Thursday, December 30, 2010

The capstone commute of 2010

The headwind this morning was insane, but the late spring temperature, oh the temperature! I don't know that I've ever had a December morning commute in the high 50s. Of course, that headwind stayed around all day long, so I had an evening commute with temperatures in the 60s and a wicked push all the way home. I got out early enough to watch the sun set behind me in the mirror, drop off some mail on the way home and run across a few other cyclists enjoying the weather.

I have tomorrow off, and it'll be a busy weekend. That makes today my last commute of the year and probably the last ride as well. It was a capstone commute in every sense. I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up 2010.

I have only a vague idea how many miles I rode this year (probably somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000) and it's been a whopper of a year, packed with changes that were almost exclusively for the better.

Everyone have a safe New Year's Eve, and here's to an awesome year to come!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Don't text and drive.

[via Engadget]

Edited to include:
Kansas ban on texting/emailing/messaging/whatever and driving starts Saturday.
[via The Grouch formerly known as Mark Rainey]

Frosty Morning

Cold temperatures and high humidity made for a very Norman Rockwell-esque post-Christmas morning commute.

Monday, December 13, 2010

First snowy ride of the season

It snowed Friday night into Saturday morning, and we got about an inch near my home. The wind scattered it around and cleared the snow from some spots while forming deeper drifts in others. No photos, sadly. This morning greeted us with 6°F and wind from the Northwest -- a crosswind for most of my trip.

I'm still trying to think of a name for my Schwinn. It took the patches of snow and ice in stride, but it's really slow.  I think I need to start leaving earlier. My clothing log let me down today, too. By the time I was a mile into my ride, I was way too hot. I was adequately layered up, so it was easy to fix.  For those who wonder what I ended up rocking today:

Head: Seirus Thermax Headliner balaclava. This one is really thin, and it spent about half of its time covering my mouth and nose, on and off. It's pretty much my favorite balaclava ever.

Torso: Cheap "Champion" brand base layer shirt plus the thin windproof outer shell of my skiing coat.

Legs: Chamois, base layer pants, flannel and cargo pants. I could have ditched the flannels, but it wasn't too hot.

Hands: Cheap "Thinsulate" mittens

Feet: 2 layers of smartwool socks, work boots

Except for my eyes, I stayed warm. I didn't want to mess with the ski goggles. Again, though... everyone is different. Your body type, fitness level, metabolism, effort and dozens of other variables make it hard to tell people what to wear when it gets cold outside.

Friday, December 10, 2010

New (used) winter bike

I am hoping to have a set of fenders and double-sided SPD/platforms on it sometime soon. One more winter cycling tip I accidentally came across this morning: don't use a strong minty mouthwash right before heading out into sub-freezing weather without a scarf.

Monday, December 06, 2010

(It feels like) winter is on!

I think this morning was the first ride of the season where the temperature was in the teens. Most of you know how I handle the cold-weather season by now. I know what works, clothing-wise because I've kept track of it since my first winter. I'm seeing the usual cadre of local cold-weather bike commuters as they ramp up for the chilly season, but I'm also seeing a bunch of my other cycling friends take a stab at it this winter. That's cool, literally!

As usual, I'm interested in all the different ways my fellow cyclists solve their problems. It sounds like some of them are opting to give pogies (or bar mitts) a try. I don't think they'd work well for me, since I have to leave my bike out in the cold.

Since this is my first winter at the new job, people are already in full-on quiz mode. The truth is that I might revert to the car a few times this coming winter. At my last job, I had the option to take any of four different bus routes when the going got tough. These buses would drop me off anywhere from 300 yards to 3 miles from my place. Now, there's no way to get home by bus, and the roads I have to take to get to and from work are likely going to be treacherous at least a few times over the winter. I'm definitely not shooting for the "more hardcore than you" badge.  I'll leave that to folks like Doug, who was and continues to be an inspiration for my winter cycling habits.

Of course, I plan on riding when ever possible. I'll probably be picking up The Mesa next week, and I'll start outfitting it for winter commuting.  I'll need a few things to round it out (see the Wish List, which contains other stuff I've been saving up for, too) but as far as I'm concerned, winter is on! Who's with me?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The JO needs your help!

From Johnson County Transit:

JCT is seeking letters of support from our loyal riders.  The L/N is partially grant funded due to the fact that we travel to/from Gardner, Kansas (considered a rural area).  Any Gardner residents that would like to submit a letter of support would be much appreciated.  Attached is a form letter - if you could sign and send to me we can include this with our grant application.  Thank you for all your support!  Email letters of support to or fax to 913-715-2475.

Link to the form letter

I'm not from Gardner, but I know a few of you out there who are. If you support alternative transportation, I urge you to contact JCT.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Warcycling Gauntlet Has Been Thrown.

I've been war-driving since 2000, and war-biking almost since I first started riding. I do this only occasionally. There are very few variations I can make to my current work commute that don't involve riding on roads that are unwise to use in rush-hour. It makes little sense to scan that route on a daily basis.

