Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Usualy Harrisburg drops a big strawberry, but this year they are funkin it up a bit because of the cow parade art exhibit moooooving through town, so an artist designed a strawberry cow. Cool.
Easy riding on the commute. But for the second day I had a honker and this guy wasn't as polite as yesterday. I couldn't even get a look at his license because it was encased in foggy plastic, thats gotta be illegal. Anyway, he couldn't wait about 20 yards until I passed a parked car and would be getting back over, I even signalled my intentions to do so. All so he could blare a couple hundred feet ahead a whole 5 seconds sooner.
Commute Song of the Day: What else - "Auld Lang Syne"
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Today I acted as honorary sanitation engineer. Combine a gusty winter day (I was in 1st gear much of the way facing the head winds coming down the Susquehanna River Valley), with lots and lots of garbage bags on the pickup after xmas, with lots and lots of wrapping paper, and you have lots of plastic tumbleweeds cruising down bridge st. Of course cars are unlikely to stop as they are in a rush to get that good parking space or to make up for the time they sit in congestion,. And of course, by the time a driver going 35 mph sees such a tumbleweed in the street, it is too late to stop to do anything, and even if you could stop, where would you do so without holding up traffic? I know from experience, I am a driver at times too.
I grabbed one such tumbleweed from along Bridge St today and carried it with me as I rode until I got to a nice big, coved-in pile that I could shelter it in until the pros came along. A big semi driver who had just pulled out behind me and realized what I was doing as I was setting my bike down on the roadside even stopped and waved me over. Thanks guy. If we all work together we make the roads and our communities safer.
Commute Song of the Day: "Dragonfly" by Ziggy Marley
Monday, December 29, 2003
So I would need my Alien today, when I hadn't thrown it into my pack yet. Nothing major though. Its just that when I was adjusting my seat post yesterday, I took off the bracket for my rear blinkie, and then I replaced it, but did so with it pointing downward further than it should have been. When I clicked the blinkie onto the bracket for the ride home tonight, I noticed that it was pointing downward, and the LED's are most effective when pointing towards thier target. So a phillip's head would have solved the problem in 2 seconds flat, but I was without, and chose to head home as is, instead of headiong back up to the office to grab one out of the toolkit there.
Just to pass along a car incident for all our enjoyment. I was heading home and in the right-hand lane of a two-lane in each direction. There was a nice shoulder that I would have been in except that there were numerous cars parked along it. And I just now realized that they probably shouldn't have been there. But a car came up behind me and honked, not laying it on or anything, but any honk gets up a cyclists ire when it is uncalled for. I simply waited until we passed the next shoulder-parked car and I emphatically gestured towards the parked car to let my trailer know that I wasn't capable of riding over, under, or through said cars. The car following me never peeped again, and patiently waited until their turnoff only a few more hundred feet ahead.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Santa's bicycle department had a few nice surprises for me this year. My brother met a fellow who owns an LBS while on his newest job and hooked me up with a new Park Tools Bike Cleaning Brush Set. A good gift considering my need to be more diligent on a regular maintenance routine. Cleaning a few key points on the bike can't hurt, but I'm sure I'll never get involved enough to make it shine (don't want to make it too attractive to anyone anyway you know?). Thanks Michael. By the way, Park Tools' web site is also a great source for learning about tools, parts, and maintenance techniques.
My parents gave me a Topeak Alien. This is a lightweight and compact multi-tool for carrying with me during my rides for taking care of any repair issues that may arise. Its really cool, with 23 functions. Thanks mom and dad.
And finally my cousin Carla who is a regular reader saw one of my needs and started saving newspaper bags for me over the past few weeks. She passed those along to me including the special Happy Holidays bag from the paper's christmas edition, so cool. I'll be riding down the road next rain fall with green wreath print and red happy holidays on my tootsies.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Now I'm not complaining. I am defenitely more of a fair-weather fan, though I like the drama and challenges that the snow and winter present. Especially in the backcountry when I go backpacking or some other such activity in this weather. Am planning just such a trip this year for the Laurel Highlands Trail in Laurel Ridge SP, more of a camping trip actually, though using the backcountry shelters, I don't think we will do as much hiking in as we will hanging by the fire and hoping to watch the snow fall all around us, but thats a month or two down the road.
