Monday, February 23, 2009

Commuting Comedy of Errors

After countless bike commutes to work, I've got my routine down. Tires pumped, water bottle filled, battery for lights charged, bike clothes laid out, messenger bag packed with work clothes and food. Everything ready the night before. I've done this a few hundred times and know what works for me.

Today a few monkey wrenches were thrown into the mix....

Ride in felt good, usual Seattle weather - 40s and wet. It's been colder then usual and getting back to normal Seattle weather feels right. It was light out when I left, no lights needed. When I hit the bike room at work, noticed my bike lights were on - whoops. Must have hit the switch by mistake - never happened before. Mental note to leave work with some daylight remaining.

While changing out of my racer wanna-be costume and into work duds - discover I packed my 9 year old son's underwear instead of my own. Oops. When grabbed out of the clean clothes pile, they look the same - just a few sizes too small. I grab the spare pair of underwear out of my desk drawer, usually reserved for when I completely forget my own. A few work days going commando teaches a you a lesson. Plus - if I ever get laid off, can leave 'em in my desk for a little surprise.

Spring comes early in the Northwest, not temperature wise, but budding tree wise - killing my allergies. What's the best thing to do when you have allergies? Ride to work, of course. By mid morning, my eyes are itching so bad, feel like scratching them out. Maybe I'll pop the lenses out of my bike glasses and replace them with small funnels - this way I can inject the pollen directly into my eye sockets. With any luck both eyes will swell shut like Rocky, then I can ask co-workers to "Cut me Mick" - so I can regain enough vision to view some boring Powerpoint presentation.

Work day over and while changing back into racer wanna-be outfit for the ride home - discover the strap from one of my Sidi shoes is missing. I didn't notice that when taking 'em off. I search around for it - no where to be found. Maybe a PC virus escaped and ate it under my desk. In any case, it would have been worthless, since the busted off stub remained in the shoe itself. I could have at least used it to gouge my itchy eyes out.

I grab some packing tape and wrap it around the shoe to keep it on, then cover the mess with a rain bootie. My rain booties are so destroyed I need pliers to get 'em on and off - both zippers tabs are busted. I head down to the bike room for the return trip.

On the way home, I stop at Counterbalance Bicycles, right off the Burke-Gilman trail, and pick up a new Sidi shoe strap. While continuing the ride home, realize I only purchased part of strap, still missing a section to fix the shoe. Crap. Maybe I should have asked for some pliers to pull my bootie off to check. Yeah, that would have provided a few minutes of entertainment for the bike shop crew.

About half way home, dark enough for lights. I power mine up to discover a dim beam that throws a feeble spot on the wet ground. Sweet. The battery is almost dead. No problem, I think I have every bump memorized on the B-G Trail anyway. I make it home and cut the taped shoe off.

Even with goofy events of the day, still beats driving and sitting in traffic. Mini adventures are part of the fun of bike commuting - equipment, weather or people related.

It all makes for good stories and funny stuff to remember. You need to put yourself out there for things to happen.

Happy commuting.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Harlem Globetrotters

On a last minute whim, took the family to see the Harlem Globetrotters today. Ian has been interested in basketball lately and we thought he'd kick out of it - and Amy as well. Lori saw them play once as a kid, complete with autographed ball.

I've never seen the Globetrotters live and just remember them on television as a kid in the '70s. Usually on Wide World of Sports with Howard Cosell or something similar. Meadowlark and Curley the only players I remember.

All the familiar gags remain today - basketball on a string, water bucket full of confetti, dragging people and kids from the crowd into the act. All harmless fun and great for kids.

Amazing though, the Washington Generals beat the Globetrotters for the first time. Ah, not really - and they continue their losing streak against the Globetrotters for 13,000+ continuous games now. Yet, they never give up. A lesson for us all. Maybe not.

Afterwards, autograph session - we got one from "Skyscraper". I've never stood next to anyone 7' 3" before. Dude is huge. Makes normal size folks look like kids standing next to him.

I'm not really a basketball fan, but can see the Globetrotters are an American institution. Been around since 1926 and its all good family fun. Can't argue with an act that's been around that long.

In the end, Ian said it was okay, but would rather see a "real" basketball game. Amy enjoyed it more and said she would go again. Lori enjoyed it as well.

Me? I'll stick with bikes. Can't hurt to poke my head out the bike rut occasionally though.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Family slept in today, including a late breakfast that could technically be called lunch. While cleaning up, received a phone call from my work pal, Brian Willett. He was heading over to hit my local trails with his significant other, Jennie - would we like to meet them? Uh, yeah - sure.

Ian and I rode over, then we cruised the local trails for a bit. This was Jennie's 2nd whole mountain bike ride ever, so it was super slow and easy. She did fine and walked sections she wasn't comfortable with. No problem there. I honestly get a kick out of seeing new people start to ride and hopefully get hooked on bikes. Call me sappy.

