Saturday, October 22, 2016

Journey to Costco

I don't bike to Costco often, mostly due to laziness and because my BoB trailer isn't big enough for most Costco-sized trips. But occasionally if I need a few small items like this here iPaddy thing I'm typing on, I bike there. The trip illustrates some of the little difficulties or inconveniences of getting around a city like Spokane by bike.  You have to plan and think about just which way you want to take, more so than driving in a car.

Costco is only about 4 miles away and the route I took this time back in September started easy enough: head north on A Street to Rowan Ave. There's a roundabout at A and Wellesley to navigate, then A Street north up to Rowan is a 2-lane street with a yellow stripe down the middle.  Right on Rowan and the new bike lane. Mmmm, fresh pavement!

And then at Monroe Street there's that sign that's all too common: Bike Lane Ends. No real big deal though, because after Monroe, Rowan isn't a real busy street.

I continued on and turned left/North onto Wall Street, which is a bike route.

Well, even though it's a bit narrow of a street for a bike route, the southbound lane is wider for bikes.  Heading north there's not a whole lot of room, but I've never had any trouble with the motorized folks.  Another option is to take one of the parallel streets one block over that are quieter.

Next intersection to cross is busy 5-lane Francis Ave. If there's a line of stopped traffic at the light, options are to take the lane, filter up if you're adventurous, (lots of vehicles turning right on the red light) or use the sidewalk and crosswalk.  I usually get behind a vehicle.

Well look what's after the intersection - another bike lane!

Which goes for mile or so, and ends (surprise!) at the convergence of Wall Street and Monroe:

We're almost there!  Wall Street is a sometimes busy 4-lane and I'm tempted to hop on the sidewalk but I stick to the street.  It's not so busy that vehicles coming up behind you in the right lane can't move easily around you into the left lane.

At the bottom of the hill it's a right turn onto W Cascade Way and another bike lane pops up!

Which lasts until the turn into the access to Costco's parking lot, because we can't make it easy for bikes to cross Division.

Gotta be careful around all those Costco shoppers driving around intent on getting the closest spot to the door.  I made my way safely to the bike rack snuck in between a display car, pillar, and shopping carts. Locked it up and left plenty of room for other bikers.

Route finding through a mixture of busy streets, quiet residential streets, bike lanes that pop up and then end suddenly - that's biking in Spokane.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Loose Dog Tolerance

A few years ago I was bit by a dog while biking home. The dog took me by surprise and moved in on me pretty fast.  I didn't have any time for the usual avoidance tactics - turn around or away, hop off the bike and get it between me and the dog.  It just came in low with its head down and bit me on the lower leg.

After that, whenever I came across a loose dog in the street I'd turn around if I had time, or jump off the bike and use it as a shield.  If the dog owner was around, they'd think I was crazy.  After all, he's a friendly dog and has never bit anybody.  (Which is what they usually say just before their dog bites you.)

Over a year later, I was still skittish near loose dogs while biking.  Then one day I was biking at Palisades Park, heading towards a couple with a loose dog.  The dog didn't run up to me, and I rode  by them without incident.  After that I started to feel better when coming across dogs on the trail, but still wary. Some dogs just walked by at the side of their owners, others though would have to run up to me, and I'd either stop and let them sniff me, or try to keep riding by.  I'd still get irritated with the people who didn't have their dogs leashed, especially those who made no effort to call their dogs back, or would yell "oh she's friendly, she doesn't bite".

Then I became one of those dog owners. I take our dogs walking in the wooded area behind Joe Albi Stadium and next to the cemetery. Lots of folks do, some leashed but most not. It's a bit of an unofficial dog park. I kept them on a leash for a long time while walking out there. Then I starting letting them loose but leashing them as soon as I saw a biker, runners or other dogs.  Then I found our dogs got along with the other loose dogs and loved running free.  I became a bit more relaxed about it.  Then of course when I wasn't paying close enough attention, they ran up to a couple mountain bikers on a narrow trail. Now, they're not big dogs, but they can be wild and noisy. I could see somebody might crash trying to avoid them. The bikers weren't  concerned and I ran up and corralled them, said I'm sorry. I made sure I didn't say they don't bite!

