Monday, April 28, 2008

Coupleafewthings Monday

  • Go go go go go:
    ok, well don't go, the image is gone, torn from the internets like a $1 off burrito coupon from the student paper. Stupid internets...
    (was once an image of a guy riding a bike on a line of soda bottles)

  • My race bike racked for the ride home.

    I have been waiting years to do this well. A decade ago I occasionally carried frames on my back to customers when I worked at a small frame builder. Many a times I have steered another full bike down the road, one hand on the stem, whilst riding another. But I think I this is the apogee of swellegant bike on bike hauling. That was 9 miles and 800 feet elevation change each way to get to the race.

  • Lots of reasons to hate pro cycling right now, here is a reason to start watching again:

    click for source
    Go read this nice fluff article on Taylor Phinney and family over on Sports Illustrated. If you don't know who he is or who his parents are, go read it.

    Taylor is 17 and one of the top five pursuit cyclists in the world and will be representing the US in Beijing this summer in the Olympics. He rides for the Slipstream Chipotle team and with any luck, will be doing one day races in Europe flying the plaid colors and possibly a tacky mustache within a few years.
  • Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    Addicted to darkness

    Ever since my Down Low Glow lights arrived, I've become completely addicted to nighttime cruising. I've always been a night person, and I love being outside at night, particularly on nights like tonight, when the air is like silk and the stars are out clearly, even in the city.

    Night riding is completely different from daytime riding, and not just because it's dark. You see things in the city at night that you can't see when the sun is out. It's been my experience that most cities have two populations -- the folks who inhabit the office buildings by day and retreat to their pockets of suburban safety during the night, and the people for whom the city isn't even open until about 9 or 10 p.m. That's a broad-brush statement, of course, so please don't take offense.

    I recently moved to Albany, NY, a small city with fewer than 100,000 people. Despite its size, the center of the city and the neighborhoods immediately around it resemble similar spots in most of the larger cities I've lived in. Folks sit out on stoops in the warm night breeze, relaxing with a drink and grilling mouth-watering food on small hibachis or on grills much too large for their porches. Professionals, many still dressed in their work clothes, walk dogs of all sizes, many of whom bark in what I believe to be admiration as my brightly lit bike passes.

    Tonight I rode to Buckingham Lake, a small pocket of countryside right in the heart of Albany. Nestled at the end of several city streets, Buckingham Lake (which is really a small pond) has been a relaxing oasis for Albany residents since the colonial era. I went there for the first time the other day. In the sunshine, the lake was filled with ducks and geese. Mountain bikers rode around the one-mile trail that surrounds the lake, and families of all sizes and kinds walked along the shore or played at the playground.

    At night, it was very different.

    For one thing, it wasn't as dark as I'd hoped. There were quite a few lights on tall lamp posts around the edge of the lake, and the streets on both sides were lit up, too. I hopped on the gravel trail and passed two high-school-age couples walking the trail and -- to judge by the smell -- smoking pot. A businessman stood on the playground in front of an expensive car, talking on his cell phone. One picnic table was occupied by four or five people talking and laughing. Around the first bend in the trail, the light poles stopped and I got a bit of darkness. The far side of the pond was the brightest area, and then the trail dropped down a few feet to kiss the water. Here I actually needed my headlight to see well enough to avoid a late-night swim.

    Leaving the lake, I rode around the circular roadway the surrounds New York State's Harriman Office Complex, and then headed over to cruise around the University of Albany. Given the gorgeous weather, the campus was surprisingly quiet. Maybe everyone was studying for finals. I did pass one large group waiting for the bus, and heard several comments about my glowing Xtracycle. ("That's sweet!" "That's f***king hot!" "Cool bike!" "You're going the wrong way!" That last one turned out to be true, but only for a few hundred feet.)

    On the way back to my house I passed three young guys crossing West Lawrence. "That's a hot bike," one of them said to his friend. "I like your bike, man!" the friend yelled, raising one fist in the air. I thanked him and headed home.

    I'm not a cool guy. Despite having several careers that people might consider cool -- including salsa and funk musician, radio DJ, foreign correspondent and hip hop label producer -- those cool vibes have never really rubbed off on me. I just got my first tattoo (a chainwheel with a peace sign in the middle), but I still look more like the Pillsbury Doughboy than a rebel without a cause. But at night, on the Xtracycle with the Down Low Glow, even I get a little taste of the hip life. And I'm not gonna lie, I dig it. I mean c'mon -- who wouldn't like to ride around with people actually cheering for your bicycle?

    So I highly recommend some nighttime cruising on your bicycle. Just make sure you've got a lot of lights, and choose your route well. And be careful -- once you get out there at night a few times, you'll become addicted, too.

    Jason Crane is a union organizer, jazz broadcaster and action dad. Find him online at and The Jazz Session.

    Saturday, April 19, 2008

    Commuter God

    "You're a commuter god," was what the email said.