In the meantime, I don't know what it is, could it be the fluctuating temperatures, that are making my bike components fall apart? The pedals on my Giant have lost two screws/bolts in one side that holds the central part of the pedal to the frame of the pedal. And although not an issue yet, I need to add a few connectors there before the whole thing falls off. I just get so lazy about it when I have to do it out on my cold and windy front porch in the dark of the one front light and my headlamp.
Monday, December 22, 2003
I for one can't wait for another month to pass so that once again it will be daylight out when I leave work for my commute home. I don't have any big issues with riding at night, my route is usually well lit, I have the necessary lights on my bike to handle my needs, and the Walnut St Bridge and City Island sure are lit up pretty. But my motivation will certainly increase from now on, and hopefully many others will too, so that more people once again come out and bike, or at least walk more.
On the other hand, I am possesive of my free and clear winter paths, and my solitude through Riverfront Park while night riding home. And I hate to wish for the passage of time as I did above, for time is so precious that I am trying to appreciate it all, good or bad circumstances surrounding it.
Commute song of the day: "Save the Last Dance for Me" by The Drifters
Friday, December 19, 2003
One part that I struggled with is that the Giant is a smaller frame size than my Diamondback (which fits me good), so the pedaling was harder, with my legs/knees being higher up into my center. Also there are only two gear sets instead of three, so I had to deal with that too. Hard to believe that I used the Giant exclusively when I started commuting back in April, because I didn't have the Diamondback at that time. And other than another loose pedal (and I should also note that the whole pedal arm fell off yesterday not just the pedal), I made the trip fine.
I saw one other commuter today, though didn't get a chance to chat. I'd like to learn more about my fellow commuter, maybe even feature them in a profile here. Maybe it will be easier to attempt that when the weather turns in the spring. This fella was geared up right with lights and helmet, but was not very recognizable in his riding patterns. I believe he came along side the red-light waiting cars at the west shore off the Market St bridge, then pushed forward through the red light while it was still red (although getting ready to turn green), then he stayed on the road being squeezed up into Lemoyne by not taking the lane, and then hopped up onto the sidewalk eventually where I ride it. Then he stayed on the sidewalk when entering the business district in Lemoyne where he should have got back on the road, then I lost him. Oh well, no harm no foul in this case, eh?
Commute song of the day: "The Hanukkah Song" by Adam Sandler
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Anyone know what that little cap is called, and if my problem might be with my pedal or the bottom bracket? And while we are at it, anyone know what the proper name for the type of bolt that snapped from my seat post yesterday is? I mean the kind with the round hex head, threads all the way to the head. If so, speak up please. I can't find one like it in any hardware store.
So tomorrow the back-up is defenitely coming out. I was able to avoid that today by switching out my seat post, since I couldn't fix it last night. And I switched it out from a 3rd bike I own. This is a Roadmaster (walmart,kmart??) that I found in my neighbors trash a few months back, and besides a slightly bent front rim, it had no major problems. So I took it, trued up the wheel the best I could, (it's rideable), and now keep it as another spare, and it looks like, a parts bike. So I took the seat and post off of it. Had to do the full switch cause the seat is one of the clamp on top of the post types, that my current seatpost won't accomodate. But it all worked in the end.
Commute song of the day: "16 Days" by Whiskeytown
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
So my seat post bolt just snapped. Who'd of thunk it, I wasn't even doing anything ruff or tuff, just flat and forward, and I have even lost weight since starting my commuting routine, so no jokes like that. Anyway, the other bummer is that the bottom bracket that holds my seat in place fell away with the bolt piece, and since I was on the Walnut St bridge, the open grate surfaces opened wide and the bracket lost itself in the Susquehanna River below. I pedaled standing the rest of the way to work, and never would have believed how tiring that is, especially on my arms, if I hadn't tried it.
