Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quota of villainy

Being the end of the month, I can only guess that several events from the past few days must be due to some kind of quota system, where certain folks begin reflecting upon the litany of the month's transgressions, tallying their misdeeds and scheming ways to set new personal records.

Yesterday, people were shooting fireworks at me. Cute, 2 ounce projectiles which may or may not end with a bang. No biggie. Annoying, but mostly harmless.

This morning, whilst cruising southbound on Quivira, I notice a blue VW New Beetle behind me. Nothing new here. Turn signal goes on. Beetle kind of changes lanes, but ends up straddling. I'm taking the center of the lane, so this guy is a very close pass. I'm approaching a red light, and wondering what exactly the driver is planning. Next to me now, as I drop my arm signalling a stop, he moseys on in to hog my lane, leaving me to retreat to the (thankfully empty) right turn lane. I pound on his door. He stares straight ahead. Light turns green and he's off. Meh.

As I slog up the Quivira viaduct all alone at 6:00 AM, the light at the apex of the climb turns red. There's a "T" intersection at the top of the viaduct. Soon, cars begin turning from this ramp, going north and south on Quivira. In my mirror, I spot a yellow New Beetle behind me a good ways, and see the motorist signal to change lanes. As I stop at the red light, more cars are flowing out into the intersection. The yellow Beetle doesn't stop, nor slow down. The lady just blew right through the intersection (which was thankfully clear at the moment) at 45 MPH as if she had a green light.

I'm calling it Attack Of The Beetles. I'll refrain from making the leap that New Beetle "Drivers" (if you can call what these two were doing "driving") are assholes, but they were batting a thousand this morning.

Then, I got this gem via email from Karen. I guess she's had a heck of a week as well.

Subject: Smacking a bum
Well it finally happened. Under the highway bridge around the corner from Boulevard brewery, a bum with his morning beer in a sack in his hand, he was drinking it. He stepped out of the bushes in front of me, it was a close call. I'm so polite, I said excuse me. I didn't hit him, but it was close.

Riding your bike to work is so exciting, who would want to drive a car. This and a gallon of paint, all in the same week.
I suppose by "Quota of villainy" I really mean "Quota of inattention" -- after all, I'd really just like road users to focus on the task of transportation (instead of ignoring vehicles that they're about to run off the road or texting the lady friends that they're on their way to a firey death Einstein Brothers Bagels) and be a little more careful. It's safer for everyone, and I'm talking to cyclists, joggers, and motorists alike.

Oh, the "Gallon of Paint" that Karen mentioned above was a real treat. A bucket of paint fell off of a truck in front of her and she rode through the mess it left on the roadway. This led to a squirrely ride over the railroad tracks and all kinds of tasty road debris sticking to the paint on her tires. Fortunately, nothing caused a flat.

More flags. I was trailing an older lady on a 1990s Trek 2100 most of the way on Turkey Creek trail.

I need a beer, darn it. Boulevard is a local craft brewer. All the beers I've bought from them have used twist-off caps (aside from smokestack series, which are 750ml bottles with a cork). Odd, then, that they use a pry-off cap when bottling their attempt at making a Boring Yellow Pilsner at a cheaper-than-usual price point.

Okay, this Pilsner's really not that bad, but it is kind of boring for a Boulevard beer. I'm not sure what I expected. It's definitely a beer to pair with more delicate flavors, or perhaps one to just crack open on a hot summer day after a good bike ride.

Monday, June 29, 2009


I had two people fire bottle rockets at me today on the homeward commute, probably 5 miles apart. Strange. One of them actually hit my foot. The other was an epic miss.

In my ignorant youth, I probably targeted dozens of moving things (mostly cars but inevitably some joggers, cyclists, maybe even dogs) with any number of small fireworks, homebrew machine-launched incendiaries, and model rocket engines. I suppose this is payback. Bottle rockets don't really hurt anyway, so I chuckled.

I do, however, wish that someone would start paying me back for the hundreds if not thousands of water balloons I've lobbed in my day. Oh well. Karma will catch up to me one of these days, right?

Here are some from the weekend.

Climbing Trees. I miss doing this. I got about 30 feet up in my parents' maple tree, just enough to see over their house and into the back yard. Why? Mostly to see if I could still climb this tree -- a childhood favorite of mine.

c'Dude fixin' up my wheels. They were a bit out of true and I really didn't feel like messing with the Aksium's aero spokes. He has the tools to do it, and hanging with The Dude always makes for good conversation about all kinds of unlikely things.

Praise team practice. Usually, I'm on Bass Guitar. Somehow, I got convinced to try playing the Djembe in public. I don't suppose I did too poorly but I have a feeling that there is a lot more to learn about this drum than meets the eye.

From the homeward commute. I used to drive one of these wretched vans. I lasted about 3 months and couldn't take it anymore. It was the worst job I ever had, and I still have no idea what I was thinking.

