Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thank You, Keith

Keith Olbermann, on Countdown.

Wow. (IE probably required)

"...and yet he can stand up in public and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the reciept for the emperor's new clothes..."

6 minutes, 43 seconds, how many takes?

It's on YouTube now:

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Book Recommendation(?)



Written by Michael Ward – Wallflowers guitarist, cyclist and friend of Lance Armstrong.

An enclosed CD includes a painful narration of the book by Phil Liggett – “president of the largest and longest established national cyclists organization with 70.000 members…” A little help?

There are also a handful of slightly less painful musical tracks on the CD.

Remembering (And Really Liking) the Road Bike

Before Sunday the road bike had been out of the garage three times: once for the usual ride to work and twice to participate in someone else’s triathlon. That changed Sunday with a 30 mile ride and another 30 miles today. All of it within the city limits.

I and a handful of others have attached ourselves to a city planning project. We have maps of all the “collector” roads in sections of the city. Our job is to ride the roads and rate them for riding comfort. It’s groundwork for an attempt at a Sioux Falls Bike Map or at least better “bike route” markings.

Sunday I hooked up with The Owner and we headed out on a tour of some of the busiest streets in the city. It was evident that Sunday traffic was in effect as we had very little trouble most of the time.

I counted a “woop” from someone we rode by but The Owner wanted it classified as more of a “woot.” The most excitement happened on a road marked “for experienced riders only”; a generous description even without having ridden it. We knew that leg would be bad news but wanted to give the street an opportunity to prove us wrong. Sure enough, while we were on the shoulder-less bridge, a car sped past us using some of the oncoming lane, causing an oncoming car to almost completely stop. And then honk. Ugh.

This afternoon for lunch we marked off some additional routes, this time with the added pleasure of Eayste fresh from the 24 Hours of Afton. I can confirm the mark on his shin is going to be with him for a very long time.

The three of us enjoyed our own little noon time critical mass ride on a road marked “not acceptable for any level of bicycle rider.” How can three riders make critical mass? Believe me; our mass put together can be considered critical.

The most exciting thing this trip was a car moving in to pass us and noticing they’d be poorly positioned for an upcoming stop sign so they repositioned to the right, pulverizing Eayste between them and a parked car. Truly no contact was made. Downtown speed limits being what they are and traffic being what it is, we all got to enjoy each others company for the next 2-ish miles till they found their lunch destination.

By the way - if you see the owner - you might ask him what sort of birds these are.

(I bet I just lost my riding privileges.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I’m Still Not Getting It – Let’s Go To Church

In early August, when Pat Robertson’s faith seemed to be eroding from the flow of his own sweat, an Anonymous commenter suggested I “find a bible believing church and learn the truth.” (Lot’s of words at that link, be careful.)

In Mid August, a different Anonymous commenter suggested that a church I pay attention too might not be the right one. Shoot! The commenter also seemed to suggest that James Dobson and/or Chuck Colson’s views on global warming might line up better with the bible. Crap, those guys aren’t even churches.

I don’t want to go to prison to be ministered to and I’m generally afraid of convicted felons so I’m going to leave Colson alone.

Dobson on the other hand, I listen to him occasionally. In fact I scooped the world once, being the first person in Google to quote Dobson as suggesting that Nation Evangelical Association Vice President Richard Cizik (or was that people like Cizik?) have an “underlying hatred for America.” Cizik’s a Reagan Republican even! No wonder I can’t find the right church.

So I guess I’m as good a source as any to report Dobson’s views on global warming; May 19th being the last time Dobson offered anything on his radio show about the matter. I have plenty of opinions there about some of the things he said. I have to leave it up to the thoughtful reader or Anonymous commenter to decide how the words square biblically.

But I hate to leave this post simply as a re-hash of my old material so check out this freshly researched post over at the Levellers blog - Follow the Money: Calvin Beisner, ExxonMobil, & Global Warming. I contributed questions (the second comment) and received answers (third comment) from the author/researcher that show the louder speaking actions of Dr. Dobson and the group he aligns his global warming views with – The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance.

Sorry Anonymous commenter, as you can see I didn’t find your suggestion much help. You didn’t specify what you might have been thinking, perhaps you can offer something from Chuck Colson that’s helps me realize what you’re thinking.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Quick Hits

First: having missed the opportunity to wish Eayste well in his endeavor to participate in the 212 Gut Check I don't want to miss the chance to wish him well as he participates solo in the 24 Hours of Afton. Good luck Eayste!

Second: good luck to Snakesbite’s: team as well.

Third: I drove my car today from the driveway to the garage. The radar said hail and maybe tomato's (The Boy 4-speak) were possible. It doesn't count as a single occupant trip though because The Boy 8 rode with me. Added bonus, I got to see how many miles I drove last week. It was a good week.

Four: I picked up batch #2 of shirts with The BOB today. If you wrote an essay and are waiting for a shirt, I just have to mail 'em.

Five: More The Boy 4-speak: a bottle of Tropicana Twister juice-type beverage is a "Chocolate Can of Twister." Wait! Stay 4!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Community and Voluntary Redistribution of Wealth

I couple weeks ago after a ride I lamented to Snakebite: that I was looking at needing to drive the car to fix the car. I’ve complained about that before…just about every time one of the cars needs fixin’.

The headlight was burned out.

He suggested I fix it myself. Make it a riding the bike to fix the car story.

Woah. I ain’t considered that. I’ve been going to this shop since I started driving. The Dad’s been going there longer. I have a relationship. The sort of relationship a small business owner dreams of. When something’s broken you take it in to get it fixed, don’t stop to think about doing it yourself.

Last week I rode the bike to the auto parts store. Bought a light. Put it in. Done.

Thanks for the encouragement Snakebite:!

