Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Most popular photos of 2008

Also, I did it. 5,001.7 miles. I thought this moment would come with a lot more fanfare from me. Quite frankly, I feel like poo, and I probably shouldn't even be at work. I've got too much going on, though.

With that aside, here were the most popular photos of 2008 according to my Flickr Stats. I modified it to show only the ones I've posted here. Some are popular that I never posted here (and don't really belong here).

I need to go through and come up with my 10 personal favorites, because I have some favorites I took that weren't terribly popular on Flickr.

Not An Agent

Raglan Road in Kansas City

I Hit a GOOSE!

Epic Fail

Lego Bicycle

Homebrew Velomobile

Cassette Bottle Opener

Vegas Bike Cops (Taken at DefCon 16)

Zoom (Taken at DefCon 16)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I had to leave work a little early, and take a short cut home. Although, even without the shortcut I'd be at 4,999.8 miles.

I'm not feeling too great. This sinus/throat thing is messing with me. I'll probably just ride to the bus tomorrow morning, which will get me those last eight tenths of a mile no problem.

I didn't get any pics on the way home, but here's one taken from the crappy iSight camera on my MacBook. Boots has decided that the chasm between my chest and the laptop is a bed.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

This year, I've heard a whole lot of people tell me that I inspire them, that they're impressed by my drive or dedication, or that somehow or another, they look up to me.

While the ego boost is nice (I appreciate the kind words, don't get me wrong), I really have to proxy the sentiments and give credit where due.

Where I come from:
I have an inner car fanatic. I am a mechanical tinkerer, and honestly a bit of a go-fast freak. I am also an optimizer that appreciates simple, streamlined and efficient devices and processes. Some people drive for transportation and ride for recreation. I'm the other way around most of the time.

As you may know (or may not, since there are well over 1,000 posts here now), I started bike commuting because my car broke. I knew how to fix it myself, and I eventually did fix it, but the part I needed was back-ordered by a month. I started bike commuting before I knew there was even a term for bike commuting. I just knew that the bus stop I'd been driving my car to was only 2 and a half miles away from home, and that even as fat as I was (near 250 pounds), I could probably ride a bicycle there.

When I pulled my tattered Wal-Mart bike into Bike America, Kevin (the General Manager) and Libby (one of the wrenches at the time, she's gone now) mentioned bike commuting. "You're a bike commuter, huh? Let's see what we've got for you..." This phrase, "Bike commuting" would stick in my head for a few days. Some Internet searches later, I was paying attention to (if not slightly idolizing) Warren and cDude locally, and Fritz, Warren (again) & Tim, RL, Moe & Friends. I'd also found the Commuting forum at, where I'd mostly lurk, but post occasionally. I'd found people kind of like me. People with more experience. People with sometimes drasically different and sometimes flat-out opposing opinions on stuff. From the crew at my local bike shop to the Internet-dwelling denizens of bike commuting: they were my inspiration.

Winter set in quickly, and I found Doug, Jill and IceBike. If these cyclists could do it, so could I. Sounds like fun!

I've since found many more friends. In fact, many of you who have said I inspire you, inspire me back with your own perspectives as you chronicle your own adventures in blogs and forums.

I'm genuinely standing on the shoulders of giants who paved the way for those of us who have just recently embraced the bicycle as more than a toy, a piece of competitive sports equipment, or fitness gadget.

Since this has basically turned into a count-to-5,000-miles... I took The Twelve this morning since temps stayed above freezing and the roads are mostly clear again. Without glancing at my spreadsheet, I think I've got about 16 miles to go. I saw the same commuter I saw on 0°F Monday last week, and JR was also out and about today. Other than that, no other cyclists in sight.

I stopped to snap this shot of the historic Midland Theater, which was recently refurbished by AMC.

