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Monday, August 28, 2006 - my best guess for my route to Normal.

quick notes while I'm catching up - ride out was rain free :-) Yes, it started to drizzle upon my arrival.

Ride back had mist for half of it... but more importantly, the South wind had reversed to North... tailwind both ways :-)

Rode by a "wakenhut security" truck on 1300 ... when I saw that this truck parked in the middle of nowhere was occupied, I waved. He rode out to let me know that the road was chewed up at the next turn, and advised me to go south a mile and then take 1200 into Arrowsmith, and that there was an abandoned house a little ways East if the rain broke bad. Made me figure that a: he knew how to "be security" and still promote P.R. and b: people trekking across the plains on bicycles were not so strange to him (and he knew the significance of gravel).

The people of Downs were also really friendly - I rode by a church and stopped at the gas station and people were greeting me and smiling as if I were a minor celebrity. I s'pose enough people have done charity cross-country rides or something?

LIB meeting... high points later ;-) (and I've got a couple of pictures from the ride)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I remember now! Dropped in at Minus Car...

... had a slightly eye-opening experience with the TV on wahtever channel it was on at my friends' house. On whatever show it was, a couple was being instructed in how to keep from losing their house. Draconian measures were necessary because they had spent themselves silly. THis included cutting off DirectTV. (Yes, there was a little bit of Jerry-Springer-ness about the show. These characters were being displayed like the stereotypical future-trailer-trash-of-America. I gotta wonder if they watched it themselves... but I didn't watch it all the way through so I don't know if they had DirecTV at the end.)
People I know and love, though, are always broke, always behind... but set themselves up with unnecessary financial demands such as multiple pets and pay-per-view. I am mystified - but a little less so now. I know "media pressure" is part of it... but ... that's too easy.
So, these guys *knew* that they were going to have it cut off... but, oh, they were sitting watching it and BANG! it just went off and it was awful, horrible... I mean, what kind of people were they, they didn't even deserve TV?
Click! A: Other Unseen Forces Determine Your Worth, and B: Your Worth is Expressed By What Material Privileges YOu Can Access.
Personally, I don't think The Evil MEdia taught that, unless by default if nothing else was.
WIth that framework, the entire concept of Making THe BEst Of Your Situation is foreign. Making? DOing?
It makes the attitude of that "reporter" in the Quad Cities rag almost make a little sense...
Time to make and to some myself...

Three things:
1. Snork! So a faculty member comes in to ask me a route question... to wit: was that tunnel in the Kauffman bike path as scary as it looked? Welp, my computer is right here... let me demonstrate... yup, it is. Here she was, a live human saying "the sign said bikeway, so I thought it would be good..." and yes, she found the graffiti and the question "who's on the other *side* of the tunnel?" a bit daunting, too. She took Country Fair... but I will show her the non-tunnel option where you have to know to cut through the school and sneak through the back fence.

2. Aspiring commuters often wonder "how can you be so brave?" about traffic.
Driving and riding are both things that take experience and practice; it's a series of very fast processes where we anticipate actions and trajectories and speeds. Just as they taught me in driver's ed to scan and anticipate, I can do the same thing as a cyclist; some of the specific scans are a little different, but the principle is the same, and it simply doesn't happen overnight. An example:
I was going back from Parkland at 10:00 p.m. ... dark :-) ... I noticed a truck in the parking lot to my right. Hmmm... he'll prob'ly come out here, prob'ly bound for the INterstate... there's a RR between here and there that will slow him a little more... I went out another foot in myh lane, told my HI-Viz camelbak and my two bright blinkies to be vibrant, and sped up. Where the road split to the right turn lane, I went out into the middle lane.
The truck came out, slowed for the RR tracks (but not much; sounded empty), and then simply hung back until its right turn to the INterstate Access Road.
I reflected that I could have slowed down and hunkered over... and in that "instant trajectory processing," that driver would have been far more likely to go around me and then turn right - and even if it weren't a close call it would have been uncomfortable - exactly the kind of situation that makes somebody say "You're so brave do do that!"
It's not a bout trying to play chicken with a truck. Had the driver been more assertive, a little faster, any of a number of signs that he wasn't quite paying attention... I'd have been over to the right like a little flea and given him all the room in the world, well before things were even close... and it still would have been a relative non-event.
(To all you folks in *real* cities: it's a totally different story. I'd have been trying to figure out that truck and the fifteen cars in my immediate presence, in the dark... an entirely different concept!)

