Sunday, September 30, 2007

Larry & Sierra Gaunt Update

Yesterday, authorities charged the man who killed Larry and Sierra Gaunt while they rode around Longview Lake... He was charged with 2 counts of Involuntary Manslaughter. Depending on the Jury's decision on the degree, he could face either a 4- or 7-year maximum sentence for each charge. Those are the maximums, though. The actual sentence could be less.

I think everyone that's driven has let their attention lapse for 10 seconds or so at one time or another. I hope that this is a wake-up call to motorists that inattention on the road can lead to consequences far more severe than a wrecked car or simply a hand-slap and feeling the guilt for killing someone. While I'm sure that there's significant emotional trauma over what happened, this needed to happen for the sake of ALL users of the road.

Full Story via

Friday, September 28, 2007

September Recap

I know September isn't over yet, but as far as commuting is concerned, this is the last day of September.

I've been saying it all month, but I'm just plain lazy. I wrapped up September with about 380 miles, less than 2/3 the miles I rode last month. Part of it was the sinus infection, but I'd be lying if I blamed that for the whole month's display of slothitude. Yes, I made that word up.

Today was one of only 4 full round-trips by bike all month.

So, yeah. I'm not even going to try to wow you all with my crazy statistics skillz. Hopefully next month will be better.

Friday: The madness continues.

Just wow. I got out about 5 minutes late. The chilly air is giving me a mild case of EIA (Exercise-Induced Asthma), so I'm running a little slow the last few days. I get a little more than 1/3 into my journey, and see a bicyclist doing the hike-of-shame on Merriam Lane near Sonic. I did a quick U-turn and asked if he was alright. A bag he was carrying had gotten tangled in the chain. This ripped his rear derailleur completely off his bike and actually bent one whole chain link nearly perfectly in half, snapping it in the process.

I couldn't re-attach the derailleur. It had actually broken the hanger. The mount point on the dropout is okay, but he'll need a new RD. I asked where he's headed, and he rides daily from KCK to a day-to-day labor place. I'm guessing a trip to the bike shop to get a new RD and a tune-up isn't quite in the budget, so I whipped out the tools and went to work.

First things first, I had to get the RD out of the way. I took the cable and wrapped it around the seatstay and up by the brakes to keep it from dropping into the spokes and further complicating things. Then, I tried to find a good gear ratio that would allow him to get around, but still give the chain a somewhat firm hold on the sprockets. It's possible, but not easy to find a good singlespeed ratio without too much slack on a geary mountain bike. I eventually ended up cross-chaining it a little bit, but after cutting the chain and putting it back together without any derailleurs (the front has been jammed in the outer chainring position for a long time according to him), the end result was a surprisingly usable bicycle. He quickly vanished into the darkness, well on his way to work. I hope my little fix works for as long as it needs to.

Now, nearly 20 minutes behind my typical schedule, I had to fight through the cold. At first, this was easy, but my asthma started kicking in a little bit as I approached Rosedale. I may need my balaclava or a scarf a little earlier this year. I'm pushing a lot harder than I was last year. My lungs are also in better shape. I'm taking deeper breaths, which may be complicating things. I kept pushing, though. I got to the coffee shop about 20 minutes later than usual (no surprise) and saw Lorin and JR there, as well as another bike/bus commuter who I see on occasion. I think his name is John. He had his yard-sale $7.50 Trek 820 Antelope there. Heck of a nice bike, but he had to put some work into it after he bought it, of course. Another 5-bike morning if you count the pink cruiser bike with the handlebar basket that was parked in front of Jason's Deli.

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Halcyon + On + On
Pole Folder - Waxxx

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hecktic couple of days

Quick recap:
Yesterday: Rode to Lulu's for lunch, took the bus home. Got the road bike ready for action.

This morning: Rode all the way, had some quick coffee and didn't see another bicycle the entire trip, none.

Lunch: Rode to Jimmy John's for a sammich. Damn, they're fast. I called the order in as I stepped out the door. When I arrived, I was in and out with lunch-in-hand in quite literally 30 seconds. Just amazing. Good food, too, but kind of $$$ for what you get.

This afternoon: Took the bus home (I'm lazy) and ran out to get some grub for my wife. Came home, got the bike stripped down, threw it on the truck and drove to my old apartment. From there, I rode to the 127th street planning meeting. After that, I swung by the grocery store for supper, which included a sushi tray :)

Anyhow, the 127th street planning meeting was helpful and a lot more organized than before. Cyclists showed up in droves, and there are still some ill-informed people who think that taking away the bike lanes will let them keep all of their property. Truth be told, they're going with 4' wide bike lanes and 11' wide traffic lanes. These are all about 1' each narrower than comparable arterials and bike lanes. They are using less green space and going with a traditional sidewalk instead of a wide multi-use path in some places. All of these are measures to reduce the impact on the right-of-way. If they took out the bike lanes, the same width would be utilized and no land would be spared. I think we made a positive impact, though. Thanks to everyone who came out!

Tomorrow, I plan on riding all the way again. We'll see how that pans out. Sorry for being a little radio silent lately. It's been kind of a nightmare with the audit deadlines at work.

Random Tunage:
Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus (Pump Mix)
Depeche Mode - Confusion (Pump Panel Remix from the Blade soundtrack)

Yes, totally random from nearly 800 of the top-rated tracks in my library.

127th street meeting Thursday 9/27 - Be there!

In case you missed it here, here or here, there's another meeting about the 127th street improvement project. On the docket are some real hot-button issues, with Bike Lanes being in the crosshairs of angry citizens. Come out to Santa Fe Trail Junior High (NE Corner of 127th/Harold and Ridgeview in Olathe) at 7:00PM this evening to show your support. Critical information can be found on Bring your bike. Wear your helmet indoors to show your support.

Additionally, Johnson County Bicycle Club is hosting a Ride and Speak-Up event. A convoy of bicycles will leave 54th street bar and grill by the Great Mal of the Great Plains, and ride to the school. Information available on It's getting darker early, so be sure to wear your reflective gear. Helmets and lights absolutely required if you're participating in the pre/post ride.

This isn't just about what's going to happen to the 2-mile stretch of 127th street in question. This is about how transportation funds are allocated. This is about how the whole community can utilize the road and the city's right-of-way. This is about setting a precedent for future roadway renovation projects all over the greater KC area, but especially here in Johnson County. PLEASE come out and show your support.

I hope to see you there!

More of my rants and ramblings about the 127th street saga and bicycle amenities in Olathe in general:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Off-Topic: Talking to computers

Voice Recognition.

It was supposed to revolutionize the industry, change the way work got done, make things easier to do and improve the human/machine interface.

Here's another rant.

Am I the only one that can't fathom a future where speaking is the main input method for our computers? It's beginning already. You call a number to take care of business with your insurance or utility bills, and you're told to speak to the robotic automaton on the other end of the line.

First off, I rarely say a firm "Yes" or "No" over the phone. I'm much more apt to use yeah, sure, mmm-hmm, indeed, nope, or some other derivative in actual conversation. Next, what's the point of asking someone to speak a number from a numbered list? Just press the effing button on the phone (which usually works, by the way). Until the "computer" on the other end of the line can have an actual information-gathering conversation with me as opposed to the standard list of prompts enhanced with voice recognition, I see no point in asking participants to talk.

Furthermore, maybe I don't want the entire universe to hear what I'm doing. Imagine if you saw me in a coffee shop dictating a blog post to my computer. Worse yet, what if I was wearing a nearly-invisible bluetooth headset? Even if I was dictating this post into a telephone, it would look pretty odd to bystanders and quite frankly, I don't think I'd want everyone in my immediate proximity to hear what I have to say, despite the fact that I'm broadcasting a message into the public blogosphere. Then, there's the issue of private e-mails, instant messages, or commands and actions that you usually perform on the computer. Do you really feel like publicly demanding that your computer scroll down every 15 seconds as you peruse your favorite news site?