I don't scan for wireless networks in order to find ones that are easy to break into. They're all easy, in some way or another. And I don't have any need nor desire to break into other peoples' networks. I can tether with my phone from anywhere I can get a signal, and many places offer free wireless Internet to patrons. I'm not in the habit of poking around on networks I'm not supposed to be poking around on. I like my freedom, thank you very much.

When my friend Lorin started riding his bike to his new job, it was a massive increase in bicycle riding distance, and he started scanning for wireless networks on the way to and from work. Some time in the last 24 hours or so, Lorin threw down the gauntlet.

One thing I didn't mention last night is that I went ahead and brought my warbiking rig along for the ride. I think CommuterDude was the only one that knew what I was up to. It made lots of sense, because the route went through many small residential byways that many normal war-drivers would completely miss. The two 19dBi omnidirectional antennae were mounted very surreptitiously to my panniers. In case anyone's wondering, I saw 423 wireless networks along the route, with more than 300 of those being brand new to the WiGLE database that Lorin and I are using to track this stuff. Of course, I have a 7-year-long head start on Lorin. We'll see if he can catch up. And I suppose this means I'll be canvassing wireless everywhere I go a lot more often.

November 2010 Dark Side Ride

That's right. We know no season. With our ride kicking off at 9:00 PM, a light headwind out of the East and temperatures in the mid-40s, five riders departed. Usually, the DSR crew heads off to rural territory, where only light traffic is seen, but this route was designed by DB, who decided to mix things up with some urban flair. We started in northern Overland Park and passed through almost all of the little suburbs in Northeastern Johnson County. Then, it was across State Line, where attractions included The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, The Plaza, Loose Park, Brookside (where we saw a spectacular chimney fire being put out and rode our bikes past a huge trailer full of aromatic Christmas trees waiting to be set up for sale), Waldo, and back to the starting point. The route had dozens and dozens of turns as we avoided most of the major thoroughfares in preference of smaller residential streets, but we had a few fun, high-speed runs on big-name roads like Cleaver II Blvd and JCN Parkway.

It was a blast, as always, but I forgot my camera. All I got were these crappy phone camera shots.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beautiful fall morning!

Lenexa, originally uploaded by KC-Bike.

34°F. Calm. Overcast with a 100% chance of colorful leaves falling from the sky.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Long day.

7:50 AM:

8:40 PM:

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Cast into darkness

Spring Forward, Fall Back. Seriously, this relic of tradition seems like one of the most futile things to hold onto. The fact that congress moved to bump DST for 2007 and forward didn't help matters any. Regardless, my evening commute (and likely the commute of many others) just got cast into darkness. Swiftly, instead of gradually. Not that it matters anyway. Soon enough, my morning commute will also be dark.

At any rate, this is your friendly reminder to make sure you bring adequate lighting and reflective gear with you for your evening ride home, and to be mindful of the sun's new position in the sky while you're on the road. Ride defensively and safely. This is especially for those of you who have to ride into the sun while it's low on the horizon.

Speaking of lighting, my review of the L&M Vis 360ยบ is up at

Monday, November 01, 2010

October Recap

Man, what a month! Pretty much the usual commute thing, not much other riding. A little bit of driving to take care of some bizarre errands here and there that just couldn't be accomplished any other way.

Today, we turned the keys in for our old apartment. It seems like I've spent the last 3 weeks doing nothing but busting my ass at work, only to come home and bust my ass packing things into boxes, cleaning the old place up, moving boxes between apartments, unpacking those same boxes, organizing things and deciding what's going to remain boxed up for now. I'm a bit of a packrat. I gave away or discarded literally half a ton of random kipple that's been crowding my closets during the process of moving this time.

A lot of what's left had no rhyme or reason to how it was stored, with half a dozen large plastic bins all full of random computer, photography and bike stuff. Most of last week was spent finding a place for every thing, or a thing for every place, but I'm finally satisfied with how stuff is organized. Audio/Visual cables and hardware is finally stored in one thing. Networking stuff in another. Wall Warts and Power Bricks together. Bike parts together. I even have a 5 gallon pail completely full of ethernet patch cables. At least now I have a bunch of small messes of related items rather than one big mess sprawled across many different containers. I can't help but think I need to jettison some more of it, but you never know when you'll need an AUI to UTP transceiver balun or a NuBus Ethernet Card. Oh, wait. I needed one of each last week. Yes, really.

My plan for completing the 100 Pushups program fell completely apart as I encountered nights where I averaged 4 hours of sleep after an eight hour day working and an equal amount of time spent on moving tasks. The balance of my day was taken up by everyday boring stuff and a bike commute to keep me sane.

I'd imagine I have another week or so of getting settled in.

Putting additional stress on things, I barely listened to any music in October. Music gets me through things, and there just wasn't time to put the headphones on and get into the zone at work. And at home... you already know.

At any rate, I'm stoked for what November will bring. Stresses at work and at home are settling down. The temperature's falling, and we're going into one of my favorite times of the year to ride.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New (to me) winter commuter on layaway

The Goat has served me well over the last 4 years, but it will cost more to fix it up this season than a solid used bike. This Schwinn Moab 3 should fit the bill nicely. I have nothing but good things to say about used bikes from Bike America. This one belonged to an employee (or Owner?) and it has been completely tuned up with fresh tires, brakes, cables and shifters. I put a deposit down this afternoon, so she will be mine in a few weeks! I will put the frameset from The Goat away for another time.

