Sunday, June 26, 2011

Libertyville Village Band 2011 Concert 1 Review

I played in my first concert witht the Libertyville Village Band last Thursday, 23 Jun 11.

I really wasn't ready and I was hoping for rain.  It rained on and off all day and I really thought it might be called off, but they went on.  They had a bucket full of clothes pins and we pinned our music to our stands.  They told us that if it started raining our first priority was to save the sheet music and then the instruments.

I told someone that I still need training wheels, and it's true.

We played about eight songs starting with the Star Spangled Banner.

About half way through it started raining a light mist, but not enough to make us stop.  All durning the concert the wind blowing against the microphone made a terrifying sound, so eventually they turned them off.

When we got to Motown Revue the director told the audience we were going to play it and it had Heard It Through the Grapevine, My Girl and ABC.

The trouble with that medley is that probably half the band has never heard those songs and the other half plays mostly from memory and not from the sheet music (I'm guilty of this).

When we got to ABC it was so off and disjointed that the director stopped it.  We immediately went to the next tune, A Tribute to Irving Berlin.

When Irving Berlin finished the director turned and told the crowd that we had stopped Motown Review because of weather related issues.

We made it all the way through and now we have one under our belts.

I'll try to get pictures next time, and maybe convince my family to come watch.

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 31

From 24 Jun 11

IN -

All the lights were red (Midlothian, Butterfield, Milwaukee, and St. Mary) plus there was a train in Mundelein, which didn't stop me much, but it was like another light. I made it in 38min anyway, so that was good.

It was cooler and very misty making it quite comfortable.

There was a pylon in the middle of the road on Atkinson at the railroad. I don't know why it was there because there isn't anything there except a sort of little bump. Maybe they're going to fill in the bump.


FLAT! As I was changing clothes and packing the bike I saw that my front wheel was completely flat. I started thinking of what I could do as I examined the tire for the hole.

I couldn't find any hole so I decided to pump it a bit and listen for the leak. I had no intention of fixing it because I've tried doing that before with other bikes and I can never get the tire back on.

I pumped and it seemed to hold the air. I couldn't hear any leaks. I decided that I would pump it as much as possible and ride it and pump as I went.

My pump is a tiny hand held one, by the way.

I made it out and up the hill over the tollway before I lost too much air and I had to stop to refill.

I guessed that it would take me about 8 stops, one for each mile. I ended up making it with only 7 stops, but as I went it needed refilling quicker and quicker.

I made it home in just over an hour, which is great considering.

I took Lil' Blackie into the shop. They found a staple in the tire and it had been just barely scratching the inner tube.

They fixed it lickity split, but I told them the rear had been very wobbly. They checked it and found two broken spokes.

I told that I regularly carried two full briefcases on the back. They said that and my weight would do it. They said they would have to replace them and tighten them all up.

I told them that my brakes might need o be replaced.

They said that my brakes needed adjustments.

I decided to leave it there. I need those things fixed and I had been planning on waiting until I was a camp to take it in, but I didn't like the idea of riding on broken spokes.

I guess the fates decided that since I have now exceeded last year's number of rides, I can't ride anymore (got news for ya Fates, I'm getting right back onto that horse).

I had been thinking of starting a separate blog specifically for this commuting diary, but I'm not sure and now I'd have to wait until I got the bike back.

Do you think I should start a stand alone bike commuting blog?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 30!!!!! & Favors

This report is for Wednesday, 22 Jun 11. 

Today ties this year with last year for the number of times I have ridden my bike to work. Last year the 30th time was late in October, and I was stopped by an early November snow. I'm right on schedule for my goal of 75 this year.
Favors -

I have a pet peeve, drivers who stop unnecessarily as a "favor" to me.

On the North Shore Bike Path, each time it crosses a street the path has a stop sign. When I started riding I would come to an absolute full stop, with one foot on the ground each time I reached on of these. This was inconvenient. It meant that I had to get up out of my saddle and restarting, which is usually uphill, if very difficult.

Now I've mastered a technique in which I slow so that when I reach the stop sign I've actually lost all forward momentum and "stall" for a moment. I come to a stop, but I'm still balanced enough, and it's brief enough that I don't have to take my feet off the pedals and I don't have to get out of my saddle. It's much smoother and I think I've gained almost 10 minutes from the previous procedure.

