Category Archives: Uncategorized

Newly Bent is Moving

After more than a year of blogging on Newly Bent, I have decided that I picked the wrong name when I started this blog. I no longer feel “new.” In addition, I wanted to move to a self-hosted site so I thought this would be a good time to change the name as well.

My new blog is at BentForLife.com. Even though I am very busy, I plan on posting more consistently.  I also plan on doing more reviews and posting more photos and videos. My first post is up with a time-lapse video of my ride to work. I hope you will follow me on the new blog and I look forward to seeing you there.

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My Fun Ride

I should have written this post last Friday but my free time has been very limited lately. One of the reasons for that is that I turned 50 on Tuesday, but I will talk about than soon.

I was lucky enough to not only get the Fourth of July off from work, but also the fifth. My wife had to work so I decided to take the bike out for a fun ride. I left pretty early, about 7:30 or so. My plan was to ride a little past Downtown Dunedin to Edgewater Park, which is a linear park along the intercostal Waterway. I often pass by in the car and I never think to bring my camera along, which is too bad, because on many mornings the water is like glass and there are some beautiful pictures to be had. This time I put my camera in my seat pack and headed down the Pinellas Trail. The weather was perfect and I was able to choose my destination for the first time in months.

Pinellas Trail, Dunedin Florida

Not far from home on the Pinellas Trail

Pinellas Trail, Dunedin Florida

A view from the Pinellas Trail

Pinellas Trail, Dunedin Florida

Another view from the Pinellas Trail

When we moved to Dunedin in June, it was the third time I moved back to the city after moving away for one reason or another. Something keeps pulling me back and riding down the trail on a lazy Friday morning it is easy to see what it is. It seems peaceful here with great views along the water and a town with a bit of “culture” that caters to cyclists, probably since the trail runs through the middle of downtown.

Dunedin Marina

Dunedin Marina

Edgewater Linier Park in Dunedin

Edgewater Linier Park in Dunedin

Edgewater Linier Park in Dunedin

View from Edgewater Park in Dunedin

Old pier pilings

Old pier pilings

20130705_Dunedin - Edgew_2737I rode through the downtown area, past the marina and to the point that I wanted to photograph. Unfortunately the water was not as smooth as I had hoped for but I was still able to take a few good pictures before my hunger pains intervened. I had not eaten anything that morning so I thought I would stop at The Boxcar before heading home.

The Boxcar Cafe – photo from yelp.com

The Boxcar is a little café and store inside an actual boxcar on the trail in Downtown Dunedin. The Pinellas Trail was created from abandoned railroad tracks so it seems fitting that it is located where it is. I thought I could stop for a while and get a bagel and a cup of coffee. It has been a while since I have been there but I was not expecting to see it closed. There was a sign on the window about some type of organic business coming soon but I don’t remember exactly what it said. I just remember being hungry and having no good option. I didn’t want to go to a restaurant so I just headed home.

View of Downtown Dunedin from the Pinellas Trail

View of Downtown Dunedin from the Pinellas Trail. The Boxcar is just past the stop sign.

I rode about eight miles that morning, less than one way to work, but I loved the fact that I had nowhere that I had to be and I could just ride for the fun of riding. Next time I will eat first so I won’t feel the need to go home as quickly.

Dodging Downpours

Wednesday morning I put the bike in the truck and Rose and I drove to her work where I took the bike out and continued on my way to my job. There was a high probability of thunderstorms that afternoon so we planned for me to ride back if I could or wait for her to pick me up if the weather was very bad.

The weather tends to be unpredictable in the summer because the rain comes in small patches that seem to come out of nowhere. The weather forecasters here even call them “pop-up” showers. It rained for quite a while that afternoon and I was hoping it would be over by quitting time because I get off work an hour before Rose does and since she is the boss, she is rarely able to leave on time. I did not want to be stuck there for almost two hours.

My boss decided to get an early start on the holiday and we closed at 4:15. It was still raining at that time and the skies were very dark so I decided to stay and wait for a break in the weather. I waited about 25 minutes before I noticed the rain slow down, so I checked the radar on the internet. There is a nice feature that lets you zoom in on any area and then click the future button to see where the rain will be during the next four hours.

The radar showed my entire trip home free from rain for the full four hours except for a small amount of rain at the end of my route. Even that was not supposed to happen for ninety minutes.

I decided to leave while I had the chance. There was still a very light drizzle that actually felt good. When I got to the trail a mile away, I took my phone out of my pocket and dialed Rose to let her know I was riding home. As soon as I finished dialing the rain started coming down harder so I hung up, put my phone back in my pocket, and got my rain jacket out. By the time I put it on it was a torrential downpour.