In closing, I think that touch screens and pointing devices work great for user interfaces, and keyboards work great for text input. There are special cases where voice recognition and text-to-speech are great, but the vast majority of people do not need nor want this feature, so I see very little point in making it the default option when calling to check on the status of your cable bill, for example.


Greased lightning this morning

It was about 6:10 when I stepped out the door and 6:12 by the time I'd locked the door and gotten my gloves on. The thermometer on my Incite 11i indicated 55 degrees. Since it was chilly, I just rode to the bus stop in my work clothes. Dockers (tucked into my socks in true Fred form), a long-sleeve rugby shirt and my snazzy new Airwalks. The Outlook has clipless pedals, but I leave the test platforms on, and they work well. I can click in for long or fast rides, or just flick the pedal with my toe and plant some plain old shoes on the platforms so I can hit the road and just enjoy the ride.

With less than 8 minutes to get to the bus, I had to move. Fast. I dragged the bike down the stairwell. The rear wheel bounced off of the steps a few times and just from the feel, I could tell my tires were a bit low. By a quick squeeze test, I determined that it was okay to ride as-is, and I took off like a bat out of hell. It's a little over 2 miles to the mall. With as cool as it was, I could push pretty hard without sweating. I gave it about 85% effort to start off with, and cut back to about 75% once I finished slogging the first half of the Quivira viaduct over I-35. 75% feels like it's about my aerobic threshold. In raw wattage, it may not actually be 75% of my maximum output, but it's my usual sustainable power output level - the amount of effort I usually put into a full round-trip commute, and a little more than I'd put into a longer ride. As it turns out, this was just enough effort to keep me warm but not enough to make me sweat while riding. I beat the bus to the bus stop by less than a minute. Whew!

The Outlook has some features unique to other bikes I own. The flip-flop pedals are great. The geometry is a bit more heads-up. I sit more "on top of" the Sorrento - Great for climbing and working rough terrain. The Outlook places me a bit closer to the top tube and a bit more upright with the higher handlebars. I'm still bent over enough to be efficient, but it's a more comfortable and stable cockpit. The slick tires are smooth, comfy, and quiet, even when a bit low on pressure like they were this morning. They're almost mean on smooth pavement. Remember, even on a full commute my Outlook runs about the same average speed as my Trek 1200. The 1200's advantages over the Outlook are many: seating comfort, having a proper rack for panniers, handling stability, multiple hand positions, and higher potential top speed among them. The Outlook remains a very formidable machine in my arsenal, though.

I finished up my morning commute by hopping off the bus, hitting the streets of downtown KCMO with Lorin, and stopping for a discussion of music, literature and television over a hot Mocha before darting up 11th street and taking a shortcut through a decaying parking garage to get to work.

Random Tunage:
DJ Arne LII & Mirko Milano - Freak in me
Baby Anne - I wanna rock

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bus, bus, and bus some more.

I did a quick change into my steamy clothes, still slightly dank from the rain this morning. 8 hours just isn't long enough to dry clothes out on hangers under a desk. I felt like I was running a little bit late, so I bounded to the mountain bike, threw the wheel back into the fork and tightened everything up, transitioning into a wicked running saddle mount.

This bike absolutely, positively must endure the entire winter. I found myself marooned several times last winter when I used the slick tires on mild mornings, only to get ambushed by a freak mid-day snow storm. That's simply not going to happen this winter. With the exception of recreational rides on mild days, the Sorrento will be my only bike through the winter.

The engineer within me is still in test-to-failure mode with the Sorrento. Yesterday, almost 20 miles were logged without any hint of trouble. Now it's time to see if it's up to the challenge of winter terrain. On my way to the bus, I hopped every curb in sight. I bombed through potholes. I tore through sandy, rocky patches where urban erosion coalesces. I tactfully hurdled over the myriad pavement divots of the blighted blacktop. As brutal as it sounds, I need to make sure that I can't break this bike from the saddle, and these are the closest conditions analogous to winter. Soon I will be met with treacherous and inescapable ruts, boulders formed of snowpack and ice, slushy washout zones and curbs that materialize out of nowhere. My Sorrento passed the tests with flying colors. There's no way that any other steed in my stable would have answered my punishment by begging for more the way the Sorrento did this evening. I am satisfied that it will last.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be up to the same old bus routine. I have something to do in the morning that will cause some delays. The temperatures are also supposed to be plummeting down into the 40's again. With that, I'm doing another trip to the bus. I've got the Outlook geared up and ready to rock. 3 days. 3 different bikes. Depending on various factors, I may end up riding the Outlook all the way home. It's too early to tell. As I type this, my Trek 1200 is staring at me from across the room. I think it realizes that its days of being the daily commuter are temporarily numbered.

Random Tunage:
Peter Cetera - Restless Heart
Madonna - Frozen

Soggy Tuesday and a charity rant

A little after 4:30 this morning, I was jolted from my slumber by the concussion of thunder and the din of horizontal rain pummeling the bedroom windows. I knew I shouldn't have hung the mountain bike back on the wall. I was going to need it this morning, and I was going to ride to the bus.

I dawdled in the comfort of my home for a few minutes longer than usual, holding out for a sign that the pulsing electrical swell outside was moving onward. Once outside, I tarried a while longer. Still dry under the shadow of the breezeway awning, I watched as my halogen beam split the darkness, interrupted by pearly meteors. Within seconds, moisture formed miniature lagoons in the grooves of my knobby tires. Scores of seconds ticked away as I observed the heavens, which had produced not strobe nor report.

I departed into the soggy gloom, slightly captivated if not entranced by the pattern of gems being thrown into the luminescence of my headlight. By the millions, tiny droplets flew up and forward before becoming suspended and apparently still for a moment in front of me, then drifted back as the momentum gave way to my forward progress. Although being attacked from above and beneath by what remained of the torrent, this fascinating and compelling series of events was unfolding right before my eyes. Through this, I could clearly see the puddle-mottled pavement riddled with confused and nervous drivers in their bumper cars.

An ambulance darted below me on I-35, almost certainly carrying a victim claimed by the storm's peripheral effect on humans in cars in Kansas City. Not that it's entirely the fault of people; Had I been driving, I would have seen little more than foggy glass and splashes of water obscuring my vision. Sure, I got a bit wet. I was also able to see very clearly and at the same time, notice a beautiful display. I wasn't the only one crazy enough to ride, either. Lorin was waiting with his Schwinn at the bus stop when I arrived.

Enough verbose story-telling, though. On with my rant.

The company I work for has a pretty odd policy on charities. One may not solicit for any charity at work, period. MS-150, girl scout cookies, school or church fund raisers, or anything. Instead, upper-upper-uber-management has mandated that the official charity of our organization is United Way. End of discussion. And they solicit the hell out of us to donate, almost to the point where I feel guilty for not wanting to donate to United Way.

First off, I'd like to point out that I'm sure United Way does good things. I'm not intimately familiar with what they do or how they work, so from that standpoint I have no beef with them. I DO have a serious problem with the fact that we're not allowed to even leave a girl-scout cookie or MS-150 form in our cubicle for people to sign (no solicitation involved) but that upper management can put the pressure on us to give to one specific organization. Later this week, one whole hour of my day (probably more) will be tied up by a meeting where they'll try to get us to drink the UW kool-aid. Sorry, but I have things to do, like work. During my orientation in January, we were also given the whole United Way presentation and informed of corporate policy banning other charities. We each had to turn in a donation form. If we didn't want to donate, we actually had to zero it out and turn it in anyways. In my opinion, that's a huge guilt trip in disguise. It's a ploy scientifically and meticulously engineered to make one feel like a miser. I'm sure we'll have to participate in the same ridiculous ritual later this week, and UW will get another Goose-Egg on a pink sheet of paper.