Speaking of small business owner relationships…I took the single speed in to The LBS because when something’s broken you take it in to get it fixed. The rear wheel needed some truth. It turns out the spokes were pulling the rim wall apart in four places so instead there will be a funeral for my most favoritist wheels ever.

This bike doesn’t look like this anymore. The yellow tires had to go too.



Sigh.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Read Any Good Books Lately?

I have four books on my desk. I am not a big reader. I read seven books in 2005 and just four so far this year. I won’t/can't read all these. But I’m always thinking about more ways to simplify and recently I’m linking that to comsumerism.

AF said it here – "in an age of massive consumerism, bigger is better, the person with the most toys wins mentality, some folks are starting to see that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes."

LW said it here - "she has thrown me much further out of the box to think about so many other things we can “minus”. Certainly possessions (her minus jewelry concept) can be rethought (i.e. want vs. need)..."

KG alluded to it throughout here.

FH said it here – "I've learned that the bicycle is the natural enemy of impulse buying."

JM said it here - "this may be the moment that started my decline into the world of consumerism for the next 15 years."

So is the bigger issue consumerism?

Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth by Jim Merkel (2003) – Interlibrary loan says this goes back Tuesday. I got through the first four chapters. It’s relatively technical and offers many ways to empirically measure your own footprint.

Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine (2006) – the story of a couple going a year without purchasing anything but necessities. Of course defining necessities is part of the fun. This is a narrative book and I’m highly likely to finish it. I’m already to April.

Living With Less: The Upside of Downsizing Your Life by Mark Tabb (2006) – as of yet unopened.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (2001) – as of yet unopened.

Sermon on the Mount by Clarence Jordan (1952) - the shortest of them all. 95 pages. This book has been on my shelf for 20 years. This is the year it gets read.

There are indications from The Wife that taking action on some of this could be possible. Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Report: August 7 - 13

Trips -
MinusCar: 12
Multi-occupant Auto: 7
Single occupant Auto: 6

It wasn’t all that great of a week in MinusCarlandia. Four of the single-occupant trips came on a particularly bad Friday. The Boy 8 needed to be delivered to a downtown camp experience and later that day a group performance was scheduled. The day could have been planned better but the convenience of the car won the day and I drove.

To add insult to that already injurious day, I saw a city transportation planner riding his bike vehicularly, apparently headed home at the end of the day. It’s one thing to be spotted in a car by MinusCar-aware people who have no intent of joining the fun. I now realize it feels completely different to be spotted driving a car by MinusCar-aware people on bikes.

Sunday helped redeem the week. There was the bike trip to fetch sub sandwiches for lunch that included the inquiry, “How far you riding today?” All the way to here. There was a different trip to the convenience store to buy gas for the lawnmower. I LOVE riding bike to purchase gas especially the pulling up to the pump part.

And finally a fellow rider called later in the evening after breaking his seat post binder. He needed to ride in the morning and I had the necessary part on the race bike. Since the race bike mostly hangs in the garage wondering why it doesn't get raced I said sure, and I’m going out anyway, how bout I bring it to you? I had already planned a trip to the grocery store so my lights were ready and I got 90 minutes worth of a night ride in. Yes! The only thing better that 90 minutes of night riding is 91 minutes of night riding.

I think I saw an owl going out and one coming back. It was probably the same owl. The owl was probably a blue heron. But anyway, I think I saw an owl or two or none.

My Car Miles: 45
My Bike Miles/Hours: 92.6/7.3

Thursday, August 17, 2006

T-Shirt #17

JM in Gardnerville, NV -

"No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."
- Edmund Burke

I was born in 1970 and raised as an environmentalist. I had a respect for the natural world, and enjoyed leaving a small footprint wherever I went. It seemed most folks I knew back then did too though. Nobody had a lot of “stuff”, but everyone was pretty happy.

In college I discovered credit cards…actually they discovered me. I was pulled over to a booth in the student union building, where I was told that I could have a credit card with no source of income! I was hooked! This may be the moment that started my decline into the world of consumerism for the next 15 years. The crazy world of credit…anything and everything you’ve ever dreamed about if you can just make that monthly payment. By the end of my consumerism craze, I had racked up enormous debt, had dirt bikes and quads, a huge pickup truck, a travel trailer, and all sorts of miscellaneous things around the house and in storage bins. It seemed totally natural to me, since all the neighbors were doing it too. Nobody wanted to be left out. I had even switched political parties to help protect this way of life.

During the 2004 elections, I finally took a break from this un-reality and started reading up on current events and what was really going on. One book in particular, “Crossing the Rubicon” by Michael C. Ruppert, was the wakeup call that I needed. And wakeup call is putting it mildly…it was more like a wakeup drenching bucket of ice water. The book discusses the crimes of our own government and geopolitics in a time of declining oil supplies. The term Peak Oil was new to me, and it scared the living you-know-what out of me. I even had nightmares about it. I knew that it was time to start making changes if I wanted to survive in the 21st century.

Making such drastic changes in my life has been tough. It took so long to get where I was, and I was trying to change back overnight. The first things to go were the dirt bikes. I saw first hand the destruction the dirt bike community was causing to the environment. I knew I was part of the problem, and just couldn’t be part of it anymore. Cable TV was the next to go. I couldn’t take the propaganda and corporate brainwashing any longer. My family got back into gardening, and began our interest in organic foods. This year we sold our ¾ ton pickup, our travel trailer, two quads, and bought an economy car (Scion xB) that gets up to 36 mpg. Selling all this stuff paid off all of our debt (not including the house payment…). My family has adopted a vegetarian lifestyle too, seldom eating animal products (except cheese…hard to give up cheese!). We’ve begun recycling and finding other ways to save energy like compact fluorescent light bulbs and skylights. I recently ditched my gas mower and bought a human powered reel mower. All these changes have left our neighbors shaking their heads. They think we’ve totally lost our marbles! One neighbor was almost angry that I had mowed my lawn with a Reel Mower! I think there is still much to do though. I’m always reading and thinking of ways to save energy and protect the environment. I’ve changed my political affiliation yet again, and started giving money to environmental PAC’s.

