Kind of a long commute

January 9, 2020 § 17 Comments

Yesterday’s commute to Yucaipa using MetroLink + bike came out to just over 100 miles. I left at 5:10 AM and got home at 6:00 PM. It was pretty glorious, starting the ride in the middle of LA, then hopping off the train and pedaling from San Bernardino to Yucaipa.

There were snow-capped mountains in the background, zero traffic, wide roads, and even adventure. I got lost and had to pedal through an avocado grove as I tried to find my way onto a dirt utility road that “I was sure” led to pavement “somewhere.”

An angry farmwife came running out. “Get out of here! This is private property!”

I was already out of the grove and onto the utility road. “Sorry!” I hollered back. “I’m lost!”

“I don’t give a damn! DON’T COME BACK!”

The utility road was rough, so rough that I punctured my rear 36mm tubeless. It was my first ever puncture on a tubeless, and aside from covering my ass and backpack with sealant, it worked perfectly and I pedaled on. As I surmised, the dirt road led to pavement, then to a beautiful, short climb up Sand Canyon Road down into Yucaipa.

On the way home, while waiting for the train in San Bernardino, I ate lunch, a roast beef sandwich with cheese and bell pepper, bookended with two pieces of my homemade sourdough rye-wheat-seet bread. I washed it down with coffee.

Inside the train a guy parked his bike next to mine. “Hey, man,” he said. “How far you going on that thing?”

“About a hundred. You?”

“I don’t know how far, man, but I ride every day to the station, that’s about thirty minutes one way, then I get to San Bernardino, and that’s another thirty minutes to my job, so about two hours every day.”

His bike was a cruiser with fat tires and wide handlebars. “How long you been doing that?”

“Six months, man. I lost my car from a DUI. At first I was bummed because all my friends was like, ‘Man, you riding a bike? That’s bullshit.’ But then I lost a ton of weight man.”

“I bet.”

“Yeah, I still got a little bit to go but I feel great now and my friends don’t say shit no more. They’re still real overweight, man. And you know what?”

“What?”

“I used to be angry all the time. I had all these voices in my head, man. And since I started riding this bike, man, I don’t hear no voices no more. And I ain’t angry for no reason no more. It’s weird.”

“That’s great.”

“And you know what else?”

“What?”

“My cholesterol and shit is way down, man. I ain’t got no blood pressure no more, neither.”

“Blood pressure sucks,” I agreed.

“Yeah, man. But you know what my old lady says?”

“What?”

“She’s like, ‘You smiling all the time.’ She likes that a lot, man. When your old lady is like down with you being in a good mood then she gets in a good mood and you know what that means.”

“Indeed I do.”

He chuckled as if he were thinking of something pleasant. “Yeah, I used to be grumpy and scowling and shit all the time but now I’m just smiling. Like, I’m happy, man.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Shit, man, I know why that is.”

“Why?”

He pointed to the bike. “This baby here, man. Right here.”

END


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Today's weather

December 5, 2019 § 3 Comments

I stood in line at the post office. I had parked my bike in the foyer, lights still blinking. My hi-viz rain jacket was dripping a bit, making a little puddle around my feet.

I recalled something I’d once read. “There are no successful people at the post office.”

Like that part in Alice’s Restaurant where everybody on the jail bench moved away from Arlo when they found out he’d been arrested for littering, the patrons were giving me a wide berth and looking through me.

I thought of the corollary to the above rule: “And people at the post office on bicycles aren’t people.”

I got to the window. “How’s your day going?” I asked the lady as a raindrop splopped onto the counter.

“Bad.”

“How come?”

She nodded at the window. “The weather. I hate the rain. Just hate it.”

She was so big that there were two of her. “How come?” I asked.

“You can’t do anything on days like this.”

I was standing there in my rain gear, rolled up pant leg, and bike visible in the foyer. “You can’t?”

“Nope,” she said. “Days like this all you can do is sit inside and drink hot cocoa. Which is EXACTLY what I’ll be doing in four hours’ time.” She said it with the sadness you’d expect if someone had told her that Sara Lee had gone bankrupt, or was now vegan only.