Truth be known, as voraciously as they're approaching the whole United Way thing, they're making me less likely to donate. I don't like being guilted or prodded into something. I'm of the opinion that charity donations should be given privately with a cheerful heart and on the whim of the giver. They should not be begged for nor harped on. Also, the amount of money that one company can drum up should not be made an idol. Seeing my company's name on a list of top ten donating organizations in Kansas City would not make me proud. It would look like a gaudy display of self-importance.

In short, while UW may be a worthy cause, my company's approach to it is without a doubt 100% against everything I stand for.


Random Tunage:
Push - Strange World
Garbage - Paranoid

Monday, September 24, 2007

Return Trip, Fun on the Sorrento, Linux, Etc.

Dodging the lunch rush wasn't as bad as I figured it would be this morning. The usual SE winds made for some challenging sections, particularly the climb up to Antioch. I accidentally left one bottle up in my office, leaving only the smaller bottle of Gatorade to quench my thirst. It was gone before I got to Turkey Creek Trail, so I hit the Trek Store for a water refill, then took Nieman home.

I took the Sorrento out to the Trek Store ride. The ride there wasn't without some goofing off. The ultra-steep multi-use path from Switzer has some gravel and dirt a few dozen yards to the north of it, and I took that steep gravel slope instead of the steep, windy paved path. Loads of fun! I goofed off a bit in the Trek parking lot as well. Sharpening my track stand skills, hopping curbs, going up and down stairs, etc. I had to adjust the front derailleur as well, but just with the barrel adjuster while orbiting the parking lot. On my way home, I conquered the same gravel slope I descended, and it was pitch black outside. The rest of my ride home from the Trek Store ride was the same route I took home from the Trek Store this afternoon.

I also had to run out and pick up some stuff for my wife to eat at work. I took the bike out again, for a grand total of a little more than 50 miles ridden today. Not bad at all. It's supposed to storm tomorrow, so I am thinking of keeping the mountain bike geared up. I may end up riding to the express bus tomorrow.

Also, this is my first post from Linux. I'm usually a big OpenBSD fan, and OpenBSD acts a lot like Linux in many ways. Getting it set up just the way you want it takes quite a bit of work, but once you have stuff installed, the programs work the same. Firefox for Internet browsing, OpenOffice for word processing, spreadsheets and the like. I love OpenBSD and won't get rid of it any time soon, but I downloaded Ubuntu Linux and gave it a shot on one of my old Pentium 3 (or is it Pentium /// ?) computers and it seems to be working pretty well. I'm such a geek. Sitting around me here at my computer desk, I have:

And that's not even counting some of the other stuff I have powered off and/or remains to be un-packed since I moved. Where was I? Oh, yes. Linux. I'm almost anti-Linux. Not because I like OpenBSD, Mac OS X, Solaris or AIX better. More because the word "Linux" doesn't really mean anything these days. A person could be a seasoned veteran at Ubuntu or heck, let's say Red Hat Enterprise Linux or SuSE SLES server Linuxes. Linuxen. Linxii. Oh forget it. Someone could be proficient at any of those, but completely worthless as a system administrator of, say, an ArchLinux, Gentoo, or Slackware server. They're that different.

So, I got off on this huge nerd tangent. Are you happy now? I guess I'll go back to playing with Ubuntu and coming up with things to complain about.

Random Tunage:
Grand National - Talk amongst yourselves
Jon Secada - Do you believe in us

That was quick

I was jammin' on it pretty good all the way to work this morning, just as planned. I didn't break my average speed record to the brewery, but I tied it at 19.2 MPH. Amazingly, even after slogging into the downtown loop, I managed to hold on to an 18 MPH average. Usually, my average speed plummets during the slog -- I lose 2 MPH, give or take.

I got to the coffee shop a few minutes before it opened, only sat around long enough to chug my mocha, then bolted. I saw Bob, Lorin and JR, but didn't exchange much more than greetings with any of them. I got to work at 7:00 sharp.

Today's another half day, so I get to dodge lunch traffic on the way home.

Random Tunage:
4 Strings - Let it rain
Orbital - Satan (Industry Standard)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No bike commuter convoy tomorrow

FYI, I need to get in to work a little early, so I'm going to be pressed for time. As a result, I'll be running at least 15 minutes ahead of my usual schedule. I may also be riding faster than usual and as a result, won't be able to lead a none-left-behind morning ride tomorrow.

Friday night it rained pretty hard and some people had other obligations as well, so my friends and I decided to abandon the mountain bike ride Saturday. The trails would have been soggy and we could have damaged and eroded them. We'll try again later.

Saturday afternoon, my wife and I took some sandwiches out to Shawnee Mission Park and went fishing. SMP Lake is being drained for remodeling right now, so the water level was at least 8 feet lower than usual. We fished off of what was left of the marina docks. My wife caught a nice largemouth bass, a bluegill and a baby catfish. All I caught was a bluegill, a box turtle and some moss. We let them all go. We thought about keeping the box turtle as a pet until we did some research. Freshwater turtles take a lot more equipment to properly care for than I knew about. We took some pictures of him and turned him loose. He's pictured above making an escape from our styrofoam cooler.

Random Tunage:
Nine Inch Nails - Reptile (no joke! Turtles ARE reptiles, right? creepy.)
Decepticonz - Underground Sound

Friday, September 21, 2007

Raytown to Lenexa again

Research Medical Center on Meyer Boulevard overlooking 71 Highway.

I had a nice ride back home from the data center this afternoon. It was a little sloggish at times, but fun all the same. It's nice to ride somewhere that you don't know like the back of your hand, but that you've ridden before. You notice new things, and the less-than-familiar territory keeps your senses sharp.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be hitting some mountain bike trails with some buddies of mine. I'll try to get pics. After that, my wife and I are going to have a picnic and go fishing, and perhaps get some riding in.

Random Tunage:
Cake - Never There
Limp Bizkit - Nookie

Kickin' it with J.R.

J.R. was in line for coffee a few people ahead of me. I usually see his bike, but don't see him in the morning. I found out why this morning, as he usually sits in the back nook at Starbucks, where there's not much room, but no one goes back there.

Anyhow, I had only talked to him once before -- only for a few minutes in front of the library on my way to watch Stage 1 of ToM. This morning, Lorin and I sat and talked with him. We got his story, so to speak. Many of the urban cyclists around here are riding thanks to J.R. He repairs bikes for people or buys their broken bikes for cheap, rescues bikes from dumpsters and breathes life into them, and turns them loose again. He doesn't make much doing it, but he gets along. With Bikes and Trikes for Tykes in a dormant state, he's currently out of a stable job. With another bike mechanic friend of his, he's contemplating starting a bike co-op or going up to Chicago to help out at WorkingBikes. He's a pretty interesting guy, full of knowledge and passion and as far as I can tell he's as kind as they come. It was nice talking to him for a while today.

My morning commute lacked anything resembling excitement. I was running it kind of hard this morning, and as a result it felt mostly like I was just packing on some miles. Come to think of it, that's exactly what I was doing.

I have to go down to the Data Center this morning. I may try to finish up the work day out there, and just ride home again. I'd use this route, except with a detour using Belinder instead of Tomahawk to get to 71st. Thanks, Jeff for pointing out the bridge-out situation that added a mile to my trip last time.

Random Tunage:
Tiesto Ft. Christian Burns - In the dark
God Lives Underwater - From Your Mouth

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Half day.