At none of these intersections does the street traffic have any restrictions.

I also use this procedure in Mundelein where I use side streets with stop signs. Sometimes the crossing street has a stop and sometimes not.

These "favors" I'm talking about are when a well intentioned motorist stops. They think they are helping me out by letting me go. This almost always occurs while I'm still slowing down and before I actually come to a stop, so that instead of "stalling" for an instant, I have to make a hard stop and put a foot down.

Usually they try to wave me across, ignoring the traffic laws, in that they have no restriction or obligation to stop, while I do and must yield the right of way to them. They wave me by and I shake my head and firmly wave them on.

I know they're trying to be nice, and safe. I'm sure they've seen most cyclists darting out across the street, themselves disregarding the laws and safety.

I don't know if I'm more annoyed at the drivers who are cautious, but unclear on the status of bicycles and the rules of the road; or of the cyclists who have bred contempt, uncertainty and disrespect of cyclists into these motorists. Either way, it's very annoying.

Does anyone else have this problem?

How do we fix it?

IN -

Heard strange noises this morning. There was a big storm last night (tornado warnings) and the ground was still wet. I don't know if that had anything to do with the first noise I heard, but it was certainly responsible for the second.

The first noise was in Mundelein, and it sounded a lot like the death ray of the alien tripods from the 1950s move, War of the Worlds. I never figured out what it was.

The second noise was when I pulled into the subdivision off Atkinson. This subdivision is in Lake Bluff I think and is fairly affluent, from the looks of the houses and the amount of land. It sounded like someone was mowing the lawn, and although it was getting rather light at 4:45, it was still much too dark for what I would have considered a good job.

After a few minutes I did figure out what this noise was, generators, and likely auxillary pumps for "lower levels."

In addition to the noises I had to negotiate plenty of downed branches from the previous night's high winds. It was nothing like I would expect from an actual tornado, but enough to make the ride a bit challenging.

Some of the lights were "out" as well. Milwaukee and St. Mary's lights were both blinking, which can be very scary with those confused motorists out there.


I followed my own advice and packed for rain, even though, again, it was sunny when I left work. I did get rained on, twice.

I passed, no one, not a single solitary pedestrian or rider on the trail until near Libertyville High School I had to stop because a parade was going by.

There must have been some sort of organized outing, because on the sidewalk as I was about to cross the street by the high school, over a dozen fun riders went by. I actually had to stop and wait for them to go by.

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 29 - Happy Summer Solstice

This report is for Tuesday, 21 June 11, Happy Summer Solstice everyone, I saw the sunrise, though I wasn't at Stonehenge.

IN -

Started late, but all lights were green, including Midlothian. I managed to make it in in 33 minutes. I don't think that's a record, but it is very good.

The weather is pretty consistent now, at least temperature-wise. I don't really have to plan on cold, just rain, which I can never tell and commercial reports are too broad to really help.


Did not pack for rain, but rain it did. Speaking of unpredictable rain.

When I left work it was bright and sunny with only some white clouds. By the time I turned West off St. Mary's I saw a bank of dark storm clouds off in the distance. My first thoughts were that it would rain sooner than predictions and I would probably not be able to take my youngest to the pool this afternoon.

As I headed West, the storm seemed to be heading East. The further I got the more it seemed that I might get rained on before I made it home.

I pedaled faster

Then I remembered, I hadn't packed for rain. Could my computer stay dry in it's sleeve, which itself is inside a canvas briefcase?

Then I also remembered that my phone was in my pocket and I hadn't even put that in a ziplock.

By the time I realized that I was coming off the trail in Mundelein. The rain was immenant. I put it in the top gear and pedaled as hard as I could. I figured I would get to the train overpass and stop to repack into plastic bags.

A huge thunderclap seemed to uncork the skies and the rain came pouring out of the clouds, BEFORE I made it to the overpass.

I juked in under the biggest tree nearby, tucked in close to the trunk where I figured the leaves would provide the best protection.

I whipped out my phone and fumbled with it to get it in the snack bag I had brought for it. The rain was just starting to penetrate the canopy when I pulled out the laptop and shoved that in a bag and zipped it up.

Repacked I moved out from under the tree that was no longer providing any real protection. I pedaled on.