After a few miles, they headed home, then Ian and I continued our usual loop at a much quicker pace. I usually follow Ian at his speed, today we swapped a bit and I let him try to follow me. He mentioned that was tougher, but good practice. We'll do some more of that in the coming weeks. He's looking forward to first race of Indie Series in April. Me too. Weather today was almost 60 degrees, sunny and perfect trails.

Wacky enough, we ran into the principle of Ian's school riding an old Klein Mantra. I didn't even know he rode bikes. Pretty cool, huh? Next time I see him at the school, will talk bikes with him.

Spotted more retro bikes in action as well. One guy on a 16 year old Cannondale, complete with Amp fork. Another dude on a sweet black Fat City Yo Eddy - similar to mine.

Blog posts without pictures are kind of lame. No camera today - sorry. Batteries were toast.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Man's Best Friend

Commute in today was nice - 34 degrees and sunny. Expecting to stay late at work tonight, so left home around 8:00 AM - no lights required. Will need them on the way home for sure.

Took the day off yesterday, since it was my wife's birthday and my son is out of school for the week. We had a great lunch out a small Italian place in Bellevue. Place was slightly fancy, as my son Ian would describe - meaning Lori and Amy enjoyed it.

After lunch, short woods hike to find yet another Geocache - this time in Bothell. We wound up walking on the Burke-Gilman Trail for a bit. I ran into some dude riding his bike, who I've chatted with a few times riding to work. He didn't recognize me in my civilian duds. Ian and I have also watched him race at the Marymoor Velodrome a few times. Nice guy - no idea what his name is.

While riding home on Tuesday - end of my commute includes a decent climb - about 500 foot elevation gain in 2 miles or so. I'm climbing up and hear a commotion up ahead, around the corner and out of site. Kids yelling and a dog barking. A few seconds later another cyclist comes into view - blitzing down the hill, headlight blazing, dog in full pursuit right behind him. Dog is absolutely hauling ass. The fastest dog I've ever seen. A fairly large black mutt looking canine.

They pass me and continue down the hill. I stop and watch - dog continues for a long time - then gives up after a few hundred more yards. I'm thinking this dog is going to turn around and head home - past me. Sure enough, here he comes. I'm still stopped and now off my bike, just in case. While running by, dog slows down a bit and growls at me - but continues up the hill.

By the time I grind my way up the hill, the kids have the dog by the collar and under control. I hope. There's an adult mixed in there also, probably expecting an earful, thinking I was the guy that was chased. I say nothing and continue home.

With any luck, I'll never run into Super Dog while bombing the hill myself - an almost daily event for me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

President's Day Ride

Fun cruise today on the Sammamish River Trail with Ian and Amy. Also an excuse to give mom a few hours to herself. Ian likes to ride and Amy enjoys the Burley trailer - though she's starting to get a little big for trailer action. Noticed the lack of leg room compared to the last time we headed out. Kids grow fast. She'll be following on her own bike before I know it. That will be cool.

Ian brought along his GPS and we found two Geocaches along the trail. He's been into the Geocache thing for two years now. Sort of a high tech treasure hunt. More info at: Amy gets a kick out of it as well. It also gets the family out for walks and semi-hikes looking for caches - and hiding our own. Its fun how kids interests involve the whole family. I never would have messed with anything like this without his interest.

While cruising the trail, had a huge bald eagle fly by at a low altitude - nice sighting. I saluted as it went by, thought I saw it wink at me - not really sure.

Easy 12 mile roll with pizza to end the festivities. Bikes, GPS fun, bald eagle, pizza and kids - what a country.

Happy President's Day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Random Crash Stories. Episode # 2

After a lifetime of playing on two wheels, I have quite a few crash stories imprinted in my brain. I spewed a few out in a previous post titled Random Crash Stories. Episode #1. Break out the Band-Aids and popcorn and sit back for Episode #2. Here’s three more two wheeled mishaps to enjoy and ponder.

Crash # 1.

It’s the mid-seventies, suburban Randolph New Jersey, pal Richard Jones and I around 15 years old. A new apartment complex was being build in the neighborhood. Landscapers conveniently left a huge pile of bark in the middle of a parking lot. Empty parking lot, slight downhill slope, giant pile to jump bikes off. It was the siren call to all local teenage boys, sort of like that flat top mountain in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The pile existed for a few days and was molded into a jump with kids heading there after school. A gaggle of kids circling and taking turns getting air off it. All of us on Sting Ray type bikes, some converted to pseudo BMX bikes – mine included. Richard, very experienced with dirt motorcycles, sported a dumpster dived, department store Sting Ray copy – girls frame. Complete beater piece of crap.

Richard goes for the gold on one jump and grabs about four feet of air – huge for that time. Arcs it nicely into endo position and lands on the front wheel – snapping the fork off at the steerer tube – and allowing him to hit the pavement without any interference – on his hands, knees and head. I can still hear the grip less, chrome, ape hanger handlebars skittering across the parking lot. Front wheel bounces off into the distance, fork swinging around it, like some sort of sick art project.