Photo: A new section of Turkey Creek Streamway Trail that includes one of the most terrifyingly steep grades I've ever seen in my whole life. I'm not sure who designed it. As fun as it is to tackle, I don't think it has any place on a recreational multi-use path.

My wife called me and she wasn't feeling well. I had Monday scheduled off, so I asked my boss if I could take two half days instead. With permission granted, I left at about 11:30 and headed home. I had to get my wife to her appointment at 2:00, so I wasn't in much of a hurry, but I did want to get home to make sure she's alright.

Once on Turkey Creek Trail, in preparation to tackle the evil climb shown above, I tested out the granny ring, and couldn't get it to shift in. Ugh. Roadside repairs: delightful. I busted out the Park MTB-3; I don't know what I'd do without it. It's that awesome.

The shift cable had plenty of slack, so that most likely meant that I had to adjust the low adjustment screw. When I went to adjust it, though, I noticed the whole front derailleur was loose. The bolt holding it to the bracket had backed out a bit, allowing the derailleur to wobble around. For the upper two chainrings, this was fine, but it was keeping the derailleur from aligning with the granny ring. I figured it would be best to tighten that up and see if it fixes the shifting problems. Tightening it didn't take away the cable slack, but I hopped on for about 50 feet and still couldn't get the granny ring to engage.

Long story short, I spent about 10 minutes on the trail fine-tuning both derailleurs and the cable stops, and my bike shifts better than ever before. It was 10 minutes well spent. I'm glad I switched to the granny ring, too. With a fully loaded bike, I would have needed one heck of a fast rolling start to climb that hill in my middle ring! As you can see in the photo, I didn't have enough room to build up any momentum without backtracking. Yes, that's my fault for stopping for the photo-op.

The trail extension leads to Switzer at about 71st street, then just dumps you out onto the road. I don't know if it will eventually cross Switzer and maybe eventually lead 2.5 miles west to connect to Blackfish Trail which connects to Mill Creek Trail already. If so, that'd be awesome. Get Indian Creek Trail in on it too, and you'd have a whole network of paths off the road, but they'd still be wildly inefficient for timely travel.

Instead of taking Switzer through the 79th street industrial park, I took Edgewood Blvd to Nieman. Edgewood is an interesting road. It's a separated boulevard. Two lanes on each side of a 15-foot (or so) median. BUT, each side of the median has two-way traffic. It's just a short, quiet residential street with an odd layout. From Nieman, I rode the rest of my route home as planned. I think I found a new favorite route home. I don't really like the monster climb on the trail, but it's only a few hundred feet and I could power up it every day if I had to. We'll see.

Random Tunage:
Art of Trance - Madagascar
York - Fields of Love


I got out a little later than I'd have liked this morning, but I rode the whole way again. I've been slacking so bad this month, but I really needed some decompression after two months of 600+ miles back to back. I was starting to feel forced to ride as much as possible. Not this month. With that, I departed into the morning darkness for my 7th trip by bike for the month. I'm counting each direction as one trip, since I've done quite a few one-way trips and only one full round trip this month.

I actually got a "biker wave" from every single oncoming motorcycle this morning, too. I'm not sure if the darkness of morning and my new, brighter bulb makes me easier to see or what. It was interesting, though.

Traffic was building pretty heavy on Southwest by the time I got close to downtown, so I opted for Broadway. It's got a wide outer lane once you get downtown, and between Southwest and 15th, can be friendlier to ride in the early morning. Broadway is a freaking death slog, though. I was pretty much spent by the time I conquered it.

The ride seems to have loosened up my back and legs, which were still aching this morning from my endo on Monday. Not surprisingly, my ribs still hurt a bit from the whole landing on my chest ordeal, but that will pass.

It doesn't sound like CommuterDude is going to have a night ride this month. The Tejas 500 starts in a week. September is kind of the month of the last hoorah of normal humans' cycling season. Those that are left, such as messengers, bike commuters, cyclocross racers, and distance fanatics have degrees of insanity that vary from one person to the next. Some just ride until it's too cold, then hang the bike up. Some only ride in fair weather. Some set limits and won't ride in snow, or won't ride below a certain temperature, and some just never stop riding. That said, I do expect an October night ride.

Without a September ride, I'm pondering signing up for Bike 4 The Brain instead. It's a charity and awareness ride for mental illnesses. On top of being for a good cause, it's an excuse to hammer out a metric century, but there are shorter distance options for those who want them. I still need to make sure it's okay with my wife, but I like to get one long ride in every month and I'm close to missing one for September.

Random Tunage:
Nine Inch Nails - Closer Precursor
Orbital - Lush 3-2

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What do you eat on Talk Like A Pirate Day?

I went to Arby's after work where I sat in line for 5 minutes only to find out that they were taking only cash. With that, I went to the ATM outside and plundered a small village, then returned and got supper for my wife and I. We joked about having Arrrrrby's for supper. I just finished eating. it was mediocre but apropos.

Still aching, I took the bus back home again. That was also mediocre.

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Semi-detached
Ecano - Run

Ahoy, mateys!

Today is not only the one year anniversary of my first bicycle commute, but it's also International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Even Wikipedia agrees! Shiver me timbers!

I rigged up the Trek with a 3'x5' Jolly Roger (Bretheren of the Coast, if you're into that kind of thing) on a six-foot length of PVC. The flag it attached with keyrings that pass through holes I drilled in the PVC, and the pole is attached to my cargo rack via a small carabiner clip, and held upright by passing it through a grommet in my panniers. There's also a blue LED at the end of the mast.

Needless to say, I got quite a few odd looks this morning. I'm still aching from getting end0wn3d, so I'm taking the bus. To get the flag on the bus, I just rolled the flag around the mast and bungeed the whole thing to my top tube. When I get downtown, I'll unfurl the flag once again. I fully intend on hanging the flag in my cubicle today. We'll see how that goes over with my boss.

Random Tunage:
Peter Gabriel - Darkness (Engelpost Radio Edit)
Coast to Coast - Home

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

One Year Ago... almost to the minute...

I was walking out of Wal-Mart in Olathe, KS with a bicycle in tow. Check this baby out! NEXT PowerX DS-26. 18 gears of pure... uhhh... What the heck was I thinking?!
With it, I had purchased a Schwinn seatpost-mounted rack, a Master Python cable lock, Bell Xenon/LED headlight and LED Tail light, some patches and a Blackburn air pump.

The whole rig set me back $126, all accessories and tax included. My goal was to spend about $100. I went a little over budget, but it was all good. The next morning, I rode to the bus instead of driving, and I was a huffing, puffing mess when I got there.

Weighing in at about 235 pounds, I was living a terribly sedentary lifestyle. If I wasn't sleeping, I was sitting at my computer desk, sitting on the sofa, sitting in my office, or sitting in my car. I remembered how fun it was to ride a bike as a kid, so I thought maybe the bicycle would get my butt back into gear.

A year of (r)evolution
That bike only lasted me about six weeks. When I got rid of it, the rear suspension pivot was squeaking, the bottom bracket was ticking, and the bearings in the freewheel rear hub had completely shelled. Little shavings of metal were appearing, and the wheel was so loose that it was rubbing the brakes and seat stays.

I was a few pounds lighter, and was having a blast riding my bike. With all the passion and nothing to ride, I had to get back into the game. Check out my first few posts on the Blog if you want to get caught up with my Sorrento and Outlook, pictured on the left respectively.

I had a pretty good run of things with the hybrid-ized Outlook and rugged Sorrento for foul weather commuting to the bus. I was riding 4 days a week and adding miles to my commute by getting dropped off at my wife's office and riding home from there. I was also making trips by bike for errands like groceries, going to the coffee shop, and things like that. In January, I started keeping track of my miles ridden.