In Today's News

Stocking caps are making headlines.

I had to be in to work really early today, and temperatures dropped into the mid-30s overnight. That means it's time to start breaking out the real winter commuting gear. I was still dressed pretty lightly, but this is the first time this season I've needed a stocking cap.

The early commute also gave me the perfect opportunity to do a totally dark ride with the Light & Motion Vis 360 (shown left) that I'm testing out for At an advertized 115 Lumens, I was figuring that this light would end up being most useful as a "to be seen" light, but it actually casts a really good beam that's totally suitable for night-time riding at speeds of 15 MPH or so. The fact that it's helmet-mounted makes it good for Pothole Patrol. The side markers are brilliant and eye-catching, and the rear light is suitably luminous as well. I expect a full review to be done in the next week or so.

To test it, I took it out with a few other headlights I own, and took pictures of beam patterns. Its competition:

  • A Bell Orion I found on the roadside back in early 2009, loaded with a pair of fresh CR2032 batteries. This embodies the ubiquitous cheapo front headlight from discount stores. It's usually helmet mounted. I made a handlebar mount for it when I found it (missing the helmet mount)
  • Blackburn Flea
  • NiteRider Evolution Halogen (15W Bulb)
I'll save the beam comparisons for the full review, but here are some teaser images.

L&M Vis 360

L&M Vis 360

L&M Vis 360

And the beam shot from the Vis 360. This was the darkest spot I could find at my apartment complex this morning, far from the best place to do this sort of thing, but gives you a good idea of the beam pattern. I can say it's not nearly as bright as my halogen, but it knocks the socks off of my Blackburn Flea. It had better, for the price!
Light & Motion Vis 360 Headlight

And off topic, we're finally getting settled in at our new apartment. We had a lot of help moving, but the tedious process of organizing and unpacking has seemingly only just begun. Oh, and the Brown Recluse spider infestation that we were dealing with at our old place won't likely be a problem for much longer, even if some of them did move with us. I found this friendly guy on our first day at the new apartment. It's a Wolf Spider (Hogna carolinensis, specifically) sitting atop a 50-cent piece (Diameter: roughly 1.2")
The Citadel

I really like large spiders such as Silk Spiders, Orb Weavers, Wolf Spiders, Tarantulas and Nursery Web Spiders. They are typically very gentle, but eat most smaller spiders and any other bugs nearby. I'm pretty sure the days are numbered for any Recluses that happened to stow away in our belongings.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Moving Again

No, I'm not switching jobs, nor am I leaving the area. I'm not even leaving the neighborhood. This weekend, my wife and I are moving around the corner from where we live now. As such, there's a lot going on, and I've had a lot of errands to run during the day. Today, I drove, but on my way to one of my errands over lunch, I saw something that's hopefully good news. The worst railroad crossing on my workbound commute is getting patched up:

I'll be back into the usual swing of things shortly.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

By the numbers

By the numbers, originally uploaded by KC-Bike.

In the US, there's a 68% chance you're charging that "green" plug-in electric/hybrid with fire and smoke. Dumbasses. Source.

Randy pointed out to me that 100% of traditional vehicles are petroleum-powered.

Of course, some traditional vehicles with small, efficient engines use less fuel than certain hybrids do. As always, gas-powered vehicles can be used frugally by combining trips, choosing closer destinations, car-pooling and walking or bicycling for trips when feasible. Cars themselves aren't the enemy. Sprawl, gluttony and excess are.

Hal grades your bicycle locking skills

Elizabeth from posted this to Facebook today. Hal is a wrench at a popular Manhattan bike shop. He takes to the mean steets and criticizes bad bicycle locking jobs.

In short, he's looking for 3 things:

  1. Use a really sturdy chain and lock (not a cable) to secure your frame to a large, immovable object.
  2. Make sure both wheels are secured to the frame or to the immovable object with more than just the axle nuts or QR skewers.
  3. Make sure the seat is properly secured (again, with something more than the seatpost collar)
I usually don't worry about my seat when I park at work. I have a thick towing chain that I pass through both wheels and the rear triangle, then around the bike rack. If I'll only be in and out (like the grocery store) I'll often use a cable lock, but I'll pass it through both wheels, the frame and the seat rails before attaching it to the rack. In higher risk areas (such as when I was riding to a not-so-great part of downtown Kansas City, MO for my monthly check-in at the unemployment office), I use both techniques at the same time.

Hal's comment on quiet streets generally being safer is generally spot-on, but you could be asking for trouble if your lock-up spot is too secluded and you frequently lock up there for long periods of time. He also discusses the fact that locks only buy you time. As a security guy, I would say that it's more complicated than that, but not by much.
  • If someone really wants YOUR bike (because it's the most expensive one they came across, because they hate you, or because it's the only bike around), then locks only buy you time.
  • If someone just wants something easy to steal (including individual bike wheels, seats, etc) and yours is locked up better than the others in the area, thieves will usually choose the easier target.
It's not as big of a problem in Kansas City as it is in larger metro areas, but bicycles are generally a commodity on the street. A working bicycle can be traded for about $25-$50 in goods or services unilaterally on the black market. It doesn't matter if it's a discount-store Bike-Shaped-Object or a carbon fiber track bike. Generally speaking, though, thieves are willing to put a little more work (and risk) into making extra money out of nice bikes by parting them out and fencing them or by trying to sell them as if they're the owner, either in person or on sites like Craigslist.