Three: ... I can't remember... maybe this: Went to Za's and had to park the bike unlocked while we had our meeting, which meant watching it closely, and realizing that (at least in this town) that thing really attracts attention. Goal: update so that it's a good resource for potential riders or people with questions... and then put *somewhere* visible on the bike.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Somewhat sultry saunter today- about 99% relative humidity. Still, it was supposed to be rain ... the goddess's reputation is intact :-)
Took a cruise to see just how good/bad Philo Road is to ride on, and check out the roads of Far East Urbana (South of Washington, at any rate). The Golden Goat is still alive and well in the Blighted Philo ROad Business District, at 30 cents a pound for my cans. While I was waiting my turn (hey! it's Urbana!) a couple arrived at the parking lot (which, of course, is pretty darned empty 'cause the IGA is deceased even if the Goat is fine). Lady on a vintage Schwinn... guy on a sleek Bianchi fixie.
So Mike (hi! bet you find this eventually :-)) is into things sustainable, thought the Xtracycle was neat (and needed a lot less explanation than most :-)) and doesn't know where the good places to ride are. Do we need a map or what? His girlfriend was riding that bike for the *third* day since learnign to ride. YOU GO GIRL!!!!! (I never would have known.) Hey, try :-) :-)

Friday, August 18, 2006

rainbow over Champaign
Picture is from yesterday's ride. Kept the route home to 23 'cause I was late getting out... today it's *very* rainy but that's what plastic is for, right? Frozen-bagel bags are perfect for the cell phone, the flash drive, and John's digital recorder.

Aparrel decision: Wear the rain suit so graciously given to me at GITAP (GORE-Tex!!) ... and cook; it breathes fine but it's designed for November rains, not August.
Or - hey, it sounded good in theory - decide "I'm gonna get wet!" and regress to childhood and enjoy it. So, I put on the light windbreaker, those dayglo motorcycle rainsuit pants over the sweats, and sandals, and hopped on board and dared it to downpour.
The theory works :-)
It's still fun to ride in the rain, especially when it stays gentle.
I got here looking like the proverbial drowned rat (gotta get that haircut), and going in to change, Peggy's in there (utterly sharply groomed, making some fine adjustment) and says "I guess some days are more fun to ride in than others!"
I knew if I just said "yes!" that she'd think I was agreeing with her, so I explained the process... she agreed that yes, at least it was warm!
Whenever I have that kind of exchange I think "and this is a person who would say at my funeral, 'such childlike joy!'" and it reminds me of that M*A*S*H* episode where Hawkeye does that eternal monologue when he's concussed himself, in the Korean home, and he knows they are awash with bemusement, and yet it's the closest thing to that precious communication we have, so we keep trying... honestly, childlike joy is there for **anybody,** it's here, right here, in the middle of the strife; you don't have to deny the strife to accept the joy. You gotta love your opposable thumbs...
Okay, I wore sandals, not hip-waders, so I'll stop now... and plan for those Great Things to Accomplish so I can justify a Sweet Long Ride :) :) :)

Thursday, August 17, 2006 - biking, bubble gum and belize ... I can identify with deciding to "ride off" that pesky piece of gum on the tire!

I'm seriously thinking that I want to ride to the LIB meeting in Bloomington next week. It's 55 miles or so from Mahomet, where we'll have our big club ride Saturday... so if I leave by 3, I can be there by dark and I have lights. Coming back will be 10 miles longer (plus whatever else I ride out there). I have a cell phone. THink I'll hit up the friends to be aware that I'm roaming. How different is it, really, from driving? Stuff can happen anywhere, any time.
Jury is still out: does she really not want to drive the car? Or does she really want to boost that Bike Journal ranking? Naw, she really wants a NICE LONG RIDE. And heck, the next week I can ride down to Arthur and then do the Tour de Manure in Amish country. That's only 40 miles to get there, so a nice little century if I do the metric and then come back.
Maybe I can use it as incentive to Accomplish Great Things between now and then so I have time to do it... like that commuter map...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Oh, and the "all the blogs" on bikeblogs has a category for *everything* - mountain bikers, "29 inchers," fixed gears... oh, but the commuting blogs are lumped under "miscellaneous."

Why does cycling have to be a hobby?