    A fellow north-Texan saw a photo of my favorite bike recently submitted to the Fixed Gear Gallery. He emailed me that he believed that we'd met briefly before. Turns out, yep, it was me he flagged down in Denton several weeks ago. After mentioning that I'd ridden the bike in the photo to work in Denton on that day, he must have considered the distance, the fixed gear drive train, and weather conditions that day (a 20+ mph headwind with gusts to 35 mph) before he offered the kind, but greatly exaggerated, compliment.

    I enjoy compliments as much as anyone, but I am not a commuter god. I am not a finely-tuned athlete and do not have a love for discomfort. Thanks in large part to stories and encouragement from many of the authors of this blog, I have begun to identify selected days to commute by bike. As so many of these authors have said, one can greatly expand his understanding of what is possible.

    I've now commuted to work several times at distances I once thought were impractical. My job involves professional attire and numerous out-of-office appointments from 30 to 50 miles away, so days with no appointments work best. I've learned-by-doing how to strike a balance between carrying stuff and staying prepared by keeping stuff in my office when a commuting opportunity arrives. By simply trying, one might learn what was once thought to be impractical, can actually be preferable. My commute by bike takes me three times as long as driving. But being good for the environment, good for the community, good for the body, and good for the spirit, it is a preferable way to use time.

    I'd like to encourage those who might be considering riding the bike for utility purposes. It is a simple way to transform the mundane into the delightful. Whether it be commuting to work, running errands, or social activities, give it a try. Does it take anything like "a commuter god" or special powers? Hardly...just someone who likes to ride a bike.

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    Closer to heaven

    Climbing over Lizard Head Pass, Colo. Day 6

    Morning came with the incandescent reflection of unobstructed sun on a fresh layer of snow - warm, awake and alive. Geoff prompted me out of the tent with the first big breakfast of our trip - French toast, eggs, and orange juice - the subtle luxuries of staying in town. It was the perfect prerequisite to our day - the day we would climb over the mountains and the highest elevation of our entire trip, Lizard Head Pass.

    The storm had moved on, leaving behind only the snow-coated mountain peaks as proof that it ever existed. Fall colors blazed across the foothills, but those peaks make the deep yellows and greens seem almost unreal - as if a cinematic Technicolor brush saturated half of the landscape, leaving everything else stark white on black. In the smog-laden valleys of the Intermountain West where I come from, elevation equals clarity, and today we’re headed as high as this road goes.

    I expected this day to be physically grueling, but unlike the grade that soared toward Telluride, this slope is surprisingly gentle - rolling hills that rise through canyons and drop back into valleys. Maybe this climb is just easier than the roads through southern Utah, or maybe my strength is really increasing that quickly - a possibility that never occurred to me until I glanced back at a sign on the left - warning truckers of the 8 percent grade I was currently ascending. And that, fellow desk potatoes, is a great feeling.

    And my day is so bent on climbing, so prepared for work, so apprehensive for the zenith of the entire trip, that I’m almost disappointed to roll over that gentle mound that is Lizard Head Pass - 10,222 feet in the sky - and stare down the Dolores River canyon and the 55 mile descent ahead. A cold wind blows up from below and pounds my face, the only skin not buried in winter clothing.

    But the thing that hits me the hardest is the contrast. Here I am, standing is the midst of 14,000-foot peaks, snow-covered islands in a sea of yellow aspen and deep green pine - when just five days ago I was rolling through the vermilion sandstone cliffs of the desert, air still stagnant in the lingering heat of summer. And I made this transition on a bike. With my own wimpy legs and inherent fear of physical challenge. The prospect still staggers my imagination.

    The next 15 miles fly by in 27th gear, a blur of blues and greens through my tear-soaked eyes. In just over a half hour we have already arrived Rico, our lunch stop, and are back at the riverside; this time, the Dolores. Things are getting back to normal, elevation dropping, snow-capped peaks fading into the background. By this time tomorrow we’ll be back in the desert.

    Wasn’t it Ernest Hemingway who said “Only by bicycle can one truly know the contours of the land?” All the distance I’ve traveled in the last six days would take me just over four hours to traverse in a car. And yet, it feels like I’ve traveled so far, so long, that I can barely remember the landscape of my home in Salt Lake. But everything between here and Moab is burned in my head, and I can’t help but find familiarity in this strange place.

    Saturday, April 12, 2008

    Hawkins Family Bike Tour: Day 5

    Dear Friends,

    This last day of our family bicycle tour brings us from Battleground WA to Seattle, through Portland and vicinity. Our tales of adventure up to this point had only hardened the misgivings Claire's family have had about our trip and bicycling in general. Monique in particular stated on many occasions that she "would never, ever do anything like that". So I did what every cycling evangelist does. I put her in the stoker seat.

    It turns out that she just loves riding and really had a good time tooling around the neighborhood. We also put some of her kids in the trailer and they had a great time too. You just have to try it. Once you do, you may never think the same way again.

