn't notice any of this stuff last night when I got groceries on the Trek, but this morning, she seems to be plagued by gremlins!

The first problem I noticed is that my computer had stopped responding. I wasn't paying attention to it as I was walking out the door with it, but when I glanced down to look at my speed as I often do when slogging up my first climb, I noticed it was reading 0.0. I know I'm not riding that slow. I clicked out, leaned over the bars and fixed it at the stop light.

Before I could fix that, though, I also had noticed that my rear derailleur was refusing to shift into the top (smallest) gear. My shifter would release cable slack, but it wasn't shifting. I still haven't figured that out yet, but I'm hoping it's just something simple, like my pannier contacting the RD and keeping it from moving any further outward. I know how to check the derailleur for straightness and how to adjust the high screw, too. I'm sure I can fix it regardless of cause.

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't bad, just slightly annoying. I need my coffee. You can guess where I'm heading when I get off the bus :)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Rode to my parents' place today

Photo: The VOR transmitter at Johnson County Executive Airport.

Last night, I'd originally planned on riding this route today. The car I'm letting my dad borrow is having problems, though, and that route takes me pretty close to my parents place, so I swung by to check it out. It looks like the battery is probably hosed, but it was working fine last week.

Quickly after making the detour to my parents place, I ran into a peloton of riders. I saw a few jerseys for my bike club in the pack, but I don't know if it was one of their usual rides. There were about 15-20 riders, and I zipped around them. Any one of them could have easily dropped me, but as a group, they were not only going too slow for my style, but I had to get to my parents place, fix my car, and still get back to the college by noon. I'm sure they thought I was an a-hole roadie until they saw that I was wearing a t-shirt, mountain bike shoes, and had the commuter rack thing going. I must look like such a tool when I ride.

I rode past the airport on my way back to the college. More airport pictures Here, Here and Here.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Photo: the picture I was going to post last night. I got too busy though. Random storms popped up all over the central plains yesterday. This was one to the east of us, so the sun is setting to my back in this photo.

Well, we got rid of the wind, but it was about 55 degrees when I left home this morning. I grabbed my bike, and started to wheel it outside. When I got out, I immediately got chilled to the bone. Whoa! Time for the hoodie! I darted back indoors for a sweatshirt, and hopped on the bike.

Other than wishing I'd also grabbed my full-finger 180s Enduro gloves to go with my hoodie, it was a nice ride in. I really need some good, solid rest this weekend, though. Going back to work after an 11-day hiatus is brutal.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Egad! The wind!

I have no clue what in the universe I did to deserve this kind of treatment! The bone-rattling tempest held a steady 30 MPH with gusts probably double that on my journey to work. The first two legs of my journey were a test of my perserverence.

As I bear south onto Ridgeview, I'm punched in the chest with the force of a fire hose. I look at the flags that my apartment complex is flying. They're stiffly rippling to the north-northeast. I am going downhill, but should I stop pedaling, I will certainly be blown to a complete stop within a few yards. My -3% descent feels like +2% at least. I stay in the second chainring, hit the drops, tuck in, and work through the gears. I topped out around 17 MPH. That's weak, even for flat land.

I usually amass 30+ MPH on this 1/4 mile of asphalt to build momentum to help me conquer the 180 Beat Per Minute "wake up call" climb that lies ahead. From a dead standstill, I can usually slog up it in the lower 2 gears of my middle chainring. With a full head of steam from the speed ramp leading up to it, I can usually tackle the rise in the second, third, or even fourth gear of my middle ring.

Today, I hit the valley between the slopes at about 15 miles per hour, somewhere near the middle gear of my middle chainring. I remain crunched and shift down two sprockets to get my cadence up in anticipation of the wall ahead of me. I'm quickly met with opposition. I drop to the granny ring and get about 1/4 way up the hill before my legs run out of push. I clinch the hoods and downshift again and get a little further. I begin to strongly pull with my legs on the upstroke, something that I don't do too often. It gets me some more leverage but my speed keeps dropping. I downshift again and hop out of the saddle, still pushing and pulling, using my arms and core to keep the bike from flailing about. Swarms of gritty debris rips at my legs and face. I downshift again and now I'm totally grannied out as I approach the apex of the challenge I've conquered.

I get back into the middle ring for the slight descent and flat area that comprises the last 1/2 mile of my first leg. I wait for the stop light, and turn left.

