MonthOctober 2011

Oh, Canada!

I just read a great article from the Canadian newspaper, The Star, focusing on how the US has placed an entrance fee upon Canadian travelers entering the United States.  On my Facebook page I mentioned how while this is only a small fee of $5.50 it does nothing to help our relations with our neighbor to the north.

You would think that in a time of  economic turmoil we would open our arms to travelers from all over the world so they might come over and experience our culture — and spend their money.  However we aren’t, we’re slapping a silly fee on them.

The last time I went to Canada I was detained and eventually denied entry to their country.  The reason?  I wasn’t able to support myself for the duration of my stay and they were afraid I would simply not ever leave.  Now, Vancouver, BC is one of the most beautiful places on this planet but I’m sure I would eventually want to leave.

You see, my mom happens to be a flight attendant, that means I don’t need a ticket like most people.  I simply call and list for a flight, go to the airport and hop on a plane.  the Vancouver Airport Police didn’t understand this, and with my inability to provide a return ticket they were worried.  And they saw my backpack loaded down with a tarp, rain gear, alcohol Pepsi-can stove, and weeks worth of oatmeal.

“What is this guy doing?  he must be smuggling drugs…”  (I did look like this at the time)

I eventually made it back to the US, flew to San Francisco and had a trip of my lifetime.  Want to read more about it?

Journey of Self Determination or: How To Regain Controll of My Universe By Letting Go

What Would Janis Do?

First Class Ticket to a new Perspective…

The Beauty of People

Arlington Zombie Ride

Photo courtesy of Lindsey Juarez

What happens when Zombies figure out how to ride a bike?  Read Sarah Lutz’s Cyc-ology blog and find out!  I can tell you that we rode around the Ranger’s Stadium during the World Series Game 3 and got some great spectator responses!

Tandem Zombies!  Photo Sarah Lutz

A Better Bridge: Making way for the Human Element within the Big City

Photo courtesy the Dallas Observer

Yesterday saw the people of Dallas turn a bridge built for motorists into a place where people in the community can walk, play chess and look through binoculars to see the Great Trinity Forrest below their feet.  An awesome accomplishment by Jason Roberts of Oak Cliff which left Dallas City Council members asking “why can’t we do this NOW?”

Guest Post: A Bicycle Party

“What is wrong with those people?”
On a lonely shoulder just south of the sprawling Metroplex, the Pondering Cyclist and I pushed on into the wind and rain. Our legs were tired and cold and back at camp, most of our friends had called in for a ride home. Motorists flew by and looked at our sad and soggy backs, wondering why anyone in their right mind would be out on a bicycle in this mess. But if they had grabbed a look in their rearview mirror, they would have seen two beaming smiles laughing at the wind, oblivious to any downside.
Two days earlier, the crew of the UTA Maverick Bike Shop left our humble closet/workshop with 12 brave souls in all. Some were on bikes borrowed from the shop while others rode a mix of mountain and road bikes loaded for a weekend camping trip to Cedar Hill State Park. The only thing that varied more than the bikes were the riders. Experiences ranged from almost none at all to daily commuters as well as former racers.

Start of the trip at the MAC at UTA. We started Friday afternoon with 12 brave souls and only 2 of us ended up riding back in the rain on Sunday.