    We took off from Battleground at 10 AM after a leisurely breakfast and play time with the kids. The road into Vancouver was a delight with flat to downhill farm roads with wide shoulders marking our path. There was eventually quite a bit of road construction but I've found that road construction is nice for bikes as long as the flaggers believe that bikes belong on the road and well, around these parts things are pretty positive. In fact, every flagger we encountered made sure that we got through without stopping and smiled and waved as we passed.

    This was also the first fully sunny day we've had. Friday was just a joy and our main concern was making sure that Thorvald wasn't overheating and that he had plenty of shade. Riding on these kinds of days makes you feel like you're getting one over on the world. I spend so much time riding in the rain at 40-50 degrees that I start to overheat myself when things get too sunny. Perhaps my blood has thickened into a higher viscosity that doesn't handle temperatures above 65.

    Vancouver has beautiful bike amenities and we found our way to the I-5 bridge without a hitch but with some help from smiling people. Tandems with kids is the way to engender love and understanding.

    Well, love and understanding only go so far when you get to the Oregon side and the signs to downtown are spotty to be charitable. We had a whale of a time trying to figure out how to get downtown and by following the Vancouver bike map and taking MLK south into Portland, we found ourselves on the least hospitable road of our entire trip. We even got honked at. I don't know what kind of cromagnon honks at bikes with kids, but we got our share and were nearly run off the road on an on-ramp by an Oak Harbor Truck Lines driver pulling two trailers. He also gunned his engine hoping that we would be scared and pull off. A little "peter principle" at work I'm sure but it also gives lie to the notion that Portland is some kind of cycling paradise.

    Anyway, the Vancouver bike map was incorrect. We asked around after getting a little hot under the collar, ok, a lot hot under the collar, and found our way to Vancouver Ave where things were much more sedate. This road wasn't even shown on their map nor was Interstate Ave, the apparent super highway for fast north-south cycling traffic. Maybe next time. Maps are only as good as the committees that approve them.

    We got to the train station after a nice stop in the park for Thorvald, dumped our non-essential stuff, and took off to see the town. We rode up Broadway, toured Portland State University, met a couple of my old professors, hung out in the Park Blocks, had a nice lunch, played some more, got provisions, and then went down to the waterfront.

    Claire was pessimistic at first owing to Seattle's rather utilitarian waterfront style, but upon arrival, her heart was softened and we took another nice break. We then cruised around the Esplanade and talked to some other bikers, traversed some nice bridges, and had a good time. My opinion of Portland was elevated somewhat by workers installing the new green bike boxes and by the sheer volume of cyclists present, but I have to say that Delta Park and North Portland are a mess.

    Now I have a technical question for all of you bike know-it-alls. The wonderful 35 mm Paselas that I installed have expanded enough that their undulations sometimes rub on the chainstay. I know I'm not within my warranty to do so, but do you think it proper to crimp the chainstays so as to garner more tire clearance on a steel framed bike? Your help would be very much appreciated.

    Also you should know that with knowledge comes danger. The Portland Amtrak office charges tandems at two bikes and trailers as one bike. The Seattle office counts it all as one bike and a stroller that is not charged separately. Riding under the radar so to speak has its advantages when train employees don't know the rules because they don't have the constant experience. Count your blessings, dear Seattlites!

    So we paid the surcharge ($5, don't tell them about the airlines!) and happily boarded the train. This was the biggest surprise of the trip. It turned a little long, but Thorvald had napped plenty and was ready to play, and play he did all the way home until 11 PM when we got him home. I love that boy, but he really liked riding and wasn't so involved in the train experience. It was shot in the arm that with children, you can't know what to expect.

    So we covered 25 miles into town and goofed off another 15 or so just tooling around town. The day was sunny, and our dirty, road battered tandem looked a little out of place with much of the sleek Portland fare, but we had a great week and look forward to further adventures. The trains work well, allow you to play with your kids, and get you there eventually. Bicycle travel is surprisingly nice and and we'll be doing much more of it in the future.

    Thanks for reading and let me know about crimping the chainstays. I could just go with 32mm tires but I'm curious.

    Brad, Claire, and Thorvald Hawkins

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Hawkins Family Bike Tour: Day 4

    This was the marathon. This was the day that Claire and I proved ourselves in the family bicycle tourist continuum. This was the day that Claire and I rode from Onalaska to Battleground, a distance of 80 miles. This was the day when we really needed to make sure that Thorvald was enjoying himself so that he will still trust us when we put him in the trailer. This was the day when Claire and I would ride together on the same bike longer than we ever have before.

    None of those things happened.

    It was nippy and Claire's great uncle Jerry informed us that he was driving us to Toledo. I had to find out where Toledo is because we did the whole trip on a cue sheet and I wasn't carrying a map. O.K. Toledo. That's kind of close. Upon reviewing our options, the secondary and close city of Vader was chosen because it was actually on our route. This isn't bad.

