Wednesday, August 28, 2013


So I've been reading Bike Snob Abroad recently. I'm not a huge fan of his blog, but I check it out daily. Strange, right? On the blog he just seems too snarky for my tastes. I get taking the piss out of something, but there is a fine line.

Anyway, I'm reading his book and keep finding myself shaking my head in agreement with him. The premise is that he's on a quest for a place or time where cycling and, specifically, cycling for transport is ubiquitous, normalized, and accepted. He talks about the different cycling types in America and the cycling regions of this country. And he's right on the money.

As a cycle commuter you are looked at as either a freak or as someone trying to make some political statement, or as the guy who has no other way to get around. None of these are particularly gracious.

This has gotten me thinking about my own prejudices. I see lots of people throughout the year on bikes. And they fall into a number of distinct categories. Or at least seem to.

Roadies: These are the guys and gals who may or may not be commuting to work. It doesn't matter, though, because they are in full team kit and pumping out the watts. They don't smile. They don't wave. They really don't seem to be enjoying the ride at all. It is punishment and atonement for eating a cheeseburger last night - burn those calories and keep the legs stubble free.

Commuters: These are the guys and gals who are clearly on their way somewhere. They have panniers or backpacks, may be wearing a mix of business casual, wool, and poly tech fabrics. They aren't pushing the pace, but aren't slouching either. They generally smile or wave, and tend to seem like they enjoy the ride. They are out there pretty much whatever the weather. The more hardcore they are, the more shabby their bikes tend to look, though they all ride decent bikes - mountain, hybrid, touring - doesn't matter so much as long as it is dependable. No weight weenies here - steel and leather pervade and when the snow is blowing the beards are flowing.

Joy riders: Adults on vacation on rented bikes. Kids on BMXs. These are the riders who either don't ride often or are young enough to not care about riding with any sort of predictability. For these riders, a bike is a toy, not a vehicle. Nuff said about them. The older the joy rider, the more painfully annoying they tend to be.

Everyone else: These are the others that Bike Snob talks a bit about. The folks on the horribly squeaky dime-store bikes, who ride the hell out of these machines until they get stolen or self destruct from being ridden past their expiration miles. These are the people who ride because they have no other choice. They may have lost their driving privileges or they maybe just can't afford the price of admission for a car. They ride in jeans. They ride neither slow nor fast. They ride on the road, on the paths, on the sidewalks, wherever.

And these groups generally don't intermingle, which is sad. The everyone else group could teach the rest of us a thing or two about riding I bet. These are the folks we need to engage in discussion about bike infrastructure and improving transport by bike. Take a guy like me who commutes by bike daily and you'll find that we tend to follow the same route everyday. When we have to go someplace new, we'll often research the possible routes and will tack an extra mile or two on if the route makes it more convenient for the ride. We'll ride in traffic if we need to, but would just as soon get our chai latte at a different coffee shop, one right off the bike path, instead of going through the "bad part" of town. We're the ones who can afford to be smug about our riding because it's a choice we make.

For those who don't have a choice, who ride everywhere out of need - how can we make their trips safer? How can we give them the infrastructure they need to make it there and back in one piece? How can we get to the point where the Everyone else category becomes...when the categories themselves disappear? When riding a bike is neither a political statement, statement of one's personal wealth, or an expression of one's low rank on the social totem?

Portland isn't what we should strive towards. Celebration of the bike leads to further fragmentation and specialization. We need unification. We need for people to realize that riding a bike is a valid form of movement.

But, and here is where I think things get tricky, don't we need to go through the Portland-style celebration of bikes and bike culture before we can get to normalization? We need to get the folks out there on bike in sufficient numbers to change the public's perspective before we can fade into the background as a normal part of the daily flow.

My thoughts on this are only half-formed right now. And my experience is quite limited. I've only been a bike commuter for reals while living in Alaska. Before I was the guy who would sometimes ride to work, but prefered to go for a long trail ride before work, go home and shower, and then drive my car to the office (The office was 1.25 miles away) or I was the guy who would never even think that the bike is a valid form of transportation at all. So I'm new to the whole game with a myopic vision of what the bike commute culture is in the US as a whole. Though I think that much of what I've seen and learned can be applied to most places.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


--Warning: Rant written yesterday--
So some days I just don't care - I want to drive. I want to not worry about meeting someone else's schedule. I don't want to worry about whether or not I'll have room to have a seat or if I'll have to stand. Hell, some days I'm just over it all. And things haven't even gotten challenging yet. I mean, winter's not here yet and I have no clue how this whole thing will work.

I figure I'll be riding the 5:05 bus on the way home. I can't leave work at 3 every day just to get on the bus at 4. But who knows? Best leave that bridge to cross when I actually get there.

I'm just sour grapes today. Not feeling it. Not wanting to be at work. Not looking forward to the ride to the bus stop today. Went for a run with my oldest last night and I can feel just how long it's been since I've done that. Classes start up this week, so I have that hanging over my head as well - how will I have time to dedicate to teaching as well as work? It's going to be a busy few months for sure. And I still don't have flooring figured out in my house? When will I get that done now? Probably not until next summer, in all likelihood. --/Rant--

So, some days are better than others, I guess. Today was a good commute in. The weather was decent and the bus was right where I expected it to be. I was just in a piss mood yesterday, as happens at times. We all have those days where something internal flares up because of external factors. It wasn't the commute and the bus that was bothering me. It was knowing that I have a ton of work to do, and will for the next 16 weeks, and that I have even less time now than I used to and feeling like maybe moving so far away from work was a mistake on some level.

As with any move, there are challenges to overcome. Adjustments to be made. Etc. Etc. Etc. We're are experiencing the growing pains right now, I think.

I'm out of words right now.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Word...

Another day, another commute. There are days when it all seems the same, when everything bleeds into itself and blah, blah, blah.

There was nothing special or unique about today's trip, other than the fact that I watched as the bus pulled in at 5:05 and started to pull away at 5:06 when he's not scheduled to leave until 5:10. No big deal, I still made it, but it was a bit of a shock to see the bus moving away from the stop so early. What was up with that? Was he really leaving or just pulling around to face the other way out of the parking lot? Not sure.

He's still new, so we'll give him a break.

Really, what more is there to say? No deep thoughts for me today. Just trying to stay awake, so I'll not bore you with more blah blah blah.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


It's raining today in Anchorage. It's been raining for the past month, it seems, after a summer of blue skies and perfect weather, it's now time to start getting real about things. Start thinking about winter. For some riders the headlights have already come out to illuminate the morning commute. The layers lie at the ready. Hats and gloves are worn. Rain gear tested. This type of weather, this time of year, is when we see who is hardcore into their bike commuting and who isn't. What drives someone to start his or her day in the pouring rain just so he or she can peddle a bike from home to office?