In about two minutes I made the overpass. On the other side the rain started letting up. By the time I got to Santa Maria del Popolo it was down to a steady, light rain.

After waiting a long time to cross Midlothian I made it into my subdivision. The rain was just about a mist.

By the time I pulled up to my garage it had stopped.

If I had not stayed late at work 15 minutes I would have missed the rain altogether. I did manage to get home and the electronics survived.

Eh, rain is starting to get to be old hat, but now I know: ALWAYS pack for rain.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Fathers' Day

Fathers' Day was yesterday and I was treated to breakfast in bed, cards and a super special shopping trip after which I assembled and enjoyed my new fire pit.

I've been wanting one of these for a long while.

My little girly props enjoyed it too.
My firepit of DOOM!  No, just kidding, it's a normal everyday firepit

Bike Commute 2011 - Days 24 - 26

I bracketed the 25th day, which gets me to 1/3d my goal this year; and I'm only 4 shy of all the commutes I did by bike last year.

Day 24 was Friday, 10 Jun 11.  I have no notes for that day at all.  On Monday, 13 Jun 11 I drove my clothes in.

Day 25 - Tuesday, 14 Jun 11
IN -

It was in the 50s again. I saw a deer on Atkinson, I don't know if it cross the road, but I saw it on the side going away from the road. I think it may have crossed right in front of me when I was glancing down at my gears.

It was very quiet and that struck me. I started thinking about silent animals, like gariaffes. I thought it was odd that most land animals make sounds, but most sea animals, except the mammals don't make sounds even though sound travels better underwater.

Then I thought that maybe marine animals make sounds, except that the higher transmission capability of water means that they never had to develop very loud vocalizations because they didn't need them.

Finally I was thinking about how whales sing only underwater and they don't, as far as I know, use air to make the sounds.

It was when I was thinking about whale songs that I heard what sounded like a snorting bull just to my left.

It was a freight train, bigger than any whale sitting there waiting to cross the road. It was probably less than 50 meters from me, far enough not to set off the alarm gates, but certainly close enough to scare the heck out of me.

By the time I got on the work campus and had the presence of mind to take a picture, I was not in a good place to take a shot.


It was extremely pleasant so I took the Des Plaines River Trail to get south from Atkinson. I took a bunch of pictures including one that is of the underpass that earlier I had pictured flooded.

I took almost all the pictures on-the-fly, or in-the-saddle, literally. As I rode along I took out my phone and switched it to camera for the pictures.

The first is an apple orchard on Atkinson, at least I think it's an orchard.

Pretty sure this is an apple orchard
Then I took several of the River Trail.
Under the underpass I had to stop, but I stayed on my bike. As I was taking the picture of one of the signs I tried to ride in little circles to take it, but the path there has a very steep incline and I was afraid I'd drop the phone in the river, so I had to stop.

Additionally, one of my daughters was at Carmel Catholic High School for a baseball game, so I stopped by there to embarrass her, er, I mean to say, "Hi."

Day 26 - Wednesday,  15 Jun 11
IN -

Rain. When I opened the garage door I saw lightning, but it was dry. I pulled the bike out and I felt one drop, just one drop on my lip. I stopped and looked around, trying to decide. My rule is that if it is already raining when I'm leaving then I don't ride. I saw one more drop on the driveway.

I decided to man-up and go. I'm getting there in about 37 minutes and I thought maybe I could beat the worst of it.

I started riding and got a dozen more raindrops by the time I got out of the subdivision. Half way and it was raining lightly, probably no more than if I sweat heavily. That was all good.

By the time I got to St. Mary's it was coming down. When I pulled off into the subdivision to get to Atkinson, almost within sight of work it opened up. It was raining so hard I had to take off the safety glasses I wear so that I could see.

It rained like that until I got to my building. I had decided to go in the back door, rather than go around to the front in order to get out of the rain. By the time I got to the door it saw a drizzle again.

It was pretty cool, in the 60os with a good wind (I felt like it was a headwind, but my time and the weather service say differently). By the time I got in I was cold. I took a shower which is unusual, but now I'm clean, smell nice and I'm warm.

It looks like it's a pretty good chance of rain all day. I want a bowl of soup.


More rain! Actually, it was sort of misting when I left work and it didn't really rain until I was waiting to cross Midlothian to get into my subdivision.