Random Tunage:
Five Finger Death Punch - White Knuckles
Third Eye Blind - Semi-Charmed Life
(Yes, really. My tunage is actually that random this morning)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Five favorite rides of '08

Kelly over on Dailymile posted the question:

What are your top 5 workout / racing moments of 2008?
Well, given that I don't work out, nor do I race, I opted to go for my five favorite rides of '08. How's that sound?

5. Back in January, I had a beautiful snowy ride home, where the snow on Turkey Creek Trail hadn't been touched recently and my tires seemed to float on cottony, flocculent snow. It was awesome.

4. That last Dark-Side Ride. What an adventure, and so much participation! It's kinda tied for 4th with the June Moon Ride. I just love night rides.

3. My failed 200k attempt earlier this month. It got me a lot of miles, and even more smarts. I'll take away a whole bunch of knowledge and experience from that ride that will help me in the future.

2. My personal coldest full commute a week ago. Although it was less than 15 miles, it taught me a lot, including the fact that it really is easy to stay warm (perhaps too warm) on a bicycle in Kansas City. That, and it was cool to see another cyclist out in it.

1. The successful 200k in June. When I started riding in September 2006, if you would have asked what I thought about the prospects of a ride of this distance, I would have told you that you're nuts. Getting a Century ride out of the way was actually a legitimate concern of mine going into 2008. It was a goal I had to work very, very hard for.

What are some of your favorite rides from '08?

Stopped by a train (and a geeky contest)

I took a bunch of bracketed photos of the train that stopped me on Southwest Boulevard. I liked the way this washed-out one came out.

Something a little more tame.

CARnage or Camar0wned? You decide. Sorry for the lack of quality. It's 4x digital zoom on top of 4x optical zoom. I caught it from the Frontage road west of I-35 and north of 75th St. This was all the way across the highway, probably more than 1/4 mile away.

I got my autographed copy of Schneier On Security today, too. He even left a little puzzle for me to solve. If you can't see it, zoom in. First one to post the correct answer in my comments gets a free pair of AMC Silver Experience movie passes. I've got a bunch of these things laying around and I don't get to the movies too often. If you want, email me via the form on the right after you've posted your answer, just so I have an email address to contact you with.

How supper cost me my morning commute

- or -
A Watched Crock-Pot Never Boils

Bean soup isn't exactly a spur-of-the-moment supper. No, it requires a little bit of planning. It starts with soaking the beans in water. For. eight. hours. No problem. I started soaking them before I left for church yesterday morning. In fact, due to some more medical emergency adventures last night, they soaked for ten hours. That doesn't really hurt anything. Around 7:00, I was finally able to start preparing things. Normally, we eat kind of late. 9:30 or 10:00 isn't unheard-of. I knew this would be a later night than that, though.

Sorry for the camera-phone photo:

At any rate, come 10:45 or so, the crock pot still hasn't even started to boil. The beans are still crunchy, and I'm not amused. Enough of the slow-cooker BS. I dumped it into a huge stock pot and set it on the stove. It was boiling in 2 minutes flat. It still took close to 45 minutes to cook all the way, though. And that's why I didn't get to bed until after midnight.

By proxy, that's also why I rode to the bus. I tried. I tried to take The Goat and make it go north. In fact, I even got about a mile north of where I live. I just didn't have it in me. I turned it around and took it to the bus stop.

I seriously need to go to bed at 9:30 or 10:00 tonight.

On an interesting side note, I found a nice Master combination lock in the gutter while I was riding home from the pizza shop yesterday. Too bad I didn't know the combination for it. It's a nice lock. Not awesome, but decent.

While I was waiting and waiting in vain for the crock pot to boil, I went about cracking the combination. You can read about that here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Weekend Errands

Saturday morning, we were woken up to this: Crazy winds, thunderstorms and madness.

Temperatures fell rapidly. Wind gusts around here were about 50 MPH. There were some places where it was closer to 80!

It was snowing lightly last night, and I decided to take my new coat out for a whirl and picked up some groceries. My parents got me some new cold weather gear for Christmas. This is just the outer layer, but it's significantly thicker than the ski coat shell I was using.