I got on the bike and quickly peddled down the trail, hoping I could catch the end of the rain cloud. I know that sounds silly but here in Florida it could be raining on your front yard but not on your back yard.

While I was riding it occurred to me that my phone was in my pocket and my pants were soaked. I have a zippered pouch for my phone but I did not know if it was water-resistant. I didn’t want to stop because I was still hoping to find the edge soon so I pushed my jacket over my front pocket to protect it somewhat.

When I reached the next street, I was about to continue across, which is what I usually do, but I noticed the covered walkways crossing a small bridge to my left. I headed for the bridge and as soon as I was out of the rain I took out my phone to see if it had survived: It did.

Shelter from rainAs I got to the bridge the downpour had suddenly slowed to a light shower but I stayed there for a few minutes so I could call Rose and let her know what I was doing. I then continued on in a rain that never stopped. I am just glad I learned my lesson the last time this happened and started washing my helmet on a regular basis.

Another lesson I learned a long time ago but had forgotten was never trust a meteorologist.

 

One Year Later

It has been just over a year ago that I bought my recumbent bicycle and started this blog to record my progress. Yesterday marked one year since my first trip to work. I recorded my weight as 227 pounds that day and, while I was hoping to be under 200 pounds by now, I can report that I have lost fourteen pounds and am now at 213.

It is somewhat disappointing, considering how many more calories I am burning now compared to what I was burning before cycling to work, but I am healthy and my weight has gone in the right direction so I have nothing to complain about.

One of the reasons for starting this blog was to help keep me motivated to continue riding. Since I am still at it I would say it worked but it also may not have been necessary since I enjoy my trips on the bike when I can ride. I would not change anything though because I am very glad I was able to get to know so many other great people out there with interesting stories to tell. I hope I will still be doing this for many years to come.

Enjoy The Ride

I usually listen to my iPod while I am riding. Mostly I listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy listening to music too, and it can be helpful if the beat is in time with the cadence you want to achieve. I just find listening to music to be a safety concern because it is hard to hear what is going on around you. When I listen to spoken audio, there is just a monotone voice with enough “gaps” to hear what you need to hear.

The reason I listen to these podcasts and audiobooks is because I have a bit of an obsession. I have a hard time just living in the moment. I always feel like I need to be doing something productive or learning something, and if I can do something and learn something at the same time then all the better. Perhaps that is why I like to commute to work on my bicycle. It allows me to get exercise and it gets me to work.

The other day I finished listening to everything on my iPod while riding to work and then felt like a drug addict looking for an audio fix for my ride home. I ended up plugging my headphones into my phone and I listened to the comedy channel on Pandora when I left work.

I didn’t get very far when I realized how stupid I was. I know how pleasurable it can be to just ride with no distractions but somehow I seemed to have forgotten that. I immediately put my headphones away and just enjoyed the scenery for the rest of the trip.

Of course, the scenery isn’t always worth looking at. Part of my ride is through an industrial park. I also ride through residential areas and down very congested streets. But there are a number of natural areas that are quite beautiful with plenty of wildlife. I find I notice way more on a bike than in a car and I notice even more yet when I have no added distractions.

On the way home today I watched an osprey fly by carrying a fish and as he flew over a tree that I was about to pass, a beautiful hawk flew out of the tree. I also passed a photographer who had his camera on a tripod and was photographing a stream from the top of a foot bridge. As I passed I noticed what a great picture that was.

I don’t suppose I will learn to completely suppress my desire to learn while I ride but I think I will split the difference and shut my iPod off when the traffic is heavy, for safety reasons, and when I am able to just enjoy the ride.

I’d like to know what you think. What do you listen to, if anything, and when do you listen to it?

Benefits Of Having Only One Car

Cyclist putting car in trashI don’t know what sparked the idea of getting rid of one of our cars but I do know I was thinking about it around 2006 or so. I thought if I could ride my bike to work we wouldn’t need a second car and we could save money on gas, insurance and maintenance. At the time I was working seven or eight miles from home, too far to ride I thought. Actually, I knew it wasn’t too far but I also knew I was out of shape and I would have to work up to it.