For some reason the last two days there has been a lot of traffic on Midlothian when I want to cross. This time as I was standing there waiting the rain dialed up two notches from mist to an actual rain with very tiny drops, but a lot of them.

When I pulled into my garage it stopped. I parked my bike and got the mail without getting any more wet.


Day 27 - Thursday, 16 Jun 11

IN -

Last night I really didn't feel like riding in today. I've been getting less and less sleep and although Mrs. Prop and two of my daughters are out of the house I still didn't get much so I told myself that if it were even looking like rain I would drive. My reasoning also included the fact that I had to drive the last daughter out to visit her grandmother today.

When I woke up and looked out the window the moon was lighting up the backyard. Crud.

I had to replace all the batteries in my lights, and I added air to my back tire. I had a lot of work to do today so I don't have time to be late at all. I left at 4:17, which is actually 17 minutes later than I would like, but only about ten minutes later than I expect. I figured if I really pushed I could make it in 33 minutes which would be fine.

I caught the red light at Lake Street, then the one at Butterfield, then the one at Milwaukee. The only big light I caught was St. Mary's. The street was wet and I was sure I had not made my goal.

But I was wrong. I made it in 33 minutes exactly.

HOME - Maybe this isn't such a bonus.  I don't remember the ride home sufficiently enough to report.

Day 28 - Friday, 20 Jun 11
IN - I remembered that I saw the same guy walking to work that I passed walking home from work yesterday.  He was an older guy and I thought it unusual that he walked commuted.  This morning I just happened to look over at the sidewalk and saw him.  He was in shadow under a tree and he was wearing dark clothes so if I hadn't looked over at precisely that moment I would have missed him.

Yesterday I had worn a long sleeve shirt because it was in the low 60os but I was too warm so this day I wore a short sleeve shirt and was much more comfortable, and less sweaty.

I was delayed by a train only very slightly on St. Mary's Road.  In fact it was probably less than if I had had to wait for a redlight, but it still took me four more minutes than Thursday.

There was lots of traffic, vehicle and pedistrian.

I took the Des Plaines River Bike Path again.

There was even more traffic there.  I was passed by a man and a young boy as I was taking a picture of a bridge over the river.  After I put the camera away and caught up to them they were hogging the trail a bit.  The boy was slower and the man was riding behind him and weaving to to help him stay vertical and not over-take the boy.
I pulled up behind them and was going to just stay there, rather than trying to blow passed them and risk being rude, when the man heard me and told the boy to get to one side.
Since they had so graciously pulled to the side I felt obliged to pass them.  I stode up and accelerated as much as I could.  As soon as I did we came around a bend and a woman appeared riding the other way.  I pedaled harder and slide to the right just ahead of the boy.  It was like passing on a single lane highway.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Second Quarter Review of Inner Prop's 2011 New Year's Resolution

Here, I said I would review my resolutions each quarter.  I did that for the first quarter, so now I'll do it for the second one.  I'm going to add 2Q in green.

1. Waist - 36  I think I'm about 38 now, that's good down from 41My 38 pants are all a bit loose and I regularly use the last notch on my belt, but I'm not quite ready for 36 pants quite yet.
2. Weight - <220  232 down from 244, not doing so well yetI lost ground for a while here because of a back injury, but I've been on Atkins for about a week and a half and I got back down to about 231.  With Akins and bike commuting I think I'm going to do alright.
3. Finish P90  Switched over to BfL which I would have finished if I hadn't hurt my back
4. Bike commute as often as possible (75 times)  Because of weather I had to wait until April, not March, so I've revised this down to 75, and I'm well on my way to that.
5. Walks (10k steps a day)  I'm averaging 8,000, so I need to work on thisWith the bike commuting I'm up to 9,600 average.

1. Pay more attention to family finances  I think I'm doing thatStarted keeping track with Evernote.
2. Quarterly Dates  We've gone out to dinner several times, but no overnights yetThis is still a very week area.  I will have to work on this the most.
3. Game Night  Tried this once, it was a no go. We're going to have to do something elseTried a couple of more things like no-TV night, but that didn't work either.  Sophie is willing to play games, I'll just have to start with her.  I'm going to buy a new Lego game I saw for she and I this summer.
4. New Pet  We're investigating rabbits and cavies, but don't have one yet
5. Walks  Need to do this more, I expect more now that the weather is good.  Another thing I have to put a lot of emphasis on with Mrs. Prop.