As dedicated bike commuter over at the MTBR commuter forums stated when asked what it takes to get someone to go car-lite: " I think most people will need a crisis to get them out of the car initially. Like no gas available due to some disaster, big price increases, loss of a car, or road/transit congestion that makes the alternatives to biking more undesirable. bad habits are ingrained and tough to break! (mtbxplorer)"

This concept played out with the colleague I mentioned yesterday. She's ridden a number of days this week because she had no other choice. Her car was in the shop and it was either take the bus or bike it. She rode her bike and now states that the commute "wasn't that bad."

And for a lot of people that is what it takes - a situation where the choice is removed. Unfortunately for most, when that occurs it is already too late.

Life changes. And when life changes, it can lead us to do things we didn't think of doing before. I started commuting by bike 100% just three years ago, so I am still fairly new to the whole thing. I had commuted off an on before that, but never regularly.

What prompted my conversion? A major life change. We decided to move from South Dakota to Alaska. And that move caused three things to happen that drove me towards bike commuting. First is the cost of living in Alaska. Things are expensive here. Fuel is expensive. Insurance is expensive. It's all expensive. In and of itself, that is not insurmountable. I am a well-educated, well-employed person. But here is where the second thing that drove me towards bike commuting - we sold our second car before we moved up here. We didn't see the point in trying to drive two cars up the ALCAN and weren't sure just how well a Volkswagen Beetle would do in Alaska anyway. Again, both of these could be overcome. I could have bought a car once we got up here - which was always in the back of our heads to do, I think. But this is where the third, and hardest hurdle to overcome came in - pay. When we decided to move up here I took a substantial pay cut. Substantial. In South Dakota I was working on a project for the State. A 70-million plus, Federally supported IT project. I was making more money per year than I ever thought I would -probably way overpaid, truth be told. And I was also teaching as an adjunct at the local U for another 20-ish K per year. Couple that with a sub-500 a month rent bill, utilities that were ridiculously cheap, and a weekly food bill for a family of five that was probably a quarter of what we pay now, and we quickly see that commuting by bike wasn't so much a choice as a need.

Here we were in Anchorage, paying 1200+ a month for rent, over 4 bucks a gallon for fuel, and eating ramen because that's what we could afford. There was literally no way that we could have afforded a second car, let alone the gas required for a daily, in city commute.

So I rode my bike. At first I rode most days. I wasn't trying to make a statement or anything. I was just too cheap/broke to be able to support a car commute lifestyle.

I remember every morning waking up and thinking of reasons why I should drive instead of bike: Too cold. Too wet. Too sore. Too early. Too late. The list of excuses was endless. But the strange thing that happened was about Christmas time of that first commute year, about 4 months in, I woke up one morning and didn't have the question bouncing around my head of how I was going to get to work. I was just going to ride in. And from there, it was just what I did. I rode bike to work. I didn't think about driving. I didn't use excuses such as "I need to go to client XYZ's office today. I better drive." Instead, I just rode. It went from being a conscious choice I made daily to being just what was.

But had I not made the decision to move my family to Alaska, knowing full-well about the hardships we'd face that first year, I don't think I would have made the switch to full time bike commuting.

At least not unless there was something else to encourage it.

So then how do we encourage it? There are a number of ways that we can do this.

Offer incentives for employees who use alternate commuting options. Here's the deal - bike commuting, walk commuting, skateboard commuting, XC ski commuting, run commuting - these all benefit both the employee and the employer. Employees who commute under their own power are, studies show, more productive overall, use health insurance less, and take fewer sick days per year. Win/win.

Some employers pay employees for not driving. There's an interesting story about that here. I like that idea. Pay people to not get in their cars. But rather than give them cash, how about give them the benefit in the form of credits for a local bike shop so that they can buy new bikes and gear? Or credits with the company to buy extra vacation days? Find a way to make sure that the incentive received goes towards encouraging the employee to continue the behavior. What better way to keep the bike commuting stoke going than with a new bike or new gear?

How else can we encourage people to put their fear of commuting by bike away? Organize monthly office rides. Use these rides as a low-risk way of showing new riders the basics of commuting, safe routes for the commute, and just how easy it can be to make the commute by bike. Wrap the office ride up with a fun single-track session or a road ride and then go for breakfast or lunch on the company dime. I think that the biggest fears that many new riders have are:

1) I can't find a route / the route is too dangerous

2) I won't make it to work on time

Having a ride like this can alleviate both of these fears. The ride and follow-up coffee/breakfast gathering can then serve as a forum for experienced commuters to share their tips and tricks with new riders and answer specific questions that folks have. The added benefit is the increased camaraderie, which can result in lower turn-over and higher productivity as employees build stronger teams and are less likely to horde information.

Another way to increase alternate commuting is to wrap it up with other fitness-oriented incentives. Many companies have programs that reward such things as logging a million steps in a year or earning fitness points which are then used to reduce health insurance premiums paid by the employee. By including activities such as bike commuting in these programs legitimizes it for a lot of people.

Here's the thing - any incentive needs to really just focus on getting folks over the initial hump, those vital first few weeks when they still ask themselves "How am I getting to work today?" After that, the incentives become ancillary.

What other incentives or promotions do you think would work?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rocket Skates

Why do people fear commuting by means other than car and how do they get over that hump? I posed the question to the great folks over at the MTBR Commuter forums and got a lot of really great answers. I also talked to a colleague who signed up for the commuter challenge but didn't ride once during, though has ridden three days since. Her story is similar to many people's stories, I think.

So let's what is it that keeps people from riding? Or busing? Or walking, for that matter? We need to understand this before we can start developing ways to get people out there and out of their cars.

The two most common concepts that arise are fear and comfort. Indeed, when speaking with my colleague, her reason for not riding during the challenge was that her commute was ten miles each way along a busy roadway. She was afraid that the ride would be too hard or too dangerous.

As Straz85 comments on the discussion, "-Most people are scared to ride on roads, especially during rush hour (why my wife would never ride to work)"

Scared. People are scared of riding bike for many valid reasons. While most cities are starting to have at least a minimal amount of bike infrastructure, there is a long way to go until bikes have the same level of access as other vehicles do without utilizing the existing roadway system. And many roads were never designed to support mixed traffic use.

Anchorage, Alaska is a good example of this. We have an extensive network of multi-use pathway, off-road bike lanes, and on-road bike lanes. Even so, there are roads in this town I will not ride on if I can help it and for a number of reasons. Fear being one of them. Most city streets here have 45 MPH speed limits. Many are set up as three or four lanes of traffic in each direction with poor to no lane marking and no run-out or shoulder area on the edges. Essentially highway-style roads with the occasional traffic light. If a dedicated bike commuter won't ride those roads, why would someone who's not nuts do it?

Unfortunately it seems that these non-bike friendly corridors are along major north/south or east/west routes, making it such that they are nearly impossible to avoid for at least part of a person's commute or the bypass of these routes adds so much length to the ride that it makes it daunting for most people.

