Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cycling in Wichita Readers' Ride #2

(Assuming, of course, I still have readers . . . )

I'm still here, and I hope y'all are as well. Let's try another Readers' Ride--two, in fact--and ride the Arkansas River bike path. My hope with scheduling two rides is to accommodate more folks who might be interested.

On Saturday, October 4, at 9:00 a.m., let's meet at the trail's southern terminus at Garvey Park (the corner of Washington and Galena); we'll ride to the trail's northern terminus at 21st Street Park.

On Sunday, October 5 at 1:00 p.m., we'll meet at 21st Street Park and ride south.

These will be easy rides in terms of their pace; the idea is to meet other like-minded folks and their families and Significant Others. Cycling in Wichita can be a lonely business at times (the activity, I mean--not this blog); it's good for all of us to be reminded that we are not so alone as we sometimes feel while we're riding.

I look forward to seeing you this Saturday and/or Sunday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yesterday's commute: The Arkansas River Path as alluvial plain, and other observations

As local folks know, on Friday and Saturday we got enough rain here (none of it from Ike--this rain was the weather gods' special gift to southern Kansas) to cause rivers and creeks to rise substantially. I didn't go to the base on Monday, so yesterday was my first ride that way since the rains.

This was another time that I wished I had any sort of digital camera. For most of the stretch I ride (from Exploration Place to the bridge at Harry), the path had been under anywhere from 1' to 4' of water (for those who haven't been there, at the path's closest approach to the river the path is a foot or so above the water). For much of the way, the path now resembles a hard-packed dirt path--the concrete in those places just isn't visible. Flotsam and jetsam litter the path and leave telltale signs up the embankment to show how deep the water got. In one place close to Exploration Place, there is a 15-foot long, foot-and-a-half diameter tree trunk on the bank between the water and the path. A couple of park benches on the path have substantial debris caught on their armrests.

So: this was obviously nothing compared to the floods that used to occur here before the Big Ditch was dug, and certainly like nothing that Texas experienced over the weekend. Nevertheless, it can become too easy to think of the Arkansas as yet another of those shallow and slow-moving, easily-controllable Great Plains rivers and forget that Nature (still) Matters.

Other stuff now:

Last week, I noted that I had found that day's ride very difficult for me physically. Peter and Coppercorn were kind enough to weigh in with suggestions for how to handle cooler weather; and so yesterday morning, the weather being comparable, I took their suggestions to heart. On last week's ride, I'd worn a sweatshirt; this time, I wore just shorts and a T-shirt (though I had warmer gear packed, just in case). Also, I made a conscious effort not to try to go fast but just take it easy. After all, as Andrew of Carbon Trace says--nay, declaims here, there's no reason at all to sweat on a bike. (I was also recalling my membership with these folks). At any rate, I took it easy, not trying to go "fast" and in a fairly easy gear. I figure my speed was around 10 mph. If it had not been for the Mrs. calling me via cell-phone while I was en route, I would have made the trip in about 50 minutes: about the same amount of time I have done it in the past when pushing harder and having to rest as a result. Even better, I had to shift to an easier gear only once, when climbing the Mt. Vernon overpass at I-135. I did sweat--sorry Andrew, but it's what I do--but nearly as much as I usually do. The trip home, meanwhile, though always easier than the morning ride, was even easier, with no shifting at all for the I-135 overpass. So: Slow-biking it is from here on.

On the way home, I almost hit a middle-schooler, also on a bicycle, at the intersection of Mt. Vernon and Estelle. He was getting ready to cross Mt. Vernon as I approached from the east and had just looked in my direction before looking west and, as he did so, began to cross. He just flat hadn't seen me. I had to shout at him twice before he turned my way, and even then I had to brake to keep from hitting him. I do find it a bit humorous, though, that that has been thus far my closest to having an accident with anyone. On the other hand, for the first time in my time cycling a motorist behind me honked at me as I waited at a stop sign. I suppose he couldn't see it, but I felt it prudent not to pull out in front of a school bus. As it turned out, though, when I did cross, I could hear his car die. His impatience, I suspect, had less to do with me than his internal-combustion-challenged Buick.

No interesting carrion sightings to report, you'll be relieved/disappointed to learn.

