Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Listening to Old Songs Might Get Dangerous

Post written to the accompaniment of Bob Dylan, Biograph

I saw this crew out riding on a mild and warm Phoenix morning, and while my jealously followed them down the street, as they were headed to coffee while I was headed to work, seeing them started a chain of thoughts which wound through my day, ending with the title of this post.

Today was a day of ups and downs, of hugs and gut punches, of thrills and chills and spills, of the two regularly scheduled bike rides there and back, too little rest and too much stress, perfect riding weather blowing hard into my face, a good home-cooked meal eaten with my family around the table laughing about the ups and downs of our days, of the DTWS finale viewed by some of the members of my household, while others of us retired to our corners with our books and our libraries of favorite songs.

You hit the random song button and you never know what you're gonna get. Tonight I got Bob Dylan and a flood of random memories. Good ones, ones that I didn't know I still had. I tuned into the seldom-visited ones, that one long and spontaneous bike ride to the beach, running through a fall night, a party in someone's basement, a chain of them that keeps going as long as I want to. A few other bike rides.

I thought about those guys on their group ride, and wondered if, for them, one ride blends into the next. Reflecting on my commutes, are there some out of hundreds that stand out? Let's see. Yes, the day it started raining hard out of a clear brilliant sunny sky. Another day it rained so hard and got so dark and windy I couldn't see but I kept going. I suppose one or two of the dust storms. The sad morning I came upon a cat who had just been hit by a car at the same time that another cyclist stopped. She picked up the still-warm cat and stroked its body. The cat was clearly gone, and there were a few moments when we weren't sure what to do, until we saw the owner walking towards us in his bathrobe. He took the lifeless furball from her, and we rode off in our appointed opposite directions. The day the driver ran the four-way stop and almost took me out. Many others, I suppose, if I think about it. 

How about you, group rider guys, do some rides stand out like that? I suppose that they do, that the mind grasps onto the trivial yet significant events of our passing days, stores them away, somehow, waiting to be triggered by an inquiring blogger, or some old song, floats them up to remind us of the amassed chain of those memories that makes up something of who we've become. 

I have an early ride tomorrow morning. Not with a group, for coffee, but early in to work, to hit some deadlines. Got one more Bob Dylan song to listen to tonight before turning in: Tangled Up in Blue just came on as I'm typing this. That will do, certainly. A good way to remind myself, as the day's events dim into sleep and the memory-making and association-creation pauses, that listening to old songs might get dangerous.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bike Storage in a Small Space: Go Vertical

Four bikes hung vertically, inside 44" of horizontal space

I have a space set aside for bike storage, which also encloses some metal shelves that hold most of the parts and stuff. Fitting the bikes into the space is not the challenge, not in itself. It's possible to fit more than this just by stacking them into a great pile, for example. But the goal is to store them reasonably orderly, so they don't scratch themselves all up, and, more importantly, so that I don't have to dig through to get one particular one out.

The way that I had them previously required me to take most of them out of the space if I wanted to get to the one in the back, or hanging on the wall. What I was looking for, though, was a way to fit all the bikes into the space in an orderly way that also permitted easy access to any of them. Especially so that the girls could get at their bikes without relying on me. When I saw the Rubbermaid Fast Track and the vertical bike hook, I knew it had potential.

Tape measure in hand, I went back there and began to try to figure out how many I could hang vertically on the wall inside the 44" between the steel shelves and the mountain bike hanging on the wall. The handlebars seemed to be the limiting factor, until I realized that hanging the bikes up-down-up-down meant I could probably fit four in the allotted space. That would be enough, if they all actually fit. I found in the past that bicycles, with their slightly odd shape and protruding parts, sometimes defy simple measuring and planning, with a pedal sticking here, a brake lever sticking there, you can't quite be sure until you try. So I did.