This of course made the ride to camp a bit of a challenge. The group would stretch out, catch up at lights and intersections, pull into parking lots to regroup, whatever was needed to keep everybody together. I’ll admit to getting frustrated with the pace at points. I tried to keep the rabbit of the group, a friend on his Surly Cross Check commuter bike, in check at the front and often we’d pull over to make sure everyone would regroup.
Eventually, at one stoplight, I came up next to one of the bikes that had spent a lot of time in the back of the group. It was a borrowed tandem that had begun the morning with no wheels. A young Indian couple had decided to ride it for the trip and after getting the bike together, the shop set them up with a trailer as well. Between their friends helping them load down the trailer, not having ridden a bike much, and a particularly strong headwind for most of the way, it had been slow going for them. You would expect them to be miserable. But as we left the light, I looked over at his face and there was only a smile. No grimace or signs of fatigue; just a smile.
On the way there we took the dam that borders the north end of Joe Pool Lake.  With no turns ahead and a few miles of no cars, I took the opportunity to stretch my legs up front. After finding a comfortable pace, the Pondering Cyclist pulled up and decided I wasn’t going fast enough. So he pulled me along and we chatted while fighting the crosswind and took in the view of the lake with flowing, silver waves under a glowing, cloudless sky.
At the campsite, we met up with another group that rode out from Switching Gears Cyclery in Dallas. The shop owner, Colin, brought a group of four riders as well as a follow car driven by his girlfriend, Andee. Along with the follow car, he also brought a lovely propane camp stove and a palatial six-person tent; luxuries usually forgone with Spartan bike camping, but indispensible to cooking for large groups.
The two groups mixed and shared stories about the ride over. Our shop manager, Ellie, brought out some pizza and we spent the next few hours talking into the night. We wandered out to the edge of the lake and the heavily receded shoreline. We even spotted a skunk several times throughout the night wandering the dried up beach.

The campgrounds were so thoroughly dry when we got there, huge dried out crevices scarred the hills. One even made for a sufficient bicycle stand. Mother nature remedied the dryness the second night on into the morning and most of the day.

The next morning, a small group took a ride to downtown cedar Hill to pay a visit to local favorite Sam’s Pizza. We started the ride by climbing out of the park and turning south straight into the wind and up a hill that kept our max speed to about 15 mph. It was painful, but if anyone mentioned it, it was only to yell excitedly with a huge grin.
What happened next can only be described as the magic of cycling. Upon approaching downtown Cedar Hill, every road to Sam’s was blocked off with lots of commotion on the other side. A nice lady informed us that we can’t go that way until the parade is over.
“Parade? What parade?”
It was Country Day on the Hill, the streets were bustling with people and vendors while music and delicious smells hung in the air. I call this moment the magic of cycling because while the bicycle riders exchanged high-fives and asked, “How cool is this?” several folks in cars drove by and, when told they aren’t allowed down that road just yet, immediately flashed looks of frustration.
After making our way through the crowd and an amazing lunch at Sam’s we wandered the festival, taking in the spectacle. We watched the band for a bit, got a kick out of 5 or 6 little kids dancing, perused to produce stand and bought some homemade hot sauce and jams. We even had a nice chat with the Cedar Hill Tea Party who said “Why not?” to bike lanes and gave us some small American flags which found homes on our bicycles for the remainder of the weekend.

A gift from the Tea Party of Cedar Hill.

The ride back was a nice break from the headwind of the previous day and the ride over. The wind was to our backs and the road fell downward. I found the hardest gear the bike had and the Pondering Cyclist and I hit about 40 mph and jumped over a couple of lanes in front of cars afraid to pass us as we made our left turn back into the park.
As night approached, so did the storm. While the sun fell, the campers watched the lightning show over the lake, waiting for the rain to come. Colin cooked up some chicken and onions on the propane stove as the temperature dropped and the rain jackets came out. The rain sputtered on and off, but the radar told us the night on into the morning would be a different story.
I awoke to spots of on and off rain. A quick glance at the radar on my phone (camping in the 21st century) told me that an onslaught was coming. I got up quickly, dressed and packed my gear. We watched as the once dry dirt was pummeled into a slurry of thick clay as we stood under the awning at the Swtiching Gears site. The longer we stood, the worse it got.
7 campers from UTA had returned the previous day. Three more found rides in dry cars. Only one camper from Dallas had ridden his bicycle back. Once I announced I was about to head out on my bicycle the Pondering cyclist, almost ready to call it in himself, decided that I shouldn’t be the only one having all the fun. So off we went, into the elements.
And there we were, having as much fun as we’ve had all weekend. At every turn, a smile. At every roadblock, a new adventure. Every headwind a losing battle against Mother Nature you immediately give in to, but still enjoy deep down. And drivers look on, with a mixed expression of confusion and consternation, asking, “What is wrong with those people?”