There is also fear in relation to drivers - heck, we all know that bikes are hard to see and many drivers just aren't aware that there could be cyclists out there, especially when it's dark, cold, or rainy. We all hear stories all the time about cyclists getting run over and hurt or killed. The news likes to make a big deal out of these types of stories, which is great - raise awareness - but also has the affect of increasing fear and diminishing ridership.

Another common refrain has to do with comfort. "Why do any work when you can get in a comfy climate controlled SUV and have the 300HP engine do all the work for you (Straz85)?" A person doesn't need to think or preplan for a drive. Doesn't have to worry about the weather or the light conditions. Just drive. And that is a big appeal. I get that. But it's just conditioning. We've learned to feel that driving is the only way to go to the point that we don't think about it as a choice that we make each morning.

Many potential cyclists also worry about how they will be able to present themselves in a professional manner after riding in to work. Some folks want or need to shower after a ride. Many females have some strange need to put on makeup and do their hair (I can't pretend to understand this...), and some folks need to wear "professional" attire. And some employers are responsive to this, as Tripped1 states:

I have a shower and lockers, and the main reason that I can easily get away with it is because throwing jeans a shirt and a pair of chucks in a backpack is pretty easy. If I had to do business casual with the office rats on the other end of the building it would be more of an issue (or my cube would look like a store display) for a woman, that is even more of a challenge, depending on office dress and the amount of warpaint your wife wears.

My roomate is a a woman that works in an office that is WAY more restrictive dresscode wise than mine, she has a hard time even riding a motorcycle to work, much less riding a bicycle.

There are many, many reasons why people don't ride. There are just as many for why people chose to not use public transportation, but for now I want to remain focused on the bike as a commute tool as this where I got my start in moving from car-centric to car-lite.

Tomorrow we'll look at some of the ways that these fears can be calmed.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


In the state of Alaska there are 951,485 vehicles registered as of 2012. This includes cars, trucks, commercial vehicles, snowmachines, buses, and trailers. What that number does not include are boats, motorcycles, ATVs, or other vehicles that are not street-legal, but which inevitably are rode on road in this great state. Oh, and it doesn't include planes, either.

So, in a state that has a 2012 population of 731,449, we have enough vehicles for every man, woman, and child, and then some. I'm sure this is the same for any state in the union. Americans in general and Alaskans in particular love their vehicles.

I'm constantly reminded of this when I ride through my neighborhood and see that almost every house has at least three cars in the driveway, an ATV, a trailer, an RV, or motorcycle. In the driveway. Who knows what's in the garage.

And I'm coming to understand more and more why Alaskan's love their motor toys. There are simply some things that it is nearly impossible to do in this state without having a motor involved, places it is nearly impossible to go. ATV's and motors make it possible, even enjoyable, to travel into some backwoods areas.

We are a state that is spread out. Outside of the big towns here, it is often not realistic to walk or bike to the places we need to go. Heck, much of Palmer/Wasilla isn't really walkable or bikeable. This means that cars and trucks are very much a way of life here. And people still fetishize their vehicles here. We are a culture where your vehicle is as much a statement of who you are as it is a way to get from point A to point B. Alaska is, on so many levels, a big oil state of the top tier.

While driving in my Jeep the other day during a family outing up Archangel Road to pick berries, I listened to a brief story on NPR about the decline of car culture in the US and how so many young people look at the car as either a necessary evil or as an unnecessary luxury that they can do without and how the car companies are trying to combat this.

This has all gotten me thinking about things, thinking about when I was younger and how I interacted with cars.

I started dreaming about having a car of my own when I was twelve or thirteen. I had a cousin who was a year or two older and lived on a farm. He'd be driving since he was ten and I wanted to have that same type of freedom. I obsessed about cars, read all the magazines, had read the driver's license handbook multiple times, and taken all of the practice written exams. I was ready to get my learner's permit the day I turned fourteen.

My parents made it clear that that wouldn't happen, that I couldn't drive until I was sixteen and had taken driver's ed. So, I rode my skateboard everywhere and dreamed of cars.

My first car was a 1986 Nissan pickup truck. Two wheel drive, standard cab, vinyl interior, manual transmission. A basic vehicle, but in the end, mine. As soon as I got my license I got a job in Sioux Falls, about fifteen miles from the town where I lived, just to pay for gas. From that moment on, I was a slave to the wage and the gas pump. Essentially, I worked all through high school to pay for gas, insurance, and maintenance. Well, I'd still of had to have a job to have spending money and all, but the lion's share of my paycheck when into the car.

But I loved driving. To the point where I would often spend Friday nights driving around my town by myself, just cruising and listening to music. And even into my young adulthood, there were times where there was nothing better to my mind than driving in the country on a humid summer night with the threat of a thunderstorm in the distance.

But that was then and this is now. So, I have a 15 year old and a 13 year old and neither of them has yet started on the "I want to drive" thing. Does this serve as support for the claim that young people these days are not as interested in driving as they once were? I don't know. Maybe.

But in this land of multiple engines for every household, really piss-poor traffic planning, and the worst roads in the union, how do we get people to look at their cars differently? How do we move beyond the vehicle as personal identifier and into means to an end?

Maybe that's not the question we should ask, though. Maybe, as this story on NPR asked, we need to ask how do we get people to go car-lite? How can we make the idea of using alternate forms of transportation appealing and lessen the use of the car?

In Anchorage, as in many towns I guess, there is a summer commuter challenge - get people moving to and from work via bike, bus, or foot. And there is a growing segment of the population who takes part in this each year. Year over year it has grown, at least in the three years I've been doing it. The thing is, though, looking at the team rosters, many people sign up, but there is always a handful on each team who never record a single alternate transportation commute. Sure, they might just decide to not record their trips. But I think this speaks to something else.

We are creatures of habit and we become so entrenched in our standard daily routine that maybe those folks who don't try an alternate commute method simply don't see how they can do it, how they can get around without their own, personal car. How do we get those people motivated to at least try?

At my company we've tried a number of ways of doing this. We've offered some cool prizes for alternate commuters. We've had barbecues. We've tried a number of things and sometimes we get a few more people trying alternate transportation, but not everyone. And here's the thing, during the bike commuter challenge, the folks whom we are targeting are those who have self-identified as being interested in the challenge. Not those who have no intention or desire to try an alternate form of commuting. Not those who are wholly opposed to seeing bikes on the street. Not those for whom the bus is the epitome of loserville.

So if we cannot even motivate those who self-identify as being interested in alternate commuting to actually do it, how can we expect to get the vast majority of the populace to seriously think about it? These are the questions on my mind right now.

What are your thoughts? How do we get people to really think about how to go car-lite? Drop a line. Tomorrow I'll discuss some of the ideas I have about this.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The real thing

I ended our City's Summer Bike Commute Challenge with 100% of my commutes by bike/bus. Which isn't that interesting, really, as I've been doing 100% bike commute to work for three years now. What is interesting is that even though my co-workers know I'm a bike commuter, they don't seem to realize that I never drive until they see it published somewhere. Because that makes it legit. I guess it goes back to my rant about bike to work day - those of us who bike commute all the time in all weather tend to get marked as loony, but those who do it that one day a year are labeled heroes or something.