Pedestrian Cyclist Advisory Commission meeting ramblings (pardon the typos for just now):
Last night's meeting was an interesting one and perhaps can help us in figuring out ways to be as effective as possible in influencing the future of bike travel in this area.
Endorsement of "International Walk to School" day was neat.
I liked the ending the best (like a movie, eh?)... at first it looked as if Gary Cziko (there were what? 3 or 4 Gary's there, so need to clarify) was going to be the lone "Paths?!? Why are you trying to make me get on a path?? What part of Paths are more dangerous don't you understand?" voice in the room, with echoes from myself... but then other voices joined the chorus, including words to the effect of "go to _____ and _____ [anywhere that *has* bike lanes and complete streets] - it's better for motorists too. You know where the bikes are and they're predictable. It is the way to go for the future." Rick said it a whole lot better than that - but reminded everybody that yes, the future can and should look different for transportation in Urbana!
However, conspicuously missing was any mention of the main reason we cited for not delaying meetings 'til the fall: current and imminent road projects.
And, for a stretch, it was a lovely venue for slide shows telling us selected parts of projects so that we could offer our suggestions for whether the chosen signs telling us not to ride our bikes should be white on black or black on white.

The other conspicuously missing aspect - except when somebody from our peanut gallery pointed it out - was that utterly novel idea that cyclists ride on roads. At first I was assuming that well, of course, road cyclists shouldn't hog the agenda... but now, having assimilated the evening and the utter emphasis on sidepaths and "walk the bikes" wiht zilch, zero, zip nada about riding on the street instead, I'd like to see the video 'cause the emphasis really struck me at one point when Bill Gray essentially said "no bikes downtown" without modifiers... not "no bikes on the sidewalk," just "No bikes." That and a few dozen other references have me thinking that yes, cyclists are still perceived as a splinter interest group - much like the disdained people who called in a frenzy about the "ugliness" of the "walk your bike" emblazonings.
I wish they'd turn around and see the moms out there in the audience - but I know these perceptions are *hard* to change.
I think Gary's question "where *is* anything, *anything*, done to make things better for cyclists using the roads?" is one that bears repeating (it effectively challenged my "maybe we'll get our turn" feelings).
Also - da man said that "share the road" signs weren't a liability problem.
How 'bout we take him up on that? Unless he said that because his ace in his hole was "we can always say we can't afford it," or "that would be sign pollution," so he wouldn't have to do it anyway, we could at least ask that if there's a "walk the bike" sign, there should also be a "share the road" sign.
But... more importantly... how do we get the actual road *stuff* on the agenda?
And, if and when we do... how can we present a unified voice (Gary, maybe we can work out some harmonies - bring the Jazz cycle :-)) ?
Oh, and Brandon Bowersox did add "comments from the public" to the agenda ( so that if there are issues people want to talk about they could and they don't have to be on the advisory commission.
If we're really assertive we can even jump in and participate in some of the education stuff - but that was also treated somewhat dismissively ("it all takes funding"). Seemed the schools don't want to add things to their curricula - but are much more open to somebody coming in and doing a show (makes sense to this former classroom teacher :-)). So, how do we organize a show? How do we get it to include that radical notion of "driving your bke" on the street? I don't think we need the expensive props Bill Gray described because we have more open parking lot space. Track stand contests would even be sort of safe :-)
The other big item on the agenda was the presentation of what the Greenways and Trails folks do. My thinking was that okay, that's nice and it needs to be enthusiastically endorsed. Now I'm agreeing with Gary, though, that the unspoken assumption was "okay, see what we are doing for you cyclists? Everybody's happy now, right?" and that they do NOT see the people who are going more than 10 mph.
Brandon Bowersox made the excellent poing (I think it's excellent 'cause I was going to make it ;-)) that signage could make a big difference and that clarifying that faster travelers *should* be on the street should be part of the project.
I was wonderign to myself whether we should press the points about defining paths or not. If htey're not defined for a while, and we get a whole lot of things that could then be defined as "sidewalks" (I'm thinknig the pavement that used to be bike path along Green, near Wright as an example), then we have an argument for not designating the fragments of "bike paths" as for bikes since obviously they're such fragments that cyclists going mroe than a block or two should be on the street.
On the other hand, there might already be enough of those walks, and it's time to say "stop pretending this is where bikes belong, and let the drivers *and* the cyclists know it's better driving the bike as a vehicle." I have watched so many bike riders imitate me, and I remember going on my first forays and watching, looking for signs, and basically trying to figure out where I was expected to go. However, I'm a little more determined than most; lots of folks I've talked to have "tried to ride but there was too much confusion."
Which means we need those maps, which means I need to be able to get out and do more asphalt sniffing, which means I need to get other things done :-))

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The latest photo essay... the "country fair" path vs. road. THe path is totally separate... from a lot of things, including itself sometimes. (THe very last page is less analytical and more polemical... well, what can I say? I didn't *ask* David and Cindy to ride by right then.)