So: all in all yesterday's ride was a good one, my best in terms of my physical well-being.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Traffic lights

Via Kansas Cyclist comes a news story from Ft. Collins about bike-friendly traffic signals: metal-sensing devices in the pavement that can detect the smaller quantities of metal in bikes as they approach intersections, thus changing the lights more quickly.

Sort of off-topic re cycling but still having to do with traffic lights: from 1985-1987 I lived and taught English in Durango, Mexico. There, traffic signals' green lights would flash for a couple of seconds before turning yellow and then red. All other cautions about driving in Mexico notwithstanding, I (a motorist myself while I lived there) always thought that cities in the States would do well to have such a sequencing--how many of us, after all, have found ourselves approaching an intersection and been caught in that awkward place where the light turns yellow and we have to decide whether to slam on the brakes or speed through the intersection? That extra warning of the flashing green, I'd think, would make intersections safer for all concerned--cyclists, too.

All this reminds me as well of Wichita drivers' propensity to not signal lane changes or turns at intersections, but that's a whole other post.


Sorry for being away from here; numerous distractions, some happier than others, some more pressing than others, have kept me away.

Discipline, discipline.

50-state Bike-Friendliness Rankings

The League of American Bicyclists has just published a ranking of the states in terms of their bike-friendliness. Kansas ranks a surprising 25th, ahead of all its contiguous neighbors except for Colorado. That said, those of us who live anywhere west of Lawrence know that urban areas can do much more to improve that ranking.

Follow the link to an interactive map to get explanations for each state's ranking.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11: The Life/Art Confluence

Note: The following, cross-posted at my other blog, does not have much to do with cycling per se, but I include it here in part because of the day but also because I mentally composed a large part of this post in my head as I rode to and from McConnell back on Tuesday.

The cover art for Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, originally scheduled for release on Reprise on September 11, 2001. Wikipedia. Image found here.

I have posted before about this day: the usual sorts of posts one has seen or will see on the anniversary of this day. In rereading my versions of those sorts of posts, I see no need to add to them.

Instead, I want to simply note a couple of musical moments that are especially striking for their timing and place and that for me, seven years on, still resonate powerfully.

I'll just let you ponder the eerie confluence of cover art and planned release date for Wilco's album. But the music, too--not just lyrically but sonically as well--is a powerful irruption of our usual ways of thinking about what our expectations and assumptions are regarding "pop music." Just what does it mean when Jeff Tweedy, in "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," sings, "I am an American aquarium drinker/I assassin down the avenue"--and in that wavering nasal-y voice of his, no less? And how is it that that tinny electric piano riff in "Poor Places" nevertheless manages to sound so grand? No matter. Whatever Wilco is selling in this album, I'm still more than willing to buy.

Here are some selections to listen to:

"I Am Trying to Break Your Heart"
"I'm the Man Who Loves You"
"Poor Places"

The other moment I want to mention is Laurie Anderson's performances in New York on September 19-20, 2001. Though she was ostensibly on tour in support of her lovely August 2001 studio release Life on a String, those songs, in combination with older material (1980's "O Superman" most especially), become quite powerful in this moment. Yet she makes no claims to know or see anything more than anyone else does, as you'll hear in her spoken intro to "Here With You."

Here are those tracks:

"Here With You"
"O Superman"

And here is the first paragraph from her liner notes for this album:
Playing my music on September 19th at Town Hall was one of the most intense evenings I've ever had as a performer. Live music is about being in the present and many people had been living almost exclusively in the present since the 11th of September. The atmosphere in the city was eerie, like during a strange holiday. The driven people in New York had all suddenly experienced enormous fear and uncertainty. Unable to predict, we were simply looking and listening.
Even if you're not a fan of Anderson's music, there's little sense, listening to this, that "you had to have been there." At that point in time, we all were there.


I am stunned and pleased to share with my readers that Freewheelin', sponsors of the free bike-share program at both of this year's national nominating conventions for President, has identified this blog as a Favorite via Blog Catalog. Here, by the way, is Freewheelin's blog. Perhaps, to Freewheelin's mind, a bike-blog is a bike-blog is a bike-blog, and never were truer words spoken of the blog whose words you're reading now. But still.