Yeah, I'm cranky, I know. I just find it so interesting how things seem to have changed. Once upon a time people were recognized for what they did. They didn't have to sing their own praises on Facebook, they didn't have to join some movement. They just did what they did and eventually people realized it and gave recognition. Now it seems that if you don't advertise your own greatness... well.

Maybe it's just my perception of things that has changed. Maybe I have reached that place where I can no longer understand or connect with the newest wave of cultural shifting that is always occurring. Maybe I am just old and irrelevant.

That is all...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Copy of A

Okay, for today's edition, let's look at some rules that all bus riders should live by:

1) Don't eat your breakfast of Corn Nuts while on the bus. I mean, really? WTF? I love a good corny breakfast as much as the next guy and the smell of the snack doesn't bother me too much. But at 5 in the morning? Hell no.

2) Go easy on the cologne/perfume/body spray/smelly shit in general. Now this is one I have to be careful about, as, being a cyclist as well, I tend to work up a sweat on those days when I know I am cutting it close to making the bus connection. So, I suppose, sometimes I smell. However, it is just patently offensive when someone gets on the bus and a cloud of noxious chemical-created scent envelopes the whole bus. If you can smell your own cologne, its way, way too much. Here's the thing - the folks who wear a lot of scent tend to wear the cheap stuff - on the whole - and the cheap stuff has this inverse proportion thing going on. The more you wear the worse it smells. The same thing happens with expensive cologne, but not as dramatically.

3) If you're going to sleep, don't snore. Actually, I don't care about that. I wear my headphones and generally can't hear it.

4) No one wants to see the latest post your best friend from high school, circa 1954, just posted to your wall in Facebook. In fact, no one wants to see anything having to do with your facebook, cute emails, or other internet garbage. Keep your phone in your own hand and the screen facing your blank face.

5) If your phone rings, either answer it or hit the ignore button. Don't just let it ring until it goes to voice mail. Your Call Me Maybe ringtone is tired and NO ONE wants to hear it and have that god forsaken song stuck in their head for the rest of the day.

6) If you're going to bring a soda on the bus - the supersized jug from McD's - keep a firm grip on it. Don't set it on the seat between yourself and the passenger next to you. He or she doesn't want your soda on his or her lap.

7) Kitten? Really? Since when is bringing an animal on the bus a thing? Really?

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Don't mess with the gorilla - he likes his bike. 

First day of school for the kids. I think they might be nervous, being a new school and all - but they'll get through it. I should have, really should have, waited until they were at school to head in to work today - see them off and all. The transition from summer to school year and all the little dramas that come along with it are always a challenge.

So instead, I headed out the door at 4:47, as per usual. I got to the bus stop at 5:02. I got ready for boarding the bus and stood by the stop. 5:05. No bus. 5:10. No bus. WTF? I mean, I wasn't in a hurry, but I am the type of person who gets annoyed when things don't happen according to schedule. Well, the bus finally showed up around 5:13 and everyone boarded. And we made it to Anchorage, just like every other day. Yeah, I walked into the office at 6:10 instead of 6:05, but in the grand scheme, nothing was affected by the bus being late. Maybe the change in sleep schedule has just made me crabby. I don't know.

Update on the FatMax light - It lasted all of two blocks before my home-rigged mount took a crap on me. Which isn't even that big of deal because the light itself just generally sucks. The beam is focused on a narrow point and there is very little spread at all. Which is really what I look for in a handlebar mounted light, something to spill light onto the roadway in front of me and to supplement the light on my helmet, which is more focused so that I can pick out details in the road or while on the trail. The helmet light is my laser beam - targeting the obstacles I need to see and avoid or plan for and the handlebar light is just filler. I can ride without a handlebar light. But I like having one. So, while I've already figured out how I can better mount the FatMax, I don't think I'm going to bother. Instead I think I will put it back in the package, take it back to the store, and use the 20 bucks on something else. Something that works.

There are a number of gorillas in Anchorage. They like to bike. Odd.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happy gray or black

Made the mistake last evening of running errands in town - Sam's club, REI, that sort of stuff. A few cool things came out of the running around. First, the family, while I was working, were also working picking blue berries from a little known patch in the heart of Anchorage. I suppose I need to start building a list of the things I miss about living in Anchorage versus the valley. That would be right up there - being able to pick berries within a few blocks of where we lived. Actually, being able to do many things within only a few blocks of where we live was the best part of living in Anchorage.

Case in point - Redbox. We haven't had cable for years. So we watch a lot of Netflix on demand and on the weekends we rent from the Redbox. Regardless of what time of year, we'd walk from our house to the Redbox  to get movies. Now the closest one is five miles away.

Case in point - the lake. In Anchorage when we wanted to go to the lake, we simply walked the mile to the lake and enjoyed the day. Now the closest publicly accessible lake is close to seven miles away.

So, clearly living in the valley has some challenges that we will have to overcome. Or, rather, some things we'll need to get used to. One of those is making a once a month trip into Anchorage for supplies at Sam's Club and running other errands. Which we did last night. And running errands led to the purchase of a few new bike-type items to help the commute.

Fist, the wife's been fretting about the fact that the cheap rear lights I've been using don't really do much. And when we lived in Anchorage it wasn't that big of deal, as I had little roadway to ride on my way to work and those were generally not busy roadways at all. Now I have half of my commute on roadways, roadways on which the drivers are not used to seeing cyclists. At least I assume that, as I've never seen another cyclist on the roads. Well, that's not true, exactly. I see the roadies out there training when conditions are perfect. Which is about once a summer... but I digress.

Anyway, the wife wanted me to get a better tail light, so a better tail light I got. I picked up the Princton Tek Swerve tail light. It is bright and the flash pattern, being semi-random, makes it much harder to ignore than a steady strobe light. I like that the light has a big, chunky on/off switch, which means that when winter comes I won't have to take off my gloves to turn it on and off. The light is bright. I mentioned that, right? I can see it reflected off of the street when I look back over my shoulder, so I guess drivers in cars should be able to see it.

I do have some complaints about it, though. First, the bungie mounting system. One of these bungie things broke last night while trying to initially install the dang thing. Right at the point where the polymer widens out to the small tab one is supposed to use to pull the bungie around the seat post and mounting tab. Not cool. That has me worried that the other bungie that it came with with break while on a ride and my 25 dollar tail like will go bye bye. I think I may just use some zip ties or see if I can use screws and mount it to the light mount on my rear rack.

Another complaint is that the lens seems to want to come off really easily. This is where you access the batteries. In the instruction book it shows that you should need to use a coin or screwdriver to remove the lens. My concern here is that either the lens will fall off during a ride or that when things are wet and nasty out, that wet nastiness will get into the light itself and destroy the electronics.