I'd still like to know where Hybridzilla ended up. I checked all the pawn shops, all the online places and the local newspaper want ads. I like to think it found its way to someone that appreciates and rides it much as I did. It was purpose-built for getting around reliably.

Random Tunage:
Derek Howell - Frozen
Cascade - Escape

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Time to consult the clothing log

My breaking point for shorts is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As the fall has moved in and morning temperatures dropped into the low 60s and 50s, I think this is the first year that I trusted myself to believe that I'd regret throwing layers on. This week, however, has greeted me with low 40s. Psychologically, my brain processes this as "just a little above freezing," and the temptation to break out the balaclava, wool socks and ski coat becomes very real.

This time of year, I'm really glad that I kept track of years past and what kinds of clothing worked particularly well at given temperatures below 50 degrees. This morning, I rode in my work pants, a synthetic shirt, some light gloves and a hoodie. Truth told, it was still a little warm. I opened the zipper on the hoodie and kept my speed down to compensate. I used the hood under my helmet for ear coverage, but I think a headband and a light windbreaker would have been a better call. Duly noted in the log.

Utility cycling is all about finding your own groove.

Random Tunage:
The Crystal Method: Busy Child
64-Bit - The Arrival

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Corinna West wants your help

I enjoy writing narratives, but I'm certainly not a poet, nor am I skilled in visual arts. I do, however, believe wholeheartedly in what our friend and fellow cyclist Corinna West is doing, though. I'm re-publishing an email I just got from her. If you or someone you know might be interested in helping out, contact her using the info at the end of her e-mail. I re-hosted the attached documents she speaks of on Google Documents, and linked them at the bottom of this post.

Hi Poetry Friends and Bicycle Friends,

In case you haven't heard, I got a really big federal grant to share the idea that people can get better from mental illnesses by using wellness tools such as poetry, exercise, mindfulness, spirituality, advocacy, and community building. The grant is targeted toward young adults aged 18 - 25.

We will be doing 10 health fairs at First Fridays where we are doing bicycle based peer support using a movable display attached to our bicycles. We'll be talking to people about mental health and recording people who want to try freestyling (making up poetry on the spot). We'll be selling art, so this is a great fit for you if you ride a bike, make artwork, and have some personal experiences with mental health issues. If you know someone like this, please forward the application to them.

The other thing we are doing is 10 open mic contests at universities throughout Missouri. Attached is the call for artists for feature poets for this. I am looking for people who can share poems about overcoming adversity, especially positive mental health related poems. Any poems about struggles in your life and using poetry as a resource might be considered for this feature. Many of you have poems that fit for this project.

The application instructions for both are included. I will pick the first people by October 21, so try to have your CV/artist resume, sample poems if you're a poet, and cover letter to me by then.

Please forward this on to anyone else who may be interested.
Corinna West, MS, CPS
Creative Director, Human Hand Wordworks
PO Box 172351, Kansas City, KS 66117

PPP Call For Artists

PPP Bicycle Peer Support Opening

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wearing Thin

I finally got around to throwing a new set of SPD cleats onto my shoes. I got these shoes (and my SPD pedals) on May 1st, 2007 when I bought The Twelve, and these were the cleats that came with the pedals, some 15,000 miles ago. The cleats don't wear thin like this from riding, though. They wear thin from walking on them. It's not like I did any epic hikes in these MTB shoes. I just walked a few hundred yards in them, 5 days a week, every week, in all weather conditions. I don't usually wear these shoes for anything other than riding my bike and walking from my bike parking spot up to my cubicle.

The Lab-O-Ratory

The nose of the old cleat is thinner than a butter knife, but it was still holding up okay, without complaining or breaking. I did notice that the new cleats have a lot less play in them. I had a heck of a time removing the old cleats, because the heads had become deformed enough that inserting the 4mm Allen wrench wasn't quite as straight-forward an affair as it should have been.

Oh, yeah. I'm finally back on the 100 Pushups program again for the third time, and I'm tracking my progress with a friend, so we can nag each other and make sure we both stay motivated. Maybe this time I won't booger my shoulder up like I did the last two times I tried this. My left shoulder is still on the mend from the Deer Crash, but pushups seem to be helping it.

I'm on my second week (or is it the second weak?) and I'm already noticing more positive changes in my upper body and core. My initial assessment was higher than it was the previous two times I tried starting this program. I hope to keep pushups a part of my weekly routine once I am done with the six-week program.

Random Tunage:
Rob Dougan - Clubbed To Death 2
B-Movie - Nowhere Girl (Adam Freeland Remix)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Commuting by streetlight

Mornings like this make me miss parts of my old early morning commute.
The Lab-O-Ratory

Baz (non-bikey chaos):
It's been a busy few weeks. Last week, I took a few days off work to participate in Cyber-RAID and Security B-Sides Kansas City. Yes, I know, "cyber-" stopped being a cool prefix way back in the nineteen hundreds.

