Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scouting a new route: The 5/30 commute

I woke up this morning exactly at 4 a.m.; however, I dawdled for about 10 minutes before getting up and committing myself to riding to work today. I also did something I normally do not do on a bicycle commute day. I showered before leaving. Although I have good shower facilities at work there's just something about cleaning up in one's own bathroom. Plus, a good shower is one fine way of waking up. Also, instead of launching from the garage as I normally do I brought my bike in and launched from the front room and went out the front door. I did so for two reasons For starters, I could keep better control of my dog and opening the front door does not cause my electric meter to go crazy from the garage door opener sucking a couple kilowatts.

At first, it looked like it was going to be one of those days as I was already 10 minutes late to start with; however, it really looked like it was going to be a bad day as I got outside and started turning on all my lights. A couple days ago I had discovered that I had an over sized Niterider headlight mount on the Monitor Pass which would've been a better fit on the Sirrus hybrid. so I decided to go ahead and pull off this oversized mount and replace it with an older one designed for standard diameter bars. What I didn't realize was that I had over tightened it which had caused a pin to dislodge. So when I began adjusting where the beam fell the mount came apart on me. On top of that, I discovered that both my lighting extension cables had become disconnected so the light was getting no power. So when all was said and done and I had everything repaired I wound up 15 minutes behind schedule; however, the first leg of the ride from my house to the other end of Westview went quite well. I was averaging somewhere around 13 to 14 miles an hour and I was actually starting to make up some of the lost time. I also had a bit of a surprise when I made it to Antoine. I had just made my right hand turn than just over my shoulder comes another commuter! It wasn't Brian horterculturalist, but somebody completely new and like me was riding a high quality mountain bike. His was newer and had suspension forks and he was riding with a messenger bag as opposed to panniers. As he passed by he asked me if I work downtown and I was able to reply no that I work at Texas Southern University. That was about the extent of the conversation as this guy could really move he was averaging somewhere between 15 and 17 miles an hour. He left me behind before I could really interview him. the remainder of the morning commute was fairly routine.

The real excitement came for the afternoon run as I did not get out of work on time. in fact, here's a shot of my cubicle as I was getting ready to leave.

This picture was taken right as I was starting to fold and roll my clothes. And yes, that is an army cot that I'm using for a clothes folding table. (Sometimes it's good to be me!)

so running through the park was rather exciting as the traffic was heavier than what I prefer or what I'm accustomed to, but luckily it was a Friday so it wasn't as bad as it would've been on say a Monday. I also changed my homeward route a little bit. Instead of taking Elgin/Westheimer down to Shepherd I went down Alabama/West Alabama at the suggestion of Peter Wang (Hat tip). Road conditions were little rougher and made me very glad that I was not riding a road bike or a hybrid, but the lack of traffic more than made up for it. It also was about is about two tenths of a mile shorter than my traditional route. It also gave me a realization of how hard-core a rider I really am that for nearly 2 years I've been running up and down Elgin/Westheimer without having the traffic bother me.

Anyhow, once I had gotten through Memorial Park the rest of the ride was downright delightful especially once I got onto Westview near the very end I just about had the entire road to myself.
About 3 miles away from home I even saw yet another commuter who was eastbound. She was on a road bike and what looked like a new rack and panniers Right about the time I saw her she was almost out of my field of view so I was unable to say anything to her, but when I did notice was she did a double take when she saw me. All I could manage to do though is nod at her as I passed by. When all was said and done I had shaved off five minutes off my best time for a work commute.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Simple Thinking Individuals with a little power are a dangerous thing

Now that I have my trike back from having its rear axle replaced. I've gone back to getting my groceries with it instead of driving. Yesterday (Saturday) I decided to give the trike post repair shakedown ride to Kroger's which is a local grocery store chain here in Houston. By great fortune one happens to be less than 2 miles away just on the outskirts of my neighborhood. Because I planned to get a couple steaks I went ahead and brought a cooler full of ice with me.

Typically, when I go to Kroger's I remove everything of value or temptation from the trike this would include the cyclocomputer, rear blinkie, and cooler (if I'm carrying it). Everything small gets thrown in the pocket of my cycling jersey and the cooler gets thrown in a cart and I walk around with it. Today I walked in as I always do, but this time the security guard accosted me as if I were going to shoplift and told me I could not bring my cooler with me inside the store. I complied and left it at her feet; however, the more I thought about it the more I got angry because I was singled out for being different. Following the security guard's line of thinking if I couldn't bring a cooler in with me for being a shoplifting risk then every woman in the place should not be able to bring a purse in either. Adding to the absurdity of the situation (if you can picture the scene) is it was quite obvious that I was on a bicycle as I still had my helmet, cycling gloves, and a gold colored performance cycling jersey on. I stood out like a sore thumb .