All throughout my life I’ve enjoyed bicycling. No matter which phase of life I was going through, there was always a bicycle nearby…not always utilized frequently, but always around. Bicycling has become my main passion these days, since it seems like one of the things I really enjoy and can still do that doesn’t have an adverse environmental impact. Back in 2001 I started a bicycle club at work. We’ve been riding during the lunch hour every week of the year for the last 5 years. Early on it was a fitness issue, but has evolved into a way of life for me. My garage is full of bicycles for the family now…cruisers, utility bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, single speeds, BMX, etc… I realize this is a form of consumerism, but I think it’s a positive form!

Bicycle commuting was the next logical step for me. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I live 16 miles from work and the highway is dangerous. It took a few times experimenting with routes and doing partial distances (i.e. getting a ride home), before I got the guts to do the whole thing. This week was my first full commute, a distance of 42 miles using a safer route along the back roads. Plus I still got my 9 mile lunch time mountain bike in. Now I realize I can’t do 51 mile days everyday of the week…I nearly passed out when I got home…but it gave me the confidence that I can go without a car for a day here and there. I’ve logged nearly 90 bicycle miles since Monday…90 miles that may have been driven in a car!

I’m very happy in my new lifestyle, proving to me that sometimes less is more. Or to put it another way, “Minus is the New Plus!”

Monday, August 14, 2006

T-Shirt #16

SJ in Champaign, IL -

Hear that? That's the sound of SJ ripping the "stories of bike love" envelope to shreds. And this is me, standing outside my comfort zone. Thanks SJ, you got a cigarette?

Hot Times at Coal City

The girlfriends and I were hanging out in the Comfort [Inn Breakfast] Bar. The weekend was HERE and we were ready to go CRUISING! I had a couple of shots [of coffee], which is stronger than my usual drink, and we headed out for our wheels. We knew where there would be lots of action so we hit the road.

We were cruising the regular route when those shots really kicked in. My friends could tell. "Girlfriend, you want to chase somebody's tail, you just do it!" Hey, I didn't want to *chase* anything. I wanted to catch it. I was pacing up and down the cul-de-sac while they took off the extra layers of clothing. [It had gotten warm. Coffee makes me hyper.] I had my protection [helmet]; I wanted action.

So when four hot looking sets of [road bike] wheels went streaking by, I said, "See you later!" and revved my engines. I gave those guys a pass they couldn't miss ["On your left!"] and tried to look good as I passed by close enough to touch them. Would any of them take me up on it? I played it cool and I was rewarded. It seemed like it was just a few seconds later when the pack was behind me, all thoughts of plain old cruising were over, and it was just the two of us. He was snuggling up behind me [on my rear wheel]. I glanced a cool, twinkling smile that promised good things to come. My breath was already coming faster and I knew his was doing the same.

It didn't take long at all before we were as close as two people can be (and not run wheels into each other). Our thighs started moving in rhythm, steady now, then getting faster, pumping harder and harder. How long could this last? I know my panting just drove him harder. When I thought I would burst, he moved around me so I could suck [on his rear wheel]. It felt like everything part of me, every atom was at the edge of excitement.

I don't know how many times we took each other just to the edge. Now we were both pumping hard, breathing hard, until, YES!!! YES!!!

The SAG STOP!!!

We coasted in, smiling, gasping, and I realized neither of us had said a word. Ah, but the communication of two bodies in unison! I glanced over, and he was languidly mouthing a nipple (to his water bottle), the glaze of sheer pleasure in his eyes [exhaustion and endorphins] that I am sure mine reflected back.

Hey, I don't even know his name, but I hope it was as good for him as it was for me.

Google v The Sioux Falls Iconoclasts

If you're looking for iconoclasts in Sioux Falls, Google thinks you've found him...

Back in the early days of August ML & LT submitted the T-Shirt #9 essay. The word iconoclast appeared twice. I didn't know what it meant. I looked it up because I suspected they were misusing it. They weren't and I learned a new word.

Because of that essay The MinusCar Project is the #1 Google hit when curious users of the internets search for "iconoclasts Sioux Falls." It looks like the real iconoclasts have their work cut out for them.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

In My Town...



...the police peddle their bikes. Maybe I should read up on peddling laws just in case I get stopped by one of these guys.

"Last month, over 20 officers from around the region...took part in a...bike patrol course."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

$3.19 A Gallon

Just some pastor in a small church up there near Grand Rapids, Michigan. No big deal...

"...and God says let me serve notice on you. That the moment you become self sufficient, the moment you think it's all about you, the moment you think that it's your wealth and your land and your houses and your garages and your cars and your businesses that's the moment I will remove my hand and I will let you fall into slavery.

And we think that it can't happen in American culture.

$3.19 a gallon says that it can."

I think he might have been talking about the price of milk.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

T-Shirt #15

FH in Bowling Green, KY -

Wow. There's so much in this one. Here's something that hasn't occured to me - "I've learned that the bicycle is the natural enemy of impulse buying."

It began as a desire to lose some weight and just stop being tired all of the time. I was nearly 300 pounds in the fall of 2003 and had a cholesterol level of nearly 400 points. I was as good a candidate for stroke as there ever was. So I set out on a quest to use more energy than I took in on a daily basis, and I was determined to avoid big pharma for cholesterol control if at all possible. The age old story of diet and exercise, often told but rarely lived, became my mantra.