Cyber-RAID was a digital warfare exercise where four teams of eight people were tasked with defending their lab networks from thirty hackers, penetration testers and information security researchers. I was on the winning defensive team, which included Eric, another information security-savvy bicycle commuter. The people on my team were top-notch. I've never played a "game" quite like this before. While it was immensely stressful, it was also the most fun I've had in years.

Security B-Sides KC was an information security conference held alongside Cyber-RAID, and included several speakers giving presentations on a wide variety of information security topics. Among them was a presentation I gave on how broken the current state of WiFi is, with a harrowing live demonstration of the types of things you open yourself up to by using it. Of course, I also had talking points on defending yourself, your home network and your enterprise wireless installation from these sorts of attacks. I spoke with an interactive audience of around 70 people, literally an order of magnitude larger than any group I've addressed before.

Random Tunage:
Schodt feat. Aida Fenhel - White Tiger (Mango Remix)
Mike Foyle - Shipwrecked(John OCallaghan vs Mike Foyle Club)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Randy's Off-Road ride report (and more photos)

You can see more fun stuff from Randy's perspective of the crazy off-road-fest here.

Not much more I can add. You can see Keith and I play hike-a-bike with clogged wheels in a few spots, though.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Off-roading, Bike camping

Before I continue, I should mention that we spent most of our time yesterday with our heavily-loaded bikes pointed South, into an 18-25 MPH headwind. Keep that in mind as you read this.

It wasn't exactly an S24O trip. I left at 8 in the morning to ride to church yesterday, since it's close to the Price Chopper. Locked up at church:
Pathway Community Church Commons

At about noon, though, I left for Price Chopper, went inside and scored a quick lunch at the deli. Shortly thereafter, Randy pulled up. Randy wasn't going to be able to camp with us, but he's going on a week-long bike tour soon and wanted to shake down his new gear, namely his front rack and pannier setup. His plan was to ride to Hillsdale Lake with us then return home. Soon, commuterDude showed up. This was who RSVPd. It'd be a small group, but it would afford us a lot of flexibility on route, schedule and whatnot.

I recalled a shortcut through Spring Hill that Randy showed me last time we went out this way, and asked him to take us along a similar route outbound. We'd end up taking Ridgeview to 207th, then west to Woodland, before winding through some residential stuff to get through Spring Hill. We'd barely touch the main drag through town (Webster) before hopping on Victory Road, which turns to gravel just south of town.
Victory Rd.

Victory doesn't cut all the way through, though. The first time I did this S24O, I made a quick stop by the railroad bridge on 239th which was about 1/8 mile out of the way, then went West on 239th. Our group stopped for a quick break in the shade by the bridge.
239th St bridge

Overhead, we heard something. We thought it may have been a railroad maintenance truck. It certainly wasn't a train. We walked up to see what was above the bridge. Lo and behold, there was an un-used railbed alongside the existing track. We may have heard a four-wheeler, for all I know. At first glance, this railbed looked a bit like a rails-to-trails path, maybe a bit rougher. We decided to go for it. We took a little access road to get to it, and didn't see any signs or gates stating we couldn't use it. Randy is using a Long Haul Trucker with 1.95" tires. He's The Dirt Bum, for crying out loud. He does this all the time. cDude and I, though, were quickly descending into a habit of pushing the limits of our bikes. Modern bicycle marketing being what it is, we were using "the wrong kind of bike" for this stuff. It's not so apparent in this photo, but as we got further south, we'd encounter track ballast on the railbed, made of large chunks of flint, slate and limestone. Our skinny little tires would wobble hither to yon, searching for solid ground below the boulders as our high-pressure road tires launched some of the smaller rocks out like bullets with god-awful noises. Ping! Thwack!

After a few miles, we ended up at a dead-end railroad crossing near Columbia Rd. No idea what it was there for, but we crossed the tracks and hit more gravel.
Columbia Rd

There was an interesting abandoned bridge just off Columbia Rd that appears to be a historic bridge for the same road from God-knows-how-long-ago.
Columbia Rd.

A little better picture of it, but I should have backtracked up the road a bit to get a better shot.
Columbia Rd.

We continued south to get to 255th St in the heart of old downtown Hillsdale Kansas. We'd stop at the convenience store to fill our bottles up, and that's when "Underbiking" happened.

Usually, we'd head west to the lake, but we continued south on Hedge Lane (old KC Road) and found more gravel on 271st. We rode that out to Woodland Rd, which featured some not-so-subtle hills. In these parts, there are maybe 20 people who have any legitimate need to use the road. It's all farmland.
Woodland Rd.

Once we got to 287th street, Woodland ostensibly ended with a "Minimum Maintenance Required" sign. As cDude put it, "Their idea of maintenance was to put that sign up a long time ago and forget about it." - I'm paraphrasing a bit, probably, but however it is he said it, I couldn't have put it any better.
Woodland Rd.