In April, I decided to buy a road bike, but had to save up for it first. I rode more than 350 miles in April alone, and had almost 900 miles for the year under my belt. On May 1st, I bought my Road bike, a Trek 1200 (pictured left below) and thus far, I've put more than 2,000 miles on it alone, and more than 3,000 miles on all of my bikes combined for the year.

I've been on a slow weight loss kick, but I'm now more than 40 pounds lighter than I was a year ago. One year has taken 8 years off of how I feel from an energy and health standpoint. On top of that, I'm having a ton of fun on my bicycles and saving at least $200 per month on gas and parking costs, not to mention the cost of maintenance like tires, brakes, and oil changes. My commute also releases a lot of stress, but when I was driving, I'd often find myself pulling my hair out.

I've also taken a few spills, met some great people, confused the heck out of some cow-orkers, gone on some really brutal rides, and ridden in everything from foot-deep snow or 3-below-zero to 100 degrees in the shade with 110 heat indexes. Only 40 pounds of lost weight doesn't seem like a lot for a year's worth of exercise, but I've noticed a lot of lean mass gain in my lower body. I'm not paying much attention to my weight, and I don't think I need to. Every time I do bother to check it, I'm getting lighter. Even without checking it, I can tell week by week that I'm getting healthier.

Rightfully so, bicycles are wildly contagious. In June, my wife went out to look at bicycles. In the middle of July, she was dead-set on the Electra Townie. She took it for a spin and loved the wind in the hair and the freedom to roll. She bought the Townie 3S and has been riding with me when we have time together. I'm proud of her for getting out, buying the bike she wanted and actually riding it instead of just talking about "riding a bike or hitting the gym one of these days" like so many others do. She's the kind that loves nature and the outdoors and her Townie gives her a new and fun way to experience it. I don't know that she'll ever get into bicycle commuting. She has her own reasons for riding. Everyone has their own reasons for riding; that's one of the many awesome things about bicycles.

So, here's to my first year of using bicycles, buses and alternative transportation in the KC area. There'll be many more to come: this is just the beginning! Stay tuned.


A rain storm snuck towards KC while I was at work. By the time the bus got back to the mall, it was pouring cats and dogs! I took Quivira home and used the pedestrian walkway to get across I-35. It has an interesting zig-zag ramp to get down on the west side. I hung out in the ramp for a while until the rain simmered down a little, and snapped a few pics with my camera phone. Here they are for you to laugh at.

When I got home, I was completely soaked through. It's amazing my macbook didn't drown in my bookbag, but I've had really, really good luck with it keeping my laptop dry in pretty much any kind of rain.

Oh yeah! I finally picked up another cyclo-computer. I got the Trek Incite 11i which has temperature and cadence functions. I slapped it on the road bike and moved the Incite 6i's bracket over to the Sorrento. The Incite computers are interchangeable, to the 11i will work on all of my bikes, it just won't show my cadence unless I have it on my Trek 1200. It also has multiple wheel diameter settings, so it's a breeze to move it between my bikes without re-calibrating it.

I also got the 15W bulb for my NiteRider. No more weak-ass dimly-lit commutes. That puny 5W light isn't cutting it with as dark as it's staying in the mornings.

A state of ouch

I didn't truly come to realize exactly how beat up I got last night until I woke up this morning. Sure, my chin and upper lip are swollen. Since they both have scrapes, that was to be expected. I also figured my back would ache a bit. "A bit" is a ginormous understatement. The little tiny scrape under my left eye is getting irritated and puffy as well, and I figured it would just fade away over the next day or so.

It doesn't end there, though. My hands! The gloves kept my hands from getting torn up, but the impact is evident this morning. I also have a goose-egg on my right knee that's making it hard to bend, and a deep, deep bruise to my left quadricep (outer muscle on the front of my leg) which feels like a cramp when I contract it.

To show the bike who's boss, I took the evil MTB to the express bus this morning. I rode through a horrible headwind, and in my weakened/injured condition, I was pretty freaking slow. I made it, though.

So, that's that. I was hoping to hit some singletrack with some local MTB riders maybe this week. I need to see how my leg and knee recover from this before I make any plans like that.

Random Tunage:
Hybrid - Kill City
Inkfish - Acting Out (Part 2)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another really close shave...

... or, mountain bikes don't handle like road bikes do!

I decided to take my Sorrento the the Monday night ride. On my way, I did something stupid and ended up throwing myself over the bars and once again, straight into the pavement with an absolutely bee-aay-oootiful slow-mo endo. After it was obvious I was going down, I took my hands off the bars to brace myself a bit, but tucked my elbows. I found myself sliding a bit on my chest and hands, then the bike came up around behind me, rolling me onto my face a bit.

I wasn't on a major road, and I was goofing off and riding way too aggressively. Mountain bikes just aren't made to carve and brake the way a road bike does while riding fast. Fortunately, all I have to show for it is some road rash on my chin and a scrape on my upper lip. There are some scrapes on the skid-lid, too, but nothing bad.

Anyhow, I'm okay, but I feel like my chin got shaved a little too close! I turned around and came back home after crashing. I could have gone to the ride, but I wanted to properly cleanse and dress my scrapes.

Before I left work to come home, before this whole mess happened, the wind was 22MPH gusting to 30 out of the southwest when I checked the weather. I ended up taking the A bus to get closer to home, and I'm glad. I really didn't feel like sparring with headwinds of that stature.

This is the September I remember

I stepped outside this morning and was greeted with 70-degree air. When I started riding almost a year ago, this is what I was riding in, and I've missed it. It seems like we almost lost this wonderful summer-into-fall limbo mode. Not long ago, the afternoons brought 100 degrees in the shade and temperatures that failed to drop below 80 overnight. Last week, we dipped into the 40's. I am very pleased that we somehow found the "right" weather for September.

I hit the road on time and kept a really solid pace on my way in. I actually got to the coffee shop (including the uphill slog on Main) before 6:30. It's certainly not the fastest I've ever been, but it was pretty quick for my perceived effort.

I had to pull over at about 15th and Main to let a police cruiser zip past with its brain-scrambling klaxon and seizure-inducing strobes. If there was anything else exciting about my ride in worth mentioning, I'm still too stunned from the sensory overload to remember it. Oh yeah! I remember one thing! Carter is closed between 67th and Merriam lane at the railroad tracks, but they only blocked off the good set of tracks. The old wooden tire-killer crossing that every cyclist hates is not barricaded. Regardless, my bike easily navigated through the roadblocks.

Random Tunage:
Tatu - All the things she said
Garbage - Stupid girl

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sorrento is all back together!

I finished putting together the pieces of my Diamondback Sorrento this morning. It needed a serious brake adjustment, some drivetrain love, and derailleur tweaking. I took it on a brief shakedown run after assembly and it worked pretty well, so I decided to ride it to the KC PHP Users Group meeting. The round trip was about 14 miles, and uncovered a few minor annoyances that I still need to adjust out.

The front derailleur needs some more adjusting than I can accomplish with the shifter barrel, and both brakes could stand to be a little tighter. I adjusted them on the fly with the brake barrel adjusters, but I'd prefer to get them a little tighter without relying on the adjusters.

The ride was a little on the chilly side (50s), but I kept warm with my hoodie.

I've missed the bounciness and fun of the mountain bike. I really need to drag some people out to Shawnee Mission Park for more singletrack fun.

Random Tunage:
Nine Inch Nails - Sanctified
Rob Zombie - Dragula

Friday, September 14, 2007

Have I mentioned that I loathe driving?

Let me clarify that. I loathe driving on highways during rush hour. Right outside the Park on my way home, there was a gnarly wreck. It looked pretty terrifying, and had traffic blocked and backed up on Raytown Road pretty good. What a mess.