The stupidity of the whole thing is if I had really intended to go shoplifting I would not have gone on a human powered conveyance (either bicycle or trike) and I would've dressed to blend in not gone running around with a bright yellow shirt and a helmet on and I would not have brought a 24 can cooler in with me.

Ordinarily I wouldn't think of this as a big deal; however, this time it upset me for two reasons. The rent-a-cop was an African-American female and as such I would've expected for her to be a little more sympathetic to those who look and are different. Additionally, I would've expected for someone working security to understand simple policing and know that someone who is a stand out in their appearance and under the watchful eye of everyone is more than likely not a security threat. However, give someone a little power when they're not deserving of it and we get situations like this. This guard could not think outside the box or get past what I looked like and what I was carrying and chose to single me out even though if I were a shoplifter I would've been anybody but who I was.

Consequently, on my return pass to pick up my cooler I fairly snapped at her and to add to all the irony I still set off the shoplift alarm. Quite absentmindedly I forgot to pass my steaks over the alarm the deactivator on the automated checkout line. She came over and gave me attitude; however, I pointed out to her that when one is offended and not thinking you're not inclined to remember many steps like swiping the damn de-activator. This shut her up and she walked away. I then proceeded to go load my trike and go home. I really rather regret not calling the manager of the store over and lodging a formal complaint for being singled out for being different.

This by the way is a typical grocery load for the trike. On this load I was using the smaller igloo/ playmate "lunchbox" cooler whereas yesterday I was using my Coleman 24 cooler which pretty much fills the trike basket.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Perpetual Threat of Rain stops: The 5/16 Commute

When I woke up this morning it was clear and cool and I knew I'd feel guilty if I weaseled out. So I manged to get prepped and out the door right at 5am. I must say the commute in was lovely and I shaved off four minutes from my personal best for the commute in. The only thing I found noteworthy was I had the roads to myself as I didn't see another Cyclist anywhere. No Hispanics on Wallymart bikes, Zilch, Nada! I spent the ride reflecting on memories and lessons learned. That's the one good thing about commuting by bike in the early morning. You have time to get right with yourself and one's higher power.

The Monitor Pass performed to it's usual high standard; however, I still need to take it in for overhaul as I have a slight wobble in the front rim and hubs, sprocket, and bottom bracket could stand for fresh grease as it hasn't had any in five years. Here is a pic of it in this morning's configuration:

In truth, I'd like to stream in the Sirrus Hybrid; however, I discovered that it's bars are too fat to fit the bracket for my Niterider Digital Evolution headlight. In theory I could wear the light on my helmet; however, I've never been a big fan of adding extra weight to an already heave piece of head gear. So I'm holding off until I have a better solution.

I left work promptly at 4 p.m. and made good time despite having an extra 10 pounds hanging off my front fork (I had brought my tool bag to work on Monday and needed to bring it home again.) Like the morning commute the evening ride was very relaxing. As I made my way down Shepherd I had a had a friendly exchange with a driver. He had pulled in from the left hand lane into the right lane while traffic had stopped. I pulled in even with his passenger door and because we were stuck there in traffic I just gave him a big grin. He rolled down his window and apologized for he had thought that he had cut me off. I just smiled and laughed and told him "no worries" He in turn told me to be careful and we parted company. I had yet another exchange while passing through Memorial Park. This one wasn't so friendly, someone yelled get off the road while passing by; however, the one that took the cake was about six blocks from home where some redneck in a jeep drawled, "Geet Owwn De Sidewalk" as he zipped by. Unfortunately, I was unable to rebut him properly other than with some salty language. (Something to the effect of: kiss my donkey) followed by "Does this look like I'm walking? It's a sidewalk! but by the time I got that second part out he was long gone and did not hear it. The remainder of the commute went by without incident and it sure felt good to be home.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I've been confronted by the Mentally Challenged: The 5/8 commute.

The morning commute was quite brisk and I averaged around 12 mph. Other than that it was rather routine. The ride home was another story. I had a decent start but started to slow as I got into Memorial Park. About midway through the park in an area where there is no sidewalks and the pace has to be "Hammerfest" I was confronted by some thirtysomething yuppie in a Honda Civic who pulled up to me and yelled, "Why don't you ride that bicycle on the sidewalk." The funny thing is at that point on Memorial Drive there IS no sidewalk! There is the pea gravel jogging path, but bicycles are expressly forbidden to be on it and with all the joggers riding on it would be a hazard. The thing that made it most ironic is not more than 400 feet ahead of where we were was a bright yellow "beware of cyclists/cyclist in the roadway" sign giving clear indication that there would be cyclists in the road! Of course, this genius did not stick around long enough after dispensing with his idiotic wisdom to hear what I had to say in response. The rest of the ride home was routine.

I find it ironic that when people drive it seems to give them the impression that they are smarter than everybody else and know the driving laws better; however, the truth is that they loose about 20 points of IQ and probably have not seen the Texas drivers handbook since they were 16.