Merriam is all done up with flags for Independence Day, as usual.

It looks like our cucumber plants in the container garden are coming along nicely. I wish I could have said the same for the radishes.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Interesting concept. This "Big Belly" trash bin contains a trash compactor that's powered by the solar panel on top. Clever? Sure. I'll be impressed when it can sort recyclables. :P

Here's a teaser of some eyewear I'll be putting through the paces for the next week or so. I've got less than an hour of saddle time with them, so I'm not prepared to jump to any conclusions yet. I can tell you that the vented lenses do make a difference in this heat. Look for a proper review to hit Bike Commuters late next week.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Things I love about summer

We've had a bizarre week. High temperatures, high humidity and batches of severe weather that add just enough water to the ground to keep things muggy. Strangely, I love summer storms as long as no one gets hurt.

My muscles also like summer heat. While my body as a system might not work as fast or as efficiently as it does in cooler temperatures -- say 60s and 70s for example -- I find that my muscles don't get sore or stiff as easily this time of year. I meet temperatures near 100°F with mixed emotions.

I love a little bit of solitude. I had Turkey Creek Trail pretty much to myself. Only a few joggers were out, separated by at least a mile each.

Patches of shade are a bonus, too.

I would love to test out this new tent concept (it's a computer rendering, not a photo I took) from Orange. It's all solar powered with built-in LED lighting, 3G Internet (uses your cellular plan to get online, like an aircard) and shares Internet as a WiFi hotspot. Also has a built-in heated floor. I'm sure this damn thing must weigh 50 pounds or more and probably costs more than a good road bike. Those guys across the pond get all the cool gadgets.

Disturbing: If people can't even avoid the sign in the middle of the road, is there really much hope for the people who cross? Be CAREFUL at crossings like this.

Not so much something I love, but something strange... Someone needs to tell the groundskeepers at my apartment to mow our pond. Sheesh. Got West Nile?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hotter than Death Valley.

This is Death Valley. A high of 93°F and no humidity to speak of.

This is Kansas City. A high of 94°F and humidity by the truckload.

A quick look at the 4:00 PM stats shows that the heat index was well into the three digits across the metro, peaking at 110 at the KC International Airport.

Several of my friends think I'm insane riding in this. Heat can be dangerous. If you pay attention to your body and you're prepared for it, it's not too big of a deal. I covered some more tips for Surviving Summer over at Bike Commuters. It's an addendum to my original Beating the Heat article.

What are you doing this summer to make riding more comfortable?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Great Scott!

Mostly some random stuff from the weekend.

Back in the day when I was delivering pizza, I found myself occasionally delivering to a guy who restores classic cars. One of the cars he was working on was a BTTF-Replica Delorean DMC-12. Today on my way home from church, we saw it in a parking lot. All I had was my camera phone.

One point twenty one jiggawatts! Great Scott!

I also saw this at his place before the conversion several years ago. He hasn't invested much into the restoration but has started converting it to look like the Ghostbusters car.

Our container garden is about to make a break for it! Cucumbers, radishes, peas and green onion are represented here.

At the crack of dawn this morning, my wife and I went back to Black Hoof Park to fish.

While there, I got another crappy shot of the spillway. I really need to bring my Canon out to capture this. I'm not sure any camera can do this dam justice, though. It's a sight to behold in person.

The GhettoBasket holds my fishing gear on the way home. I caught exactly zero fish, but had a lot of bait stolen right off my hook. This is the first season fishing's been allowed at Lake Lenexa, so my guess is I was using too much hook for what's likely to be mostly small panfish. Either that, or turtles -- the sneaky beasts that they are -- were nibbling at my bait.

I went to the parents' place for Father's Day lunch. I cooked up some steak for the family. After lunch, dad asked if I'd lay down a bass line for a new song he's working on. Surprised, I obliged. Even though the song called for a pretty simple blues groove, it took me a bunch of takes to get it right. He says that's how multi-track recording works. I've done lots of live mixing and DJing, but never studio recording -- much less been the one being recorded. It was fun!

Random Tunage:
Barenaked Ladies - One Week
Ben Folds Five - Brick

Friday, June 19, 2009

Social (Network) Butterfly

I had a bunch of stuff going on after work.

Dropping some stuff off for a friend

The fountain park at Crown Center always draws a good crowd in the summer. I remember playing in the same fountain 15-20 years ago.

I was actually headed to The Art Of The Brick for a while. This traveling Lego exhibit is on display in KC until sometime in September. I love Lego, so I had to go see it.

Not many other bicycles at Crown Center, I suppose.

At 6:00 or so, my wife and I were going to a Brightkite gathering. Brightkite is a location-aware social network service that started in Denver and recently merged with another mobile network (Limbo). It also happens that several of the Denver Brightkite employees are bicycle commuters.