During my lunch hour I lifted weights at the gym, and during my early evening hours I rode a stationary bike for an hour while watching the banks of televisions. By August of 2004 I had lost nearly 100 pounds, and my cholesterol was finally under control without having to ‘talk to my doctor’ about Lipitor or Plavix or any of that. I felt good! A woman at my church invited me to join the local bike club and I found out that seeing the world go by while pedaling was so much better than Fox News or Elimidate or Room Raiders or ESPN or any of the other trash that the boob tube offered. I was (and still am) hooked on cycling!

I began to frequent bicycling specific websites and following the links I found within. One day I stumbled across a powerful, simple statement. You may have seen this before.

‘I believe people that think that the globe is warming because of human activity, specifically carbon emitting human activity, might be right. Because I think they might be right, I think humans need to change. And because I think humans need to change, I think I need to change.’

I have it memorized. Anytime anyone asks me how I can ride on a day like today (98 degrees out, 95% humidity) I repeat that statement to them. That usually gets a response of ‘I bet you save some money’ or ‘it’s good exercise’. Yes, it’s that too, but it’s so much more.

I now ride to work, to church, to the grocery store. I laugh at the idea of parking permits. I’m convinced that my current car will be my last car. Cold days, warm days, frigid days, hot days, dry days, rainy days – you name it, if I have to go somewhere I take the bike. I’ve learned how rich I am and how my 580 square foot home, formerly thought of as a stepping stone to something much nicer, is a luxury rather than a liability. I used to consider it a mark of poverty but now I plan to live in it forever. I’ve learned about the freedom of being debt free because I've learned to live on less than I earn. I've learned that the bicycle is the natural enemy of impulse buying. My previous dreams of new cars, large houses, and secluded lots far out in suburbia have morphed into dreams of simple, chemical free living with plenty of time to enjoy life. I've learned that I can live without a dryer, that it's okay to sweat in summer. I've learned to appreciate the chill of winter. I’ve discovered my neighbors and we know each other by name. I’ve learned that I’m not meant to go fast, that going slow gets me there just as quickly.

I’ve learned to live more deliberately with less.

I’ve driven a total of 3560.2 miles this year in my car, all of them under 55 mph. I think next years mileage should be half that.… and then half of that… and then half of that.

And I’ve learned that I’m not the only one.

The MinusCar Life

The Boy 4 had some downtown swimming lessons tonight so we all converged at the downtown Applebees. To my amazement people do consume evening meals there. After supper The Boy 8 and I were left to find our own car free entertainment.

We divided the reading of the historical marker outside the central fire station.

We enjoyed a tile mural, crossed a pedestriam bridge and walked along the river. We briefly considered walking across on some stepping stones but didn't.

We stumbled upon Jazz at Fawick Park so we pulled up a blade of grass in the shadow of Naked David, watched two bike policemen nab someone who may have been being a public nuisance, and otherwise enjoyed the soothing sounds.

Kinda I like this.

T-Shirt #14

NS in Sioux Falls -

(skeptics welcome)

I have always been a bit skeptical of global warming, not necessarily because of the science, but because of the proposed solutions put forth by some of its proponents (e.g. population control). A while back a link to a transcript of an interview with Richard Cizik was posted on MinusCar which I found very interesting. I went looking for it again a few days ago and found it as well as another interview in which he clearly expresses my reservations and my approach to this topic.

Reading MinusCar (and others’ essays) has gotten me thinking about what more can I do. For me, the minus being the new plus is about small daily choices and changes in my thinking focusing on conservation and quality of life. Things like better planning of vehicle excursions for efficiency with respect to time and fuel. In about 3 months, my employer is moving within easy walking/biking distance from my house. My plan is to get to work under my own power a majority of the time.

This morning I thought, “Why wait?” So I biked to work for the first time this morning. It was great! It was nice and cool and took me less time than I thought it would.

Yesterday morning, my 15 month old woke at about 6:30 am. Normally, I would be kind of bummed about missing out on a little extra sleep. Instead, I opted to hook up the bike trailer and head to a local convenience store to take advantage of a newly discovered deal on a necessary commodity in our house with 3 young boys, milk, in the standard quantity, 4 gallons. The resulting quality time with one of my boys, a bit of exercise and need for one less car trip energized me for the day.

As part of a recent move to a different house, I am reevaluating my lawn and lawn care tools. I am seriously looking at getting a push reel mower and a cordless rechargeable string trimmer. I have noticed one neighbor with grass that is very different form the super-green grass that has become some sort of addiction for many. It is a bit brown, not because it is so dry, but because that is just how it is. This homeowner has also intentionally not mowed a large portion of their lawn. It looks so natural, like the prairie upon which we live. Now, I have not purchased the aforementioned lawn care tools or replanted my lawn to native grass, but prior to reading MinusCar I don’t think these things would have ever crossed my mind.

So minuscartowork, minussleep and minusBriggs&Stratton have definite pluses of increased family time, better health due to more exercise and general conservation.

In my opinion, the greatest minus being a plus is something that isn’t all that new. It is from the Bible, Matthew 16:25-26, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Good Luck Fatty

Eldon Nelson (The Fat Cyclist) will be racing his 10th Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race this weekend.

The Fat Cyclist weighs 155 now. They say blogging is therapeutic.

Good luck Fatty. Get your sub-9!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Big Box Retail Waters The Moat


Wednesday, August 9, 8:30am, weather - rainy


Sunday, July 30, 6:10AM, three miles away

Out Portland Way

(With apologies to SC (T-Shirt #13). I don’t like stomping all over a guest essay by putting one my posts first on the page - but this is so timely.)