I loved the way she made it sound like the rain was preventing her from engaging in her normal active lifestyle, all that bungee jumping, rock climbing, and hang gliding she normally did after work when the sun was out. As if her today wasn’t the equal of her every day, always indoors or wrapped in a steel cage, shuffling from chair to sofa and back again from the moment she awoke to the moment she went to bed.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Days like today you just have to stay put.”

She nodded without looking up, weighing my letter and slapping on a stamp while breathing heavily from the effort of existing. “You said it, my friend.”

I kinda did.

END


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New Year’s Evolution

November 25, 2019 § 10 Comments

I’m getting the jump on 2020.

Seems like resolutions for the new year are quaint. Studies show they don’t work anyway.

But what about a New Year’s Evolution? I kind of like that. Evolution isn’t as quick and it’s ongoing. Plus, you can (and will) break a resolution, but you can’t break evolution.

My New Year’s Evolutions are these:

  1. Ride my fuggin’ bike more.
  2. Depend on fossil fuels less in all things.

And because I am in a generous mood, I’m going to give YOU a list of evolutions to consider, in case you’re so inclined.

  1. Ride your fuggin’ bike more.
  2. Depend on fossil fuels less in all things.
  3. Ride your bike to the grocery store once a week.
  4. Ride your bike to the coffee shop once a week but not as part of a group ride.
  5. Ride your bike with your family to dinner once a month.
  6. Ride your bike to work once a week.
  7. Swap out ONE car for ONE e-bike.
  8. Retrofit ONE of your road/cross/MTB/vintage bikes as a commuter bike.
  9. Ride with huge headlights at all times.
  10. Ride with huge taillights at all times.
  11. Control a busy lane once a week.
  12. Ride from the South Bay to DTLA once a month.
  13. Ride the bus with your bike.
  14. Ride the train with your bike.
  15. Use a Metro bike locker then walk somewhere.
  16. Ride with a friend/family to Union Station and have a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
  17. Do one trafficky gnarly commute (full lights) through somewhere like Anaheim/PCH to Long Beach or Orange County from the South Bay.
  18. Do an East Side Riders Feed the Hungry Ride.
  19. Take a Cycling Savvy online course.
  20. Ride your bike somewhere and lock it up.

Do this list in 2020, starting now, and you’ll evolve. Guaranteed.

END


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#21: Take your bike up an elevator!

Fear of not flying

November 24, 2019 § 7 Comments

The closer you get to living without a car the scarier it gets.

It’s true that I haven’t driven since August 17, 2019. But the car, well, it is still there, a giant 5,000-lb. security blanket all plugged in and ready to go.

I’ve used the Kelly Blue Book online quote service and have found that a 2017 Chevy Volt with leather seats, 48,000 miles, and nary a scratch will fetch real money. And worry not, the dealer will come to you.

I don’t miss driving, and I’m daily astonished at the mass stupidity of it all.

Car washes? Are you kidding me?

Gas stations? Are you kidding me?

Car shopping? Are you kidding me?

Stopping in a line of 30 cars to go through a light? Are you kidding me?

Status based on your brand of steel cage? Are you kidding me?

Pulling over for a fire truck? Are you kidding me?

Sitting on the freeway? Are you kidding me?

Drive-thrus? Are you kidding me?

Oil changes and maintenance? Are you kidding me?

Road rage? Are you kidding me?

Flipping through radio stations hoping to find Tom Petty? Are you kidding me?

Paying tolls? Are you kidding me?

Going 3 mph through parking garages? Are you kidding me?

Rental car packages with airfare? Are you kidding me?

Parking? Are you kidding me?

Valet? Are you kidding me?

Speeding tickets and traffic cops? Are you kidding me?

Finding a charging station? Are you kidding me?

Exhaustion from doing nothing? Are you kidding me?

The 110/405/10/101? Are you kidding me?

18-wheelers? Are you kidding me?

Depreciation depression? Are you kidding me?

Insurance? YOU ARE NOT KIDDING ME.