I didn't get any pictures of the sloppier parts of this road. It continues on for about a mile, and parts of woodland are impassable for any 4-wheel vehicle not purpose-built for mudbogging. We, on our trusty two-wheel steeds were able to navigate around the behemoth mud puddles, but both cDude and I found ourselves stopping a few times to clear mud out of our fenders and low-clearance road brake calipers. 3 or 4 times, my own bike completely clogged up and neither front nor rear wheel would spin at all. The muddy trail turned west, placing us on a ruttier and rockier section of "road" that is supposed to be 295th St. These vestigial roads have long out-lived their usefulness. They go nowhere and are needed by no one. They're enjoyed by off-roaders of all types, though. Yesterday, that was us. We'd hit Victory road, where suddenly the gravel was even again. After the previous section, it might as well have been the Bonneville Salt Flats for all I was concerned.

We veered south to 299th St and went west, crossing the southern dam of Miola lake, where lots of people were enjoying the long weekend. I was already completely out of water and had borrowed a bottle from cDude. We stopped at an RV station and used their drinking water refill nozzle to refill our bottles and hose our bikes off to clear out enough of the clay mud from our brakes and fenders to allow our wheels to spin freely again. I was also burning up and covered in salty sweat crystals. I took the liberty of hosing myself down with the nozzle. Might as well, right? I think Randy got a picture of that.

We hopped over to Hedge lane, then weaved our way through various rural byways and another stretch of minimum-maintenance stuff that doesn't even show up on a map, featuring a weathered, repeatedly repaired creek bridge that's obviously failed more than once under the weight of crossing vehicles. My wheels clogged once more, and we finally made it to Lake Rd, where the entrance to Hillsdale State Park was waiting for us. Randy parted ways, while cDude and I forged onward to the camp site, where both of us leaned our bikes on the first available lean-worthy structure, and ceremoniously cracked open the beer we brought along. Somehow, his was still cold. My Boulevard Wheat was in a pannier water bottle holder. It was warm and covered in dust, but it was still the best beer I've ever tasted.

My wife showed up to hang out with us at the camp site for a while just as we finished setting up our tents and locking the bikes up. We unloaded a few more cold beers from the cooler, and settled in for supper. Me? Reconstituted freeze dried stuff. Dude made bean burritos. We both used soda-can alcohol stoves.

As night fell, we found some abandoned fire wood to set up. I carved a skewer, and we roasted some marshmallows I'd packed away.

We had some good conversation, cleaned up and hit the sack pretty early. I never touched the fishing gear I packed, and kind of wished I had packed a camp pad in its place to go with my bedroll. Lessons learned for future trips. It didn't bother me much last year, but I must be getting old. This is a 64-second-long exposure of our galaxy's core, as taken with a cheap point-and-shoot camera.
The Milky Way

Breakfast was two tylenol, french-pressed coffee and scrambled eggs. cDude fashioned a brew basket out of a PBR can, and used a drip filter and coffee grounds he brought from home. Once coffee was made, he did oatmeal. Why didn't I think of oatmeal?!

By 9:00, we had everything packed up, and rolled out shortly there after. To say we took a different way home is an understatement! A quick stop by Lake & Dale again, and we bee-lined it home from there. You can still see the clay mud on my tires. I wrapped all of my dirty clothes up in my commute towel and lashed it down. They were muddy and damp, no sense in putting that stuff in my panniers.

A carbon-riding, camelbak-wearing roadie blasted past us on old KC Road, and I exchanged greetings with him. He was thankful for the tailwind heading north. He got up the road a ways, and I started taking my pull. We had a pretty good clip going, but when I ran out of steam, the race was on. I watched cDude reel the poor guy in. I really wish I could have been there to see the look on his face, being passed by a guy on a loaded steel bike.

I eventually caught up with Keith in Spring Hill. From there, it was an easy ride back with most of the hills behind us and a good push from the south winds. At 159th and Ridgeview, Keith and I bumped fists and parted ways and I continued home, using a good part of my usual commute route.

Pack Weight: 27.2 pounds
Distance: 82.8 miles
Elapsed Rolling Time: 7h 17m 14s
Average speed: 11.36 MPH
Max speed: 28.1 MPH

Sunday, September 05, 2010


The ride to Hillsdale Lake was very much the brainchild of Randy from - We took a few miles of gravel on Victory Rd. This ended up being a bit of a gateway drug to insanity. Initially we hopped on a section of railbed to get us from Victory to Columbia Rd. Then we took a short break at Lake & Dale. Next thing I knew, Randy was asking if we wanted some more offroad action. Thinking along the lines of railbed, I agreed and so did CommuterDude. What followed was an additional 15 miles, almost all of which wasn't just gravel, but No Maintenance "road" with ruts, mud and craziness. More Pictures and fun tomorrow after I get home...

Everything is in the panniers!

I jettisoned some of my gear at thr last minute. Now, even the tent and bed roll fit in the panniers. The tent poles are too long, so I am using the trick I saw Apertome use: strapping them to the top tube.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting ready to camp, August Recap

I usually prepare for camping or backpacking a few days early. We're doing the S24O Sunday into Monday and right now it looks like a relatively small turn-out. That's fine with me either way.