First off, the Prudhoe Bay pipeline closure has caused the Wheel Revolution blogger to get her crazy talk on. She lives in Portland, OR (so you know she’s wacked already), she’s a single mom trying to limit her car use (so you know she’s wacked already), and she refers to her son as The Boy (so you know she’s really wacked already). She’s my kind of people.

(Mom - wacked kinda means crazy. Hi mom!)

Last March she got hit by a car and lived to tell about it. But that’s not the story here.

The story is: she has the audacity to ask, given the 2% reduction of oil the Prudhoe Bay pipeline closure represents, “What if we were to rise to the occasion and live within our means, as it were, by reducing our oil consumption accordingly?”

In her next post on the same day she describes a Portland event that included an appearance of the Portland Mayor, where citizens were invited to drop off their car keys in a lock box and commit to using alternative forms of transportation. Apparently people did.

---

Second, in late July Portland bike messenger Ayla Holland was stopped by police for riding a bike without a brake. Ayla was actually riding a fixie. If you know enough to know what a fixie is you know enough to know that it has a brake and if you know enough to ride a fixie you know enough to know how to apply the brake. The judge failed to see the argument and gave Ayla 30 days to install a hand brake.

Part of the judges ruling included this line, “If your client had a stick she could rub against her tire, you’d have a case.”

Now Portland bike messengers are behaving accordingly. They are carrying sticks labeled as brakes. Even better than that, Saturday a group calling themselves the Horizontal Dropouts will be holding the first ever “Stick Stopping Competition” which will include “stick stands” and “backward sticking” events. GOLDEN.

Thanks to the Misanthrope Cyclist for the tip.

T-Shirt #13

SC in Ames, IA -

There's a pretty high concentration of MinusCar shirts in Ames. Maybe you should coordinate with TD to avoid the same days.

I've always had a bike. I never had a trike, a big wheel, or one of those insanely dangerous motorized kid cars. Just a bike. I got my first bike at the tender age of 1, a blue Schwinn Tigress. Since my dad has owned an LBS since before I was even a twinkle in his eye, I guess you could say I was born into the bike culture.

During my formative years, bike culture meant bike safety days at the elementary school, long rides with the local bike club, watching the Tour de France 30 minute blurb on ESPN, the big MS 150 at the end of the summer, and my favorite part -- hanging out with my dad. My first long ride with him was on a Trek tandem. I was 9 or 10, and he specially rigged up a system that re-routed the chain half way up the bike so my feet could reach the pedals. We rode 50 miles. I was pretty excited.

My first MS bike tour was the following summer. At the age of 11 I managed to ride 100 miles with my 10 year old cousin, and earn a scar that still graces my left knee when I wiped out just south of Tea, SD. That was my bike culture for over 2 decades.

When I was younger, I always had distant dreams of racing and winning, but I was never, never close to the front of the pack. So slowly, I let my speedy dreams slip away, and I stopped distance riding throughout most of college.

When I moved to Ames for graduate school, I at least started riding around town again. Slowly, over the last two years, I have realized that I don't have to be the fastest, ride the hardest, or go the furthest in order to be part of the bike culture. I don't have to do RAGBRAI every year, although I would like to. For now, the six miles I ride each day is enough, and a trail ride around town is always a nice way to spend an evening. It was a long, stressful winter that left me with regular back pain by the time spring rolled around. Only a few weeks after I started riding again in the spring, my back pain subsided, and I started feeling better physically and mentally. I got back on my bike and it started to define my life in a new way. I've started to think differently about so many things. I've started to define a new bike culture for myself that includes bikes as transportation and as recreation. I've started to see my bike as a tool and a companion. I've started to shift towards becoming car-lite and plan for riding in the winter. I've started to dream again.

I just moved a week ago, and while unpacking my fridge magnets, I found a photo of myself from the MS 150 bike tour 4 years ago. I rode that year with a first-timer, a close friend whom I was excited to introduce to my bike culture. I hung it up and smiled. I like it there to remind me of how far I've gone and how far I still have the ability to go.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

SF Cycles



I didn't do it. I don't know who did. I wasn't here when it happened.

I kinda like it though.

T-Shirt #12

TD in Ames, IA -

Why do I bike in the winter?

I like the sound of the studs on the pavement, especially when the constant hum is interrupted now and then by a small snow bank.

I enjoy the challenge of spinning the back wheel though 6” of fresh snow, while the front wheel stops spinning because its brakes are frozen up.

I love that point in the morning commute when you pull off the facemask because your head is REALLY sweating. I also love the quick stop to put on the facemask because it is MUCH colder than you thought it was.

I miss the constant west wind fighting me in the morning and helping me home.

I miss riding my bike right out onto the lake to see how the fishing is going.

I like the solitude of the trails in the winter when everyone else is inside.

I have fun trying to lock my tires up for as long as I can on frozen mud puddles.

I miss having a quick chat with people clearing their walks: “Isn’t it cold to be out biking?”

I miss being able to out stop and out accelerate cars after a snow.

I like riding in the dark with snow reflecting everything.

I get a kick out of smiling at the people in cars that are going by and staring at me.

I like waving to my friend on the bus as he rolls by sitting next to people that he swears don’t know what a shower is.

I guess I’ve compiled quite a list. I also enjoy biking in the summer, but wanted to write about riding in the winter. Like dreaming of ice fishing in the summer, and yearning for casting while in the ice house, I think I’ve always wanted the season that it isn’t. The nice part is I can just keep riding, and then it will snow. Unless the other reason that I bike in the winter finally warms the planet to the point that it doesn’t snow in Iowa any more. Then I’ll move to Canada.

