Monday, August 27, 2012

The State of Cycling in Seattle

We're here in Seattle for a couple of days, getting on a cruise ship tomorrow to head up to Alaska. This is all for one of those things that "normal people" do, called "Vacations that Don't Involve Spending Ridiculous Amounts of Time on a Bicycle Seat."

Originally, this was Phase One of a multi-stage vacation, wherein Phase Two was going to be three weeks of biking and camping down the Pacific Coast, from Vancouver, B.C. to San Francisco, CA. With the move back to Nashville, Phase Two has been postponed for a year. Check back about this time in 2013 for reports of that Bucket List Trip.

Since we'd already paid for the cruise, RandoGirl and I are still doing this trip. At least, that's what we're telling everyone else; to be honest, we just needed a vacation.

We got in late Saturday, and spent Sunday walking around a bit. We saw some friends who had moved here from Naples about a month ago, then had dinner with friends from Tampa who we haven't seen in five years but live here now. The Naples friends hadn't changed much, and the Tampa friends were about the same, too. In both cases, this was super fun.

We spent a lot of both days just walking around, which is easy to do in Seattle. It's also apparently a very easy biking town -- in spite of the many short steep hills as you get closer to the water -- since we've seen a ton of bicycles. The hotel here even has a couple of big clunky beach cruisers that we could borrow; surprisingly, we've managed to keep away.

And so it is that I can report to you that the state of bicycling in Seattle is very strong. There are all kinds of folks -- from people just trying to travel between points A and B to people seeking a new personal best on the Sunday morning group ride -- and they all seem to co-exist beautifully with cars, pedestrians, and each other. If you come to Seattle for a visit and you can manage it, you should bring your bicycle.

Next time, I will.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Rant: Life is Better, But I'm Tired

I took last week off from writing my blog. That was the only thing that I took last week off from, however.

Moving is exhausting, which makes you wonder why it is then that I would be willing to do it twice in one year. I can only claim insanity. I was crazy to leave Tennessee, and then crazy to get back.

The week was consumed with final touches getting the house in Naples ready to go on the market. I did manage to take Sunday morning off for one last fast ride with the Naples Velo guys up to Sanibel and back, even though that ended up being a very wet affair with lots of lightning all around us as we passed back south through Lover's Key. Then it was back to fixing up the house.

Tuesday morning, I was almost done. My realtor and her photographer came by and took lovely pictures of our newly rearranged home, and then the air conditioning guys came to make sure the house would be as cool as it looked when visitors came by. When they left, I jumped in the car and drove almost 600 miles to our other Florida house, just west of Panama City Beach, to empty the owner's closet, since we were closing on the sale of that house the next day.

The next morning, I started back to Naples, arriving about 4 pm. A quick stop by Home Depot was followed by another quick stop at U-Haul to rent a trailer. Or, rather, to try to rent a trailer. Although the hitch on the back of the Watzzwagon was up to the tasks, the light connection wasn't. I spent part of the next morning trying to get that fixed, and then just loaded everything into the back and onto the roof, and started north in the middle of the afternoon. Friday, about 3:30 pm, I finally got to Nashville.

Sure, I was tired ... but the Murfreesboro Bike Club was hosting the H.O.T. 100 the next day, and the weather was extraordinary for mid-August. So, RandoGirl and I were back up before dawn Saturday in order to travel to Lascassas, TN, and ride the metric.

Since then, it's been pretty hectic. Settling in, doing a bunch of the work for which I am (technically) paid, and looking for a piece of land worthy of our next home. It was this last task that allowed me to get out on the bike Wednesday, scouting locations.

When we first moved up here in 2005, we had no idea where the good bicycling was. Now, we know ... and that's one of the main determinants that I'm using when looking at land.

We want between five and 10 acres, and we've seen a lot of lots that are just somebody's field that they're willing to sell. That won't do, because I also want something with enough trees to give us a semblance of privacy.

As I've told you before, the best roads in middle Tennessee (in my humble opinion) are down around College Grove and Bethesda. There's a great mix of flat stuff for when you need that, and hills for when you feel like a challenge. It's why I put the W.K. Lee route down that way when we did the 200K of Nowhere.

There are a few lots over on Peytonsville Road that looked nice, too. This one was about five acres, with nice slope and good trees, and was right across from a string of estates. The problem is, some of these lots know that they are right across from estates, and are asking estate prices.