Can anyone tell me what could possibly be more malevolent than a 30-60 MPH head wind?

Bueller? Bueller?

I'll tell you the answer. A 30-30 MPH cross wind is far more devious, far less predictable, and an order of magnitude more treacherous than a head wind of similar velocity, especially when that cross wind is left to its own devices with a vulnerable cyclist on a raised viaduct without anything to baffle the gale. My trusty panniers and beefy profile provide ample surface area for the breeze to exact its revenge against me. What crime had I committed to make me a just victim to its torture? To counter it, I leaned over to the right, at times 20-30 degrees from perpendicular to the concrete structure beneath me.

The third and final stretch of my trip to the bus was actually aligned with the wind. My legs completely tapped, I hit 41.1 miles per hour (in a 35 MPH zone) on the flats. Then, and only then, for the first time since I set foot outside my apartment, did I feel calm, still air. Riding at that pace without feeling any resistance pressing against your face is a surreal and confusing experience. One mile is gone far too soon at that speed, and it hadn't nearly paid the debt for the two miles of pain and suffering that had preceded it.

I really, really hope this stuff calms down this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

R.I.P., Kelsey

I didn't post at all yesterday, or this morning. Not that many of you care or notice, but I feel like I missed three posts that I should have made.

Kelsey Smith officially became a nation-wide name this morning on Good Morning America. Unfortunately, we couldn't save her. Her body was found this afternoon in a shallow creek, about 15 miles from the location where she was last seen.

Yesterday, I put about 4 or 5 hours into volunteering with the search and rescue teams. We blanketed one of the more "dangerous" apartment complexes. "Dangerous" is how it was described to me. Low-income apartments with internal entrances - four or six per main entry way. Frequent visits by police officers aren't uncommon, and it's kind of blighted. We took two teams of four searchers each and converged on each entryway, looking for signs of struggle (blood, fingernail scratches, broken windows), articles of the victim's clothes, or anything else suspicious. We checked hallways, vehicles, dumpsters, shrubbery, patios, and commons areas. As we blanketed the apartment complex we handed out flyers to those who answered to our knocking, and placed them in every resident's door that didn't respond. There were a few coincidences, but ultimately we were searching the wrong area.

I had my mountain bike out there in case they wanted help covering large areas of tall grass or rough terrain, and I had all my lighting gear including my helmet-mount in case they needed someone to help provide coverage of storm drains, dark wooded areas, or anywhere else. I ended up not needing to use it, providing some force for the two teams mentioned above. Most of the volunteers were Kelsey's classmates, still in high school or recent graduates. I felt it was more important to go with the first departing group of mostly younger volunteers, rather than wait several hours for a more strategic plan to come along.

As I locked my bike up, I got a camera stuck in my face by one of the local crews. They inquired about the bike, about why I was volunteering, and that was about all I gave them the time to ask. I have no interest in being on television, and 5 minutes spent talking to a camera seemed like 5 minuted wasted. Of course, as our group departed on foot to the apartments 3/4 a mile away, we ended up stopping inside Target so some of them could get Starbucks. And I thought talking to a camera was a waste.

All the details I have on Kelsey's case are out in the open right now, so I'll spare you the graphic and/or verbose description of what happened. I'm pretty sure that by the time Kelsey's family found her car at Macy's, she was already dead. It's also sad that thousands of cases similar to this happen yearly, and that so few catch this kind of media attention.

So, I still have quite a bit of a story to tell. Yesterday, I did some consulting work, and left my laptop and some other stuff on the site. I trust the people who I left the laptop with, that wasn't a problem. However, I didn't have any way to post here. I already have ALL of my personal computers packed up except for my firewall/server and my MacBook. The firewall doesn't have a keyboard or monitor attached, and my MacBook was, well, somewhere else. My only connectivity the past few days has been with my HP Jornada 680e Palmtop computer. It does e-mail, AIM, and light-duty web surfing just fine. It does NOT like blogger, though, and I haven't set up any mobile publishing options for KC-Bike, so that's what's up with my radio silence.

Add to that the fact that today was my first day back to work and I didn't have my access card, bus pass, or cubicle keys either (also in the laptop bag). I bogarted my way past the bus drivers -- they all know me. I had to pick my locks at work to gain access to my coffee and paperwork.

