Monthly Archives: August 2012

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Alligator…

By Wednesday I had waited long enough for Tropical Storm Isaac to pass, so I decided to ride my bike to work despite a fifty percent chance of thunderstorms. I was rewarded with a dry trip home and this alligator was sunning itself in front of a high-end apartment community. Hey, why live with the riff raff?

Alligator

I think he was attracted by the manicured lawn.

Like I mentioned before, this is a great reason to bring a camera on your bike rides.

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Tropical Storm and Weight Loss

As I write, Tropical Storm Isaac is preventing me from riding my bike again, which is why I have time this morning to write a post. It looks like the rain will be here for a few days and then we will go back to the normal summer weather, which is rain.

On a better note, I weigh myself most morning and I have notice a slow trend downwards. Before you say it, I know weighing yourself everyday can be bad, but I think for me, it is good, because I am encouraged and energized when it goes down and when it goes up I am motivated to reverse it. I also know weight fluctuates day-to-day so I look for lasting patterns.

When I bought my recumbent bike and started riding, my weight went up about three pounds and stayed there for quite a while. That was discouraging. Several people mentioned that muscle weighs more than fat, which I knew, but I expected better.

I did get a comment from David Clancy who has an excellent blog, College Tri. He said, ” …you may not have a big change in weight at the beginning. It’ll get there though, trust me. When I started running and cycling, my weight declined very slowly for a while then sped up at a point before leveling off…”

This gave me some hope. It is always nice to get advice from someone who has been where you are at. Hopefully I will someday be the go-to guy when a newbie needs advice.

Rain Jacket alternate storage
Alternate storage for my rainjacket.

Speaking of advice, I figured out a way to keep my rain jacket from taking up half the room in my bag. I stuffed it between the seat and the bag. It is in there pretty tight. I wrapped the arms around the seat frame just as a precaution, but either way, I don’t think it will fall out. This of course is only useful if you have a recumbent bicycle with a seat bag.

Riding on Sidewalks

It has been longer than usual since my last post. I have been busy creating a couple of new blogs (which i will add to my blogroll) but the main reason is I wanted to get a photograph for this post but I misplaced my camera. I thought I left it at work so I didn’t look to hard here at home. It turned up this weekend in my car but now the weather is bad again.

The issue I have is with riding on sidewalks. I know any hardcore biker would laugh at us armatures on the sidewalk but I have to say there are some area where I don’t feel safe on the road.

I ride about ten miles to work and about one mile, maybe a little less, is spent on the sidewalk. Perhaps a third of that is going against traffic.

When I was a child visiting my grandparents in Clearwater, Florida, I was scolded by a police officer for riding my bike on the sidewalk. Since then I always assumed it was illegal. When I was older I moved to Florida and have lived here since 1988. In all that time I have never looked into the law until just a few months ago.

Your state might be different but here is what the Florida statute says:

Sidewalk riding(Section 316.2065(10) and (11), F.S.)

A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
Comment:  Sidewalks are not designed for bicycle speeds, but a bicycle propelled by human power may be used except where prohibited by local ordinance…

A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.

I took out some of this regulation to keep my readers awake but there was a point in there that riding against the flow of traffic on a sidewalk was legal but dangerous because drivers pulling out of driveways are not expecting anyone from that direction.  It also said a bicyclist was three to four times more likely to be hit by a car while riding in the wrong direction. I am always careful but I need to be extra vigilant when riding against traffic.

I don’t like riding on sidewalks. Often they are uneven, and coming up from behind a pedestrian sucks because I feel I am invading their space and I should not expect them to move out of the way. I am also embarrassed when a  tough-as-nails cyclist rides by on the same busy street that scared me onto the sidewalk.

The bike lanes are a good alternative and many roads in the area have them but they are not perfect. I think I mentioned that a truck’s mirror came within inches of hitting me in the head while I was riding in the bike lane. The other problem is that most of the road debris ends up on the side of the road where the bike lane is. It can be tricky (and unsafe) maneuvering around the mine field of glass, pieces of metal and other crap. This is where I wanted to add a photo but I will just have to update this post when I have one.

If anyone has any thoughts or tips, I would love to hear them.

 

Mission Accomplished

One of my short-term goals was to ride to work in under an hour. On Monday I made it there with 30 seconds to spare. Woo Hoo. Now that is behind me so I can worry about more important things like watching for cars.

Another goal is to try to ride to work at least three times a week. I did that two weeks ago but last week bad weather and a dentist appointment kept me off the bike every day but Wednesday. This week I rode Monday and yesterday but today I have things to do that require a car. Hopefully the weather will be okay tomorrow.

I am looking forward to the end of the rainy season when the weather will not only be drier but also a little cooler. The downside of that is part of my ride will possibly be in the dark. I will need to make sure I am prepared.

The Photo Biker

I have been a photo enthusiast since my dad gave me a camera at around age ten. At eighteen I would bring my camera to parties. I know everyone takes pictures at parties now but in 1981, I was the only one doing it. Back then I was not interested in quality, only memories.