While we want to build something nice, it's not going to be anything big ... definitely not an estate. I want a place that we can entertain, with enough room for RandoGirl, the RandoDaughter, and me. Also, it's got to have storage space for bicycles.

This one doesn't look like much from the picture, but it may be the current winner. It's just off the HBC's Tuesday night route, and is on the Harpeth River Ride route. Plus, it's only 10 miles for RandoGirl to drive to work. My drive will be longer, of course, but I've got more flexibility to work at home.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to come up with a name for the new place. I used to have the RandoCave, and never came up with a name for the Naples house (another odd sign that maybe we never intended to stay). Since we're going to have so much land, I'm thinking ...

The RandoRanch!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Rant: Life is Crazy!

Here's my rant for today: Life is crazy when you're trying to work and move. It's too crazy to also take the time to write a blog.

So, here's what I'm going to do about it: Take a break.

I won't be blogging next week, while I try to finish up the last chores in getting our house in Naples ready to go on the market. If I'm lucky, I may be able to sneak out for a ride or two. I could be a better blogger and skip those rides, instead using the time to write, but then, what would I write about? You like to read about rides, and if I don't ride then I have nothing to say. Sure, that's a cumbersome and self-serving piece of logic, but it's all I've got.

I promise to return the week of Aug. 20 with the kind of thrilling missives and award-winning photography that I have never lead you to believe that you would ever find here, thus managing to continue a proud tradition of falling short of meager marks. Until then, I beg to remain your most loyal and humble servant ...


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It's Not You -- It's Me. And Them.

Tuesday morning, I woke up at 6 am. I'd been up late the night before packing things at the house in Naples and getting the house ready to sell, but the old inner alarm clock did its usual thing and, BAM, I was awake.

My original plan for the morning was to walk the dog and head over to do the 7 am Naples Velo club ride. As I lay there in bed, however, I found myself making excuses not to go. I needed a ride -- particularly that kind of ride, where the pace would be high and everything would get properly taxed -- but just didn't feel like doing the group ride. Eventually, I rolled out of my driveway about 7 am, too late for the pack, and did roughly the same route as the group had done, but by myself.

The problem is obvious. I'm avoiding the confrontation.

There are a few people who know that I'm leaving, and I'm worried that they would say something during the ride and other people would ask the inevitable: "You're moving away? Why?"

And that's just not an easy question to answer on a ride when you're going so hard that you can barely suck down enough oxygen to keep your major bodily organs working.

So, to answer that, let me tell all of my cycling friends in Naples this:

It's not you. It's me. And it's also a lot of other people.

You're great. Really. I love sitting on your wheel most of the time ... except when you're going so fast that my eyes literally pop out of my skull, or maybe when you don't point out stuff in the bike lane and I end up changing a flat tire. Thanks to you, I'm a stronger rider today than I was last year, and my paceline and cornering skills are better than ever. Sitting around at Fit & Fuel after the ride is always a blast, and the little bit of time that I've gotten to socialize with you all off of the bike has been fun.

I wish that I'd gotten to know more of you better. To be honest, I probably held back in the past few months, sensing that the whole "Naples/Me" thing just wasn't going to work out. Maybe I never really committed to our relationship, so it was doomed to failure.

So, like I said, it's me. And some other people.

Some of those people are my Tennessee friends. They tempted me, and are unrepentant in that regard.

But a lot of the other people are, frankly, the drivers of Naples.

I've biked a lot of places, but I must admit that Florida drivers exhibit more antipathy around cyclists than any other drivers that I've experienced. As I've noted before in this blog, it's typically the drivers with a sense of entitlement who most often behave badly around bikes, and Florida frankly seems to have the most entitled drivers around. It has gotten such that I expect to be treated as a troublesome encumbrance when I try to share the road with a car, which is probably why most cyclists stick to the bike lanes and multi-use trails and (horrors!) sidewalks, only venturing on to "real" roads when they have a sufficiently large pack.

Not that there is even safety in numbers. Cars crowd us with disdain, ignoring our rights to the road and buzzing past our shoulders on bridges and shoulder-less streets. They pull out of side streets right in front of us, pass us just to turn right 50 yards further on, and constantly creep over on to the measly strip of bike lane or shoulder that the state has granted us.

Maybe it's the nature of the land. There aren't many meandering roads, and living this close to the beach means that there are more people here. Maybe it's the demographics -- older drivers are not known for their reaction times, and they probably think they need to hurry up and get wherever it is that they're going fast since they don't have all that much time left on this planet. Or maybe it's just because, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "The rich are different than you and me."