    We found out that the derelict semi-trailers parked at the corner of Hwy 508 and Jackson Hwy that we guided ourselves to their place with (as markers) are actually his. We found out that as a contractor, you can bid on something, lose money, and you are still stuck with the contract, even if you end up paying for the opportunity to do the job, and we found out that one can easily spend $100 filling up a pick-up truck. No wonder those guys are always so mad at us cyclists; always cutting close, always flooring it as they go by, always letting the engine idle at the gas station while they fill up or go inside to buy that 20 ounce energy drink. I understand more fully now.

    We started off from Vader and had a down hill (Jerry is very thoughful that way) at 9:00 AM and while getting situated, an old Suburban pulling a 50's Chevy wreck came slowly down that same hill. About 100 ft after they passed us, the hitch broke loose and the wreck slammed into the back of the Suburban. We coasted down the hill to see if we could help and they just said "Nah, this ole' truck just doesn't seem to want to go to the wrecking yard. Say, didn't I see you guys in Centralia yesterday?" We responded in the affirmative and that we really enjoyed Centralia and then we were off on our way, trying to make good time just in case they "fixed" the hitch quickly.

    The road winds around but follows roughly the RR tracks and we soon found our way into Castle Rock. Claire and I noticed that Diesel was selling for $4.29 but that didn't stop two fine gentlemen from idling their Dodges in front while they went in for their aforementioned energy drinks, Corn dogs, and Little Nickel publications. Fascinating!

    One guy came out and gave us a better route than following the 411 into Longview and so we took it and were happy. Pleasant Hill Rd. is pleasant indeed. We passed a street cleaner and found to our liking that the road before the street cleaning machine was clean as well. The trees were in full bloom and we saw a blue bird or a bluejay. We don't know. It was nice.

    Next up, we cruised through Longview and then Kelso and then Longview again (that's just the way they are organized; we went in a direct path) and since Thorvald was sleeping well, we trudged on to Kalama where we arrived at 12:00 'noon. We spent about 2 hours in Kalama at different places, learned how to pronounce the name (you'll have to ride with us to find out), and generally worked Thor until he was docile and ready for riding (napping).

    Between Kalama and Woodland lies a cycling conundrum. You don't really want to ride on the freeway because that's kind of like cheating and it's kind of loud, and everybody thinks it's dangerous. The only problem is that the only connecting road looks like this:

    Look at what happens when you start up Line Road. That sucker was so steep, we pushed the thing up most of the way, and then high fived each other, not realizing that we were only half way up! It was laughably difficult and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a cycling challenge. On the way down, I couldn't tell if the drag brake was working and once on the flats, found that the brake had stuck closed. Apparently, it still works.

    The rest of the ride was punctuated by rolling hills, Thorvald's constant sleep (we're going to pay for that tonight, I tell ya') and a very helpful cyclist named Greg who led us on a new path that turned out perfect. Claire might correct me on his name but he had an older Trek 520 with nice, old brifters. Nice guy.

    We arrived in Battleground around 4:30 or 5 and had a great time with Tom and Monique, of which, Tom is Claire's cousin.

    We didn't break anything except perhaps the drag brake which is sticky and I haven't tried since, and we parked the bike in the chicken coop, where I'm sure it will work better tomorrow.

    Total mileage was somewhere around 60-65, down from 80 because of the ride from Jerry, but felt like more because of Green Mountain Road (#^$%^&^%^%#^%*&^, I mean highlight of the day). Thorvald is having a great time with the 4 kids who reside here and we're having a great time. The weather turned from nippy and rainy to sunny today. Tomorrow will be great!

    Well today was pretty fun too.


    Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    Hawkins Family Bike Tour: Day 3

    Dear Friends,

    Some of you are wondering what this all means. I know, it's pretty tricky. Claire and I are riding from Seattle to Portland and taking 5 days. Usually people think of that ride in terms of something only done in the middle of July, on two days of a weekend, with 8,000 people whom you should not trust on two wheels with your safety, ahem I mean, 8,000 of your closest friends.

    Nay, Claire and I are taking advantage of the fact that I have 4 different weeks when some percentage of my students are on spring break and this is the week with the largest percentage of students missing that didn't take place in February. You take what you can get. We have also started a silly and self indulgent pattern of going to crazy places for our anniversary (roughly) and here is this year's installment. Just so you know, the first year was to Mexico City (the concierge wouldn't let us ride bikes nor tell us where we could rent them), yes, the city; the second to Romania (we couldn't stomach $320 to cart our bikes over when a train ride across that country was $12 first class), the third to Ashland and environs (Claire was very with child this time last year), and this year finds us on a bike, just one, riding to visit family.

    With that, today's story begins with last night. After a nice dip in the hot tub, Claire's cousin Jordan informed us that global warming doesn't exist. Jordan is a contractor who specializes in sewage mains and water mains and any kind of pipe for liquids or cable or anthing you like as long as you have to dig to install it. We were about to agree with him based on the nippy weather yesterday and the fact that it took us quite a while to warm up. But I pointed out that global warming really has more to do about accounting for all of your costs, that if you are dumping something into a river or burning some hydrocarbon, that you should pay the entire price for its use. He was in complete agreement because his job is figuring out what things are actually going to cost sometimes years in advance and I'm glad we could reach some rapprochement. I also think that he would love that I used "rapprochement" with reference to him.