I left early to ride to church, which was being held at our fellowship facility since a lot of people are out of town. It's about a 12 mile ride. This stretch of road near Old Town Lenexa hadn't been plowed or salted yet.

After church, Pastor Kev invited us to Minsky's, one of my favorite pizza shops. I rode there, too. It was a bit out of the way, but worth it. We ordered one ginormous pizza for everyone (and a medium cheese pizza for the kids)

The Goat was getting awfully grimy after the past few days in the snow and slush. I hosed it down before bringing it in.

All told, I put on almost 30 miles this weekend. That means I've got 52 left to go.

Friday, December 26, 2008

I think I see the problem...

Kansas City (both sides of state line) spends a lot of time and money trying to fix the problem of subpar drainage in certain parts of town.

I'm just guessing, but I'd imagine almost all of this sand will end up clogging storm drains with either the first heavy rain or a pass of a street sweeper.

Springtime in December

Photo: The TWA Rocket on top of Barkley, just as the sun is illuminating clouds high in the atmosphere.

I woke up this morning to see that temperatures were upwards of 50°F with a stiff tailwind. My only guess is that south winds are bringing moist, warm Gulf air into the great plains. It's hard to believe that Monday, I was riding the whole trip to work at 0°F and this morning it would be close to 60 by the time I got downtown.

It had either rained overnight, or the dew point was well above the actual temperature for a good while. The roads were dripping with briny, abrasive sludge -- a mixture of road salt, sand, dirt and water. When I parked my bike this morning, I could see the coagulated slurry accumulated by my brake pads as it oozed down and onto the seat stays. The Twelve will need a good once-over when I get home.

I can't believe I'm riding in shorts at the end of December. This is still blowing my mind. I do think that I caught a little sinus/throat bug over the holiday, though. I'm nursing it with hot mint tea. Hopefully the 96 remaining miles I have to ride to make my goal doesn't irritate whatever is lurking in my system.

If you're in or around Kansas City today, do yourself a favor: get out and enjoy this weather while it lasts.

Random Tunage:
Barenaked Ladies - One Week
Daft Punk - Technologic

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

White Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve Day! We did get a few inches of snow last night, and so long as it stays below freezing, we'll have a white Christmas after all. I was greeted this morning with the following:

The layer of ice on the road was covered with packed snow, so getting to the bus this morning was a breeze.

A big farm tractor with a 10-foot-wide blade on the front was clearing the parking lot at The Maul, revealing the layer of ice beneath. Fortunately, The Goat is surefooted and stable. I'm running the tires at about 30 and 35 PSI front and rear respectively. This helps them float on snow as well as allowing the full width of the tread get some purchase on ice. It sacrifices efficiency in most situations, but I've found it's actually easier to ride over deep snow with low pressure tires than otherwise. The traction benefits are a good trade-off, too.

I took this HDR while waiting for the bus.

Random Tunage:
Nine Inch Nails - Sunspots
ยต-Ziq - The Fear

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Old Hobbies

The only toy in the entire apartment that the Rae and Josh (the kids we watched last night) were interested in was this Radio Controlled Ford Focus that my sister got me as kind of a gag gift for my birthday quite a while back. Usually it sits shelved, but the kids wanted a toy to play with.

This got me thinking about a hobby (R/C Cars) that I abandoned years ago because:
1) It was too damned expensive
2) I was still messing with "toy" stuff, and even THAT was expensive.

I dug this out. It's still only partially assembled. I had to re-solder the drive motor wires back to the main circuitboard and replace an SMT diode and resistor as well. And the car was practically broken down into the smallest units it can be broken down to.

This started life as a first-gen XMODS from radio shack. It's got an arsenal of unethical modifications and a bunch of stuff from AtomicMods added to it. Also, I have an entire car worth of spare chassis and electronic parts, at least 40 tires (it eats them up when you race), probably 5 extra sets of wheels, God-Knows-How-Many motors and... well, just a lot of stuff.