To which Hemingway replied, "Yes, they have more money. And -- even though they pay less in taxes -- they think that they somehow own the road more than some dork in lycra on a bike does."

Maxwell Perkins edited that last part out, of course. Scribner made him do it -- and what else would you expect from a rich guy?

Anyway, I'm going to miss the Naples Velo folks, as well as the folks at The Bike Route, Fit & Fuel, and Naples Cyclery. But I am not going to miss the southwest Florida drivers. I hate to give them this victory, but they've managed to get one less bicycle on their precious roads.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Some Things That Southwest Florida Just Ain't Got

RandoGirl, the RandoDaughter, and I went up to Nashville this week to begin the relocation process. RandoGirl starts her new job up there this week, and the RandoDaughter will leave at the end of the week to start her senior year of college.

We stopped in Atlanta for a couple of days to see family, finally getting in to Nashville Thursday. Most of Friday was spent getting RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter moved into the apartment that we will be living in for the next few months, and then going out to look at prospective properties on which we may build our house.

I was able to go by Gran Fondo -- the world's greatest bicycle shop -- and pick up my Lynskey. I'd shipped it there from Ithaca on my way out of town, and Gran Fondo had put it together, cleaned it up, and tweaked some stuff. That enabled me to go for a ride Saturday.

Rolling out at dawn, I soon saw things that we just did not have back in Naples.

Sure, Naples has Peace, Love and Little Donuts -- which is really cool and has some great donuts -- but there's nothing like a hot Krispy Kreme just off the assembly line. If you want to run cool, you need some heavy, heavy fuel.

There were a lot of these. They're called "empty roads that actually go somewhere." Far too many of the roads in southwest Florida that go anywhere are six lanes, maybe with a bike lane, and are full of cars (unless you get on them at 4 am). The empty roads just go through neighborhoods: Boring!

Sure, there are deer in Florida, but you don't see a lot of them running loose in Naples. These three were just kind of hanging out at the edge of the road on North Berry's Chapel Road.

Hills. Florida doesn't really have any that are worth the name. Here you are looking at the descent down North Berry's Chapel, which brings you to a nice three-quarter mile climb up Lynnwood Road. Nothing in Florida comes close.

More empty roads -- the kind that let a couple of guys just ride along, side-by-side but not bumping shoulders, talking about the week at work, or their kids, or whatever. Maybe you can do that on multi-use trails in southwest Florida, but it just ain't the same.

Old friends. I like my new friends in Naples, too, but RandoGirl said it best. "When I pulled into the parking lot, I just felt all this warmth from folks as they welcomed us back."

I felt the same thing later on during the ride. Just a few of us were going down Carter's Creek Pike, and I was sitting back and listening to old friends talk about stuff while I watched the green rolling hills shimmer in the morning heat and it struck me that I was back where I was meant to be. I was home again.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Rant: "Paint" is One Thing, But This is Ridiculous

Today's rant is about paint.

Have you ever ridden in a bike lane that had those nifty little cyclist icons in them?

Aren't they cute?

Some places here in Florida really want them to last, or maybe they want cars to know if they drift into the bike lane, or maybe they just secretly hate cyclists. I say this because they don't just paint them, they put down two or three layers of some kind of super-thick epoxy. When you go over one of these on a bicycle, you'd better have a fairly firm grip on your handlebars because you will feel it.

So, that wouldn't be that big a deal, except that you're going to roll over another one in a couple of hundred yards. Then another one, and another one, and another one, until you feel like maybe the little cyclist on the road that's getting run over is you.

That's why I say that they secretly hate cyclists. Come to think of it, however, it may not be all that much of a secret.

Florida does this with a lot of paint jobs on roads, giving you extra little bumps to enjoy on your ride. They like to stripe parts of the road on which they don't want cars -- which would ordinarily mean prime pieces of pavement for a bicycle. And these painted items are even more fun when you bike over them after a rain ... which is another thing we get a lot of in Florida.

So, once again a local municipality has taken something that they supposedly did just for me, and made it so that it is uncomfortable for me to use it. I can't find the words to thank that municipality enough. At least, not words that I can't put down in a family-oriented blog.

Anyway, this is why you're going to often see me riding in the car lane right next to what the people in cars would consider a perfectly good bike lane. This might irritate them, but if they want to know what irritated is they can ride a bike for 100 miles, and let the last 10 of those miles be on pavement that makes their bike go bump every 15 seconds or so at best, and leaves your wheels a little slippy at worst.