Want to join us in 2012? 
 Head over to the event page HERE!

Jonathan Whitney has over the years ‘down graded’ from motorcycles to bicycles but don’t worry, he still loves to go fast on two wheels.  Currently enrolled at the University of Texas- Arlington studying aero-space engineering and working part time at the Maverick Bike Shop he is a true rebel.  Just don’t mention Ben Spies because he won’t be able to control himself and might start giggling like a school girl.

Do you like to explore? Love to ride your bike, camp, meet people or experience amazing places and things? Im looking for you! Yes, I’m opening my blog up to other open-minded people who want to share what is whithin themselves and what they love to do. Interested? Send me an EMAIL and let’s talk!

Im really looking forward to what might come from this! See you all down the road!

Rain Gear and Bike Tripping

It’s beginning to look a lot like… FALL!  Here in Texas we are finally starting to see the weather change – I actually put on pants the other day – the mornings are cooler and this wet stuff fell from the sky which I haven’t seen in ages.  Rain.

The wonderful, if not drizzly, Fall weather as seen through my yellow-tinted sunglasses.  Yellow lenses are a great way to brighten up a dark day.

Yes, it’s that time of year to start talking about rain gear.  I don’t know about you but I’d rather not stop riding simply because it’s drizzling out.  I love riding in the rain, some of my favorite times on a bike have been during showers, when all your energy is going to moving forward even as you lean sideways in to the crosswind.

But you don’t have to ride during thunderstorms or when it’s hailing like I do to realize how important a good rain jacket is.

Our group about to leave the Maverick Bike Shop at UTA to ride out to Cedar Hill State Park.  “Oh, it’s only 13 miles!”  Actually it was 22 miles of crazy head winds.  Thank you Jonathan Whitney for the photo.

This weekend gave me a great opportunity to test out rain gear while out on a group bike-camping trip to the lake.  Starting out with nearly perfect conditions (save that hellacious south wind) it was hard to keep the additional weight of my rain shell in my bag but I knew better than to take it out.  This time of year in Texas is like any other day in the mountains, you never know what Mother Nature might throw at you.
After 20 miles of us beating our heads against the wall of wind we made it to camp, ate some food and got to relax.  The next day was equally enjoyable with a ride to Cedar Hill for its Country Day on the Hill Festival where we sampled some of the most amazing salsa ever.  But that night it all started to change.


Jeremy had to go over to the stage to check out the Saxophonists’ skills and liked what he heard.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a photo of him skipping like a schoolboy while holding his free balloon.  Oh well!     Photo: Jonathan Whitney

We had front row seats the laser-light show of the century as we sat on the bank of the lake and watched the storm roll in.  This, though, wasn’t just any old rain cloud.  Looking at Google we saw a storm system the size of Alaska moving ever so slowly toward us.  But we were ready!
I have two pieces of raingear which I have learned to love and a few other items which are also very important but, just like everything else, it’s not always right for the situation.  But more on that later.
Rain Jacket and Pants:
Last winter I got a pair of Craft cycling rain pants and quickly fell into a great relationship with them.  Quite simply, they’re awesome.  With mesh above the crotch and butt to allow heat to escape as well as a Velcro strap to streamline the lower leg so the fabric is away from the frame and drivetrain they are about as perfect a rain pant as I could imagine.  And my jacket?  Yeah it’s nice, too!  Simple, light and easy to use it also includes a cool hood that has a small visor and a very useful rear pull cord that cinches the sides of the hood out of your peripheral vision.
And yes, I prefer the two-piece suit to the poncho.  We aren’t backpacking here, we’re riding bikes.