I don't know if I ever wrote about it here, but a while ago, Planet Bike sent me their "Keep On Keeping On" rack, a lightweight, strong utilitarian bike rack weighing in at just over a pound but being rated to carry 55 pounds. I've been using it since June, but never have gotten around to really loading it up. It doesn't have a spring-clip (sad panda) but otherwise, it's got the features I like. You know, like rear supports that don't turn my panniers into spoke-food?

I figured I'd load up my stuff (click to see an annotated version of what everything is)
The Lab-O-Ratory

And make sure things were all good:
The Lab-O-Ratory

Looks like all systems are go. Then, I found out that my wife would like to spend all weekend camping. So we'll be heavy camping (propane, coolers, etc) Friday and Saturday, too.

I found out cDude was planning on cooking over campfire. That's not a bad plan, but the wood you can buy at Hillsdale lake is usually green, uncured wood that's nearly impossible to start. I told him I'd rig up a penny stove to see how he likes it. Just in case. The end result was one that uses the jets coming out the side so that the pot can simply rest directly on top of the can for support.


Crappy composite, I know... but it shows how it works.

It brought 2 cups of water to a boil in about 4 minutes. It's certainly not a world record, but it's faster than the one I made last year.
Rolling boil

The thing I love about these soda can stoves is that you just need 2 cans, a razor or pair of scissors and a finishing nail or small drill to make them. Well, and a penny or some other round metal object to act as a pressure valve over the filler hole. The fuel is really the most expensive part. Mark my words: knowing how to make these things will make you a hot commodity during the zombie apocalypse. Or something.

As for August... it was awesome and crappy all at once. I logged 275 miles commuting, and more for errands. I didn't have a cyclometer the entire time. I'm pretty sure I got more than 300 miles total this month. I'm not too worried about counting them this year, though. The mornings have been stellar:

The Lab-O-Ratory

The afternoons have been everywhere between the 70s and over 100 degrees, with one day sporting a heat index near 120! Multiple traffic closures and detours have slowed I-35 down to a slog. In the mornings when I'm riding along I-35 and with the direction of traffic, I'm often riding faster than the cars on the highway are moving, for extended periods of time. This has, of course, resulted in a lot of motorists rat-running the highway and opting for the side-streets such as the ones I use to get around.

Also, some old guy on a $2,800 Serotta Colorado keeps passing me every morning. At least he's friendly, but yep, I'm still slow.

August Tunage on heavy rotation:
First State - As You Were
Gravity Kills - Guilty
Barlow Girl - Enough
Golan Globus - Blazer (2005 Radio Edit)
Burn In Noise - Raca
God Lives Underwater - Rearrange
Stabbing Westward - Save Yourself
Duran Duran - Ordinary World
Grand National - Talk Amongst Yourselves (Sasha Involver Remix)
Madonna - The Power Of Goodbye
First State - Reverie

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bike Camping, Labor Day Weekend

Where: Meet at the South Olathe Price Chopper, 159th and Mur-Len. Not 151st. 159th.
When: Sunday, Sept. 5th, 2010 at Noon
Plan: Ride out to Hillsdale State Park, set up camp preferably near the Crites Boat Ramp campground

I'm scratching the idea of a northern meeting spot, because I'm probably going to ride to church that morning (yes, fully loaded) It's only a mile from the meeting spot.

Email me for more details and to RSVP.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More than half.

The first three motorists to pass me this afternoon on my homeward trip were either talking on their phones or looking down and frobbing something, almost assuredly dialing or texting. The fourth motorist that passed me had one hand on the wheel, the other hand out the window and seemed to actually be paying attention to the road. Coasting down the hill toward Deluxe Check Company, I realized that today's commuting game would be "count the texters" and I'd already counted one seemingly undistracted motorist. I might as well count those, too.

This highly unscientific survey didn't count cars that had windows too tinted for me to see the driver, or cars that were simply too close to one another for me to get a good look inside. The grand total, though: 59 people on the phone. 47 people not on the phone. More than half.

There's a lot of commercial traffic on my route. Semi tractors, commercial vans, delivery trucks and motorcycle riders made up the lion's share of motorists who were not on the phone. In fact, not a single commercial driver appeared to be on a phone, period. There are probably company rules about this, so it's not that much of a surprise.

Granted, there are hands-free speakerphones, bluetooth headsets and many other variables to consider. I was just keeping count. I'm frankly a little bit disturbed by my findings.

Then, there was my friend Andy, who -- for some inexplicable reason -- decided to wave at me by holding a 20" recumbent bicycle wheel out his driver's side window as we crossed paths... Yes, really.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ah, weekend.

I had my (great) 90-day review at work and it totally doesn't feel like I've been at my new job for three whole months!

From mid-2006 to the first week of 2010, I was a tiny cog in a mega-corporation and my primary job responsibility was to make the red piece of a pie graph look smaller for some guys in big, cushy offices. I was told four times per year that I was exceeding management's expectations and was rarely ever given much more feedback than that. These days, I love what I do and who I work with. I'm constantly challenged with new aspects of the things I'm passionate about: security, systems administration and helping people understand technology in their own terms. I genuinely feel appreciated, too. My team is efficient and forthcoming with very short feedback cycles. That makes all the difference in the world.