Once I managed to get past that, it was smooth sailing up highway 50 until I got to I-435. Sure, a few SUVs bullied me around and muscled for domination of the road, but considerably more than a decade of experience behind the wheel has taught me that's how stuff happens on the highway. No sooner do I merge onto I-435 and I'm greeted with a glowing orange message on the relatively new overhead signs. "TRAFFIC ACCIDENT PAST ANTIOCH LEFT 2 LANES CLOSED"

Aww, jeez.

I keep moving with the flow of traffic. Antioch is more than 5 miles up the road, so we aren't seeing the effects yet. In case you wondered, traffic flow was about 80 MPH in the center lane of a 65 zone. It appeared to be closer to 90 in the fast lane. Oh, the joys of driving. As I pass Nall, it's brakes, brakes, brakes! I-435 is a parking lot. At this point, Antioch is 2 miles away. It took me about 40 minutes to go those 2 miles. I exited ON antioch instead of trudging past it and through the wreck area.

Traffic on surface arterials wasn't much better. Fortunately I know some residential back-roads to navigate Overland Park and Olathe, thanks to my bike.

I headed to Bike America and picked up the stuff I needed to finish rebuilding my Sorrento for winter commuter duty. They were kind of busy, so Richard let me use his tools to swap a bunch of drivetrain parts around between wheels. I'm putting the hybrid's cassette back on the hybrid, and using my newly purchased wheel for my Sorrento and tossing the old wheel that came with the Sorrento since it keeps breaking spokes and needs new bearings anyways.

So, the Sorrento is almost ready to go. The Outlook finally is running with the cassette that I bought for it, and won't be limited to the lower gear ratio I was using for my mountain bike.

It's been almost 3 months since I've driven to work. As far as I'm concerned, it can be 3 more months before I have to do it again, or even longer.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

3,000 miles

I forgot to mention, I cleared 3,000 miles for the year on my way down Broadway this evening. Over 2,000 of those miles have been on my Trek. I should probably have the chain checked soon. I've heard some people say every 1,000 miles, and others say they go 4,000 or more.

I'm a fan of the ruler method. A whole chain segment (2 "links") is exactly, almost precisely an inch long, or half an inch between rivets. If you line a good steel ruler up to the apex of a rivet, then all the other rivets should be extremely close to landing on half-inch or whole-inch marks all the way down the ruler. Measuring 23 links, the rivet whould line up perfectly with the 11 1/2" mark on a new chain.

If the chain is worn say .006" per link (six one thousandths of an inch), it would be impossible to tell by the naked eye. Measuring nearly a foot of chain, that .006" per link would be amplified 23 times. The rivet that should line up with 11 1/2" would be visibly past the 11 5/8" mark. At that point, damage is probably occurring to the cassette, so hopefully you catch it before it goes that far out of whack!

I keep my chain clean and well lubricated, so I'm hoping that my chain is still in good shape, or at least in "borderline" shape and not causing any harm. I just don't have time to check it tonight.

Great evening ride

I zipped down Broadway for the first time in quite a few weeks this morning. Broadway's one of those roads that has more traffic on it than I like to ride in, and this traffic is pretty much constantly dicey from 7am to 6pm. It lets up a bit around 10am and again about 2:30 or so, but only for about an hour. That doesn't even count the wheelkiller stormdrains on the highway overpass next to Bartle Hall. While Broadway lacks traffic comfort and wide lanes, it more than makes up for it when you're going southbound. Around what would be 15th street, it takes a massive dive, letting me easily coast to speeds approaching the legal limit. If I pushed it, I could likely obtain near-highway speeds at the potential cost of my own life. Needless to say, I don't need wide lanes once I'm there, because I easily keep up with traffic. I had a blast this evening during my urban egress.

When I got to The Brewery, I saw Chris on his bike. He must have snuck out a bit early. Southwest Boulevard was, as usual, carrying me directly into the wind for the ride home. This is my first time riding the full round trip since August 31, and I can feel it. I've kind of lost my groove. Toward the end of my journey, my calf was trying to cramp up, but that kind of started while I stood on my tip-toe for too long waiting for a light to change.

It felt pretty good to ride home, though. It took a bit longer than usual, but it was worth it. My sinuses don't feel as bad, but they still have some drainage. I think it was about 83 degrees on the way home, just about perfect for a nice ride home.

Random Tunage:
Ram Jam - Black Betty
Regina Spektor - Fidelity

Finally rode all the way again, but...

I've decided to drive tomorrow. First time since May 25th. We have a company picnic tomorrow. It's too far from work to ride there, but I could take the bus. It's too far to ride home and arrive at a decent time and there's no bus from there to get me close enough to home to make it worth my while. I'm also signed up to bring enough hotdog buns for the entire Open Systems Group. There's no way they'd fit in my panniers.

I'm certain that I could ride back into Johnson County with a co-worker. I'm sure I could buy a bunch of buns downtown today and have someone schlep them to the park tomorrow for me. As I already mentioned, I could easily find a bus to take me out to Lee's Summit. That whole ritual sounds like more hassle than it would be to just drive. Also, it wouldn't be fun. It would be a royal pain, and fun is the main reason I ride every day. Saving money is another reason, but by potentially wasting close to $4 on bus fares alone, I wouldn't be saving much cash, either.

This morning provided a good, brisk ride. As I mentioned in the title, I rode the whole way in. I departed on time for a change, and the traffic was much more tolerable. It's amazing the difference that 5-10 minutes makes once you're downtown.

I passed a bike commuter on Southwest this morning that I haven't seen before. He actually had a blinkie, helmet and halogen headlight going. The lighting and helmet made up for being otherwise shrouded in a cloak of invisibility with his ninja-inspired color scheme including a black bike, Oakland Raiders jacket and black helmet. All I could see was a mysterious blinking red light and a faint white Raiders logo hovering over it in the dim light of pre-dawn. It's not unusual to see that kind of thing downtown without any lights or helmet, so he was ahead of the game, I suppose. He didn't respond to my "good morning!" greeting as I passed him by, though.

A few other people walking on the sidewalk cheerfully exchanged greetings with me in passing. Unless I'm really hammering, I like to greet people that I see. One of the little thought-of benefits of cycling and walking for transportation is the fact that you actually see a person, not just a vague head-shaped object through some glass. You can interact with people on a more personal level. It brings a sense of community and belonging to those involved. Total strangers join together for a few seconds, wishing each other a good day or asking how things are going. As the strangers part ways, they both realize that there are still people out there who aren't hurried, selfish, and impersonal. To me, this is a huge benefit. While arterial surface roads are turned into four- or six-lane rivers coursing with high-speed metal, there are still people that will talk to you -- humans that are unencumbered by hermetically-sealed spheres of solitude. Sometimes when I'm riding, it feels like the machines are coming to destroy mankind, so I feel viscerally placid and restored when I see a walker or cyclist among the herd of steel demons.

With all that fuss I just made about motorized vehicles, I'll be among the ranks of drivers tomorrow out of necessity. At least I'll be focused on driving instead of checking MySpace on an iPhone, shaving, or nuzzling the sports section of the KC Star on my way to work.

I ate half of an abominable donut for breakfast before I left home. What little of the wretched pastry I could convince myself to ingest wasn't nearly enough to satiate my hunger. Making matters worse, it was greasy beneath the shoddily-glazed surface. Made improperly, donuts can actually give a person heartburn, and this donut confirmed that fact. Note to self: Don't go to the little donut shop across the street. Ever. Again. When I got downtown, I made up for my lack of unhealthy carbs by chugging an extra-huge mocha with a few excessive shots of espresso; that really hit the spot! I can feel the milk fat and chocolate goo obstructing my arteries now, but it was so yummy!