As you probably know, several cities in this country, inspired by the overall success of Paris' year-old bike-share program, are experimenting with similar programs. Freewheelin', though, has some especially serious corporate support behind its efforts in the form of the HMO Humana; and it seems that, until or unless state and federal commitments to such projects--either directly through setting up such programs or indirectly through making streets bike-friendlier--municipalities and corporations will, for now, be the way to go in establishing them.

Anyway. I hope you'll go and visit Freewheelin'.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Wichita cycling blogosphere grows!

Written by Chris, who appears to live in the College Hill area, Random Chaos is a brand-new blog. Its maiden entry, from Monday the 8th, concerns a ride he took down Douglas to West Douglas Park and back. He's very detail-oriented; he includes information on his heart rate and even on his cadence.

Chris already is a serious cyclist; here's hoping he keeps spreading the word via his blog as well. I hope you'll go over and make his acquaintance. And of course, if you have or know of another Wichita-area cycling blog, I hope you'll let me know. The more of us are out there in the blogosphere posting on our experiences, the more we might get others to be thinking about cyclists before they see us out on the streets.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rousing the blog from its slumber

Apologies for the silence on this end. The combination of getting some reading done before books had to be returned, preoccupations of various sorts, and nothing especially compelling about my own commuting have kept me away from here. Todays' trip, though, provided me with a couple of things worthy of note, along with a question to ask.

The question first: Is it harder to ride in cooler weather than in warm weather? This morning the temperature was in the low 50s--by far the coolest weather I have yet ridden in--and by the time I got to McConnell, I felt physically like I did the first time I rode out there . . . which is to say, awful. Heat wasn't the problem, though; I just couldn't catch my breath. The afternoon, though, was great: temperatures in the 70s, and I had no troubles with the climbs.

I'd appreciate any insight that those of you experienced in riding in cooler weather might have.

The most momentous commuting news is that on Mt. Vernon as of last week, for a couple of blocks on either side of Broadway, the city is laying water and/or sewer lines, and so for that little stretch I have to detour with the rest of the traffic. I read somewhere that that work will be going on until this January. The detour doesn't add any distance to speak of, but now I don't have a traffic light to aid me in crossing Broadway.

Odd sight of the day: The Harry Street bridge, where it crosses the Arkansas, comes through again. Last month, it was a large turtle that had somehow made it halfway across only to be killed by a car. Today, it was a skin that looked like--in size as well as appearance--it had come from the belly of a decent-sized alligator. No alligators this far north, so what I saw today of course begs the question . . .

One of these days, I hope to post on something other than odd bits of carrion.

This afternoon, I saw a car with a front plate that read "#1 Sooner Fan." I (born and raised in Austin to love all things Longhorns) instantly thought, "Some folks, you just want to light a candle for them until they get better."

And: even though gas is now down to $3.39 a gallon for regular, each time I go out, I see more and more cyclists: folks wearing backpacks, some with panniers on their bikes, but too many without helmets, even on the streets. Still: our numbers are growing . . .

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back, and a couple of announcements

I'm back from my (really) extended weekend, and I hope your holiday was at least half as restful and pleasant and bratwurst-filled (there went the diet for a couple of days) as mine was.

While I was away, two folks informed me of new-to-me activities in the area that Wichita cyclists might appreciate knowing about:

Randy of Wichita's Coasters' Bicycle Club sent me this via e-mail:
4th Annual Midwest Bicycle Fest

Sunday, September 28th
10:00am - 4:00pm

Riggs Park, Haysville, KS

Free Family Fun!
Come Talk, View and Ride, Custom, Antique and Unusual Bicycles.
Contests, Door Prizes and People's Choice Awards.
Free Hot Dogs and BBQ.
Kids Crafts.
Win a custom Bicycle.
Ride the 7 Passenger Conference Bike and More
That sounds like great fun. I hope that some of you will be able to make it.

And, in case you didn't see this in the comments for the previous post, Michael posted this:
[J]ust wanted to let you know the Riders of Rohan meet every Friday at 7pm at The Vagabond on Douglas in Delano and ride all night. Kinda like critical mass but every week! and it's a gang... I'm traveling until October but the rest of the gang should still be meeting up. check it out, hope to see you there when i get back to town!
Orc- and Uruk-Hai-hunting on the streets of Wichita on Friday nights?? If I only had a sword . . . and a headlamp for my bike . . .

As for me, I'm way behind on blog-reading; as I run into things that seem post-worthy, they'll be making their appearance here later on