Last week was one of the hottest weeks on record. It makes me really glad I live so close to work these days. The weekend brought sweet relief. Many of my pals put in a lot of bike miles today. It feels really strange to say that 89 degrees with 45% relative humidity feels mild, but it really was a nice break from the heat. After church, my wife and I met some friends at a local fishing lake, where I finally got to test out my new baitcasting reel. It took a few casts to get the hang of it, but now I can see why this style of reel is so popular. It casts far if you want it to, very precisely and operates much smoother than my other closed-face and spin-casting reels. My wife and friends caught a few bluegill. I ended up feeding the fish.

Argiope Aurantia (So-called "Garden Spiders") have always been my favorite spiders. When I was growing up in Nebraska, they were everywhere. They're very tame, don't bite and make zig-zag silk inserts into their webs. They're also some of the biggest spiders you'll find native to this part of the country. This female specimen has a leg-span of nearly four inches!

Random Tunage:
Barlow Girl - Enough (excellent Chris Tomlin cover)
Burn In Noise - ERT

Thursday, August 05, 2010


The relentless triple digit temperatures might have been a clue, but I never really believe it's August until I see a Cicada up close.
The Lab-O-Ratory

By the way, I always knew these guys had a proboscis. I didn't know they used it on people. According to wikipedia, they don't "bite" on purpose, but this one got my hand. It felt like a big mosquito bite.

Cart rage in aisle three

I typically ambulate at a fairly good pace as far as plain old walking is concerned. The highly scientific and precise measurement as performed on a cheap home-gym dreadmill says I walk at 3.6 MPH, which, from what I can tell, is a bit faster than average.

I don't particularly care for walking. I avoid walking for transportation for all but the closest of destinations. If it's more than a few blocks and it's at all possible to ride a bike, I'll take the bike. Until such time as it becomes socially acceptable to ride one's bicycle through the aisles of the supermarket, that's at least one place I'll be forced to use my own two feet.

Despite my relatively quick gait, I actually had a lady behind me on my way out of the store this evening muttering "Come on. Move!" just loud enough for me to hear.

Related: I happened across a minivan with the license plate "KEWLGMA" that, according to another highly scientific instrument bolted to my handlebars, was incapable of exceeding 20 MPH in a 45 MPH zone. She was certainly a grandma. No, I didn't pass her. I drafted that thing! Thanks for the pull, granny. Perhaps that's how she earned the "kewl" label. I know she didn't earn it by holding up traffic.

* Title roughly based on a facebook comment from Bill Burns.

Random Tunage:
First State ft. Sarah Howells - Reverie
Alpha 9 - Come Home

Monday, August 02, 2010

Face-melting heat, Park Street, brine and coconut sunscreen

A new personal heat record: 118*F heat index. Ouch.

I had a good tailwind, and I think I'd have preferred a headwind in this heat. On the flat stretches of road, I could easily go fast enough to get some breeze, and it wasn't too bad. Going up hills, my speed would often match the wind's. Combined with 50% relative humidity and triple-digit ambient temperatures, that's no good. I really did feel like my face was melting off. A few times, I squirted my eyes with water to drive the stinging brine away from them. And all this on a relatively short commute.

I had some errands to run on the way home, and I'd usually take Pflumm. Pflumm is an arterial road that doesn't have any highway interchanges. If you count the small curvy northernmost section labeled "Quivira Drive", Pflumm cuts through all of Johnson County and the biggest intersection you'll ever have to deal with is Shawnee Mission Parkway. It's a decent road to ride on, but it's still an arterial road with hurried motorists. Today, I opted for Park Street instead. Park is a short road that runs parallel to Pflumm two blocks to the west and only for a little ways near Old Town Lenexa. It's very residential. It's got tree coverage. People sit out on their front porches and wave.

It reminds me how vitally important a good route is for us bicycle commuters, and how often finding a good route involves riding just a block or two away from the big roads you normally think of when planning your trips.

Finally, a few blocks from home I rode past a small, private pool for one of the nearby neighborhoods. I caught a very strong whiff of coconut-scented suntan lotion. I might not have air conditioning for my commute, but motorists miss a lot of little things in their hermetically-sealed transportation bubbles.

Random Tunage:
Dresden & Johnston feat. Nadia Ali - That Day (Tritonal Air Up There Mix)
New Order - True Faith (The Morning Sun Extended Remix)

Saturday, July 31, 2010


It's no secret that I really like electronic music. Last night, The Crystal Method came to town to throw down a 5-hour-long DJ set at Lucky Strike Lanes. I had to go, and I dragged commuterDude with me. We carpooled.

The Crystal Method at Lucky Strike Lanes

Scott Kirkland of The Crystal Method on the decks at Lucky Strike Lanes

Even though Lucky Strike Lanes is a bit of an upscale venue, it didn't stop the ravers from coming out to play.

Lucky Strike

The Crystal Method at Lucky Strike Lanes

And maybe cDude got into it a little, too...
Lucky Strike

It was a great show and of course they threw down some TCM originals mixed in with a lot of other stuff, like only they could.

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