Lesley, a fellow cyclist who is currently Brightkite's Community Manager hosted the event last night. She said that in Denver, Brightkite is quite popular among those who get around the city by bike. Judging from what I see here in KC, there is a similar overlap.

The gathering was at The Cashew. I really didn't have any choice, then, but to order a big bowl of Cashews to share with my pals.

Lesley to the left, talking to Corey. Sallymander is a frequent reader and commenter here. She's Looking at me but talking to Anne -- a Kansas transplant from California who's looking to do her first Triathlon soon.

As one might expect at a gathering of nerds that have a highly-mobile lifestyle, things are a mix of face-to-face and face-to-phone.

My wife's toes. I was jealous of her sandals. The air conditioner was broken and the second floor at The Cashew was -- as Corey said -- "Hotter than the devil's ass-crack"

More face-to-phone conversation. The man on the left isn't intentionally striking a heroic pose. He is checking out the "Brightkite wall"

The Wall is a feature that allows you to turn a TV or monitor into a stream of photographs and conversation.

A former co-worker of mine (unbeknownst to me) and a few people that live near me -- actually in the same neighborhood as my sister. Again, there's a mix of talking, texting, and smartphone-browsing going on. It's strange to see people meet at the same place and still use online tools to see what's going on around them.

I've known David and Paul for a long time. We all met through the Kansas City 2600 meetings in the 1990s.

As we left The Cashew, a friend of mine handed me a BlackJack II that broke a few months ago. I've been meaning to meet up with him and fix it. I finally caught up with him last night. After I got home, tearing into it revealed that the power switch itself had broken loose and was no longer making any connection.

A few minutes with a pencil-tip soldering iron made quick work of the situation. Ted has already replaced this with a new phone, but he kept this one in good shape and asked if I could find a buyer for him. Does anyone want to buy a nice AT&T smart phone?

So, there you have it. I'm a nerd -- as if you needed more proof. I only snuck in about 12 miles yesterday. I suppose that's not too bad for having taken the bus to work and having my wife bring me home (she was also attending the event)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

One Ton Paceline - Update

There are now 14 people interested in riding to Hillsdale Lake and camping out for the One Ton Paceline group S24O on July 25th and 26th.

John C and his wife make the two newest potential victims riders. As I talked with John this morning on the bus, some good points were made.

There are some things we simply won't need fifteen of. When you're touring in a group, some resources can be shared between riders as long as not everyone needs to use them all at once: certain cookware items, stoves, flashlights, and recreation gear are examples where not every single person needs to bring one along. Experimenting with my camp stove, I have figured out it will burn for 2 hours on high and that it will boil 2 cups of water in less than 4 minutes. If we have one camp stove for every 3-4 participants, it's probably plenty.

On this trip, we won't need to worry about carrying water filters or a lot of water (just enough to drink on the ride) because there will be running drinkable water at our camp site.

Late July is close to the hottest part of the year. Around here, highs generally stay under 100 but triple-digit temps are not unheard-of. Sitting around and stewing in the hottest part of the day has the potential to suck. Bring sunscreen and consider some activities that will keep your mind off the heat. I plan on fishing, frisbee and swimming.

Also, for the guys: If you wear a pair of swimming trunks around the campsite, you might not even need to worry about packing "real" shorts to wear during the day. You probably won't need to pack a towel to dry off with after swimming, either. I don't plan on packing one. I don't plan on sharing someone else's, either. Ew.

Bed roll: This time of year in Kansas, overnight temperatures are usually in the high 60s/low 70s and unless you get cold very easily, you can probably get by with sleeping on a light camp-mat and a sheet with perhaps a small pillow or duffel stuffed with clothes to rest your head on.

On the advice from several readers, I have started looking into meals that are more satisfying and nutritious than ramen noodles while still remaining non-perishable and reasonably lightweight. I plan on TRYING some of this stuff at home before relying on it in the field. Wal-Mart's selection of Mountain House freeze-dried food is pretty meager, but the prices are almost half of what sporting goods stores are asking for the same things. I picked up one meal to see how tolerable it is.

Also, last night on Craigslist, I saw a great deal on military MREs. Chris and I are splitting them. I haven't ever eaten an MRE (soon to change) but I've heard military-types jocularly call them "Meals, Refusing To Exit". I will probably "Field Strip" one or two of these if I end up using them for the S24O trip. The packaging is bulky and some of the contents aren't going to be needed. The built-in food warmer is interesting, though. I probably won't even need to use a stove for at least one of my meals if I decide to bring MREs along.

Getting half of the box of MREs downtown today (in order to give them to Chris) was an interesting exercise in seeing how much crap would really fit in one of my panniers.

I'm interested to hear some other suggestions from the crowd for lightening and sharing the load when touring in a group.