    So for today's ride, we went from south Tumwater/Littlerock to Onalaska (just look it up. It exists). I think it kind of fun that all of our family live in deep exurbia and riding our bikes there provides for some really great riding atypical of our downtown Seattle regular commutes.

    Ah yes, the ride. We got loaded up. Thorvald is getting used to the pattern and really likes hanging out with us. He's really adapting to trailer life and goes to sleep most easily there, inexplicably to our better senses. The roads back to the main one are much shorter than we remember, and soon enough we are charting new ground, cutting east so as to meet up with good ole' state route 99. We ride east then south, passing through Tenino, Bucoda (originally a Romanian name but who knows, it was settled in 1853), and then we catch lunch in Centralia.

    In the middle of Centralia is a park with a Carnegie library and a statue of a WWI soldier. It's a memorial but not to what you would think. It's dedicated to the men killed in Centralia's famous labor riot of 1919. How completely cool is that. These guys were soldiers, marched in the Armistice Day parade, and spoke up somehow for worker rights, only to be gunned down.

    I don't know that I've ever done anything that courageous, but seeing that statue was the high point of my riding day, oh, that and the great weather we had, and the sickeningly flat route (sore bums for both of us; Claire switched her saddle out; we carry two for her), and of course, the Yard Bird.

    You just have to go to Chehalis (twin city to Centralia) to see the paper mache exquisiteness that is the Yard Bird. It must be two stories high and 60 feet long and stands at the highway as a sentinel, inviting passers by to feast on the Yard Bird flea market. Oh, you must go. It's a very good time.

    We got in at 3 PM, left at 9:30 that morning, covered 45 miles, had a nice lunch, let Thorvald run wild in the labor/philanthropist park, and talked to all kinds of people who love bikes and love their families. It was a great day.

    Day 4 is the marathon. Stay tuned. We haven't done it yet.


    Hawkins Family Bike Tour: Day 2

    Dear Friends,

    So for our second day in the saddle, and knowing that we had a bike locked up at the Pt. Defiance dock in north Tacoma, but knowing also that bike shops don't open before ten, we took a leisurely morning and had breakfast at Shari's. I'm not typically a fan of the place and the potato pancakes were pretty heavy on the potato, but if you get an omelet with pancakes and add the strawberry sauce and whipped cream as Claire did, you can pretty much forget about bicycling disasters and threatening rain.

    Once the bike shop opens however, you must face reality, the reality of the bicycle, the reality of tools and weather, and hills, and scheduling your ride time around baby feeding and naps. The family bike tour is super fun and very bonding, but keeping Thorvald happy is of primary concern, enjoying the ride yourself secondary, and mileage goals come in somewhere around 7th, right after, heck, I can't even think of what fits in the middle but I sure know it's more important that mileage.

    So Chip (my father in law) drives me to the bike shop where I pick up a chain tool (eureka!) a new chain, and come to think of it, nothing else, drives us back up to the dock, drops me off to fix my bike, and then I ride a more or less stripped down tandem from Point Defiance to Lakewood.

    Now I have to say that Tacoma's idea of bike accomodations borders on the silly. Pearl St is beautiful and wide and flat and runs right down through Tacoma. Vassault Way or Narrows Way or Mildred Ave or whatever it happens to be at any given point is a hilly, chip sealed mess. Note to all road contractors: If you have to chip seal a road, you don't have to pour gravel on the shoulder/bike lane because that part doesn't wear out. Save your money, short the city a little bit, and only hit the lane. Everybody comes out ahead! Got that contractors? Good.

    The hills are fun though and I much prefer them to most other bicycling difficulties because they get me out of the saddle, change up the gears a little (sometimes a lot) and provide me with short term goals. Just don't ride the Burma Road on Vashon without a chain tool. Mark my words.

    I arrive in Lakewood, around 12:30 but not before the drag brake cable snaps and I have to replace the now missing bolt assembly (and I thought STI was high maintenance!) and get a new cable (back at the same bike shop; they were quite happy to see me again and see the rig. Bike shops take great interest in people doing things that bike shop employees dream of doing themselves) and put it all together and then ride home. I'm talking about you, adventure lovers!

    We get loaded up and take off, deciding to skirt the hills for a while, and head through north Fort Lewis, I-5 for 2/3 of a mile, Nisqually and Pac Highway (old 99), and then up the hill to east Olympia where Claire's cousin Joe and family reside.

    Joe works for Intel and has recently replaced his Lexus convertible with a white Ford Econoline with flame decals so we know that at 36, he is well past his midlife crisis and is embracing a new, more adventurous life. His wife Coriell has not been told that we are coming but we have a nice visit anyway. The kids are beautiful.