I started becoming more tolerant of loose dogs.  Biking on the South Hill bluff trails earlier this year there were lots of loose dogs, and it was just part of the trail conditions. I just expect them on the trails there and at Riverside State Park now.  Not that they can't be or aren't a problem, and there is a leash law.

I'm more bothered by loose dogs on the Centennial Trail or city streets and only once this year I've been worried or frightened by dogs. There's a guy who frequently walks his 3 or 4 loose dogs by the Centennial Trail on his way down the ridge. Back in June I saw them up ahead and I attempted to take a side trail away from them. They spied me and came running after me.  I rode through the pack, yelling at the guy to get your fucking dogs off of me!

This brings me back to tactics. That time I chose to ride through them, instead of stopping and waiting for the owner to get their dogs, or use the bike as a shield. I have pepper spray in my bag but it's not easy to get to. But a year or so ago I read this blog post over at the Bike Shop Hub - Dealing With Dogs.  It's a good article and includes a Mark Twain story - always a plus. The writer's advice is:  ride towards the loose dog. Aim for the dog.

In the year or so since I'd read this, I never had the presence of mind to try it out. I was always too startled by the dogs when they came running towards me. Finally, last week on the Centennial Trail past Kendall Yards a dog came running up to me and I remembered - bike towards it, aim for the dog!  The dog got a confused look in its face, and stopped just in front of me. I wasn't sure what its reaction would be once I got close to it, but it just stood there. I had to brake so that I wouldn't run into it. Woo hop, it worked.  Then a couple days later who'd I see up ahead? That guy and his loose dogs. One came running up to me and I headed towards it. It stopped and went wtf?  As I rode by the guy he just gave me a sideways look. Probably hasn't had anybody try that on his dogs before.

So this is my new tactic on dogs that I'm not sure what they're going to do. If they're just walking next to their people or not coming towards me, I let them be. If they're running towards me and there's no way to avoid them, I'm aiming for them.  It may seem counterintuitive, and put you closer to the dog's teeth, but they're not expecting it. Seems to work for me.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

whaddya know, a new helmet

I'd been thinking for awhile about replacing my Lazer Armor helmet, seen here on the train to Seattle:

I'd lost the inside padding strip earlier this year  - it attached with small velcro tabs that didn't hold well - so it was a bit uncomfortable.  Also, the helmet doesn't come equipped with a visor and I don't like the feel and looks of a biking cap under a helmet (I know…). Even though I just bought it last year I was looking at new helmets, and the Bell Annex caught my eye. It's MIPS-Equipped and has a sliding vent to either let air in or keep the elements out.  Cool and dorky looking!

Little did I know that within two days of the above pic, the Lazer helmet would disappear.  I was riding the John Wayne Pioneer Trail with the helmet perched on the back of my bike like so:

(a nice little camping spot between Snoqualmie Falls and Snoqualmie -
I'll get to this story someday)
and somewhere between Lake Easton and the Hyak Trailhead, I lost it.  I figure I didn't get the helmet straps hooked around the tent straps, or I set it down to dig through my panniers for a snack and forgot to attach it back on the bike.

Well that worked out pretty good and now I was free to get a new helmet. (I do have a couple Bern helmets also but the summer liner/visor for one had worn out.  When went to order a replacement I found Bern had changed their sizing and didn't have a direct replacement to fit mine.  I ordered one anyway, but it turned out to be too tight.)

So I splurged and paid the $125 for the Annex.  I think I had a $20 REI card so that helped.

The little knob on the top slides the vent open and close.  The padding inside detaches if you want to let more air in.  The fit and feel of the Annex is much better than the Armor but the Armor is less expensive at $70.  The Annex is heavier but not too bad.  On days when the temperature is in the 90's, I don't think the vent really helps much but other days it does cool my head more.  When it's in the upper 90's I may tend to ride with just a hat on the way home anyway.  The visor is a little short and doesn't help much when the sun is at a lower angle.  Overall, I really like it.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Blog Posts! Blog Posts! We've got Blog Posts!