I will guarantee you that what you see in the picture cost me more than what I paid for my Diamondback Sorrento, The Goat. And I'll guarantee you that when you include all the stuff you don't see, I probably haven't spent as much on the Goat as I have on this car and all the stuff to go with it, total.

I am putting it back together for old-time's sake. I may zip it around a little bit, but I doubt I'm likely to put any more money into it for quite a while. I have several body styles to put on it. I don't think I've ever driven it with the Corvette body on. I'll probably throw some shiny wheels and new tires on, then let it sit with some of my other car models.

And an obligatory Kansas City Photo. The ice was treacherous this evening on the way home. Here's hoping the snow comes in that they promised us.

Tricks of the trade: Cold Psychology

Above all else, the primary thing you need to ride in temperatures that you perceive as "cold" is a willingness to expand your horizons.

This is not to say that someone who hung their bike up in September should just go on a sub-zero all-day epic in the midst of January. It is to say that "acclimating" to the temperature is mostly in your head. Jill and Doug aren't any more resilient than any other human being. They've just got experience, and they know what works for them because they bothered to give it a try. If you are Jill or Doug and are reading this, I'm sorry I gave away your dirty little secret.

Through experience alone, you figure out what works for you in the cold, so it's best to start venturing out for short periods of time or in "somewhat" cold climates, then expand your horizons as the weather gets colder, or start going out longer to determine where your weaknesses are.

Weaknesses can be in clothing:

  • too hot
  • too cold
  • a drafty seam in your favorite winter jersey
Weaknesses can be mechanical:
  • Drivetrain lubrication may be either too thick or doesn't protect from salt
  • The ratchet in an old freehub might fail to grab in cold temps
  • Your light's batteries might not last as long in the cold
Weaknesses can be mental, too. Those usually fade pretty quickly once you find out that you won't, in fact, die.

Monday, December 22, 2008


A few interesting details from this morning:

I haven't ridden The Twelve since the 200k attempt. I left the apartment in tennis shoes, forgetting about the SPD pedals. I rode anyways. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

I saw one other cyclist this morning, in KCK. It waved back at me. I say "it" because like me, said cyclist was bundled up enough to obscure any gender clues.

We had a water pipe burst in our apartment building today, so I hurried home on the A bus to make sure everything was okay. Our apartment was unscathed, but the breezeways were a skating rink and our neighbor across the hall wasn't nearly as lucky.

My wife and I are babysitting some hellians while their mom (my sis in law) works on our computer doing some college classes. *OUR* kids will NOT turn out like this.

Laugh, I know you want to. I could go into the details, but I'll spare you.

Icicle Eyelashes

0*F this morning when I set off, but it was a sweltering 3*F downtown once I arrived.

After seeing that there was almost no wind to speak of, I decided to go for it this morning, and my clothing choices were only slightly off. I need some wool gear. My cotton hoodie was collecting moisture in my arms and back, and was starting to frost over on the outside. It looked like it'd been snowing on me once I pulled the windbreaker off. I stayed plenty warm, except my eyes and toes. Heavily fogged and freezing over, I decided that vision trumped comfort. Tears started flowing almost immediately and I had to brush ice crystals off of my eyelashes every few minutes to keep my eyes from freezing shut. No, I didn't get photos of my frozen eyelashes. As far as toes go, I had 3 layers of socks with the plastic bag next to the outermost layer. I was getting uncomfortable by the time I got downtown, but a half hour more would have probably done my toes in.

I filled my Polar bottle with lukewarm water, and it stayed not only liquid, but pleasantly drinkable, probably between 60 and 65 degrees. Especially after having my teeth worked on, they're very sensitive to ice-cold liquids. I drank more than half the bottle on the way in, and just took it easy. New personal record for temperatures, and The Twelve took it nicely, and made the ride not only more enjoyable, but quite a bit faster as well.

