30 September 2010

Train safety: It's come to this?

A few months ago I read about RR crossing stings in some suburb. Now municipalities are beginning to pass their own ordinances. All because too many people apparently don't have the sense not to run in front of an oncoming train.

27 September 2010

This is not a bike rack

24 September 2010

Get off my lawn

"So what if hipsters make fun of your bike? You've been riding that bike everywhere since before most hipsters even had bikes."

"That just makes me feel old."


There are peregrine falcons in Hyde Park. I've been told this, I've read this, and moreover I can hear them when I'm at home with the windows open. I've never seen one for myself around here, but the cries I hear are identical to those made by this beauty, which I encountered last summer on the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis and which I'm now fairly certain was indeed a peregrine falcon. (I also heard one scree-ing among the bluffs while I was on the Vadalabene Bikeway last month, in between the kettles of turkey vultures and the bald eagles that got away.)

Their cries are wild and haunting. I wish I could spot one of these beautiful birds, or at least determine where the sound is coming from, but with all the echos bouncing around (on top of all the other noises) it's been impossible. I also wonder what the falcons are up to these days. In the spring, I'd figured that they were mating. Or do they mate in the fall? Or maybe they're doing something else.

Most indeededly

I've seen Recycles (now that I know what they look like) around campus and sometimes in the neighborhood, but I've yet to encounter any B-cycles.

I've also been noticing more of those orangish blurs that pass my slowass [I so don't deserve my road bike] on the south Lakefront Trail. Either Team TATI has a healthy membership this year, or orange is the new black for things that weren't previously orange already.

I also walked to work today. The wind scared me. I still have weatherphobia from the incident in June. I'm a big fat wimp.

22 September 2010

What I did on my other vacation

Except for a few more photos from the dam tour that are, at this point, probably just filler, the 2010 Alton multimode trip photos have been posted. Some have notes, descriptions, and comments to myself that may as well be blog posts, so there may be some cross-posting here in the future, if I feel like it.

21 September 2010

OK drivers, let's review

Left arm sticking out: Left turn

Right arm sticking out: Right turn

I'm going to give you all the benefit of the doubt and assume the drivers who attack cyclists so viciously for not using turn signals are the small but vocal minority who actually know what cyclists' turn signals look like.

17 September 2010

That sound you heard was my mind exploding

According to the bible (16th ed.), "website" is now a single word with a lowercase w.

And it's pale blue, just like the new Cross-Check. [Which is hyphenated. Damn.] What's with pastels lately?

The spice must flow

I mean oil.

16 September 2010

When can we go back?

The Wisconsin road trip photos have all been posted. Behold their cheesy glory!

14 September 2010

When do I replace the bar tape?

A. When it starts hanging in ribbons from the bar ends.
B. When I find a really cool color that I like.
C. When I decide that I want squishier, foamier tape than what's on there now.
D. Immediately because dead cow is far superior to all other materials.
E. The what?

13 September 2010

Our very own oil spill

Update: People are pissed as hell---about the gas price spike, that is, not about the fact that there's crude oil all over Romeoville, thanks to the same company that got crude oil all over Kalamazoo. The priorities in this situation couldn't be more clear. Saddened sigh.

As you may have heard, an underground pipeline in Romeoville has ruptured and is (as far as I can tell) still leaking. You may have heard about it because the leak shut down school bus service and will probably cause a considerable increase in gas prices. You may recognize the name of the company, Enbridge Energy, because they were also responsible for the big oil spill in Kalamazoo earlier this summer. I think the latter was kind of ignored in light of the ongoing catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

Or you may have seen the aerial footage of the goopy black stuff all over the road and watched the interviews with nearby residents describing the headaches caused by the overpowering fumes.

In other news, a natural gas pipeline in California exploded and killed a bunch of people.

(But god forbid Teh Goverment build a wind farm nearby. The turbines would be tall! And noisy!)

10 September 2010

Your tax dollars at work, or We all pay the "river tax," apparently

I'd always assumed that the Mississippi River was like a tollway in that you had to pay every time you went through the locks. Nope.* The US Amy Corps of Engineers operates the locks on the Mississippi River free of charge for all rivergoing vessels, from massive 15-barge tows to small fishing boats. You still have to radio the control tower and follow all instructions, of course, in the interest of preventing disaster. But it doesn't cost you anything.

Canoers may be advised to simply portage around the dams to avoid them altogether (unless you have a totally vintage handbuilt wooden dugout canoe or something), but I don't think many people actually canoe down the Mississippi anymore. When I've seen them at all, it's usually been in some backwater well away from the navigation channel.