Unfortunately, they're all in my head:

Rail to Trail: Spokane to Seattle and half the way back.
What I've Learned from Jaywalkers and Jaywalking
Hold your Ground
The Incredible Smugness of Being a Year-round Bike Commuter
Spokane Street Department Papers: Crosswalk and Speed Limits
New Bike! (just kidding)
Supporting Your Local Bike Shops
Another (sub)Urban Trail ride home

And then I've got a couple events in mind:

Intergalactic End of Summer Ride Your Fatbike to Work Day
Downtown Commuter Coffeeneuring
Belsby Road to John Wayne Trail Ride

All of which will most likely not happen but you never know

Saturday, August 13, 2016

It's the Midnight Century!

Well, it was.  Last Saturday 11:59pm.  So here's the basic report, complete with nerdy bike details.

It was my toughest Midnight Century yet, and toughest ever bike ride.  I remembered there were hills on this course, but I forgot about all the hills in between the hills.

The Bike set-up:

After riding the Vaya last year, and enduring all those washboard gravel roads, I said I was going to ride my Fargo next time.  Well, the Vaya has been riding great lately - new chainring, chain, cassette, and front brake caliper, so I just had to take it.  And I hoped maybe the low pressure 42mm tubeless tires that I have on it now would smooth out the washboard a bit.

The Salsa rear rack was moved to the Fargo for my John Wayne Trail ride.  Without racks or fenders, and no more brake drag, the Vaya is downright zippy and the tires roll smoothly. The Velo-Orange front rack didn't fit the Fargo so it went back on the Vaya, but the bike still has zip to it.

This year I packed a Platypus 2-liter collapsible water bottle into the frame bag that I bought for the Fargo, instead of carrying the bladder on the back rack. Small bottle in the Revelate feed bag, larger 21 oz bottle on down tube, and 32 oz bottle below (a 48 oz bottle will fit the Topeak Modula cage, but hits the tires on this bike).  Camelbaks are handy, but I hate sucking out of those tubes and don't like to carry too much on my back.  No-bake cookies and misc bars in the handle bar bag.

One thing I miscalculated on was the hills.  The Fargo has the same 11-36 range in back but smaller rings in front.  There were some hills I was really struggling on where I wondered if the shop accidentally put on a 11-32 cassette in back, or larger small ring in front.  That's when I remembered the other reason to take the Fargo - lower gears.

Preparing for the ride:

The usual no-train-it's-too-hot-just-bike-commute training plan.  Oh, and I stopped taking baby aspirin a couple days before so I wouldn't bleed as quickly in case of a crash.  No Hawaiian shirt this time, but I thought it'd be funny to go ultra romancer and get a long hair and beard costume.  Maybe next year.

The Ride:

I headed out on the Centennial trail portion faster than last year, and started thinking I'd finish better. Ha! I tried the usual strategy - ride fast to Liberty Lake and then slog through the rest.  I was in a fairly fast group that broke up after a while with two ahead and more behind me and then I was on my own.  I seriously gave thought to just riding to the state line and then head back, making for a nice 45 mile late night ride.  But I kept going.

Heading out of Liberty Lake, I played leapfrog with a group of younger bikers.  They'd pass me on the hills, then stop for water or whatnot, then pass me on the hills again.  I started to get a bit of a complex watching them ride by multiple times when I was wondering where my legs were and was I missing a lower gear?  Eventually they stopped for water at the Archery and Feed the Sheep place and I never saw them again until the very end.

I felt proud of my route finding and gave myself a pat on the back as I took the left turn onto Idaho for the 2nd year in a row, instead of going on Mission.   But then I missed the left turn onto Linke.  My garmin started buzzing at me, but I thought I got back on course until I met the young guns going the other way and asking me if I'd seen Linke.  I looked at the garmin map and realized, shoot it was back the other way at that jog in the road.

I rode past Barker before Linke around the 39 mile mark, and wondered if it'd be any quicker home if I bailed there.  I knew it'd be flatter, at least.  But I kept pedaling.  No use turning around now.

Further down Linke I got thrown off when I came to Chapman and my garmin buzzed that I was off course.  I thought what, did I miss Belmont? and turned around.  I met a couple going the other way and they assured me Belmont was 4-5 miles further down Linke.  I made a mental note to mark down Chapman on the cue sheet when I got home.  Oh, look, it's already there - "Stay on Linke as it turns 90 degrees at Chapman Road".