Random Tunage:
Ryan Farish - Legacy
Dave Matthews Band - Crash

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bizarre Idioms

Everyone around here's been saying:

It's colder than a witch's you-know-what!
The problem? I'd never heard this figure of speech until recently. I find this odd, because I grew up in a little town in Nebraska where hare-brained idioms similar to this one enshrouded the lexicon of civilization as I knew it at the time.

So no, I-didn't-know-what! I had to Google it. No, I won't link to the answer, and now I know why people mince words with this one.

As I write this, it's 4 degrees outside. It'll likely be below zero when I wake up. I'm looking forward to it. The roads were clear today, so they'll be dry in the morning. I'm breaking out The Twelve.

Just in case I get the urge to ride all the way... I have my arsenal of warm stuff ready to rock:
  • Lycra base layer (long sleeve top, cycling shorts)
  • Polyester thermals (top and bottom)
  • Flannel Pants
  • Cargo Pants
  • Hoodie
  • Windbreaker
  • 3 pair of socks (and grocery bag corners)
  • Mittens
  • Balaclava
  • Ski Goggles
I should be all set, but I am setting out some some extra stuff to grab on my way out the door. You know, just in case.

I'll probably wimp out and ride to the bus. It'll be colder than a witch's you-know-what (or do you?)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Transit Plaza. Always Interesting.

In the heart of downtown Kansas City at 10th and Main, there's the Kemper Memorial fountain. It's the one in the background of my profile photo. It's surrounded by what's colloquially known as the the Transit Plaza. It's a major hub for bus transfers.

It's probably the most eclectic (but not diverse) part of town. From the bizarre to the banal, people of all walks of life use the bus. People who are on their way to or from other parts of town spend time here. Homeless people hang out here, and usually get ushered along by the so-called "bees" - yellow and black-suited workers.

Tuesday, I saw a knock-down, drag-out brawl between a girl and what used to be her boyfriend. The bees swooped in and broke it up, but it was right in the middle of the street.

Today, I was talking to a guy from Lawrence (home of KU) who wants to make films. He's moving to NYC to go to school. His friend John was talking to us too, and says there's too many damn white people in Lawrence. John's originally from Harlem, currently residing on the streets and in shelters here in KCMO. I guess they both want to go to New York. I always meet interesting folks at the Transit Plaza.

Then there's this. Some guy just passed out at a bus stop (in the Transit Plaza proper, I was actually across the street). I didn't get the whole story, so I won't guess why he passed out. A bee radioed for help, as you can see in the photo.

A curious bystander looks on. Adults on 20" BMX bikes aren't an uncommon site out here.

Stretcher. Okay, so I'm a little voyeuristic.

I totally dug the firefighter's Santa hat, though.

I made a little fire of my own when I got home. I love winter.

Not as bad as I thought it would be

Photo: Messy bike after I got home last night

Yesterday, speak of impending ice-storm doom was the media buzz. It ended up bombing northern parts of Missouri and into Iowa instead. Last night, things did get kind of slippery. A quick grocery store jaunt after dark resulted in a lot of slipping and sliding.

By morning, the high winds (gusting upwards of 30 MPH) plus slightly above-freezing temperatures melted away the thin layer of ice that had plagues the roads last night. Those same gusts made traversal of the Quivira viaduct kind of tricky with blasts of crosswind almost strong enough to bully me into the other lane. I'll take strong winds over icy roads any day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Still Snowy. I love this stuff!

Ice and nastiness are in the forecast this evening. It is supposed to warm up after this. Photo taken while waiting for a bus transfer to get me out to the Raytown office for the Holiday banquet today.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Heat Wave

20°F on the way home.

This is technically from yesterday morning, but it looked the same this morning.

It's been kind of drafty in the office. I left one of my layers on today. I was still chilly. Funny how I overheat on the bike near 0°F and get the chills when it's a smidge below 70 in my cube.

Work. Among other things, I wrote a quick PHP report generator for my team to use. The program takes for freaking EVER to run (as in, longer than it took to write it), so I took a photo of the source code while it ran.