Anyway, I wonder what the "true" user cost of the locks would be, if the federal government were suddenly inclined to start charging it. Probably quite large and independent of the size of the vessel. Would there be any reason to have "congestion pricing" on a waterway? Would tugboat operators suddenly start complaining about all the canoers who don't pay their fair share of the "river tax"? Or is this all just silly speculation because rivers are not roads, just as apples are not oranges?

*I'm extrapolating from what I learned on the tour of the Melvin Price Locks and Dam in particular---I was the youngest person there by at least half, by the way---but I don't see how the newest locks would be free but all the others not free. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this.

I miss my bike (the nice one)

Fullmetal is still in Plainfield spooning with the new girl in the back of the hatchback. I won't get him back until late tomorrow night. This makes me sad, because I think tonight would be a great for a solitary spin up and down the lakefront.

I still have Avenger, of course, but he's starting to annoy me. If I didn't still need an indestructible winter beater with lots of momentum, it would probably be time to move on.

09 September 2010

The flatness... The FLATNESS!

The worst part about returning home to Illinois from Wisconsin is the part when you look up from fiddling with your Garmin for just a few minutes and realize that you are surrounded in all directions by miles and miles and miles and miles of CORN.

08 September 2010

This! Is! Sparta!!!!!!!!!!

Sparta Depot, previously a C&NW station, now the Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce and La Crosse River State Trail headquarters. The Elroy-Sparta State Trail also begins/ends here.

I went through all the trouble of acquiring a Real Bike last year, and then I get to the mother of all bike trails---the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in Wisconsin, arguably the very first rails-to-trails conversion in the entire nation and still wildly popular more than four decades later---and find myself surrounded by big-box mountain-style bikes, clunky beach cruisers, adult tricycles, and Trek/Giant/Specialized hybrids just like the one I left at home, all ridden by the kinds of weekend recreational riders (mostly families, of course) that we snobbish year-round urban bike commuter/transportation geeks look upon with such disdain, or at least a certain wariness. Worse, I'm wearing my roadiest roadie outfit, whereas even my boyfriend the Everything Geek is rocking a t-shirt and jeans just like any Normal Person (though I'd like to point out that my bike, roadied-out cyclocross bike though it may be, is the one with the absurdly fat tires). Soon after taking the above photo I start laughing hysterically and don't stop until about halfway up the I-90 overpass. It's all just so hilariously funny. On top of it all, there are cows everywhere. Everybody knows that cows are always hilariously funny, otherwise nobody would ever go on vacation in Wisconsin.

It turned out that I'd picked a really good motel for our home base. For one thing, they had a dedicated bike shed, which we declined to utilize upon hearing that we were explicitly allowed to bring our bikes into our room anyway, but it was nice to know that they provided secure bike parking for their guests. A bike lane led right from the parking lot entrance to the Sparta Depot, and then on to the park with the welcome center and the gigantic statue riding the gigantic highwheel bicycle. And still we saw car after car with bikes loaded on top or behind roll out of the parking lot and turn toward the depot. We rolled our eyes and harumphed at this phenomenon---silly rec riders, even cycling all of one mile to the trailhead on a dedicated bike lane constructed for that very purpose is beyond them. We joked about riding to Walgreens and blowing everyone's minds (OMG, they're biking to Walgreens! WTF?), but then an old townie on an old mountain bike beat us to it. Maybe, I thought, there's some actual substance to Sparta's ambitious town motto: Bicycling Capital of America. Somebody should inform the city of Portland that a small midwestern railroad town already beat them to it a generation or two ago.

Does my job make me sick?

For a week and a half I was falling asleep easily and waking up refreshed, I didn't get any headaches or experience that weird brain fuzz, I didn't feel like I needed to keep consuming caffeine just to stay alive, and I never felt inexplicably exhausted or unmotivated to do anything besides stare blankly at illuminated screens.

First day back and WHAM, all I want to do is drag my ass home and plop it down on the couch in front of the TV and the laptop because I feel completely awful and utterly unable to do much of anything, plus I'm already out of coffee.

Fuck this shit.

07 September 2010

Home again, again

Except not really.

02 September 2010

I'm back, and the lake smells nice in comparison

After two days of smelling swamp decay and rotting meat along the Mississippi River, it's good to return home to the Lake Michigan shore and its familiar stench of dead smelt and goose turds. Ahhh...

I'm off again tomorrow for vacation part II, but we're driving *gasp* so there won't be any more bike transport ridiculousness. Provided that Metra lets me on board so I can get to Joliet, I guess.

I'd get a smart phone so that I could still check email and blog while on the road with my bike (my enormous laptop won't fit in a pannier and weighs just about as much as my bike), but in my mind that kind of defeats the purpose of going on vacation in the first place.