Midnight Cave Ride Update

There's not much new going on with the Midnight Ride, but be sure to sign up if you plan on showing up.

I went to the cave space recently and they have updated all the lighting on the entry-way. They also put some covering on the rocky roof above the entry that should catch the condensation and water that filters through the limestone. Hopefully, the ramp will stay dry now. Prior to this, the ramp would get a layer of wet, thin mud in some spots and make things slippery.

Right now, there are 21 participants signed up.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How to look like a complete a-hole

I haven't slept well in days. Last night was no exception. My alarm (cell phone) went off at 0600. I remember sitting up and muting the harsh klaxon. The next thing I knew, I was confused, laying down and it was 6:18. I have to roll out no later than 6:35 or risk missing the last bus that can still get me to the office on time. One of my panniers needed to be packed. Both needed to be fitted to the bike and I still needed a shower. Let's just say it wasn't the best morning. I got out at 6:37.

Hammering up the Quivira viaduct against a gentle but obvious head wind, I'm completely spent - I wasn't even going that fast - my weak, flabby appendages somehow able to move the pedals and steer, my brain still barely awake. Cresting the viaduct, I happened across a cyclist -- apparently commuting with a backpack and walking alongside a decent Trek road bike. I'm guessing an '05/'06 2300.

I'm used to stopping to help cyclists that need a hand but this morning, I didn't think I had time. I still had an en passant conversation with him. It went something like this:

Me: "Everything alright?"
Him: "I flatted, have to change out the tube."
Me: (still pedalling) "Okay..."

Panting, still in a haze, and now squeezing half a bottle of water down my parched gullet as I coast down the back side of the viaduct, it hit me: That was just plain mean.

Need a hand? Oh, sucks to be you, because I am running late! Have a nice day!

I obviously don't know the guy's situation -- nor did he know mine. I don't know if he's new, or if he's been doing this for years and is always a few minutes ahead of me going the other direction. I don't know if he had the equipment to fix the flat, or if he planned on walking all the way to his final destination.

The bus ended up being a few minutes late as well. I had about five minutes to stand around, kicking myself for not at least stopping to figure out if it was something I could help him fix in a minute or two, as is often the case for simple flats when I use Park Tool Glueless Patches and a CO2 inflater.

Random Tunage 1990's Edition:
Madonna - The Power Of Goodbye
Lisa Loeb - I Do

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mind if I draft?

I was scouting for a worthy fishing rig for camping and S24O adventures. Budget was about $25. The original plan was to catch the B bus to get me close to Bass Pro in Olathe. As it turns out, Chris had his van at work today due to a problem with the bus, so I just car-pooled back to Olathe with Chris.

Bass Pro advertises some great prices. Unfortunately, the real deals are actually just there to get you in the door. Most of the prices are 50% higher than other sporting goods and retail stores. I checked out some of their camping gear. I can drool, but most of the stuff I have will suffice for the upcoming S24O in July. The one thing I really wish I had out there last time was a fishing pole. With Bass Pro eliminated (I couldn't buy a compact fishing pole and reel for under $45!), I opted to head to Sports Authority near my apartment to piece together a worthy rig from the closeout aisle.

As I left Bass Pro and got onto Santa Fe Trail Drive, I saw a lean-mean Tri guy training on a time trial bike. He wasn't moving too fast, and may have just been working on cadence. He was keeping it high but wasn't breaking 25 MPH. As I merged, I asked:

"Mind if I draft you to College Blvd?" - The new plan was to meet my wife at the doctor's and grab supper since she was already out and about.

He gladly obliged to let me tag along for a couple of miles. I don't know if he kept his 25 MPH pace for me, or if that's just how he rolls. It was fast enough that my lard-ass body and weighted-down commuter bike could barely hold on, but it was a nice pull. I appreciate it!

Coming up Pflumm, I needed a break. The humidity, heat, and 25 MPH hammerfest had caught up to me. I parked under I-435 for a few minutes.

I found a great residential shortcut between Pflumm and Quivira at 105th Terrace where two cul-de-sacs dead-end against each other with a little bit of green space and a sidewalk. I will definitely keep that one in mind! These are the kinds of un-charted paths that cyclists and pedestrians should be on the lookout for.

Later, at Sports Authority, I found a nice collapsible rod (which I'd seen a few weeks ago) and a closeout Shakespeare SyMC reel. It only has a 70 yard capacity, but it's perfect for backpacking. All in all, I ended up with a formidable rig that rivals some $45 offerings at Bass Pro and it only set me back about $17 for everything. I gathered up some old weight boxes and loaded them with an assortment of weights, small bobbers, swivels, hooks and other stuff I had laying around. I'm guessing this set-up will work great, but I plan on field-testing it this weekend when my wife and I go fishing next, probably at Black Hoof Park.

If you can't tell, I'm kind of ready to go camping again. Some fishing this weekend will probably suffice for now.

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