So I had Sue pick me up on her way from the shop and we stopped by the LBS where they were kind enough to fish out a replacement bracket for me. They didn't have any replacement bolts though, so I tried the hardware on the way home and only found some typical bolts. I bought one to try, at least until I get a proper replacement. If nothing else, this might be a good opportunity to get my back-up bike out, or at least switch seats.
Thinking back to yesterday's rant on the plowing and clearing of city sidewalks, I have to ponder about how tough it would be to access the sidewalks if I were anything but a normal healthy individual. If I were physically challenged, had bad arthritis, used a wheel chair, or was elderly, I don't know how I would have negotiated over the big snow piles blocking the ramps onto the sidewalks, and blocking the curbs too. Who is thinking about this out there in municipal land? Anyone? Ever think about going out and finishing the job with a shovel in these access spots?
Commuting song of the day: "Hey Ya" by Andre3000 of OutKast. Genius, as Sue says.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Anyway, while stopping I hit a patch of ice and my bike slid out some but I had control and didn't go down. Back out onto the road and I figured I'd try around the next turn because right past the cab co.'s parking lot, the walk was cleared. But there was no clear ramp to get up from the road to the walk, so I kept to my normal route on the road across the bridge.
On my way home I discovered that the snow clearing doesn't follow any real pattern here. The sidewalk across Market St. Bridge in the westbound direction was clear, but was covered immediately past the bridge and half way up Market into Lemoyne, where it inexplicably became totally clear. Then I road past the old Hardee's parking lot and discovered that whoever cleared that seemed to have tossed the snow out onto the sidewalk so that the handful of people who park in there could do so. Maybe I'm mistaken but the snow and ice had to come from somewhere, and it was directly outside of where the old turn-in access to the parking lot is (though currently blocked off from traffic). I don't know what to think.
All in all the snow and ice did give me a tough little work out, especially on the uphills, on the sidewalks. Perhaps I'll change my tactics when the roads are dry through that Market St stretch, and the traffic is slow and backed up, at least until the sidewalk clears. And ain't it great to think about the winter solstice coming up in less than a week, so that the light starts coming back already, yeah!
Commuting song of the day: Stop by the Spice Girls (if you must know, I got it into my head while watching parts of their documentary at my parent's house during the Thanksgiving visit, and it just won't leave me alone!!)
Monday, December 15, 2003
To my surprise, the fare for the bus had risen from $1.35 to $1.50 since I last rode back in April before I started biking everyday. Now it costs me the same out-of-pocket to either ride the bus both ways, or drive and park at City Island for the day. Wonder how that affects people's decisions now to bus it or drive?
There were only myself and a father and son in the morning, coming home there were about 10 folks. The two behind me were in a discussion about how they were taking the bus because they didn't have driver's licenses, so that's 20% of the riders (that I know of) who were only on public transport cause they had to be, not out of choice.
Anyway, I plan to be back on the bike tomorrow again. Though I was thinking that even a further option than I discussed in a previous post is that I can walk the whole way home if need be. Probably take me about an hour or so, but hey good exercise anytime. As for the weather, check it out at the bottom of this page if you want a local Harrisburg forecast.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
Wildwestmuseum.org offers up another option for discussing important livable communities issues, including bicycle commuting. The general issues forum on their site is the place for this, and the Bicycle Commuting topic in the Other Harrisburg Issues forum is a place to do it. I invite you to voice your support for better bicycle education and facilities there (as well as here); and to start a thread of your own on any topic that may interest you. The important thing for you to do is to initiate and help maintain these discussions, so that everyone has as many options for learning about the issues as possible.
Holiday light hanging song of the day: Strays by Jane's Addiction
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Unfortunately there seems to be less people actually using the pedestraian walkways and bridge, and actually on city island, during these colder months, so its a good thing that anyone in the city with a view can take advantage of something like the lights from thier individual locations. You can also take a horse-drawn carriage ride during the light up season if you are so inclined, and want to dish out the cash, maybe for a romantic date ya know?