When I was around twenty-four my, dad gave me his Canon F1 camera, which was top of the line back then. My best friend Rick, who was in photography school,  taught me the basics, which got me interested in fine photography. That fall I took a photography class at the community college, which I loved. I took another class in the spring before moving to Florida. Money issues then stopped me from continuing that path but I never stopped enjoying it. You can see some of my photographs here.

When I moved back to Florida recently, I had difficulty finding a job and only worked part-time for a while. I have a Canon T1i that I would take on bike rides to nearby nature parks or I would ride along the Gulf looking for a good picture opportunity.

Pilings at Edgewater Park, Dunedin, Florida

Not far from downtown Dunedin, FL. Would have been a better photo at high tide.

As I mentioned in another post, you see a lot more while riding a bicycle than you would driving a car. Because of that, I almost always carry a camera with me. You probably would not have guessed that by the very few pictures I have put on this blog, but I plan to do better.

My Canon is too big to take to work so I have a little 12 megapixel Fujifilm XP20 camera that I keep in my pocket. It is waterproof, shock proof (although I have not tested that), dust proof and probably other proofs too. The pictures are not as good as the Canon but they are good enough and it has HD video that is easy to use.

I had this camera with me when I saw an unusaul looking turtle crossing the bike trail. I thought about stopping and taking its picture but I didn’t because a turtle on pavement was a boring, un-natural picture. I regret it now because I later searched online to see what breed it was but couldn’t find it. Who knows. It may have been super rare and I could have proven it’s existance…Or not.

I did get a chance to use my camera last week. I have been blogging about a rooster that lives on our property (romeorooster.blogspot.com) that had been missing for a couple of weeks until I spotted him on my bike behind a nearby plaza. He was standing next to a duck, which was also seen on our property, and her ducklings. I was able to use the photos I took in my next blog post.

My hope here is to inspire people to bring their camera with on their next bike trip. Even if you take no pictures, just having it with you causes you to notice things that you may not have paid attention to before.

Thanks for reading and if you have any photos taken while riding, I would love for you to share the link.

The Power of Maps

Before I took my first ride to work I decided to map out the shortest route that would get me there safely. I used Google Maps for directions. There is a button specifically for bicycling which works pretty well but it is not perfect.

Google’s pick (view from Google Earth)

I used the results Google gave me and dragged the route to roads that I thought would be better. For instance, the route it gave me put me on Hillsborough Avenue, a very busy street that is one of the main roads from the northern part of Tampa to Pinellas County and the beaches.

The road does have bike lanes, which is good, but the drivers are crazy and I don’t trust them to stay out of the bike lane. On Monday, when I was caught in a heavy rain, I took a slight detour and took shelter at a Target store. When the rain died down I continued home on Hillsborough and was nearly hit in the head by the mirror of a passing pickup truck.

My pick (view from Google Earth)

By looking at the map, I realized I could cross Hillsborough and take the sidewalk a quarter-mile where I could get off on a back-road. (I’ll talk about sidewalks in another post.) The Google map bypassed that back-road and took me out-of-the-way so I needed to find out why.

This is where Google Earth comes in handy. I used the street level view in Google Earth and traveled that road as if I was riding on it. The same thing can be done using Google Maps but not as quickly.

The virtual trip showed me that the road was narrow with no shoulder, which was not good, but it also showed that there was very little traffic and several places I could pull off to the side if I needed to.

It has worked out pretty well for me. The only problem I have is the last mile or less of my trip, starting from where the Upper Tampa Bay Trail meets the street I work on. This is a very busy road with no bike lane so I ride on the sidewalk. The problem is the sidewalk is old and several sections have dropped or risen making it a potential flat tire hazard. The other option is to ride on the street where there is a potential flat head hazard. I choose the former.

Last week I took a chance and took a side street that cut off a block of bad sidewalk. Monday, Without looking at a map, I tried taking an earlier side street. This time it did not work and the road turned away from where I wanted to go. Worse, every time I tried to get back on track the street would take a turn opposite the direction I wanted to go. When I got home I looked at the map and discovered that Moe, Larry and Curly designed the streets in that neighborhood.

From now on, unless I am just casually exploring, I am mapping out my trip.

Going for the Gold

I certainly would not come close to making any Olympic team, but on a personal level, I am happy with my accomplishments.

Monday I made it to work in 65 minutes, a new personal best. Tuesday I did even better at 62 minutes. I felt strong on Monday after some rest and could have probably beaten the hour mark but I was not even thinking about it. I also made a slight detour along the way.

In any case, I would feel a sence of accomplishment if I made it to work in less than 60 minutes. On the other hand, if I push myself, it might just turn something fun into work.

I’ll bet if I lose my watch, I will naturally improve my time without taking the fun out of it…maybe I’ll do that after I beat the hour mark.