    The ride into Olympia is a whole different cycling universe and is far and away better than anything I've seen in Seattle. Whereas Seattle has one real bike trail with stop signs all the time and political impasses keeping it from being finished, Olympia is in full bike path nirvana with interlocking trails that get out into and out of the city with complimentary bike pathed roads along the way. The signage is a little lacking but they really have it going on. We took wide street to the Chehalis Western Trail, which then intersected with the Olympia Woodland Trail, which then took us to a wide, pathed road, to another pathed road, to the Capitol. Don't tell me government can't get anything done!

    We futzed around the Capitol and found a woman with a shiny Co-Motion who directed us out of town to the southwest toward Littlerock, and then found a biker going our way who works in fish biology for the state. I don't know why so many engineers and scientists ride bikes, but they are some of the nicest people we know (you know who you are) and we love riding with them. John Forrester has a convincing theory, but I think it's just because those types are deeper thinkers than the rest.

    So we ride a very flat, very straight road down almost to Littlerock, turn right into the Delphi valley, and then visit with another of Claire's cousins and his family, wherein we also stay the night. They have a hot tub, lovely children, and being contractors, lots of fun machinery to talk about. This would be Jordan and Jill, and their three girls. Life is pretty great. We get in around 6:30

    Thorvald up to this point has tried to time his naps perfectly to our riding time and thus took two 2 hour naps, covering our 4 hours of riding time. He's so understanding that way. What a nice boy. He's turning 1 this month too. Come to the party if you can.

    The weather was a little odd. We got rained on twice but not convincingly. The strange part is that that a blue patch kind of followed us along the whole way. We would ride though areas that had just received a deluge of water and our bike is a dirty mess, but we had a great time and ducked inundation with the best of them. No real breakdowns today except that I had to true my rear wheel a little, oh and I fixed the chain at the beginning, and dealt with a broken cable and a bolt assembly. At least we didn't have to walk today.

    Mileage: about 40 miles, broken up into two roughly equal sections, with a 13 mile pre-ride shakedown without the gear. Life is pretty cool. Don't wait for late summer for your bike rides. These are just the greatest.


    Hawkins Family Bike Tour: Day 1

    Dear friends,This will be put into a larger format but yesterday was quite the shot in the arm.

    Claire got slammed by work on Monday so we got a late start out of the house. We left around 3 PM for West Seattle and the Vashon Ferry. This was nice enough. The Paselas that many scoff at ride just beautifully in their 35 mm form, and the tandem seemed immune from the massive wind gusts along the waterfront as we made our way south through the industrial district.

    Thorvald needed his seat adjusted so we stopped and moved things around only to discover that I had not pumped one of his tires up enough. I went to the location where the pump is held and lo and behold, it was not to be found!. What the....? Going on a bike tour without a pump? Crazy! There was still enough air to get places so we climbed into West Seattle and stopped in at Aaron's bike repair, and excellent resource by the way. They have more X-tra cycles and cargo bikes than anywhere I've seen and while in, Aaron was working on a customer's new X-tra as well.

    I got a pump, and got it situated and we bounded off into parts unknown along Fauntleroy towards Lincoln Park. Upon arriving at the ferry terminal, I bought tickets and then we waited for the cars to load. Presently, up comes a very nice, be-tattooed young guy bearing my credit card. He had brought it down from the shop. Fantastic. We bid our good tidings and many thanks and then boarded, knowing full well that things were looking up.

    Being last off a ferry is one of the nicest things to do. You don't get passed while trudging up the inevitable hill from the dock, and you never see any of those infernal motorcycles who seem to enjoy cutting lanes with cyclists. The hill out of the Vashon ferry dock is, shall we say, perfect for the contemplative. You just climb and climb; not letting any shoulders assist or passing dump trucks destroy.

    We reached the top and looked for a fun little road which G-maps thinks is just dandy for bicycles, that being Burma Road. Now for the uninitiated, Burma road is an unused, twisty, west side road of Vashon that hooks conveniently into the West Side Hwy on the way to the Tahlequah ferry dock. To a fully loaded tandem with a trailer and kid, this is one of the craziest roads I've been on. We should plan it as a training ride, and no, I will not bring my fixie. No way. It's one 25% hill after another and it was hard on our gears. So hard in fact that I ran the chain into the spokes on one hill, and then two hills later, I broke the chain. You read that right. We sat there, three quarters of the way up a crazy hill, with the drag brake on, the caliper fully closed, incredulous.

    Well, wouldn't you know it, I had brought extra chain, a master link, but no chain tool! How about that? Thankfully, Thorvald was still asleep.

    So we pushed the bike up and down two more hills, pushing up, and then coasting down, until we reached Cedarhurst, where we climbed up to the Vashon Hwy. On the way up, we stopped a guy in a pick-up who offered some advice and some help, but we declined, thinking we would run into a cyclist who might have such a wonderful tool, and finished the climb up.