Music (these are sort of in order):
1. Learn to play ukulele (the definitions are still subjective, focus in Jan)  Been working on this nearly every day. I need to beef up my minutes a day though.  I've decided I'm going to memorize 5 songs for Owasippe.  I'm working on that, but now it has to share time with my sax work.
2. Play with my family (both in my house and a holiday gatherings)  I have taken my uke to two family gatherings at Boushette's house. The second time I actually had people sing along with me, fun.  This hasn't really improved, but I'm really hoping that it will at camp.
3. Learn to play harmonica (again learning and playing are subjective terms)  Not yetThis is coming off the list this year to be replaced by:  RE-learn to play sax.
4. Learn to play bass  Not yet, probably Q2.  Sax is taking 45 minutes a day and that's more than I can spare.  This will be pushed back or off to next year.
5. Join a band  No ready yet, looking at Q4 for this one.  DONE!  I joined the Libertyville Village Band, and I sink.  We give 6 concerts during the summer and I'll only miss two.  I will probably be blogging a lot more about this coming soon.

1. Commissioner Key  Haven't talked to the District Commissioner yetTalked to the DE and I'm going to work on it in the Autumn.
2. Archaeology Merit Badge Clinic  I have only one contact, need to go to another clinic and get MB counselor training

1. Do NaNoEdMo in March  FAIL - Signed up and started, read most of Seekretya, but haven't finished reading it and have not edited at all
2. Submit my NaNoWriMo 2010 novel to a publisher  Not yet
3. Blogging
1. I will blog more posts this year than any previous year  Can't tell yet.  Looks to be on track.  I have about 30 something which is less than half, but I have about half a dozen in draft and as I blog about bike commutes and band it will certainly rise.  This is not to mention the big bunch I do for Cthulhu month.  I think I will make this.  Now I want to try to increase my readership.
2. I will review and update my 2011 goals at least quarterly  Done, here, now.  Yep, and done again.

1. Don't get laid off  So far so good
2. Get a Promotion  This is a Q4 thing, and I've told my boss about it

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 23

IN (actually today) -

I got stopped by a train, or actually by the threat of a train, and then a train. The wait was probably over five minutes and I was less than two miles from my house. Next time I'm going to go around. I scouted the route on the computer when I got to work.

I had forgotten my black shoes at home when I drove so I had to bring them back in. I had also brought a pair of gym shoes back home yesterday. This really made my packs full.

It was 82o this morning. This could be very bad going home.


It was very bad. I passed a sign that said it was 98o and there was a 10-15mph southwesterly in my face the whole way home. Taking it easy was not an option today.

I tried to talk a picture of the sign with the temperature, but it was alternating between temperature and time. I didn't time it right.

I took a different route today. I stayed on Atkinson all the way to St. Mary's and then took Oak Spring Road past Like Minear into Libertyville.

I think Oak Spring may be as dangerous as St. Mary, but it's a lot more scenic, especially since the beach is open.

For the first time ever I caught the light just south of Santa Maria del Popolo at Lake street. That's a terrible intersection. It's a hill to get to the crosswalk, it gets steeper through the crosswalk, then you have to go over the crest of Lake Street, then you have to climb a hill on the far side. It is a rise of about 20 feet and it's murder from a standing stop, which is always how I have to do it.

I was planning on taking a route that takes me two blocks out of the way to go around it but today I caught the light. Crazy.

I don't suppose I'd have ever mentioned that if I were driving, but it's a bit of a big deal to me as a rider.

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 22 - Weight Loss

I've started Atkins yesterday (6 Jun 11), well, I'm easing into Atkins. I'm still eating oatmeal because I have it and I haven't stocked up on meat at work yet.

I've done, or tried Atkins twice before. The first time I did it and lost weight pretty well, even though I didn't exercise along with it. The second time I tried to exercise with it, but I just couldn't get through the exercises. I think it may have been that I was pushing myself to exceed each previous work out and without the carbs the top end just isn't there. I couldn't get over the hump.

I'm trying it again now and I'm hoping that with the daily riding the pounds will just fall off.

IN  (7 Jun 11)-

Got a late start today because I hadn't put all my gear back on the bike. I always feel like I'm forgetting something and I don't know if I always do or not, but today I forgot my sunglasses. I'm thinking I'm going to dread that.