We'll see. REI purchase so, if I need to, I can return it.

Also at REI I picked up a new pair of fair weather gloves. I wasn't looking or in the market for new gloves, but they were on an end cap with a big clearance sign and I just couldn't resist. They are not terribly expensive gloves to begin with, about 24 dollars. But I got them for half price, so... Fox Ranger gloves. I like the design and the fit overall. They are snug without being too tight. However, there are some issues, as with the light.

First, they are slick as snot. The fingers have silicon overlays to help improve grip, but I don't know that it does anything. Every time I hit the shifters it feels like my fingers will slide right off.

Second, the gloves have a double palm, or rather light padding on the areas that make constant contact with the handlebars. This might just be something I need to get used to, but I generally prefer gloves that don't have any padding at all, so it feels a bit strange to have the extra layer between me and the bike.

The final thing purchased, at Sam's Club, for the bike was a FatMax by Stanley headlight. This is a worker's headlight, a man's headlight. It's all yellow and black and manly... and it was cheap and seems to be quite bright, overall. It is rated at just under 200 lumens, so it should throw out a nice beam.

The plan is, as I already have a good helmet mounted headlight, to figure out how to mount the FatMax to the handlebars in some fashion. There are some challenges, though. First off, I need to be able to quickly remove the light and it's attached battery holder from the bike. Batteries and extreme cold don't go hand in hand very well. If that weren't a concern, I'd just zip tie it on. Zip ties are awesome. I like them. Anyway...

I like the big, chunky on/off switch this thing has. What I'm not so stoked about is the huge light housing. I realize that they are using the reflector to increase the throw rate of the little 3w LED, but, dang. We'll see how it works out.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Green, sustainable, eco-conscious?

So, I ran across this blog a few days ago - - and it's gotten me thinking about a few things. 

I've always had a bit of an issue with people who declare from the mountain tops just how amazing they are because they are doing something. I don't know. Take the premise of this blog - dude rides his bike 450 miles to protest an oil spill that's already happened. He gushes all poetic about the good he's doing by riding his bike in protest, he talks about being car free as if this is the only way to "save the planet." He does state at one point that he understands that his "protest" won't really affect BP - though that reads as nothing more than a passing attempt at humility or something as everything that comes after reads as a direct contradiction of that premise. 

I just don't know. It seems so self-congratulatory to me. On so many levels. I mean, first of all, there is the dichotomy of traveling under one's own power while doing so on a vehicle and on infrastructure that is directly a result of petroleum. Secondly, does he really think that a huge corporation like BP really gives a flying f*ck about him and his little protest ride? Is that really the best way to get anyone's attention, particularly in this time of rampant ego-stroking, self-congratulating, social media documentation of every last moment of our individual and often pathetic lives? There's just so much static out there that an individual voice seems about as powerful as a candle next to a klieg light. 

Yes, it is clearly more eco-friendly to ride a bike rather than drive a car. But it seems disengenous to say that riding a bike is the path to being "green" as the blog's author claims. According to him, "”Carless = green. Car = not green. Carless = beyond petroleum (in the truest sense). Car = you destroy the planet a little bit each day." 

If only it were that black and white, that simple. If only we could come up with a nifty equation that fixes all the issues. Let's just all get rid of our cars and then everything will be better. Bullshit. First, going carless is not going beyond petroleum. Let's take a look at the products that folks use on a daily basis that contain petroleum: 

Actually, let's not. Because I don't have the space to list them all out. And we've all seen these lists before, lists intended to shock and astound us. "I didn't know there was petroleum products in my <insert shocking product here>." 

We can all make better choices, for sure, but to try to simplify it as the blog author does, is just hypocritical. 
And let me just put out there that I am not a fan of big oil. I am not a fan of driving my car under many circumstances. Hell, I ride my bike to work every day, year round. In ALASKA! But I've long since disabused myself of the notion that my riding a bike is going to save the planet or something. 

And maybe that's where my point of view differs from so many dedicated bike commuters. I don't envision myself as some eco-warrior with a point to prove. I commute the way I do for a number of reasons, the primary ones being: 

  1. I am cheap. Rather, I live on a tight budget and while I could figure out a way to afford to drive a car to work, I would rather use that money for other things. So, I am cheap so I commute in the cheapest manner possible. 
  2. This is the more important reason. I commute by bike because I love doing it. I love that it gets me out into the world in all kinds of weather. It gives me a chance to see and experience things I wouldn't otherwise get to. It allows me time to prepare for the day and let the day go. It makes me feel better physically and mentally. It keeps me on an even emotional keel. 

So, if it came out that riding my bike was harder on the environment than driving a car, I'd still do it. I'd still do it as long as it continued to make me feel good and it was still cheap. 
Maybe I've just gotten cynical in my old age. I really don't think that any individual can do much to change the course of things anymore. I can stop buying products from companies whose politics differ from my own, but there are a couple of issues there. First, a single person's abstinence isn't going to make any difference in the overall scheme. Some one else will step in to pick up the slack. Secondly, I might boycott a company's products, say I refuse to buy anything produced by BP. Great, but there is no way that we can know just how many companies and holding corporations BP owns, how many products BP products make their way into, how far down the rabbit hole it goes. The only way around it is to only consume those things that we produce ourselves. But is that realistic? 

It ain't easy being green. And maybe the idea of being green is just as dangerous overall as not being green. I mean, hasn't the whole eco-consciousness thing been turned into nothing much more than a clever marketing tool for the hip, young, and moderately affluent? Doesn't following a movement, whatever that movement happens to be, end up leading to the same types of issues that the movement was trying to deal with? Maybe the better way is to go all isolationist - do what you do for your own reasons and for your own happiness and screw everyone else and what they think. Maybe. 

Maybe I'm just full of bullshit and vinegar today. Maybe I'm just being contrary. Maybe I'm thinking about things like the annual bike to work day and how so many folks ride that one day a year and then congratulate themselves for being green and good world citizens - but the folks who are out there every day, rain or shine, who are riding for their own reasons and not shouting about it from the rooftops don't get recognized. 

And what is it that I'm doing with this blog? I'm standing on the mountain top, letting my ego shout out my good deeds. Hmmm...
Carry on. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

I can feel you in my dreams...

Had some vivid dreams over the past weekend. Not sure what from. Strange dreams about exploring places I've never been. Dreams vaguely remembered on awakening in a cold sweat. Drams where I remember just what it felt like watching my son almost drown - which makes me wonder at just how the mind works. What is it that has triggered old memories to come flooding back so real and vibrant?

Maybe it is related to change and stress. Or stress and change. I generally pride myself on being able to handle stress well. And I generally adapt to change quite easily. Though, I'm sure that like most everyone else, there is a bit of adjustment that must take place whenever change occurs.