Looking back to yesterday's post, the article I linked to has itself a link to the PA Department of Transportation website if you're interested in more biking info, but not a direct link to that info, so I am providing one here. The Pennsylvania Bicycle Drivers Manual is a great resource concerning tips, skills, guidelines, etc for being safe and biking with traffic. A super resource if you are just starting out, or want a refresher, or live in PA and want to know your rights and responsibilities here. You can also get to the manual through the PennDOT Bike Safe page which has some games and further info, partially geared towards kids, but fun and informative none-the-less.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Anyhow, What a day to not be on my bicycle for the commute! The worst of all weather combinations, cold windy rain, was hitting hard the whole afternoon. In fact, it made my walk commute a challenge even. The angled rain was soaking my pants from the knees down, the deep puddles were soaking through my shoes, and my cheap umbrella broke as it was blown inside-out by the wind. Now the wind wasn't that bad, but the umbrella was really cheap, dollar store variety that we had bought as extras to have on hand at our outdoor wedding just in case of an needy folks and any inclement weather (thank goodness the weather was perfect then).
Anyhow, I didn't see any other bikers out today, so I don't think I was the only one to take the day off. But one thing people didn't take the day off from was visiting this site. How exciting to reach my highest one day readership yet - 128 hits! Now I don't have the software to keep track of this very religiously, but I do look at the list of referrers every day that the software I have generates (the info is regularly refreshed and hits are only kept for 24 hours). So when I take the time, I count up the hits, and today was the best yet. Thanks for stopping in, hope your enjoying the ride.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
So what are my options? 1) Sue can take me in and pick me up from work. This makes most sense on the days when she works at the shop because she can make the trips part of each other when the schedules work out that way. This is what we have done the past two days. 2) I can take the city bus system. This option is not attractive for a few reasons, though i have taken the bus home a number of times since working in Downtown Harrisburg, and will do so in the future. First, crowded buses mean lots of germs and I might want to steer clear of that while recovering, second the walk to and from my boarding and deboarding points is about 12 blocks cumulative, plus the time standing out in the cold waiting for the bus is a factor. None of which are a big deal normally, but I am trying to fight this cold bug ya know? 3) I can drive our second car to the City Island lot and walk. This option affords me the flexibility of coming and going on my own schedule and not the bus's, it affords a better walk through City Island and Riverfront Park as opposed to along the streets of New Cumberland and downtown Harrisburg (I get enough exhaust when I ride thank you), and it is only 30 cents more daily than the bus ride ($3.00 vs. $2.70). I know, I Know there are environmental and social concerns to think about like single occupant driving and supporting alt. and mass transit, but once again, I'm trying to beat this bug.
So when I can't bike commute, I'll use whatever option is available and the best at that time, its nice to have all available for now. The weather is also a factor for commuting, and honestly, may cause me to balk at riding some days, but I'll try my hardest not to let it do so. It's not the cold, but it is the conditions following the real heavy snowstorms when I know the shoulders of the roads won't be very clear, and when the sidewalks I can take as options will be plowed over with the roadway snow. This is especially the case crossing Market St Bridge. Really, I have only the options of being on the roadway or the sidewalk over the bridge. No other options, I have to cross the Susquehanna here. And when the snow and ice present themselves in this situation, I don't trust being on the road with the cars in this tight spot, and finally I would have major trouble getting on the sidewalk if you see how piled high with snow and ice chunks it is 2 or 3 days after our big storms passed through here. Any thoughts on this matter would be appreciated.
And while you're here sign my new guest book! Just click on the link in the right hand colum under the feature picture and off you go, but don't forget to come back and finish reading what you may have missed.
Friday, December 05, 2003
This was a great chance to test my skills and my bikes chutzpah without having to be on time, or get on the main roads. And I report a positive all around. No problems driving through snow on the ground, no slipping and sliding, fenders working great in the slush. In fact I came across a great puddle, about 10 or 12 feet across in each direction, at least as deep as my wheel to the rim, and I plowed through it. I looked down and the water was being directed perfectly out to the sides away from me and my shoes, I couldn't ask for anything more really. My shoes still were getting wet from the wet snow (which turned into hail while I was out, I could hear it boinking off my safety glasses) and setting my feet down a few times, so I still need to find good overboots. Will try the newspaper bags someone suggested if I can find any (we don't get the newspaper).