"Some people go to church and think about fishing. Others go fishing and think about God." -Unknown

Report: July 24 – August 6

Trips -
MinusCar: 16
Multi-occupant Auto: 11
Single occupant Auto: 6
Destinations: 71

My Car Miles: 53
My Bike Miles/Hours: 168/11.9

Sunday, August 06, 2006

T-Shirt #11

IK in Kalamazoo, MI -

I started mulling it over about a month ago. When I mentioned my plans to my wife, she immediately responded “That’s crazy! This is just one of your fads.” I let it drop for a couple of days. Then, without any cues, my wife came around to it. “Okay, let’s try it for a month. If it works, then we’ll get rid of one car.” That’s what I love about my wife. She’s subject to strong convictions, but that does not stem from intellectual laziness. She wrestles with an idea, probing it’s every cranny. Her eventual blessing of the project meant that it met with her approval, and her approval was not merely facial. It was because, despite her negative initial reaction, she thought it was a good idea.

And so we’ve tried it. We just made it through our first full week. I had been turning the idea over in my head repeatedly since I filled my car up on gas during Katrina: $48. Having been raised in Northern Michigan, four miles outside of town, biking was a necessity if I desired any sort of freedom before age sixteen. Soon that full blown necessity turned into a love affair. I rode every day. To school. To work. On a beautiful cross-country ski trail outside of town and on single-track blazed through abandoned state hospital grounds. I raced. The magazines that I kept under my bed in high school were not illicit, but I did lust after the titanium and carbon fiber bodies that graced their pages.

Then, I left. I went to school in an area that had all the topographical significance of Paul Bunyan’s pancake. My bike gathered dust for seven years as I slogged through undergrad and on to law school. I got married, graduated and started working at a law firm. I became a dad. I got fat. My low point came when a group of friends came up to our home in northern Michigan to compete in a mountain bike race. I sat out because I was too out of shape to even contemplate pedaling twenty-seven miles. Then we moved from northern Michigan to the city we now call home: Kalamazoo.

I started riding a little more. Hooked my road bike up to the trainer and got some miles in over the winter. Got a state park pass and did the weekend warrior gig over at Fort Custer (great trails if you’re in the neighborhood). A passion was rekindled out of embers that had been buried under false obligations, bad diversions, and about fifteen pounds of excess body mass. And as my life seemed to coming together, the world seemed to fall apart. Iraq. Katrina. Global warming. Israel and Lebanon trading missiles like baseball cards. Iran dangling the specter of $200 for a barrel of oil. Russia and Venezuela home to leaders that reeked of early twentieth century dictators, emboldened and furthered by the power and revenue generated through oil fields.

So I threw my cards out on the table to my wife. We should go down to one car. I’ll ride the bike into work. On days when the weather was for too inclement, I would take the bus. We live right on the line and it’s four miles (mostly downhill) to my office. She will now admit that her initial reaction was one rooted in pride. We are young, we’ve bought a house, and we own two cars. We’re missing a dog (due to allergies), but we’re well on out way to the American dream. Going down to one car seemed to her a scarlet letter, a mark that we we’re struggling and on the path to poverty.

After a week, she’s behind it. Yeah, it’s frugal, and that is a definite plus, but there are far more positives than just penny pinching that have popped up. For one, I’ve lost weight. I always worked out, but after twelve years of regular physical activity, I reached a point of homeostasis. Any extra calories burned were quickly replaced by pizza, french fries, or a gyro. The extra eight miles a day have pushed me over my burn rate. I’m getting closer to my freshman year fighting weight.

Two, I’m happier. I’m on a bike. I seem to remember a quote (I can’t remember who said it… maybe Einstein) that said, “A man on two legs does not feel the contours of the earth. Only the man on a bicycle, with two points of reference, truly feels the earth.” I think that is true, and even truer when compared to people in cars. When people are on their commute, they’re self-absorbed. They’re drinking coffee, eating breakfast, listening to NPR or talk radio of sports talk. They’re distracting themselves, looking for stimulation, and insulated from the world. When you ride a bike, it’s different. You are experiencing the world, living in “the now”. You breathe, you sweat, and you look around. React to your surroundings. You’re engaged with the world. I now notice local stores, and stop by on my way home to pick up supplies. I wave to the same crossing guard I see by the elementary school. I’ve had to get a new barber, one downtown that I walk to on my lunch hour as opposed to driving to a strip mall. These are, as I see them, all good changes.

And yes, it is harder. I have to plan. My job as an attorney does not lend itself to sitting through client meetings in spandex as sweat drips from my brow. I go into my office on Sunday and drop of a load of clean shirts. My shoes, my suits, my ties are all in a closet adjacent to my office. I use flushable baby wipes to freshen up in the morning before I throw on my work uniform. But since when did living deliberately become a scarlet letter as well, right up there in notoriety with being a family with only one car? I try to avoid clich├ęs like the plague (and yes, I meant to write that) but there is a lot of merit to the old saw “sometimes the right way isn’t always the easy way.” Because that’s what it’s about in the end, isn’t it, ease? Having two cars negates the need to plan, to think out one’s day. You don’t have to think of others as you hop in your car and head to work. And that’s the problem. We’ve lost the sight of how much is to be gained by sacrifice, and we all now worship at the altar of easy living.

Why do I want your shirt? Because I like your cause. I’ve already won one convert to it, my wife. As one who does not like soapboxes but feels passionate about environmental issues, my only course of influence is to make my own life conform to my beliefs. I’ve seen some wheels turn in people’s head when I mention what we’re doing. Who knows, maybe someone will stop me and say, “Hey, cool shirt, where’d you get it?” And I’ll say “Well, you have to go to this website and read the essays there… it’s kind of a movement.” And that will be my soapbox. So thanks for the opportunity. And as I say to my wife when I get home: “It’s a heck of a ride.”