    We walked along the Hwy into Vashon (the town) and and after about an hour, this same guy comes along and stops, waiting for us. At this point our determination towards self sufficiency had softened and we tore the rig apart and put it in his pick-up. (pictures are coming) His name was Gene and we soon found out that he had just moved out here from Wisconsin, was into living off the land, had 7 kids, and was pretty handy. When he mentioned that he had found a place to stay through church, we inquired and found that he is Mormon. Well, isn't that dandy?! A real mormon. Well, so are we! We had a good laugh about the lost missionary opportunities (we are, as a religion, famous for our missionary zeal), and then found our way to the south ferry dock.

    We had a nice 20 minute wait for the ferry, and then pushed our still hobbled tandem down the plank and onto the ferry. The ride was nice and Thorvald had a great day with us. I might interject that while pushing the bike, Thorvald just giggled and gaggled the whole way. He though this was a fantastic game we were playing!.

    I locked up the bike and trailer down in the marina, stripped it down for a night alone, and Claire's dad picked us up and we had nice Mexican at a place on Proctor, the Wallingford of Tacoma.

    So now, I'm waiting around for the local bike shop to open where we can get a chain tool, and extra chain, and a ride back up north to the ferry dock.

    Mileage for Monday: 15 out of a possible 34 miles. Special thanks to Gene, Chip, and the nice guy who brought my credit card down from the bike shop. We're off to a rip roaring start. Oh and I've got to say, the weather was fantastic!

    Brad, Claire, and Thorvald Hawkins

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    Carfree Mom

    Bike commuters are familiar with the "How can/do you it it?" question. Really though, riding your bike to work is pretty simple. For an example of dedicated cycling you need to look elsewhere. Today I'm looking at the example of Marion Rice, carfree Mom.

    Marion has a five and two year old she takes to school on her Xtracycle enhanced bike. Two kids and/or four bags of groceries are typical loads on her 10 to 16 miles of daily riding for daily life. Marion is going to be writing a regular column on "Carfree Families" on

    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    Sasek RULES

    Can't help but notice that over to the right there is a book by one of my FAVORITE AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATORS OF ALL TIME.
    How amazing to have him there, next to me.
    Back in the day when I had "Life In The Fat Lane" (BIKE magazine in the mid-1990's, when we all were awash with cash and bonhomie) my 'neighbor' ad was SIMPLE shoes....I rather liked it...despite the fact they were made in China, and smelled horrifically of rubber for the duration you kept them in yr closet, they were a shoe company with a very interesting way of supporting at least two artists, me and the much more talented creator of Moonlight Chronicles, a sort of sketchbook/diary that was if anything, a print version of a blog.
    A chapbook if you will.
    The makers of Simple shoes paid him to keep on drawing...and the man, (forgot his name, twill arrive in my head tonight) would duly observe his very richly arrayed surroundings...he lived in a hut, or a tree stump, I forget which...had a son, not a baby but not grown either...very very interesting...
    So anyway eventually 'my neighbor' changed from Simple to....a switchblade knife manufacturer...then....a gun!!! I complained to Rob Story...
    Then the coup de grace: a Porsche ad, right next to my story about how cool our magazine is, because WE DON'T TAKE AUTOMOBILE ADS.
    Well, I guess they DID take that ad, but they sure didn't tell the idiot that had written that column for the previous five years, month in, month out...
    Profiles in discourage...
    BUY ANYTHING by M. Sasek (I have "this Is Edinburgh" and have borrowed all the other dozen books, Hong Kong,London, New York, Ireland, San Francisco, Paris, even TEXAS .... from our library which has the sense to keep these classics, only just now re-issued by Universe, a subsid of some other big house.
    Really. You deserve to learn what mid-century cities of the world were like through that man's eyes...

    Cycling toward the future

    (Originally posted at


    Over the next weeks and months, I'm probably going to write here about my wife's and my attempt to get back to the values we started with as a married couple. Ever since we had our two lovely boys, I think we've been sliding away from the course we had charted as we are being slowly but surely co-opted by modern cultural "norms."

    For months now, I've had this really positive, hard-to-pin-down feeling that something good is coming. I told Jen then other day that I feel like I'm simultaneously riding many tributaries on the way toward a great river, and that once I hit the main body of water things will be clearer and brighter and better. I think the way to get there -- the way to find the river -- is to take intentional action, not just to be swept along by the current.

    One intentional action we're going to take is to severely limit our car usage on the way to eliminating it entirely. I have a car that's provided by my work (as I've written about here and here) and we also own a 2001 Subaru Forester that's a year from being paid off. I think we're going to get rid of our car and park my work car except when I need it for work, which is very seldom. In addition to the workers I represent in downtown Albany, I also represent two hotels in Schenectady. I discovered that it's a fairly easy bike trip to Schenectady if you go straight there, so that cuts out another need for the car. And I can take my weekly trip to Saratoga Springs by train and then walk a mile to the office.

    Anyway, I don't have this all fleshed out in my mind yet. But good things are afoot. Positive change is happening. Life is starting to come into focus in a way it hasn't before. And bicycling is part of this new world.

    Whenever I want to remind myself about the beauty of the bicycling lifestyle, I ride my bike. And I watch this:

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    So why bike?

    Musings on unconventional travel: Day four, Sept. 17, 2002.