Waiting for the homeward bus

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


There was a nice, thick layer of snow close to home today. I'm getting ready to tear down The Goat to fix the rear wheel.

I snapped these on the way home. Ah, the hustle and bustle of the highway. I wouldn't likely trade my snowy multi-mode commute for the I-35 parking lot again.

I saw one more cyclist on the road today, on 87th st. I know plenty of my friends local and elsewhere are tearing it up in the snow as well.

The White Stuff

I'm on limited connectivity, so the photos will have to wait. I forgot to mention that I broke a spoke on the way home last night. It's to be expected. I had to replace 3 spokes just to get this wheel kludged together to have something to ride on. I didn't figure it'd be the last spoke replacement. This one's drive side, though, so I'll have to break out the cassette tools. For the time being, my tire's intermittently rubbing on the chain stay. I opened up the rear V-Brakes a bit last night. I will probably give the whole wheel a good once-over and re-tension tonight.

Between 3:00 and 4:00AM (according to the NWS), we started getting some light snow. There was probably an inch and a half of accumulation for the ride to the bus this morning. I love riding in the snow as long as motorists aren't all twitchy. There was a brief moment climbing the Quivira Viaduct where two cars were too scared to change lanes, and I wasn't about to pull off of the stable, packed snow and onto the powder, risking a loss of control with cars directly behind me. I entertained myself thinking of a few times where I enjoyed driving directly behind a snowplow at some fifteen miles per hour. I wonder if the driver behind me was similarly comforted, likely idling behind my 7 MPH clydesdale bikeness. "If this lane is good enough for a bicycle, I'll just hang out here for a while!" I have a hard time feeling bad about taking an entire lane for myself on a two-lane road, especially when there's barely any traffic and the inside lane is wide open for the taking. Snow makes the already treacherous sidewalks, gutters and bike lanes (not like there are any nearby) even more dangerous. There's not even any point in trying to use them in the snow; I prefer finding parallel residential roads to use instead of the arterials when I can.

More this evening. I definitely won't be attempting another full commute tonight, what with the broken spoke and a little throat thing that's been bothering me the past few days.

Random Tunage:
Hybrid - Dreaming Your Dreams
Cascade - Escape

Monday, December 15, 2008

It goes to eleven

Full commute (14.5 miles) on The Goat. Temperature on departure: 11°F. Temperature on arrival: 9°F. I've ridden below zero a few times, but only to the bus. 16°F on the morning of November 21 was my previous record cold temperature for the full commute. I guess cDude was right about records being broken. I don't think this is the last one for me, either, as winter hasn't technically even started yet and I'd consider these temps to be pretty brutal. We don't usually get stuff like this until January and February. Just imagine what things will be like in a month!

I wore less layers than I had on this morning, but still had some clothing problems. At the half-way point (the I-635 overpass), I had to stop and re-evaluate things. I'd unzipped my ski coat a way back, but my back and arms were still burning up. Meanwhile, my chest was unsurprisingly numb and frigid. My hands were sweaty, too. The goggles stay clear when I'm moving, thanks to the ventilation. When I stop, though, they fog up. I took them off, removed my gloves, and took a break to warm up what needed warming up, and to air out what was getting sweaty.

I had been going at my usual work effort, and obviously this wasn't working. After about 5 minutes, I was ready to continue on my way. Fully zipped up, I opted for a slower pace, which worked quite well for the rest of the trip. It took me a lot longer to get home than I'd expected.

Merriam Marketplace

Frozen waterfall. I've taken pictures of it before. Never when frozen, though.

I said it took longer than I'd expected to get home. It was getting dark. The path before me contained pretty much every kind of track possible. Rabbit, shoe, dog, and even some deer tracks.

The only thing missing? Bike tracks. Much better.

When I got home, I checked the mail. Some junk mail for new car insurance contained this. It's a real bumper sticker. I'm cutting the bottom blue part off and installing it on my bike post haste.

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