Random Tunage:
Noma - Soon
Nine Inch Nails - Closer to god (another one of Trent's revisitations of Closer)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

If one more person asks...

If one more person asks me if I'm racing in the Tour of Missouri, I am going to lose it. For real.

I should probably just ask the next person who queries me on the subject, but I honestly hope no one approaches me with this question ever again. Do they think it's an event open to just anyone? Do they understand it's a pro-level race and they think they're being cute or original by asking me? I'm not sure.

Thus far, my response has been another (hopefully rhetorical) question of "Do you take your car out to Kansas Speedway and race the professionals whenever NASCAR is in town?!"

The question started popping up a few weeks ago. It was about once a week. Yesterday and today, though, I've gotten the question probably 20 times, sometimes with only seconds between them. This morning in the elevator lobby, a guy (who asked me if I was riding in the ToM YESTERDAY in the elevator) asked if I rode my bike today. I held up my helmet. The guy next to him asked if I am riding in the ToM. The guy who asked yesterday thankfully answered for me with a nicer reply than I would have given. "No, he doesn't race."

So, we shuffle into the elevator. In walks a guy who I work with, who asked "Aren't you going to be in that bike race thing?" Okay... He obviously wasn't in the lobby 20 seconds ago. Ugh.

Not everyone with a car is a race car driver (although quite a few people think they are). Not everyone with feet is a marathon runner. Not everyone with a bicycle is a pro-level racer (although many of them dress up like they are so they can ride to starbucks).

At least I rode to Starbucks today in my WORK CLOTHES. Haha. That's only because I don't have a swanky team jersey for some racing team that I'm not even on. Think Slipsteam will take me? I'm not a doper! I think I really need to accentuate my massive gut and glutes with some tight-fitting team gear. Then I'd be really, really fast on my way to get my morning coffee. I mean Lance fast. Yeah!

Anyhow, I'm done ranting about that. I felt like absolute CRAP yesterday, and it didn't get much better overnight, despite the fact that I got about 7 hours of sleepy time. Taking the bus is becoming the rule rather than the exception lately. So far this month I've had 8 one-way bike/bus trips and three one-way trips totally by bike. I really hate the bus, but something is happening with my sinus infection (I think) and it's not letting up. It's working its way down my throat now. I probably shouldn't have even come in to work today, but I did. I threw on my work clothes and rode to the express bus, then I hit Starbucks with Lorin on my way to work. I saw JR's Trek 730 outside again. Lorin and I debated operating systems (Windows vs. OS X vs. BSD vs. Linux) and enterprise IT philosophy over coffee for about half an hour then decided to get to work. We're nerds.

Random Tunage:
Nine Inch Nails - Into the void
Nine Inch Nails - Sanctified

I swear, my random playlist played two NiN tracks back to back! It should come as no surprise, though. My 5-star playlist is about 750 songs, and almost 90 of those are are 'Nails tracks and/or remixes. Maybe a few repeats.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tour of Missouri

Well, I grabbed my bike and camera, swung by the library, and talked to JR, a guy who has a Trek 730MT. I see his Trek outside City Center Square quite often. He's "between opportunities" right now, and worked at Bikes and Trikes for Tykes, a non-profit organization that provides bicycles to underprivileged children. He was a bike mechanic for them, but is out of full-time work now that they shut Bikes and Trikes down.

After I talked to him, I went in and grabbed a sandwich before rolling on over to 10th and Grand, where the ToM was going to be barreling through. Click the photo up top to see the full album. I didn't get many photos, but here are some of my faves.

49 Degrees - Brr!

We've had the windows open in our apartment for the past few days. I woke up this morning to a very chilly apartment, and the fish were not pleased, either. The tank sits in our dining room which has the most (open) windows in the whole place. I could see Dude (our Betta) get excited when I fired up the hood lights. Their tropical thermometer registers between 70 and 90 degrees, and it was black, off the bottom of the scale. Sorry, Fishies! :(

Anyhow, I went for the Champion-brand Base Layer this morning. Padded liner underneath, shorts and t-shirt over the top. The first part of my commute was with a hoodie until I warmed into the groove. Then I packed the hoodie away in a pannier for the rest of the trip. For my ears, I wore a light knit cap under my helmet. I took it off about 2/3 into my trip to work. I opted for full-finger coverage this morning as well, with my 180s Enduro gloves, which have to be just about the most versatile gloves I've used. They're comfortable at 50 degrees, and I can wear them well below freezing. As absolutely ridiculous as it must have looked, the whole get-up worked great, but I did have to pace myself a little bit toward the end to keep from sweating too much.

I ran across the Trailer guy again this morning. His name is Brian, so I guess I'll call him that from now on. The last few times I've seen him, he's been on a different bike than the Trek 2100 I originally saw him on. I didn't bother checking out what it was he was riding, though.

When I got to the coffee shop, Lorin was already waiting for his coffee to come out. I guess I left a little later than usual this morning, because my average speed was... average: about 16 MPH.

All in all, it was a great morning. The clouds blew away overnight, so I was greeted with a sparkling starlit sky upon departure. The cold quickly faded away as my legs got into the groove, so it wasn't too bad at all. I'm still adjusting to commuting almost entirely in the dark, though. I really need to get that 15W bulb ordered for my NiteRider. I get paid on Friday, so I'll probably call it in this week and pick it up on my way home Friday, it's a special-order item.

On my way to get to work, I stopped at the silly R2D2-looking mail drop box to send off some mail. I should get a picture of it. It's cool but tacky at the same time. It's a normal mail drop, but covered in vinyl to make it look like R2D2 from Star Wars. Not sure what's up with that.

Random Tunage:
Lisa Loeb - Stay (unplugged)
Blok Party - I Still Remember

Monday, September 10, 2007

That was kind of a wash...

I stood in line tonight for about 2 and a half hours to meet Team Discovery, only to be turned away along with a few hundred others who were hoping to meet the team and possibly get some autographs. I saw some familiar faces. The Trailer guy was there with with Corinna (the lady with the pink fluffy stuff sticking out of her helmet - you can't miss her if you're downtown) pimping Bike 4 the Brain. Chris was there, and I recognized a few others from the Monday night ride.

There were only 4 people who stuck around for the Monday ride. It was a nice, easy paced ride, but we cut it a little short because of the dropping temps.

Random Tunage:
Thrillseekers - Synaesthesia (Fly Away)
FischerSpooner - Emerge

Clothing experimentation starts soon

It's closing in on one year since I started bike commuting. When I started, I would usually just ride the 3 miles or so in my work clothes, and drive to the bus if the weather was the slightest bit crappy so my work clothes didn't get messed up. This means I spent the last half of September and all of October riding in Dockers and polo shirts. As weather cooled off, I added a windbreaker. Eventually, I found myself riding in all conditions, just using jeans as my main outer layer.

This morning, I went outside for a few minutes in a t-shirt and shorts and was promptly cooled off to an uncomfortable level. It was 62 degrees outside. I started my clothing experimentation today, which was kind of silly. 62 degrees is a little chilly (to me) to be wearing shorts and a ventilated UnderArmour shirt. I added a layer that I thought would be comfortable, but ended up being overkill. I think it's going to take me a while to get into the clothing groove.

I brought nice, warm pressed coffee on the ride this morning, though. Yum!

One big problem that I have is that my current commute is a completely different beast than it was 11 months ago. I'll post a "then and now" on my cycling rebirthday, which will be September 18th. That's the one-year anniversary of my decision to start bicycle commuting. Needless to say, I've learned quite a bit in the last year.