Change. It is a constant. Lots of things seem to be changing right now. The biggest is the changing of the seasons and all that brings with it. Yesterday I got together many of my rechargeable batteries and got them juiced up for the small flashlight I have mounted on my handle bars to use as a flasher to alert traffic of my presence. I didn't think I would actually need light by which to see yet. Too early in the year for that, right? But given another change, I realized quite quickly that I needed to see as well as be seen, so I hurriedly mounted up my higher-power headlamp on my helmet, prayed that the batteries had enough juice, and headed out the door, into the dark and the rain.

What precipitated the need for headlights of near car-level power? Well, that is due to another change outside of my control. The bus is changing its schedule starting Thursday. See, the Mat-Su school district has an agreement with UAA to provide college-level courses for some students of the district and the Valley Mover is the bus line that carts these students back and forth. Very cool stuff. But, to facilitate this, the schedules have to be adjusted just a smidge.

My normal bus, the 5:55 is moving to 5:30 and will now run five days a week instead of four. So, good and bad. Normally I try to leave the house by 5:30 to get there for the 5:50 bus with plenty of time to cool down and load up. So, after hearing that the 5:10 bus, which isn't changing it's schedule, is usually underutilized (lies!), I decided to try to hop that bus today. This meant leaving the house by 4:55. It's dark at 4:55 in the morning and the Valley isn't too keen on street lights. It was a nice ride, but I'm not sure which way I'll end up going in the end - earlier for the 5:10 bus which was fairly well packed and dark so I couldn't even read on the way in to the office, or the 5:30 once the change is made. I'm not sure what way other folks who usually ride the 5:55 will go. Will they get up earlier or take the more heavily used 6:00 AM bus? Tough to say. There will probably be a 50/50 split. I think I'll probably end up taking the 5:30 bus, which will still put me to work by 6:40.

I guess these are the challenges that make the bus less appealing to some people. It is difficult to have your schedule dictated by others. Though I'd rather deal with that than try to maintain a vehicle and drive myself each day. Then, again, I have a significant incentive to ride rather than drive, one that most don't have. I get to ride the bus for free - one of the few benefits of being an adjunct instructor at UAA. So it costs me nothing but my time, which I can use productively, if I choose. I clearly can't drive for free. Carpooling also would not be free. There is simply no way that I can transport myself between the valley and Anchorage in a more cost effective manner. And as there are so few benefits to be had as an adjunct, I'll take the ones I can get and look at it as a $120 a month raise.

**Update** So, Thursday I broke my pannier bag, as posted here. I decided to give the bags another go, fixing the broken hanger with another set I had. I also decided that maybe part of the issue is that by putting everything into a single bag I was overloading it a bit. I figure that my clothes, coffee, and lunch probably weigh in around 25 pounds or so. This is still shy of the company's suggested weight limit of 35 per bag, but... I've got two bags so I may as well go back to using them both. I'll give it a try anyway. The next step will be to go back to using a backpack and then designing some burly metal hangers of some sort.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Okay kiddo-s, today’s post is broken into two distinct sections: Section 1 wherein I discuss my penchant for breaking things and section 2 in which I discuss music. So, on with the show.

In which I break stuff

“…you're hard on shit. all I’m saying.” Mrs. B.

As the lovely wife so eloquently puts it, I am hard on shit. I break shit all the time. Like, all the time. Stuff that shouldn’t break? I break it. 

I once broke a hammer. The fiberglass and steel handle? Yeah, destroyed that bad boy. I’ve broken cars. I’ve broken electronics. I’ve broken bikes. And lots of bike parts.

About a year ago, maybe a bit less, I went from using a backpack to carry my gear to using panniers. The wife had found a great deal on some bags by Koki so I made the transition, put a rack on the bike and took a load off of my back.

It worked well for a time. Then my tendency to break shit came out and I broke the little plastic clips that connect the top part of the bags to the rack. Long story short, after much wrangling with Koki and additional breakage of parts of their bags, they sent me a new set of bags with some improved features and functions.
Monday of this week I experienced the first breakage with the new bags. Again, the plastic hooks that connect the bags to the rack broke. One tine. No big deal. I switched them out for an extra set of hooks that I had around the house.

Then this morning? Disaster. As I’m hustling to the bus stop, I hit a bump and hear a thump. The entire bag is gone. This is a first. I’ve not had the bag actually fall off before. When I go to pick it up, I realize that all of the little plastic tines that are supposed to hold the bag on the rack have disappeared. Not good.

So, bungies let me get to work with the bag and starting Monday, I’ll be using the backpack method again. A bit harder on the back, but more secure in the overall scheme of things. And given that I’ll need to start carrying an extra just in case jacket again soon as the weather turns as well as needing to securely carry my laptop on the days when I teach, the backpack seems the better option.

Or maybe it’s time to look into a cargo bike… Naw, not really.

But why am I so hard on stuff? Is it because of how big I am? Is that what does it? I think that might be part of it. I can’t really explain, otherwise, how I would be able to break some of the stuff I break. At 6’1” and 260-ish pounds, when I ride a bike or what have you, I exert more force, I guess, even just sitting, than someone who weighs in at, say 160. So, that might be part of it.

It might also be that as I find something I like using, I use it obsessively. I ride one bike. I use one bag. I use the same earphones every day. So, I might use things more than other folks tend to.
Or maybe I’m just careless. Don’t know. Just know that I’ve always had a knack for breaking things. 

I think I would make an excellent product tester.

In which I talk about music:

First let me explain something about my taste in music. I seek out bands who are able to do a couple of things consistently. I like bands who start out doing something new, some new take on what has come before. Secondly, they need to grow and mature over each album, honing a sound and improving the overall compositional quality of their music. Thirdly, they need to embrace experimentation and evolve over the course of their career, not resting on their past work or allowing past successes lock them into the reproduction cycle wherein they simply repackage the same album over and over and over.

The Cure is a supreme example of this. They twisted the post-punk thing around in the late 70s. They turned pop upside down. And they consistently make albums that challenge the listener’s preconceived notions of who and what the band is.

Isis is another band that continually evolved and changed their sound throughout their career. Say what you will about In the Absence of Truth and Wavering Radiant, but to me those are two wonderfully strong albums that took risks and, to my ear, paid off. And those albums are a million miles away from what Isis was doing with their early work, but there is a clear lineage from start to finish in their catalog.

Another band who has completely captured my attention with their willingness to do things that may alienate their listeners and take chances by doing what they want to do as a band is Rosetta.

From the get go, they’ve put themselves out there. I mean, their debut was a double album that was designed such that one could play both record simultaneously and create a new and different experience than either album alone does. Then they went harder and more aggressive with Wake/Lift. Then they stepped back and went short on A Determinism of Morality. And each album was brilliant in its own way.

Just today they released their newest album The Anaesthete. Apart from doing a self-release, pay what you wish model for this one, they've also taken the music in a new direction. It’s still heavy. It’s still delicate. But it’s different than what has come before.