Forgot to link to *this* little blurb about the Rockford bike maps :

Monday, August 14, 2006

Nifty Op-Ed piece from Alabama: "Bicycles begin to edge into state and local policy decisions." Please, let this be asign of the times!
Bicycle/Ped meeting tomorrow night at Urbana City Council Chambers. Time to read agenda!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Another Xtracycle... or two... joins the fold!

Went down to the Iron Post to drop a buck in the WEFT bucket and say hi to Gary Cziko on his Jazz Cycle, and he was talking about Xtracycles, telling me somebody in town just got one, which of course I was riding. Went in to also support the establishment (which, for the record, I will be far more willing to patronize when it's smoke free - the music's a major attraction, I MISS THE BIRCHMERE and I'll settle for close and live) and a fellow had the Harry Potter movie on so we chatted about htat and when I came back there was the Xtracycle Gary'd alluded to, with Peapod and footies, less than 24 hours old. Sweet :-)

Scrumptious saunter today. To almost-St.Joe (but I forgot to go look at the donkeys!) and back... with most folks going to St. Joe or HOmer Lake or Ogden. Basically three more Saunters to go, OH MY!!! (Then it's still riding season but the Amish Ride, etc. will freely interfere).
Still seeing more bikes and it ain't even student season yet. Will endeavor to find "suggest a story" spots on local news and suggest a "Get some lights for your danged bike, people!" story. Wish I could find my big one...

Last night I did a 31-mile commute back, with a major tailwind heading west that wasn't *too* bad coming back through town. At the far reaches of the road, went by dude in pickup in driveway who made a generic greeting and then an indescribably visceral delight "Young lady!!" as if he hadn't seen one in years. Snork :-)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"De-motorize your soul" -

Just another "spiritual call to abandon the car." Has a few familiar entities on it.

Did another cruise looking for routes: pretty nice, tho' it's basically a little over a mile longer than shooting straight out Green St. Have to try it westbound, too, but I don't think there are any single-directional issues (such as getting from Round Barn to Green, which is somehow nastier than getting from Green to Round Barn in the morning - but that could be illusory or just a function of 7:40 vs. 5:15).
Duly note that I went on the stretch of St. Mary's that's marked, wiht a faded sign, "Narrow road: no jogging, bicycling, or roller??ing." (can't remember - maybe it actually said rollerblading?) I was already committed (you can't read the sign from the intersection too well), and was amused because of course there was a jogger there, too. (No inline folks, though.) I did choose to off-road it onto the well manicured grass where some official-looking folks were flushing out a fire hydrand into the road. They pretended I didn't exist. Yes, the road was narrow and nasty for less than a hundred yards; then visibility was fine. Lots of other more dangerous spots in town.
However, going down Fourth Street and hopping onto the "multi-use" at Florida will be pleasing to many folks.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I tried the bike path alternative to COuntry Fair road, since at least one person swears there's a reasonable way to get back down to John using it; the 1990 bike path map shows something exuding from the end of Kenwood.
Yuk! First you're confronted with a "Do NOt Cross: Foot Traffic Only" bridge (that's got cones and ropes to strongly encourage that behavior and, it appears, to keep people off a part of the bridge that looks particularly rotten). Then there's that lovely underpass that only *looks* too short for me... but also involves seriously broken up concrete. Then we wind around through graffiti-sprayed places until... gravel city, which I summoned the nerve to ride through a bit but even on my hybrid tires and looong wheel base I figured I was playing with the odds - one of those chunks of gravel/concrete was going to either slice my tread or send me splatting. Then there's one more narrow wooden bridge and ... gosh, welcome to Springfield Ave (going the wrong direction, of course).
I cruised around a little and it gave me flashbacks to P.G. County - yes, there might have been a way through... created by outlaws needing an escape route, and that's who you'd find there. Urban survival radar was defnitely activated.

No, I think personally I'll stick to dodging the cars on Country Fair. The road is actually wide enough.
Today's radar included an amusing "circle of rain" around C-U, though it wasn't in the middle. I've saved it & will post when I'm where it's easier to do that.

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