Anyhow, sorry for being so radio silent last week and over the weekend. My wife and I had a nice ride on Mill Creek Trail last night. Friday, my friends and I had a good time and ended up hanging out at a park. Frogman brought his oldest, Geneva, along. We watched her explore the playground near my old apartment as we discussed things like stage props for improv theater, Leeroy Jenkins (warning: strong language but very funny), lolcats and other nerdy stuff.

Oh yeah. While we were hanging out at the park with Frog's kid, I also tried multiple times to do pull-ups and chin-ups on the playground monkey bars and a somersault on the monkey rings. I failed miserably at both. My delts, biceps, and abs hurt all weekend, and my abs are still feeling it. As strong as my legs have gotten, as much weight as I've lost, and as efficient as my heart and lungs have become, I have virtually no upper-body strength, and obviously my core is lacking as well. It might be time to start fixing these problems. It's a sad state of affairs when I can ride 100 miles in a single day but can't even pull my chin up to a playground monkey bar ONE TIME.

Tonight, there's a fundraiser for the Major Taylor Foundation and Headstrong For Jake. Contador, Leipheimer, and Hincapie (Team Discovery) will be at the KC Trek Store signing autographs for donations. Click here for details. I'll be present, and then I'll also lead a short recovery ride starting at about 6:30 PM from the Trek Store since Mark (the usual ride leader) is going to be busy with the Tour of Missouri festivities this week.

Random Tunage:
Basslimit - Paradise
Orbital - Belfast

Friday, September 07, 2007

A good problem to have

Today, I dropped my car off at the mall, then unloaded my bike and rode to the bus stop. This will un-complicate things a lot this evening. People eventually started showing up at the bus stop, Lorin on his Schwinn SuperSport included. When the Express bus pulled up, I noticed something different. There was already a bike on the rack. Three bikes and a rack that holds only two. This is a good problem to have.

Fortunately, since this is the last stop before downtown, I brought my bike on board and sat at the front of the bus with my bike in the aisle. Everything worked out just fine.

The rain and wind absolutely pummelled my neighborhood last night. The roads and parking lots still had lots of standing water on them, with plenty of debris from the storm littering the pavement.

Random Tunage:
Pob - Boiler
Chemical Brothers - Where do I begin?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

So lazy

Part of it is the overcast skies and chance of rain, but mostly, I'm just being lazy. I took the A bus to get me most of the way home last night. This morning, light rain prompted me to ride to the L Express bus this morning. I'm hoping it gets nicer out this afternoon but it'll probably either still be raining, or be extremely muggy. I'm not losing my passion for cycling, but I'm having trouble getting myself to make the whole trip in weather like this.

I'm not quite sure what I'm up to tomorrow, or if I'll even ride my bike. I may end up just hopping on the Dreaded bus (the slow one). It's 2600 night again, and I'll be having some peeps over after the meeting for the kind of LAN party that hackers have. No Quake 4, Counter Strike or any of that stuff here. We'll be playing with some recently-released info-sec tools, and maybe cranking out an article or two for our blog (not this one, another one we're collaborating on).

Random Tunage:
Orchid - Starlight
Orbital - Nothing Left (Breeder Remix)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It's looking gloomy!

There is definitely some cloud cover moving in, but to further the gloom, my commute is happening entirely before sunrise now, with or without the atmospheric haze. Just a month ago, the sun was peeking over the horizon halfway into my trip to work. Now, the sky's ablaze in the morning, but I don't get to see the fireball come to the surface while I'm on my way downtown.

The forecast varies depending on who you wish to believe, but it sounds like we're in for about 30% chance of storms today. Honestly, it looks a little more certain than 30%, but we'll see.

Despite the ominous blanket over the city, I saw bikes aplenty this morning as I grabbed my mediocre-yet-satisfying mocha. Once again, I'm looking forward to running a batch of Nitro through my French Press once the initial caffeine buzz from my mocha begins to subside.

Also, I'm still not completely sold that my weekend of suffering was due to a sinus infection. I won't go into details, but there's a symptom I've got that's pointing to an infection under my gums somewhere. At least the fever and pain are gone. The tenderness is still there, though. I think I'll probably go ahead and fill this prescription for antibiotics. I was going to just forget about it since the fever's gone and I don't like taking meds that I don't absolutely have to take, but this seems to be a pretty tenacious infection. The symptoms started a little less than a week ago, and it's time to kick my defenses into high gear.

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Impact (the earth is burning)
Crystal Method - Busy child

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Well, the results are in...

Looks like it was a sinus infection after all. I got my tooth looked at today. The swelling in my face and fever were not from the tooth. My dentist did x-rays and a thorough visual/physical examination. He couldn't find anything wrong. I'm off of Ibuprofen and I've fought through whatever was causing me so much grief this weekend. I'll be back on the road tomorrow.

While I was at the dentist's office, he re-built my tooth again and sent me on my way. I look like a human again. Well, my mouth does, at least. The rest of me probably resembles a C.H.U.D.

Last night's ride from the Trek Store was a small crew compared to usual. There were only 15 or so in attendance. Next week, it's going to be crazy, with Leipheimer and Contador at the Trek Store for a fundraiser, more than 1000 people are expected to show up. Now, not that many will be around for the ride afterwards. Mark Thomas is tied up with the Tour of Missouri stuff next week, so I'll be leading the recovery ride in his place. It will be a nice, easy ride, assuming we can get into or out of the Trek Store lot. I'm going to go ahead and say you might as well ride to the Trek Store if you plan on showing up, because there's no way that part of Shawnee (Merriam?) has enough parking spaces for 1000 people. Bring a lock, too. You'll want it.

Random Tunage:
Madonna - Ray of light
Bakke and Ljungqvist - Fanatic

Monday, September 03, 2007

A long weekend shot to hell

Well, I didn't mention it yet, but after the C'Dude ride, the roof of my mouth started getting mighty uncomfortable. Starting shortly after I got to the college to hang out with my wife, pain came and went in ebbs and flows all the way through Friday night. It felt like pressure in the roof of my mouth, so I assumed it was a minor sinus infection, probably brought on and irritated by the cool night air and a weakened immune system from exerting myself so much. I treated it as such.

By Saturday morning, there were no ebbs and flows. Just varying degrees of pain ranging from really painful to intolerable. It was now that I'm realizing what's happening. My broken tooth is probably dying and getting abscessed. For 15 minutes at a time, the pain would spike to the point where my body would start to get symptoms of shock. Tunnel vision, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, flushed and clammy skin, etc. I spent most of Saturday cowering under the covers. I took an old Tylenol 3 that I had laying around. No dice. I took two six hours later to be given only slight reprieve from my suffering. By Sunday morning, I was running a fever of 102*F. My upper lip, nose, eyes, and cheeks were getting puffy. I finally managed to get the pain, fever, some of the tenderness and most of the swelling in my face under control with a double-dose of Ibuprofen. My fever still goes up and the pain (but not swelling or tenderness) gets worse when the stuff wears off, so I have to stay on top of the dosage.

I called 3 different "emergency" dentist lines this weekend and haven't gotten a call back from any of them. I need a root canal, and quick. Stupid holiday weekends.

Anyhow, this really came out of nowhere. No annoying sensitivity or anything that feels like a cavity on my broken tooth. I brush the broken surface at least 3 times a day when I brush the rest of my teeth, and I've never had any shooting pain or sensitivity to it. Just WHAM and instantly it became infected for no apparent reason.

Yesterday, I was able to keep the symptoms at bay long enough to enjoy about 6 miles on Turkey Creek Trail with my wife. I'm feeling better (but a little but like an Advil junkie) today since I've been keeping a constant flow of drugs into my system. This sucks really bad. I'm going to go ahead and hit up my usual Monday night ride.

I called my boss and told him I'm taking tomorrow off. Hopefully, some dentist in town will look at me and fix me up. This is getting ridiculous.

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