To pick up my laptop, I started at JCCC after getting supper with my wife. I took Indian Creek Trail further south than I've ever taken it before, fighting some 20-40 MPH headwinds and all the airborne dirt, sand, leaves, branches, soda cans, and 3-year-olds that come with it. I found the little turn-around that is the supposed "terminus" of Indian Creek Trail. But, guess what? There's a dirt path that sprouts off and darts into the thick brush in the area. Sure, I'm on my road bike with panniers, but I can't resist a tempting trail like this. Besides, I'd have to backtrack half a mile to find a REAL road to keep going south on to recover my laptop. I went for it. What I found was a hilly, slightly muddy singletrack trail with a lot of BMX kids stunting on it. I didn't take my Trek off any sweet jumps, but it handled the mild dirt path just fine. Climbing raw dirt hills with 25mm Bontrager Selects with my bike fully loaded was a bit of a chore, but it paid off! I found myself in someone's back yard just 2 blocks away from the main roadway I needed to be on.

Needless to say, I took the main roads back out of Olathe and into Overland Park. I'm hanging out at the Dose until my wife's shift ends. The horrible northbound wind was a welcome boon to my average speed coming back. I was pushing 25-35 MPH for quite a while without even pushing it too hard.

Anyhow, you're all caught up. The life and times of Noah.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday night ride, going car-free, and plans for tomorrow

Photo: We re-group at a stop light. Click for full album.

So, after driving my wife to work with my bike on the truck, I rode to Daily Dose for some quick refreshments and relaxation time before heading to the Monday night recovery ride. Between going to the Dose and hitting the recovery ride, I put on a little more than 15 miles. On my way there, my dad called me and took me up on an offer I made him yesterday. He's been having car problems, and I told him he could borrow my Focus if he needed to. So, I'll be loaning it to him until he gets things sorted out with his car.

The recovery ride had a great turn out, with a diverse crowd as always. Retro grouches, a tandem team, a 7-year-old, racers, commuters, clydes, athenas, and everything in between. We were all united in the fact that we enjoy cycling, though. And most of us were united in the fact that we love Mark Jilka's awesome homebrew concoctions!

I rode back home from the recovery ride, and readied my Focus to be handed off to Dad. Mostly, this consisted of pulling my mountain bike out of the back, ejecting my CD of mind-bending techno music from the CD player, and checking all the tires, oil, and all that. Since my wife absolutely HAS to get to work and can't ride a bike all the way there, that means I am going voluntarily car-free until my dad returns my Focus.

Those of you in KC and maybe those elsewhere may have heard about Kelsey Smith, a teen that was reported missing on Saturday. Kelsey's father is a co-worker of my wife, both of them work in the public safety department at JCCC. Tonight, I geared up my Sorrento. I'll be heading out tomorrow to help the family however I can. I may comb nearby fields and woods for clues, or I might end up going door to door handing out flyers. Either way, it's a really sad deal. Breaking news says that there is a man who may have forced her into her own car in the Target parking lot near Oak Park mall. Later, the car showed up about 1/2 a mile away. Anyhow, I'm going to help however I can tomorrow. It's my last day of vacation, and I don't know of a better way to spend it. If you pray, or send positive energy, or cast spells of protection or whatever, just please keep Kelsey and the Smith family in your thoughts.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I has a cave!

I went riding around some old 4x4 trails on my mountain bike today. It seems my part of town can't go maybe 3 days without rain, so things were pretty muddy today. I kept locking up my front wheel with mud, so I decided to try riding through the tall, uncut grass instead. I found some really rocky terrain to play around on, and followed it. It wound around and down to a landing, and I figured it was probably going to end up in a rock quarry of sorts, since abandoned quarries are a dime a dozen out here.

I ended up finding some old mines. I did some research and found that they were decontaminated of heavy metal (lead, mercury, iron, cadmium etc), petroleum, and volatile organic (benzene, toluene, etc) back in 2001 at the behest of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. There are obvious tire tracks going into the open mine, and I saw fluorescent lighting deep within the cave when I stood in the entry. I'd say it's safe to enter, and I at no time encountered any fences or signs that would indicate that I was not allowed to be there.

It was far too muddy for me to proceed into the mine, though, and I didn't have any lighting with me. Maybe when it's no so soupy out, I'll come back.

I hit Mill Creek trail to shake some of the mud and gravel off of my bike, but it was still terribly dirty. I spent quite a while cleaning it off when I got back home.

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