Richard lay crumpled in a heap, gasping for air – wind knocked out of him. A woman driving by stops and asks if he’s okay. Uh, yeah – he’s fine, and she drives off looking concerned. After a few minutes, he’s up and attempting to walk home. Some kid asks “What about your bike?”. “I don’t want it.” It’s instantly stripped for parts. “I get the seat.” “I get the frame.” Kids claiming what’s left of it for their own clapped out bike projects.

I realize Richard can hardly walk, so I sit him on my bike and push him home. We get to his house, bedroom on the lower level, off the garage. He just leans back without bending his knees and falls on his waterbed (Hey, it was the ‘70s, waterbeds were in). I call for his dad and take off for home myself (Hey, it was dinner time).

Discovered later, he was admitted to the hospital. Broken knee, busted wrist and concussion. Had to spend a few days there, since the knee was too swollen for a cast and required multiple drainage attempts with a large needle. Ouch. This followed by a few weeks in a full leg cast and wrist cast as well. Joy.

After 30+ years, this still remains one of the most spectacular bike crashes I’ve witnessed. Thanks Richard.

Crash #2.

Mid ‘80s, fellow bike shop pals Scott Steward, Martin Rapp and I cruising my usual dirt/street loop in Parsippany, New Jersey on our mountain bikes. Its a muddy early spring ride, complete with occasional patches of wet snow. At one point we stop to yak for a bit. Scott, then a manager for Denville Cycles, mentions he has no health insurance. I don’t remember why this topic came up, but you now know who’s gonna get it. Sort of like when an unknown crew member appears on Star Trek.

We continue our ride, then Scott attempts to pass me while simultaneously bunny hopping a large snow bank, while moving at a nice speed. His back wheel clips the snow bank and he endos nicely into the street. I can see the carnage in my peripheral vision, so technically he didn’t pass me. Ha! Scott, an ex-pro BMX racer, then mountain bike racer, and later road and track guy, has more natural riding ability in a peeling scab – then I’ll ever have. He’s a damn good rider, this endo excluded.

After the crash, sitting on the curb assessing the damage – shoulder is toast and scalp wound bleeding semi-profusely – otherwise, nothing super serious. This was the pre-helmet era. I offer to get my car and pick him up. Nah, he’ll ride back, just skip the woods and stay on the road. Martin, not quite as hardcore (nuts?) as Scott and I, looks slightly horrified. We pace line back to my house, Scott riding one handed, blood running down the side of his face and down his neck. Martin at the back, later admitting he hard time hanging on – amazed Scott could move that fast hurt.

We get to my house and I load up Scott’s bike for him – and he drives off. Calls later with the report. Separated shoulder and a few stitches in the head. Ouch. Oh yeah – the no health insurance deal. His dad had to pick up the hospital tab. Double ouch.

Crash #3.

This occurred just a few months ago. I’m driving home from work, stuck in traffic on Lake City Way, it’s dark and raining. Some guy rides by at about 8 mph in the bus lane, on a department store mountain bike, seat 6 inches too low, all dark clothes, parka hood pulled up. I’m thinking that dude is just asking to get hit. Doesn’t take a crystal ball to see what happens next.

Within 10 seconds of thinking the guy was toast, he cuts across a Starbucks parking lot and gets flattened by an SUV pulling into a parking space. It was sort of a slow motion hit, dude remained upright for a second or so, then collapses to the ground. Driver gets out and calmly talks to the guy, now sitting on the ground. I’m thinking SUV guy is going to climb back in and take off.

He doesn’t run and picks the bike off the wet pavement. The rear wheel is bent into a U shape, so was hit fairly hard. SUV guy talks to hurt bike dude some more, then goes into Starbucks to get help - I hope.

I thought about pulling into the lot myself to check it out, but decided against it, since a Starbucks full of customers witnessed the whole thing – probably armed with cell phones, since every human on earth now has one.

The light changed and my traffic crawl continued. Show was over.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday Escape

After two weeks of trading colds in the house and not riding to work for a week, I managed to squeeze in a quick mountain bike ride today. My favorite person to ride with, my son Ian, elected to skip it, leaving me for a solo cruise. After a busy week at work and home, some time to myself was a good thing.

I hit the local woods, Saint Edward State Park and Big Finn Hill Park, two adjacent parks that total a few hundred acres of woods - laced with fun singletrack. I can hit this right from the garage, no car trip required. I'm pretty damn lucky to have an off-road area rideable from the house. I've actually had access to local woods from everywhere I've lived for most of my life - that's better then hitting the lottery.

Trails today were in great shape, temps in the 40's, and hardly anyone else sharing them. I did run into an old co-worker and fellow riding pal, Jim Magnuson. We chatted for a bit and headed in opposite directions. A welcome interruption to the festivities. I've been on a networking binge lately, through Facebook and email, so almost ESP like to run into someone on the list.

The ride was just a pleasant cruise through the trees, no rush today at all. It's only February, way too early to pretend you're fast. These little escapes into the woods are better to me then a paid vacation to some tourist trap - and a lot cheaper.

Bikes are the ultimate escape hatches. You knew that already - a little reminder can't hurt.