I stuck with the couple for awhile, since we were biking about the same speed.  And because the last time I let a couple that I was biking with go ahead, I got terribly lost in Issaquah - more on that when I get around to my Iron Horse/John Wayne Pioneer story.

The couple took a break, and I arrived at the downhill Bruna Rd section.  It was fairly light out.  I remember the first year I did the MC, it was dark here with a group of riders bunched together at the top.  Ok, I am not going to get this done any faster than last year, and I began to suspect I was going slower.  But somewhere along the line I had decided it doesn't matter when I finish or how fast I was going.  I was just going to finish the darn thing.

Sometime after Bruna, I think.  There was lightning in the distance, and I stayed here for a bit trying to capture it.  Got it on the live photo, but no direct shot.

I don't remember seeing this sign clearly before - it's usually darker out.

Sunflower fields.

I saw the couple a few times, and eventually, and I mean way eventually, I made it to the Columbia Plateau Trail/Fish Lake Trail.  It was great to be on flat, smooth pavement.  Loved it.  I usually hate the last 15-20 miles because I just want to get to Spokane, but this time I enjoyed it.  Even thought I might make it in about the same time time last year around the 9:30 mark.

But as I got to the end of the Fish Lake Trail, I found I better high tail it if I was going to make it under 10 hours.  One more curvy, twisty climb up to the Centennial Trail, then a straight shot to Central Food. I figured I'd have to break the 15 mph speed limit to make it in.  My garmin had died a ways back, so I'm not sure but I don't think I was able to go faster than 15.  Just as I reached the walkway it was 10:58am, and when I looked at the time when I got to the sign-in sheet, it was 9:59.  So I used that time. Made it under 10 hours! woo hoo!  The I heard a voice behind me - "How'd you do?".  What? It was one of the lost tribe that I'd last seen by the archery place.  They were right behind me!  He said they took a few wrong turns.  I said yeah me too, and left out the fact I'm slower than mud.

I like riding at night, there's something about it I can't put into words.  So, I'll be back next year even though my legs ached almost the whole ride.  Maybe I'll look into one of those e-assist bikes.  There are no rules on the Midnight Century.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Best Bike Tool Ever!

The AWS-1: 4, 5, & 6mm hex set.  For years, I mean years, I've struggled with hex keys/allen wrenches.  Dropping them, trying to get some leverage with them.  Fiddling with the hex wrenches on multi-tools. Just plain frustration I tell you.  Park Tools came out with the AWS-1 thirty years ago, and I just finally bought me one.  It's the greatest!  Fits in the hand, good leverage. Now that I have one of these, who knows where it might lead - I think next up is a crank puller or cassette tool. Maybe both.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer JWP Trail Plan a.1: Columbia River

In my previous post from way back in June, Here's the Summer Bike JWP Trail Plan(s), I didn't mention Plan a.1: Bail-Out at the Columbia River if need be and get a ride home.  Well that was the winning option, or maybe a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy which is why I didn't want to bring it up.

if the rail ties weren't burned from the fire a year or two ago making it difficult or downright impossible and plain unsafe to haul a bike over this section of the Beverly Trestle, I would've been tempted to find a bolt cutter or angle grinder. 

When I was riding up a hill to the Army West Trailhead, my left pedal felt a little wonky.  I didn't notice anything on the long downhill ride through the Yakima Training Center, but it increasingly got worse biking on Huntzinger Road to Vantage.  I stopped and looked at the pedal, and it was all wobbly and barely hanging on to the crank arm.  I made it to Vantage, took the pedal off and found the arm threads were stripped.  I actually got the pedal back on tight, but it still didn't feel quite right and I knew it wouldn't be long before the pedal fell off.  I had just been thinking earlier in the day, you know, I might just make it to Spokane.  Me and the 9 liters of water I was carrying.

Tune in some day for the full Spokane to Seattle to Columbia story, including my tragicomedic epic way-finding from Issaquah to Snoqualmie, and a little thunder storm scaring me into a hotel in Ellensburg.