Saturday, August 05, 2006

T-Shirt #10

KG in Seattle, WA -

Sometimes I need to take a bus to Microsoft. It’s easiest for me to bike to the station on the bridge and then I’ll often wait in a line of Seattle cyclists, who put their bikes in twos on the front racks of the busses. All the while, on both sides of us, the traffic is gridlocked and fuming, and most cars each have exactly one person in them.

I’m not so much against cars, having a need for them now and again and recognizing their convenience, as I am against the assumptive rights that car owners demand. I am against the greed of cars.

In turn, this has led me and my partner to chat about other things we tend to get greedy and demand single ownership of, as is human. Washing machines come to mind. Except for families with triplets, they sit silently in every basement in the city, a spinning frenzy only once or twice a week. While we’re doing the laundry, you might as well throw in the iron and ironing board as something we rarely use, unless you are like my mother who channels aggression into ironing underwear.

It’s like I’ve got a parking garage full of cars in nearly everything I’ve got around the house. Most of it goes underutilized.

Several years ago, Portland tried The Yellow Bike. The idea being that downtown, you’d be able to just walk outside, see a yellow bike and hop on it. You could ride around, and then when you got tired or got to your sandwich shop, you just lay it down and some other person would see the yellow bike and the cycle would begin again. Who would not love this idea, but for human greed and malfeasance? The Yellow Bikes got ridden away and quickly disappeared, a failure of communalism.

In my city, people can share books at the library and people can share rakes at a community garden (if they can wait out the lengthy waiting list to share dirt), but there are few other successful programs for sharing. Around us society shows us day in and day out, that sharing, leasing, or letting is a sign of failure, while owning is for winners. While we might scold two-year olds about sharing, as a society, we’ve rejected it.

Living without a car is often not glamorous. It usually requires planning and I often don’t go to places I would like to or I bum rides. However, what I like most about it is that it forces me to share and be more tied to my community.

I’d like to think that because of my bike, I know my neighbors and neighborhood a bit better. And that gets translated into a more communal life, where you can borrow my rake and I can ask you for a cup of sugar. So while I’m not leaving my bike unlocked in my front yard, if you asked me to take it for a spin, I’d let you.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Is It Warm Out Here Or Is It Just Pat?

Today it’s being widely reported that the warmer than usual summer temperatures have gotten hold of Pat Robertson. Like the sailors who got scared and fed Jonah to the big fish, there’s nothing like a little natural theology to help a guy rethink some things.

Here are a couple of his statements –"We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels…if we are contributing to the destruction of this planet, we need to do something about it."

Huh.

So now that Mr. Robertson has succumbed to the growing threat of far-left environmentalism I became inspired and found this article on his organizations website – “The Growing Threat of Far-Left Environmentalism”.

This is his July 2005 interview with US Senator James Inhofe. The money shot is James saying, “You know, I was so excited that we were winning all of these things [gay marriage, abortion, etc.], and now we have this far-Left group coming in trying to capture the evangelical Christians. We can’t let it happen, Pat.” The emphasis is mine.

It is not being reported that Senator Inhofe telephoned Pat yesterday asking if he knew what the temperature in hell is.

I’d like to offer some starter tips to Pat as he tries to get his head around what it’s really going to mean to “address the burning of fossil fuels.” I doubt that these come anywhere close to what is necessary but it’s a place to start. Besides, you can’t change everything all at once. That would just prove to the addicts around you that you really are crazy.

MinusCar – drive less Pat. Ride your bike. Ride the bus. Walk. A funny thing happens when you do that…especially on the bus. You get to sit next to poor people…you know, the kind of people that make up the vast majority of the world. This will also give you some time to stop thinking about the angry millions “out there” having abortions and gay sex and gives you time to focus on the guy next to you…who may in fact be one of those having gay sex or abortions.

MinusHouse/AC – how big is your house Pat? Do you heat it and cool it? Where’s your thermostat Pat? I haven’t downsized my home yet but we put our thermostat at 80 this summer (six degrees warmer than previous years) and bought a fan. A funny thing happened when we did that…the house got warm. So we went outside. You know, like those people in the scary section of town sitting on their porches…yeah, guess what, intentional or not they’re doing something about fossil fuel consumption.

When the temp was above 105 last weekend we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the pool. The community pool…the one with the all the different languages and all the different colors. The Boy 4 was climbing down the ladder into water well above his head. I couldn’t get in ahead of him to protect him. An African-American man, seeing my distress, wrapped his huge hands around The Boy and lowered him into the water. The Boy turned to see who was holding him and seeing his distress I reassured him…”you’re ok, it’s ok.” I don’t think that incident fixed anything but I do know that I want more of it.

MinusTV – how many millions watch your show Pat? Tell them to turn off their TV, turn off their AC and walk outside and meet the neighbors. Some of those neighbors might be the ones whose behavior you’d like to change.

Good luck Pat.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

MinusBlog

I recently found a new blog. It's called The MinusCar Project. It's a place where people are telling their MinusSomethingAnything stories. Apparently the guy gives away a t-shirt for each story.

Erm...

It's sort of fun having a blog that I don't have to write for. I'm trying not to get used to it. A t-shirt for every story is not sustainable...but the party's not over yet. Keep submitting!

And thanks for writing! These stories are awesome!

T-Shirt #9

ML & LT in Sioux Falls -

"So we told her we work close to our house, maybe 6 blocks. Her reply? "Wow, that's almost close enough to walk!"

Almost.

Sigh. I guess this is our introduction back to the Midwest. The "when will they break down and buy a car" betting pool at work ranges from 2 months to the end of winter. But, we are ready to be iconoclasts. After all we had 2 ½ years of training in a country where owning a car didn't make sense in any respect, so we got used to the idea that we could walk quite a ways and get by just fine.