The real problem was that most of the trip was along U.S. 19, the worst road in Florida, perhaps the universe. I put those thoughts out of my mind for a while and the next year we bought a condo and moved ten miles away, in the opposite direction from work. Eventually the thought of commuting by bicycle crept back into my mind and I started looking for a job closer to home. I never found one that would pay what I needed to make but in 2009 my wife’s company offered her a promotion which also came with a transfer to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

We didn’t want to leave Florida so she turned it down but when the manager they hired didn’t work out we finally agreed to move. Rose was going to be managing a 180 unit apartment complex and a free apartment was part of the deal. That meant we would be living on the property where she worked and thus would only need one car. I saw this as my opportunity to downsize and I gave my truck to Rose’s son. We then packed up the moving truck and towed our other car behind.

Once in Myrtle Beach, I eventually found a job about six or seven miles away. The first half of my plan was complete. Now I just needed to find a good route to work on my bike. There was none. That area is very unfriendly to cyclists and from where I was, I had to use Highway 501 to cross the Intercoastal Waterway and since part of the road was limited access, I didn’t dare try riding my bike on it. It didn’t matter, I was able to use our one car to get to work, and sixteen months later, my wife was promoted again and transferred back to Florida.

This time we did not live on the property but instead rented a condo in Dunedin, about seven miles from her work. Again, one car still suited our needs because I found a job four miles away and was able to ride my bike, which is what I wanted to do from the start.

Eventually, because my hours were cut, I started working in Tampa, about seventeen miles away. I was back to driving again but fortunately Rose’s work was on the way so I would drop her off and continue to work. After a few months of that, we moved to where she works and my trip was cut to nine miles (ten by bike). I wanted to ride to work again but It was farther than I was used to and I was worried about my back. My solution was buy a recumbent bike and ride to work without the concern of back pain.

You know the rest of the story as far as the bike is concerned but what I don’t mention is the occasional car problems and conflicts that arise. For example, last week we had an issue with the car on Thursday evening. My wife used that time to complain that we need two cars but on Friday morning I dropped it off at the repair shop across the street from our home and then rode to work. Problem solved.

Today Rose took the day off from work and needs the car. No problem, I can ride to work. But she wants me home early so we can do something together. That’s a problem so she will have to drive me to work and pick me up, but that is a problem of convenience, not necessity, and it is hardly worth the added cost of an extra vehicle.

So having one vehicle is not a good solution for everyone, and it can have it’s drawbacks, here is what I have found to be beneficial:

  • You pay less on car insurance. We save even more because Rose is now the primary driver and women have a lower rate (unlike at the hair salon).
  • Less maintenance cost. This can be significant, especially in older cars. Plus, you have one less car to clean.
  • Less vehicle taxes and tag fees. In South Carolina, I had to pay property tax on my car.
  • Save on gas. This mostly applies if you use a bike as alternative transportation.
  • Incentive to exercise. There are some days when I don’t feel like riding to work but Rose needs the car for something so I take my bike. Later I am glad I did.
  • One less car payment. I actually forgot to add the most obvious benefit and had to come back and put it in.

I don’t want to tell people they should only have one car, everyone’s circumstance is different, but if someone is thinking about it, I hope my story helps. Please let me know what you think.

Familiar Strangers

After two weeks on the sidelines I am finally able to ride again. It not only feels good to get exercise and be outside again, I also like seeing some of the people along the way that I have passed countless times.

There is a recumbent rider, possibly even older than me, who has a route almost exactly the same as mine but in the opposite direction. There is also the woman who works as a crossing guard near an elementary school that always says “hi” when I pass. At the other end of the school zone is a man who waves to everyone that goes by.

Then there are the people on the trail. One guy is overweight but working hard to slim down. When I pass he is walking while lifting hand weights. He always says hi to me, so do the two older women that are out for their morning walk. Then there is the women who is riding her bike with a mat rolled up on the front of it. I assume she is going to an exersize class. She never fails to say hi. There are several others too, but I don’t want to write a list.

Most people I see in the morning but there is a regular in the afternoon. He is an older man than walks very fast with a golf club in his had. He holds the club out and rotates it while he walks. He is the only person that avoids eye contact, but some people are just introverted, even in old age, and I certainly don’t think less of him for it.

It occurred to me that I almost feel a friendship toward these people even though I have never stopped and talked to any of them. It is just nice to hear that warm hello several times a day.

The other thing I noticed is that people are such creatures of habit. Many of the people on the trail, I assume, are walking for exercise. They walk the same trail, in the same direction, everyday. I don’t know what is normal but that would bore me to tears. I would want to mix it up and go one way one day and another the next.

It is true that I ride my bike the same way everyday, and I have tried to change it up a bit, but any other way to work is just not as safe. I suppose if I could find a safe second route, and then alternate between the two, I would double the friends that I don’t know.