I also decided not to bring my hat because it's so light these mornings and I got such a late start. It turned out not to be a bad decision since I really didn't need it.

My fingers have been getting numb pretty quickly lately, I think it's mainly because I'm managing my speed so that I really don't have to stop that much. The other problem I first noticed this morning is that I'm starting to sweat so much that I can't turn the gear selector. It was already 80o when I left the house in the morning. Going home is going to be a bear and I'll have to get gloves.

Had a very smooth ride this morning, I'm not sure why, but it felt great.

When I got to work it was like my chest, arms and forehead were a car windshield, covered in bug carcasses. All the heat and rain has really made the bugs come out. I have to make sure to ride with my mouth closed or I will get some unwanted, unchewed calories.


It was about 93o on the way home with a heat index of over 100o. I took it very easy so I wouldn't overheat.

I counted the people I passed today. All but two were headed toward me so it wasn't like I was blazing up the trail or anything.

I passed:
  • 2 joggers
  • 5 casual bike riders (I call them Fun riders)
  • 2 bike commuters
  • 6 walkers (two were sitting)
The other bike commuters were both older Hispanic men. They don't seem to like me much judging by the look on their faces.

I passed a couple of guys working too, one I hesitated and talked to.  He was working with a crew that was tearing up our street.  He said that they are going to resurface it.  That's great because right now it's like riding on the sidewalk.
Lovely streets of Mundelein

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 21 1/2 Happy D-Day

On Monday (6 Jun 11) I drove in.

IN -
4:16 - 4:39 = 23 minutes
8.7 miles to lobby

I noticed that the birds were very loud this morning.
I washed the bike and glued the chain guard in the evening of Monday so it would be ready for Tuesday.

Ok, the NEXT post will be better.

I owe it to these guys:

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 21

I did what I was hoping I wouldn't do, I missed a couple of days reporting.

I thought about it and I realized that I'm mostly writing about minutiae anyway, the kind of things that if you did them in the car you wouldn't take any notice of.

Last week I had been thinking I could write about what a challenge it is to come up with things to write about, but this week I think I may lay off altogether until I really get interesting things to write about.

I might as well give you what I have so far though.

IN (Friday, 3 Jun 11)-
Even colder 55o no wind though. Dark with overcast.
Bad batteries replaced with worse
Chain guard broke, rode in on big front gear all the way.
New parking spot

Pleasant, S wind
Used all gears carefully
Lots of smells, water and flowers
Don't remember much

The next report is better.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 20

This is from yesterday, 2 June 2011

IN -

Cold this morning or at least it felt that way. It was about 60o with a slight wind. I was wearing a tee shirt and shorts, but I must be acclimated to much warmer weather because I was freezing.

It was bright too, even though I left earlier than I have since the first week. If it keeps getting lighter this way I'm not going to need my hat in the morning.

I wear the hat to be able to hide oncoming headlights behind the bill. This helps protect my nightvision. If I didn't then as soon as the car passed I wouldn't be able to see the street in front of me, even with my own lights.

12mph Easterly baby! That's what I'm talking about. I didn't feel any faster or like the wind was pushing my back, but it did feel easier and more pleasant. The sky was dusted with very high wispy clouds so it wasn't exactly blue, but it was still delightful.

As I crossed Butterfield (at the light as instructed, but as very few others do, me I've tried cheating and cutting across at the driveways away from the intersection and light, but I'm the kind of guy who gets caught, either by traffic or by cops, and it ends up taking longer, so that and the legal signs makes me not cheat and to do it alone), anyway, as I crossed Butterfield I saw a guy cheating across with a guitar on the back on his bike.

I hurried to catch up to him. He was moving very well considering that he had a full sized guitar and what looked like an amp on the back rack of his bike. As I very slowly caught up to him I saw that he was a lot smaller than me, he wore boat shoes and pedaled with the arch of his foot on the pedal (rather than the ball). I was most amazed at the speed he was getting because he seemed to have a large generator on the back and it was making a whiny whirring sound. Unless it was a motor, but I'm not sure if you can pedal those when the motor is working.