I’ve just finished up my second listen and, while I can’t speak in depth about the album yet, I have to say I am impressed by what I hear. The album is wonderfully well constructed, with a well-defined sense of opening and closing and moves nicely throughout the rest. Which is what so many albums these days lack – a sense that to really appreciate it as a work of art it must be listened to as a whole, not as a single downloaded off of iTunes. In fact, here’s a challenge to whoever wants to take it: release your next album as a single track so that it has to be listed to from beginning to end.

Anyway. Like I said, I’ve not gotten the track names down yet, or really internalized the music yet. But I am impressed. And maybe I was always going to be impressed, being a bit of a fan-boy and all. But these guys clearly put their hearts and souls into the music. The DIY approach is also cool. But it is the music that impresses.

BJ’s drumming really stands out in the production here, crisp and clear and precise. Armine’s vocals also seem to be a bit more forward in the mix than on previous albums. Not so much so that they overpower the music, but taking more of a central role. Mr. Weed’s guitar work is, as always, stellar, and the use of acoustic on one track is a bold move. I would like to hear Dave’s bass a bit more in the opening sections of the opening track, though towards the middle it becomes clear and the playing is amazing, playing off of Matt’s guitar while also supporting the drumming.

Overall, on first impressions I give it 4.75 out of 5 stars. I’m still trying to wrap my head around certain elements of certain tracks, such as Hodoku/Compassion. I love the music there, but I’m not sure how I feel about Eric Jernigan’s vocals. To my ear, Dave may have been better situated to take the lead on that one. (Sorry, but the way Dave and Armine intertwine their voices on their remake of Homesick makes me really feel that they need to use that dynamic much, much more…just sayin’)

My only other complaint is the length…I love tracks in the 10 plus minute range, tracks that build slowly, work the dynamics, and tend to put the listener into a semi-hypnotic state. The Anaesthete achieves this, to an extent when taken as a whole, but I feel that the overall length and transitions between the tracks on both TGS and Wake/Lift do a better job of inducing this feeling in the listener than on The Anaesthete. And given then album title, one would expect the band to play up the concept – inducing a anesthesia in the listener through the music.

Go get it here and leave the band a little something something for their time and effort. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Welcome to the machine

No fancy pictures today. Just words. Words about something. Not sure what, yet.

Maybe about stress management. Maybe not.

Maybe about hopes and dreams. Maybe not.

Maybe about fishing. Yeah, there'll probably be some fishing talk here. It's on my mind lately. That as teaching.

Or maybe I'll spend some time talking about gear. Because I am a bit of a gear head. Though, admittedly, I am also cheap, so I try to get as much gear as I can second hand or at deep discounts.

I've already posted about my essentials - the iPod, GPS, and etc. However, today I want to talk about the other essential gear for the daily commute. I want to talk fashion. Or kit, at any rate.

First off, let me say I am not a spandex guy. Not my bag, baby. I'm also generally not a fan of jerseys either - though they are growing on me the more I force myself to wear them. I want to focus this post on the kits I wear for different weather conditions. Living in Alaska means that you pretty much have to have weather on the mind regularly.

I start each morning by looking at my weather station to see what the wind is doing and what the temp is at so that I can adjust my kit as need be. This isn't quite as important in the summer, but I still do it as I've been frozen out when looking outside, seeing the sun shining bright and then realizing too late that 48 degrees is not tank top and shorts weather.

The kits described here are baselines. They change as the seasons progress. Early in the season I tend to either over or under dress - when it first starts to warm up in the spring, a thirty degree day feels ripe for shorts and a tee shirt, while when things start cooling down in the fall I'll throw on long sleeves if it dips below 50.

Summer kit:
This one is really a no-brainer as there are few consequences in the summer if you aren't dressed properly. Too many clothes - just remove some. Not enough? It is not as likely you'll end up hypothermic in air temps above 50. My general summer kit, then, is:
Chamois shorts - I prefer either a mesh-based mountain version or a light road version by Castelli. This is an older version I picked up at a thrift shop, washed twice and am now wearing the hell out of. My problem with most mountain chamois shorts is that they tend to fit a bit looser and the pad then slides around a bit. I don't find this happening with road shorts.

Overshorts - Like I said, not a big fan of spandex so I cover mine with a baggy short. My favorites are the Novara Exposure shorts. I like the pocket set up on these shorts, the way they stretch and the fact that they are secured by a snap rather than elastic alone. I cut the liner out and use the shorts over whatever liner I choose. These shorts also shed light mist well and tend to not wet out as fast as shorts I own by Perl Izumi and Cannondale.

Socks - In the summer I favor acrylic socks. Lately I've been wearing some C9 socks and they work nicely, though could be a bit higher on the ankle. Not too picky on these

Poly tank top - I tend to wear undershirts of some sort no matter what. I like being able to keep my butt crack from showing. I have an old New Balance tank I wore when I was a runner. Works well under other shirts - light weight and wicking. Also, if it gets too hot out, I'll remove my over shirt and just rock the tank.

Poly tee-shirt. Strangely my favorite shirt for riding in is a cheap Old navy poly tee I picked up years ago. I recently found a nearly new Perl Izumi jersey at the local thrift shop and I really like that for trail rides. I tend to shy away from jerseys on the commute as wearing tech materials from head to toe already marks me as a crazy. That and the fit of jerseys just doesn't flatter my gut or moobs.

Spring/Fall kit:

In the spring and fall I tend to stick to many of the same pieces as in the summer, but with the addition of the following items:

Novara Tempest Tights. I love these tights- Warm, water resistant, and stretchy in all the right places. I do have some complaints about these tights though - First, no pockets of any type. Second, they fit in such a way that I cannot layer under them, and it's not practical to layer on top. Third, and most distressing - the seat seams on these lasted about two rides before they started wearing away and fuzzing up. Now it looks like I have a merkin on my butt... not a good look.

REI windflyte shirt or jacket. I have both versions. The shirt is suitable for cool days. The jacket for cold or wet days. I also wear the jacket in the dead of winter with layers under it.

Mountain Hardware or Outdoor Research liner gloves. A bit warmer than the Fox Digit gloves, which aren't meant to keep fingers warm anyway.

Do rag - this is a funny one - found a do rag on the ground, looked at it and said to myself "this is just what I need when it is too cold for no hat, but not cold enough for the doubled up Buff or the fleece hat. Yeah, I'm not above wearing something I've found on the ground. Liberal washing took place before wearing. Just saying.

Winter kit:

I'll hold off on this one until winter is actually here as it changes so much each day based on the weather.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


What a gorgeous morning. The sunrise over the mountains and reflecting off the clouds was superb.

However, when we start seeing sunrises in the northland it means only one thing: winter is imminent. I don't mind winter. I think because of the commute and getting out in the elements every day makes it a bit easier to deal with than if I cloistered myself away, like I used to do. And I still do often on the weekends - just bum around the house. Even so. There is something terribly sad about the summer coming to an end already.

The fireweed is getting closer and closer to the top blooms and the fair is almost here. School starts in a week for the kids and classes at the U start in three weeks. All signs that summer is winding down.