Now, we are positioned in a house that is about a half a mile from work, groceries (move that Hy-Vee, baby!), and most of the basic shopping elements we will ever need—including the great Owner's bike shop. That's all easily within walking distance. And now that we have been reunited with our bikes, we figure that within a radius of 5 miles we can do anything, short of hauling awkward items.

Will we need a car sometimes? Sure, and you can rent them cheap here. But, then the true cost of driving will be borne out, and we will plan carefully how we use it when we rent. Otherwise, the car sits in our garage, silently losing money. So, car free for us.

Besides, I love nothing more than to ride home, open up the garage door, and bike on in. It brings a smile to my face every time. We're not trying to be anti-car martyrs, or play the holier-than-thou card. We certainly recognize that life changes may dictate a car in the future. But in the meantime, four bikes fit very nicely in that car-less two-car garage. And no oil leaks on the floor.

“Iconoclasts indeed – and we are not alone.”

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

T-Shirt #8

LW in Sebastopol, CA -

Back in April of this year, I convinced my husband (it wasn’t very hard -- he’s a very easy going guy) to replace 90% of our car travel with bicycling. I made this decision for a number of reasons, but the top three were health, the environment, and thriftiness. I am happy to report that it has been a resounding success, but that is not what my essay is about.

The one (minor) downside to our taking up utility cycling is that my 11 year old daughter claims to hate it. Yes, we ride together every day running errands, going to school, etc. but I know that she hasn’t embraced being minus car as fully as my husband and I have. Generally we start the day with an eye roll and another tirade of “tell me again, why are we doing this?” So the other day I was shocked to hear her use the term “minus” as being a “plus”.

Just as we are “minus car” she proposed society should go “minus jewelry”. It was an off hand comment but it really made me think. After being honked at on the road by a particularly obnoxious driver, she proposed “minus horns”. While the cycling is only growing on her slowly, I love the fact that she is embracing the “minus” concept as being a “plus”. I love the fact that while I thought I was thinking outside the box already by going sans car, she has thrown me much further out of the box to think about so many other things we can “minus”. Certainly possessions (her minus jewelry concept) can be rethought (i.e. want vs. need) as well as the concept of reducing noise pollution (minus horns).

My “minus” doesn’t have to be her “minus”. She has embraced the concept much better than I could have ever imagined.

Podcastlandia

Podcast – Barack Obama

In his July 20 podcast Illinois Senator Barack Obama announced he and some other senators have introduced legislation (The Fuel Economy Reform Act of 2006) to increase automobile fuel efficiency. I have no sense that this will fix anything but it certainly is about time something like this came up in the US Senate. Read the press release here.

Interesting, Senator Obama begins his podcast with – “the consensus among scientists at least, if not politicians, is that we are facing a significant environmental crisis when it comes to global warming.” The press release only mentions warming in passing at the end. I guess the co-sponsors are some of those non-consenting politicians he’s talking about.

Podcast – Bill O’Reilly The Radio Factor

In his July 25 podcast Bill O’Reilly begins with the question, “Are we a nation of selfish greedheads?” He seemed a bit appalled that year-to-date oil use is up 0.6% over last year and American’s are choosing comfort even though it’s funding the enemy in the war on terror. “The terrorists, they’re not selfish. They’ll blow themselves up. They’re not, we are and that’s pretty frightening.”

*** it’s possible later in the show Bill changed his tune. I only get the free 11 minute podcast…which is all I can stand.

Podcast –Doug McIntyre The Radio Factor

In his July 28 podcast (the very next show after Bill berated the American public for it’s addiction to comfort and oil) Guest Doug McIntyre followed his report about Floyd Landis’ failed blood doping test with, “I think anybody on a bicycle in spandex is failing the dope test…(more boorish stuff about fat butts and spandex)…buy a car, help the economy.”

Is this the sound an addict makes?

*** it’s possible later in the show Doug changed his tune. I only get the free 11 minute podcast…which is all I can stand.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

T-Shirt #7

Speaking of Sasquatch

Sasquatch in Lincoln, NE -

The 5 "E's" of bicycle commuting - Why do I ride my bike to work?

Economical--I save money on the obvious thing, gas, but I also save on parking, decrease wear and tear on the car (city driving is hard on cars), and I recently cut my insurance premium by $120/yr (car is listed as pleasure vehicle.) Cars are nothing but money pits, and anyone out there who says otherwise is fooling himself.

Exercise—-I ride my bike a minimum of 8 miles a workday. While that isn’t much for many people, including myself now, that is about 40 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 times a week. On days I want to push myself, I take a hilly route at a fast pace. On days I feel tired, I simply pedal slower and enjoy the scenery. I feel energized when I get to work. I destress on the way home.

Environmental--There is one less car on the road burning our precious oil. We are entering a global crisis in which much blood will be shed over this coveted commodity. I don’t want anything to do with it. Plus, I’ll be more prepared when that day comes when people who live 40 miles from work can’t get there because they can’t afford fuel. I’m not in the “go to work to pay for the car to get you to work” cycle.

Efficiency--Bikes are the most efficient means of transportation. Do I need a 2,000 pound vehicle to drive me down the street to work or the grocery store? I can also go where cars can't and get to many of the places I need to go just as fast as in a car. Bikes are also simple machines that require very little maintenance and repair, compared to a car.

Enjoyment--There is a simple pleasure to be found in riding a bike. We all did it as kids. Why not now? Fresh air is a good thing! I love the looks I get from drivers who realize I’m biking to work. I don’t doubt that many of them wish they could be doing the same thing. Yes, the –20F windchill was cold last Jaunary, and today’s 110F heat index makes me sweat. Yet the payoffs are so worth it. Try it, you might be surprised!

--Sasquatch