The Rubbermaid Fast Track was easy to hang on the block wall. The first hole I drilled was going into the block slowly, frustratingly slowly, when I realized that the bit was worn out. So I grabbed a fresh masonry bit, which sped up the hole-making considerably. Mounting and leveling the rack with one set of hands, on the fly, was interesting, and went OK. The problem I've run into before with making permanent 1/4" holes in masonry for anchors is that the rough surface undoes all efforts at aligning the bit with the marks that you make, even if you punch a starter. I'm sure there's a right way to do it, but I never get the kind of precision I would like with just marking. Instead, I end up doing something like drill the center hole, mount the rack on it using it as a registration for the other holes, then re-mark the holes on either end, then rely on the slop factor of the plastic anchors along with any extra room provided by the mounting holes to permit all six screws to go in somewhat effectively. It worked. It wasn't too ugly. No stripped screws or re-dos. That rack's not going anywhere.

Just in case, I did position the steel security cable such that it could catch and hold the bikes if the rack pulled out. I don't think it will, but I like having a backup.

The Rubbermaid vertical bike hooks are nice because they are easily and infinitely moveable along the track to let me make the most out of the available space. They also seem stout. I realize that a 2x4 and those screw-in hooks could accomplish something similar, although I like the way this looks, and I appreciate the versatility and easy adjustment of position.

I probably should have come up with the vertical hanging solution a long time ago. I think part of the delay was a reluctance which arose from some kind of concern about the hooks hurting the wheels. Then I read the thing that explained that the force of a bike hanging from the wheel alone is significantly less than the force I put on the wheel when I ride it. Can't believe I didn't realize that sooner. Worry has a way of concealing the obvious truth which would undo it, I guess.

The Rubbermaid Fast Track is a handy system, with lots of different options for mounting a variety of stuff. If/when I execute the garage or shed project, I could see using it on the walls for organization. It's flexible and handy. I didn't really set out to write a review, but in case this reads like one, be advised that I purchased this myself, and received no incentives to write it.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Where Once Stood a House

Demolition instructions: please spare the tree

The speed with which one of these machines reduces a homestead to a lot of level bare dirt is stunning. On the one hand, I think of all the memories and home scenes that must have taken place in the home that once was, how all the attachments of those memories to specific physical attributes of the former house were busted up into random-shaped refuse and hauled off in trucks covered in dust. On the other hand, it's an exercise in breathtaking tidying and minimalism which makes a mockery of spending hours sorting through papers in one filing cabinet, say, or hours spent flipping through old CDs deciding which ones to store, rip, discard, or donate. In one go, lasting only a few days, where once stood a house with all its accumulations and ordered disorder, now is just an empty, flat, bare lot, pure and full of potential, wiped of everything.

I pass this spot on my daily bike commute. Houses all around have met a similar transformation, mainly to be replaced with new ones more densely packed. The developer equation is so pristine: if sales price is greater than purchase price plus construction price, then do it again and again. You can translate that to a minimalist dejunking tidying relation: if simple pristine order of worthy/important/joy-triggering items post-tidying is more valuable to you than holding tightly onto a bunch of stuff you don't need simply because you have feelings of clinging to it indefinitely in case it may be useful someday, donate it or discard it all.  The goal is probably not to get down to bare dirt, but if sheer capitalist drive can accomplish the photo above in a day or two, I can discard what's unimportant, unneeded, unwanted, and unjoyfilled in a short period of time as well. 

My desk now resembles this bare lot: down to monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse, and inside logically organized drawers with plenty of empty space. That's it. It's a start.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Scottsdale Garbage

You can tell a lot about a culture by its garbage

The decommissioning and tear-down of some floating art along the Scottsdale Waterfront resulted in this unusual garbage. It's notable, sitting next to the bike lane, and not something that you see every day.

The others gathered together, herded into a group, awaiting their fate

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Move Lane Move, Flow Lane, Flow

Spring and time for the annual bike lane migration

In a post I consider a master stroke of blog titling,"Bike Lanes from the Far Side," I groused about engineers and/or painters who mixed up the buffer lane with the bike lane to the advantage of no one. Well, that's been remedied for some time now, so here's the documentation of the updated configuration with the cars parked in the buffer and the bike lane out where it can do some good. The same switcheroo was done on the other side, too, although the buffer is narrower, and is less parked in anyway. Which reminded me of this, or this reminded me of that:

Flowering at the edges

This Spring seems to be marked by more wild flowers growing in the cracks. It may be the sporadic and rare rain we've had so far. But they always seem to find a way, those African daisies, to open to the the sun and bees, to show off for cyclists and pedestrians who pause to admire their bold blossoms. Life sometimes is most fecund at the edges, just off the main paths and ways, in between, in zones where others zip by and don't realize the potential.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Family Dynamics: Don't Cross Here

I love what's going on in this photo

I was thinking today as I rode around alone on a warm, sunny April Sunday afternoon, that I couldn't remember a single instance from my childhood when my dad took the family out for a leisurely Sunday afternoon bike ride. It wasn't his thing. He did other things with us, took us out for dinner, shot hoops in the driveway with my friends and I, but no bike rides.

Although bikes weren't his thing, they were clearly mine, looking back. I've owned at least one bike continuously since I was six years old. Cumulatively, I've owned way more bikes than cars. Counting up ones that were exclusively mine, I would put it at twelve bikes, vs. one used car and one new car. Currently, the bikes to cars ratio is infinite, divide by zero error, since I don't own a car that is exclusively mine (should I count the family car as .25 mine?). I didn't realize this bike focus of mine consciously, though, until well into my adulthood, and I wonder if it would have awakened in me much earlier if pops had noticed how much I rode around, and had come up with a weekend family bike ride idea back then. Even though it wasn't his thing.

I wonder if the photo above shows do-gooder daughter following the signage directions while wildcat mom waits for a break in traffic to shoot across. Dad kind of hanging out in the middle to see which way the wind blows.

Daughter follows signage

Then daughter does what mine usually do, which is head off where their will dictates, knowing that the rest will probably follow. Mom, with the child seat between her arms, decides not to frogger through traffic, while dad repositions to follow the family current.

Dad, if they have blogger wherever it is you are now, this was not meant to be critical. Rather, it was a reflection on family dynamics, and looking inward about my own lack of suggesting a leisurely weekend bike ride with the family once in a while. I will offer gelato in the bargain, and they will go for it, I'm certain. Whether or not my kids end up being nebulous bike freaks like their father or not, it's the kind of memory I'd like them to have some day.

For the record, we may be the family that does not use the underpass. We may just cross right there.   

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bicycle Parking at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

Mainly daily commuters, I assume. Needed to leave some yellow cards, though.

On a recent transit through Phoenix Sky Harbor and the Sky Train station at 44th Street and Washington, I had a few minutes to have a look at the bicycle parking at this location, and to consider the multiple convenient routes and methods that connect here.

  • Light Rail
  • Phoenix Bus (has bicycle carriers on the front often)
  • Washington Street Bike Lane (straight shot downtown or Tempe)
  • Canal (check your favorite bike route mapping app)
  • Airplane
  • Uber or Lyft (don't know what their bicycle carrying policy might be, though, but may be the best way if your origin or destination happens to be Scottsdale, since public transport from here to there is scarce)
  • Car drop-off (for example in a kiss-and-ride scenario like mine)

The Sky Train appears to be used heavily by crew and airport workers. While I hung out here, I would estimate that twice as many people passing through the station were crew or employees. There were only a handful of passengers passing through on a weeknight. I didn't see anyone get on or off the two Phoenix city buses which came and went (a 1 and a 44).

Nice bike lockers (bring your own lock). Could not find out about overnight or extended usage though. Leave a comment if you know about that.

The Sky Train itself was a pleasure to use, fast, clean, and direct to the center of Terminal 4. It says it also goes to 3 but I didn't ride it that direction so can't vouch. The 44th Street terminal has some great public art to check out, too. It could be nice to lock up in one of the lockers, too, but I could not determine if there's a limit enforced for overnight or extended use, so it may be best to check that out first if you wanted to leave you bike here during a trip.

Only about half the lockers appeared to be occupied when I visited. This set near the full bike rack was full, but another set of four on the other end was nearly empty. Bring your own lock. And I wouldn't recommend flimsy combination padlocks like the ones being used in the photo, either.

Would you consider riding to a flight? Do nice facilities like this encourage that? I think I would feel better about the bike lockers, although, with a solid lock and good technique and an ugly bike, I think one would have a good survival of the fittest chance at the racks.