    The morning arrived with the soft glow of sunlight shimmering off dispersing storm clouds. The night before we had met our first storm, wind and rain pummeling the ground as we rushed to cover our bikes in a tarp. But the morning is blue and warm, and we only have 22 miles ahead of us to our next destination - Telluride, Colo.

    Just over two miles outside the mountain resort town, the highway turns away from the canyon and the pleasant incline of the San Miguel River. All we can see ahead of us is elevation, 1,000 feet to Telluride, and a steady stream of cars winding on the narrow highway corridor climbing toward it.

    A so we climb, two miles over a tenuous shoulder in the shadow of heavy traffic. The ever-steepening San Juan mountains cradle the highway in virtual suspension, and the only thing between us and a thousand-foot tumble down a rocky slope is a few inches and a mangled guardrail.

    Over a mile and a half goes by before we even reach the first pull-out to stop. My lungs are burning from a combination of exhaust and the thin air of high elevation. I stand by the side of the road, wheezing - I’m still out of shape. A couple of mountain bikers, bicycles still strapped to the top of their jeep, greet us. We tell them we’re on our way to Telluride, and they tell us they just came from there. They point out a network of trails weaving their way to the river, now several hundred feet below us. Beautiful single tracks that rip through trees, bounce over rocks and generally make for one exhilarating bike ride - one that my IBEX roadie will never experience.

    And as I glance up at the half mile we have yet to climb, the envy sets in. Oh, the convenience of being a day rider - the effortless exhilaration of a one-way downhill trail, the weightlessness of full-suspension, the cool comfort of the jeep waiting below. I lean over my 90-pound bus of a bike and try to focus on something positive.

    So why bike? Why load every heavy thing you need to survive on a two-wheeled vehicle powered solely by you? Why the effort? And why, in this fast-paced age of information, would anyone waste so much time moving at 12 mph?

    In a word, sustainability - the very essence of survival. Short of throwing on a backpack and walking into the wilderness, there is not a more self-contained mode of travel than a bicycle. Everything that you put into it, you get out. All those backward aspects of living that have been lost over generations of progress become essential again.

    Calories, rather than an enemy, become a necessity, and you cherish them. You learn about the excess of modern novelties such as iceberg lettuce, which, at 45 calories per pound and nearly no nutrients, won’t get you very far. You rediscover simple mechanics and learn to fix your bike. By spending vast amounts of time outdoors, you become dependent on nature. You observe the movement of clouds and rotation of the sky, and use them to gauge weather and time. You no longer have computers and TVs and magazines to tell you what to do all the time, and you learn to trust your instincts. You hold your body in the highest regard - it’s your only means of movement - and all of your other possessions become secondary. You discover the contours of landscape and develop an acute sense of place. And through it all, you learn to love the land and yourself in ways that modern living has adamantly denied.

    So why bike? Because biking is the only means to escape civilization in a civilized society. Biking is the only way to crawl along the car-choked Interstate and still feel like part of a natural flow. And, short of hiking into the wilderness with a fishing pole and a Swiss army knife, biking is the shortest route to independence in an increasingly dependent world.

    And damn if these mountain bikers didn’t catch a glimpse of that feeling as they barreled down the trail - I know they did. But the reason we suffer the uphill battle is to sustain that feeling, to slow progress down a little bit before it passes us by

    Getting Started

    Pretty cool stuff you've been able to read about here on Veloquent. Riding stories from the tropics to the arctic, beloved bikes chosen from lust or reason, epic tours forging relationships, adversities (pain!) overcome, great achievements and experiences from exceptional people. It makes you want to, want to ... well ahem, maybe, um admire those superhumans!

    Or maybe even be one of them by riding your bike, kinda like they do.

    First though you have a huge obstacle to overcome. It's an obstacle shared by the vast majority of the people you encounter on a daily basis. That obstacle is just getting started. You've got to go out and ride your next (or is it your first?) ride and pedal closer to making that ride.

    Getting started really is the hard part. Keeping going is so much easier. Even if you've already ridden, today!, further than you've ever ridden before riding the little bit further is easier than starting for the first time. When you read the Veloquent stories of travel and pedaling and adventure and you think about you'd like to, how you wish you could, ride like that ask yourself "can I go out and ride my bike now?" and answer the question not with wistful words but with physical action. When you make that physical answer, you've done the hard part, you've started.

    I first formed this thought to share with you about three blocks from my house as I puffed up the broken Boise street pavement between 42nd and 45th streets. I hadn't wanted to get on my bike to commute to work. It took about an hour to jolly myself into getting dressed and getting on the bike. Yet here, four blocks from my house, after just a very few minutes of pedaling I was feeling the spreading glow of enjoyment. The temperature was close to freezing, but I was warm. Well, warm enough. I almost turned around when I opened the garage door and felt the morning air. Now, just three blocks later there was no way I was going to turn around and go home and not ride to work. I'd already done the hard part.

    A daily commute or an epic journey have only one real impediment to being accomplished: getting started.