We've got some salmon put away in jars and in the freezer. We need to still get more to last us through the year. We need to get some berries picked as well. Summer is far too fleeting here and it never feels that we can pack as much into it as we want or need to. There is always something that needs done.

The bike. When things get crazy or when I get worried, stressed, the bike is there as a savior. Meditation, reflection, awareness. That's what the bike gives me. And that's why I continue to bike commute even though it is a bit more challenging now. I just can't imagine not having the time to let my mind wander to whatever and wherever it wishes each morning and each afternoon. Can't do that in a car. Well, you can, but it usually comes to a bad end...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Karma police

Now for something completely different...

Well, probably not. More like a short aside. A step away from commuting talk. I mean, the daily bus ride is only so exciting for so long, right?

I tend to read when I'm on the bus. It keeps me inside my own head and, as a consequence, I tend to not observe much of the world around me. Which, is, if not a metaphor, a clear description of my life and times in general. I tend to keep things on a narrow focus, sometimes at the cost of the bigger picture. Though that's likely a discussion for a later time or a different forum.

What I'm trying to come to is a discussion about is our general ego-centricity. Though, maybe the ego is only a bit player here. I mean, the job of the ego is, if I am not completely mistaken, which I could be, as it has been a long, long time since I've taken any psych courses, is to meet the needs of the id in a reasonable way. And the id is, of course, our base desires and wants. Our seeking of pleasure regardless of consequence.

So, let's substitute pleasure above with ease. We tend to seek the path of least resistance in everything we do. We go for the easy route, even when logic tells us that that route is a dead end. We can look at all of the data and still deny certain truths.

I don't want to get into a heated discussion about climate change. There is too much I don't pretend to understand about the way that global weather patterns shift over time and how human interventions, good or bad, may or may not be affecting the general timing and severity of those shifts. That's just way beyond me.

What's not beyond me is asking a simple WTF question: Does it really make sense on any level to move a vehicle capable of carrying 6 or more passengers with a single passenger it in? The only logic I can see behind that is that we are trying to satiate the id. Logically it just doesn't make sense in the grand scheme of things. I understand that there are certainly times where it is not possible to fill a vehicle and share the ride, but when you see the same cars each morning, the same cars, all heading the same direction at the same time each morning, it does raise questions. I'll take the great weather we've had this summer, weather that may or may not be a result of climate change. I'll take it and be happy. But, still. Maybe I've become too much of a cheap ass lately, but it just doesn't make sense to spend about 12 dollars a day (This is for those 3/4 ton truck drivers out there...) just in fuel, not to mention maintenance costs, the time and aggravation of sitting in traffic, parking fees, etc. etc. just to drive my own vehicle.

So, I guess this did turn to commuting, after all. Eh, what can I say? Certain questions vex me. Rather, certain human behaviors vex me.

Yet, I know that, if I were not so cheap and hadn't formed the habit of riding bike over driving, that I, too, would likely be driving all alone in my car to and from each day.

See, that's what I'm saying. While I can sit in the bus and be all smug and judgmental towards the folks driving by themselves in giant gas guzzlers, I know in my darkest heart that I could be them. I have been them. And I still hop in the car to run to the store to pick up a gallon of milk. Just like everyone else. I know that I am part of the problem, perceived or otherwise, yet there are times, be it through laziness or other, that I take the easy route and turn the key.

And is it realistic to think that everyone should do without cars? Of course not. It is realistic, though, to think that folks could be more purposeful in their use of vehicles. Myself included. Heck, me moreso than others I think. While I commute by bike and public transit, there are an awful lot of times when errand running could be performed in a more sustainable way either through combining trips or by biking instead.

Now I'm just rambling, so I'll end it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

I am Colossus

I hate Fridays! I really do.

First, my routine gets thrown off as there isn't a 5:55 bus, but rather only a 6:00 bus.

Of course, the bus is packed with both the normal 5:55 riders and the 6:00 AM riders. 

Not a huge deal, but there's this couple who ride every day - a couple who, between the two of them take up three seats. Nothing against that, as I am a big guy myself - 6'1" and 260+ - However, I had my seat firmly established, get the bike on the bus, and then spend the next 40 minutes being squished into the wheel well by wife of couple who decides when someone else takes a seat by her in her original seat to move to the three seat bank between her husband and I. Again, no biggie. The bus was packed. I am just really uncomfortable when a large woman comes and sits next to me and her arse spills over the seat and onto my seat, making me need to compress myself as small as possible just to remain seated and not rubbing my own arse into hers. But, this is likely just me being grouchy as my morning routine was already out of whack with the whole bus being five minutes later so deciding that somehow sleeping in an extra twenty minutes would be a good thing thing.

So, we get about half way to Anchorage and it starts raining. My rain jacket is back home. In my bedroom. In the basket of winter bike clothes. 


I don't mind getting wet, but it's chilly this morning and cold rain is never fun. 

So, the weekend is nearly here. I'm looking forward to it. No plans other than to do some fishing and some bike maintenance. I'm sure the two days'll be packed to the rafters with little chores to get done, but, to be honest, I'd much rather do that than be stuck in an office any day of the week. Only a few more hours that my bike'll be stuck outside, waiting for me to hop on and ride into the sunset. Portly, ain't he? 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Santa Claus is weird

I love it when things go wrong. Well, not really. It just makes for better copy. Who wants to hear the same story day after day - the commute was good. Nothing to report? That get's old quick.

Today was a good day for the morning commute. Cool and calm. I got out of the house early so I took it easy rolling to the bus stop and ended up with plenty of time to get my seat and cool down a bit before the ride.

Riding the bus started as usual. Strapped the bike in at 5:50. Bus pulled out at 55. Checked my email and calendar for the day at 56. Started reading my book by 57. Pass the Eagle River north exit at 6:18. Pass Hiland at 6:20. Then something goes wrong. Honestly, I was absorbed enough in my book and tunes that I didn't notice anything amiss until the bus was at an almost complete stop on the side of the road. Sixteen miles from my office and the bus was sitting on the road.

Not good.

The first meeting of the day was at 9, so if I had to ride in, I should have plenty of time, I thought. But I just wasn't sure about it, as I had never ridden that ride before and wasn't sure about the route.

So we sit for a bit. Just a little bit. The driver makes a few calls and next thing I know, we've got another bus on the way and we're going to limp it to the weigh station just a few miles down the road.

Five minutes later we are at the weigh station and the follow up bus is pulling in right behind us. We disembark, pile into the other bus, most folks finding seats. I elected to stand rather than try to find a seat.

In the end, we were all dropped off at our bus stop no more than 7 minutes later than scheduled. That's awesome. To be able to remain pretty much on schedule even with a breakdown is great.

I just can't complain about the commute at all. The weather has been near perfect all summer, the buses run on time, and I've not had any major mechanical failures on the bike. And when your view from the bus stop is this, what more could I ask for?