The question of the day was whether or not to put your helmet under or over the hood.  While riding I actually don’t use the hood, it gets much too hot.  Notice the rain pants, get some and you’ll understand.
While it was nice to have this standing beneath the awning, crowded shoulder to shoulder around the picnic table it quickly got a little warm when the two of us who decided to ride back rather than sag in started off down the road and up the hills.  Sure, the temperature was in the low 60’s (cold to us Texans) but wrap your body in plastic and it suddenly feels like a sauna.
You see, rain gear does a damn good job keeping water out but it is also a vapor barrier.  This means that as you ride your body will begin to warm up to a point that is much hotter than the temperature outside.  This not only makes you sweat but condensation will start to collect inside the rain suit.  This is what I don’t like.
I grew up racing on the road and unless it was 30 degrees and raining outside I wouldn’t wear a rain jacket.  Sure, I would wear a wind vest, arm warmers, tights – all of that – but not the Plastic Suit. 
It’s because I was working so hard, I would get hot and I needed ventilation!  Now a days I don’t ride quite so fast and my wardrobe is starting to resemble that of a traditional bike tourist’s but not totally.  And the ride home from our campsite, sweating like a madman inside my Polypropylene Sarcophagus reminded me of this!
I’ll still bring my rain suit because it’s nice to have that super-light shell but while riding it really just depends on my pace and whether or not it’s really cold enough.  But then again, personal preference reigns, do what you want, experiment and find out what works for you!
Aside from all that the one article of gear that is incredibly handy to have for rainy excursions is a cycling cap.  Just flip the brim down over your eyes and you can ride all day and still be able to see the road!  Even in a downpour!

What camp DOESN’T need a good dog?

Thank you Jonathan Whitney for this awesome pic!

When I see an adult on a bicycle I do not despair for the future of the human race. –H.G.Wells

Paving the Way

I met with one of my readers last week to discuss the idea for an event that would unite the cycling clans of Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington. It was a great time but what I took away from it was a history lesson and new respect for what we now do every day.

Tim is a cyclist but also has a great affinity for history. Specifically Texas history. He told me the story of Tom Monagan who in 1870 rode from Dallas to Fort Worth on a high wheeler (also called an ordinary or penny farthing) in one day.

Tom Monagan, Courtesy of the Dallas Historical Society

I know, “Fifty miles in one day? That’s easy, I do that every day I go ride!” Well, in the days before pneumatic tires, when men rode bikes whose wheels were tread with iron bands, and the idea of a road as we think of it today was something no one now can even comprehend, well, it was a feat to be celebrated!

You have to remember that back in the day wheelmen, as they were called, were fighting for roads as we do today but they were fighting to have an alternative to a rutted out dirt track which when wet would turn in to an impassable bog. They got what they wanted after the formation of the League of American Wheelmen who later went on to lobby the government for the very first interstate system. Yes, cyclists are responsible for the roads that are driven on by all those gas-guzzling Suburbans who try to run us off of OUR roads. Funny.

Tim gave me the transcript to a later newspaper article which was written on Dec. 5th 1892 where seven wheelmen left Dallas to ride all the way to Fort Worth.

A Bicycle Party
Makes a Run to Fort Worth Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon, five tired wheelmen came in to Fort Worth, having been on the road from Dallas since 9 in the morning.

When the party started, it numbered seven, but one fell at Grand Prairie and another at Handley, the five continuing the fight against rough roads and a head wind until Fort Worth was reached. The starters were: W.L Springfield, H.M Covey, John Toieller, W.M Sechheimer, Chas. Phillips, P.T. Eutrikan, L.W. New.

The two last named were the ones who dropped out of the tour. Five of the Starters were L. A. W. men.

It is not any sense a matter for surprise that these two gentlemen stopped, but more a matter for surprise that any come on. After leaving Trinity bottom, this side of Dallas, it was almost a continuous succession of ruts, some so hard and deep that they were of a size that would threaten the integrity of a wagon, and made wheeling impossible.

But little of the road was good, but the boys toiled on until the goal was achieved. Not an accident of any kind marred the trip, though it was disappointing to wheelmen.

All rode pneumatic tires. They went home by the 6:40 Teas and Pacific.

-Dec 5, 1892, Dallas Times Herrald, p.5, col.2.

Bike Theft Around Town.


UT Arlington using ‘Bait Bikes’ to Curb Bicycle Theft,0,1909503.story