I even started pushing my limits to see where they were. I hit a turn that was fairly narrow and did so at about 15 mph, and as long as I kept a good line I was fine. So I decided to kick the weight around a little, and finally managed to slide out the back end, but nothing bad enough that I couldn't recover from. Then while just lolling along on a side road I started doing really tight turns and once again no major issues excpet when I really tried to throw my weight off hard. I am pretty confident in my knobbies now. One question I have is will rain-x or any other substance help keep the wet snow from building up on my rims and brakes?
Finally I skipped down to check out the Voodoo Skate Park here in town. A cool skate/bike/climbing indoor park at an old warehouse that has been around for about a year. This was the first time I checked it out and I have thoughts about going down to do some winter indoor climbing or bouldering, maybe teaching Sue in the process. We'll see, but it's a positive place after the other losses I talked about in my previous posts.
Thursday, December 04, 2003
It also seems that one place in particular assaults me with exhaust fumes on a regular basis (though other places are by no means immune to assaulting me). The I-83 overpass from New Cumberland to Lemoyne is toxic, I think for two reasons. One, it is a highway overpass, lots of cars underneath spewing lots of fumes to me up above. Second, the combination of cars chugging up the overpass from a cold start either from my lane, or the yield lane from I-83, either way a double dose of sput moving in front of me, slow moving up the incline and nowhere to go.
I wonder if my balaclava worn over my mouth is making any difference in filtering some of that sput out of my air? I do believe that these urban counties are required to do emmissions checks on vehicle inspections, I guess I'll see when I take our car in this month. Tomorrow is expected up to 6" of snow, what an introduction to winter riding. Actually I don't know if I will be riding or not in the morning. I have a flu shot appointment and if Sue goes with me, she will drop me off (with the ol' Diamondback) at work, and I can ride home. We'll see what goes.
Bicycle Commuting Song of the Day: Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
A cousin of bicycle commuting, under the parentage of sustainability, is vegetarianism and ethical shopping, so it pains me to see businesses related to those principles lost. The veggie restaurant Avatar's, which used to be in my town, closed this summer before I even had a chance to dine there. I just never made it the few times we dined out since moving here just a few months before the closing. I have visited the downstairs natural grocery market a number of times though, which is still in business.
And now the 10th Muse in downtown Harrisburg, a bastian of ethical and locally produced artistic products, is closing its doors due to lack of patronage. I was fortunate enough to be able to be a patron earlier this year, and to take part in a small arts festival they sponsored too. Anyone looking for a replacement might try the Freehand Gallery on Market St in Lemoyne across from Subway.
It is not heartening to see these types of businesses close especially when it is from a lack of business (as they are not really competing with many other similar entities), and when they are so accessible being in downtown business districts which have lots of other activity going on. I encourage everyone to learn more about the benefits of vegetarianism (try the Vegetarianism Resource Group) and buying local (try Co-op America), habits good for everyone in our communities.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Unfortunately I have no options at that point, its over the river or nowhere to get home. But when I got over today, I took a side route once I got to Bridge St. Two reasons. One is that I wanted to get the route down and check on visibility from lights before the weather really kicked in. I will probably be going an alternate way once the real cold and snow starts to stay away from traffic as much as possible. I saw maybe 2 cars this route compared to the 20-25 I would have encountered otherwise. The other reason, and what first brought this change to mind, is that I thought I might add some distance/time to my commute. I have noticed that the 4.5 I do daily each way has gotten to an easier point, and though it would be more of a challenge in the winter, I thought I would kick it up a notch and get a safer route all in one.
As for the cold today, well you can notice the difference. Snow in the air, temps in the low 30's on the way in to work, wind chills in the 20's. I was warm enough, but couldn't find my balaclava from in my gear stores, so I used a fleece headband around my ears and forehead, but it was too hot, and did too much more than simply cutting the wind. I needed it though because I don't like the wind whipping my ears, and possibly giving them an ache. Earplugs anyone? My safety glasses worked well today though, except they caused an obstacle to my line of vision to my rear-view helmet mirror. Have to make some adjustments there.
Commuting Song of the Day: No Depression by Uncle Tupelo