He seemed to be about my age or younger. I got up behind him and stayed there for several blocks. I didn't think it would be right to pass him since at a cruising speed I was probably only going one or two mph faster than he was. The pass would have been very long, or I would have had to really push to get past quickly and we'd end up with him follow me closely as I inched away from him.

I guess I'm not a born journalist because I could not think of a good conversation I could have with him if I did pass.

In retrospect, I should have pulled up next to him, asked him about the guitar, the generator/motor, and asked to take a picture.

I really, really need to push myself to make contact with the people I encounter while I ride. There is a lot of car culture in me and I think that subconsciously I think it would be too hard to hear, we'd be traveling too fast, and the other rider is in his own little world. That's how I drive, but it's not how I ride and I think if I train myself I will learn a lot through communication that I couldn't have through mere observation.

Speaking of observation, there are a lot of purple flowers along the trail right now so I took a picture of some.

Pretty along the North Shore Bike Path near Milwaukee Avenue

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 19 Practice

Practice makes perfect, but repetition breeds complacency.

I would have thought that by now I'd be very good at this whole bike riding thing. I commuted 30 times last year, 19 times this year. I estimate that I've ridden 288 miles so far this year and at least half again that many last year.

Yet I feel like I'm still at the novice stage. I'm more wobbly than I think I should be on the straight away and when I look behind myself. When I stop I sometimes get off balance. I could have sworn that I was a lot better when I was young and my bike was my vehicle, my mode of transportation. Maybe I just don’t remember the bad things.

I wonder when I'll get really good at this. I wonder if I'll get really good at this. I wonder if I've reached a plateau. I wonder if I want or need to get really good at this.

I mean, I don't want to race, that's not my goal, I'm not in any competition and I don't want to be. Why am I concerned about being good at it?

My biggest concern probably should be, am I safe at it. I think I am. I think I know what I'm doing and I'm at least as safe, if not more so, than when I drive. I certainly pay more attention and I'm more aware of my surroundings.

I'll have to focus on practice without complacency and hone my safety skills.

IN (1 Jun 11)-

Warm and clear this morning. Started very early but the gate was open.

Seemed slow, but it was actually only 34 minutes. Maybe it's because I lubed my chain last night. I also put air in the tires and tightened my back brakes. The back brakes are still too loose though and I may have to replace them.

I have noticed a few things before, but I hadn't mentioned them. One is that I don't cast my own shadows. What I mean is that I know when a car is coming up from behind me because I can see my own shadow on the street signs and the street. It's not possible to cast that shadow with my own lights since the white ones are all facing forward from in front of me. It's a little thing, but sometimes in the mornings it my big front light is so bright it seems like a headlight to me. I can tell when it's not me and a car, which I think is pretty important.

The other thing is that the white lines are quieter. Early in the morning it's so quiet that the only sound (other than birds and frogs) is my tires on the road. When I ride on the white lines it is quieter than on the bare asphalt. I'm guessing that it's less rolling resistance, but it takes a bit of balancing to stay on it which may offset the resistance advantage.


The big thing going home was going to be the wind. I didn't check, but it seemed like a hundred mile an hour west wind right in my face. It was one of the hardest and longest rides home I've had in a very long while.

I say that was going to be the big thing, except for one tiny little thing that really caught my interest in a big way. A squirrel hit me.

I was riding along on the trail and I saw a small brown thing in the middle of the path. At first I thought it might be a very old tennis ball that had gotten muddy, but as I approached I saw that it was a very small squirrel hunched over. I thought it was dead because it didn't seem to be moving at all.

As I came up beside it so that my front tire was just to the right of him I said, "Hello Mr. Squirrel." I guess he didn't hear me or smell me coming because he jumped as if he had had no idea I was there. He turned right and ran into my front tire.

I was moving so after staggering back he dashed right again, this time between my tires and under my pedals. I was afraid I might have run him over with my rear tire, but I looked back and he was darting into the underbrush.

I've never seen a squirrel startled before. They are usually so nervous and twitchy that they are sort of pre-startled and so ready to move that they seem to anticipate any danger. I've seen them scared on the road and not know the way to turn, but sneaking up behind one and basically saying, "boo" and having it work is a new one on me.

I guess it was my own fault for not ringing my bell earlier and passing on the right.

It does serve to remind all of us bike riders just how quiet and invisible we really are. I think that squirrel is going to be on my mind every time I wonder if a car driver sees me.