Because as a bike lawyer, cyclist, and 4:00 AM blogger I know that having underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage is the third leg of the stool for savvy cyclists: Use a light, Take the lane, Insure thyself.

And once you get rid of your car you lose your UM/UIM coverage. Or at least that’s what I thought. But then I recalled Francis X.’s famous quote: “Wouldn’t it be great if all the computers in the world were connected with some kind of electronic network that would allow them to instantaneously share information on demand so that you could get answers to questions right away?”

A google later I discovered “Non-owner Liability Insurance.” This is liability insurance for anyone with a driving license who doesn’t own a car, and it comes with UM/UIM coverage. There are a couple of catches.

  1. The insurance is not offered by all carriers.
  2. You can’t have any motor vehicle registered in your name.
  3. The UM/UIM coverage generally maxes out at $250,000, rather than the $500k or even $1M policies offered by some carriers.

Since we haven’t sold our Volt yet I’m not eligible for a policy, but once it’s gone I’ll be reaching out to State Farm agent, cyclist, and friend Stephan Buckley and buying coverage. It’s almost $900 cheaper than my current $500k/$500k policy, which only means one thing: More carbon.

END


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Good news!!

November 23, 2019 § 6 Comments

About two years ago I stopped reading the news.

Before that I was a news junkie, I mean a trash junkie. I would have to read the news first thing when I got up and then check it during the day.

One day I read an old article in the Guardian that explained how awful news is and how bad it is for you to read it. The takeaway was that not reading the news will make you happier.

I read this in the early days of the current presidency, which in and of itself was an unending source of unhappiness. Sure enough, when I stopped paying attention, I felt better.

Lots better.

Since I had never consumed teevee news, I became instantly insulated from the news effect, which is what I call the highs and crying jags that come from being emotionally manipulated. I found out that whatever happened to the stock market was going to happen. That the globe would continue to heat. That bad actors would continue their badness, and no matter how much I read about it or didn’t read about it, all those things would continue.

Most importantly, simply listening to people talk was enough to get the basics of what was “going on.” And what was “going on” is what’s always “going on.”

I started focusing on real events in my life and on people I actually know and hang out with, both of them. For me, news became “What had I and my family/friends done?” rather than “What high crimes and misdemeanors did the president commit today?”

This extended most importantly to cycling news. I used to actually pay attention to the results of a UCI 3.1 race in Belgium. I wanted to know who the next stage winner of Tour of Qinghai Lake was going to be. Vanderpoel’s latest cyclocross win? Had to know.

But that was all news, so I stopped reading it.

Actually, what I stopped read were advertisements. Online content now is designed so that you can’t get more than two or three paragraphs, sometimes lines, without having to read or consciously skip over an ad. It’s the ultimate brain cage. I compare it to the books I read, where you go page after page after page, hundreds of them, AND NEVER SEE AN AD.

See? Old technology isn’t all bad.

Despite all this, like a wino and his bottle, the background hum of impeachment has gotten so loud that I decided to read an article yesterday, if article is what you call modern Internet newsvertising. This was in the New York Times.

All I can say is that my generation and the ones preceding have left everything in tatters. There is no law, no order, no logic, no decency on the national stage. It’s not the president’s fault. He’s simply the most extreme exponent of a national creed that doesn’t want to study, think, discuss, compromise, and love strangers.

But the good news? I promised good news, so here it is: If you quit driving in order to become a full-time bike commuter in LA, you don’t have to give up your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, even if you no longer own a car.

Details to come!

END


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Feeling sheepish

November 21, 2019 § 8 Comments

We all go through phases, but I seem to go through more than the average bicycle rider. I cycle through phases so fast that I eventually get back to the beginning, like the 12-year Chinese zodiac.

I’m a bunny, by the way.

My first bicycle phase was steel bikes and wool jerseys because that’s all there was in 1982. That phase lasted until 2008, when I purged all wool and bought a carbon bike that was 100% carbon and made fully of genuinely pure carbon, all of it.

About that time I sold my steel Eddy Merckx Leader and my backup, a Masi Gran Criterium. Handlebar shifters were neat, I decided.

Earlier this year I bought a couple of wool jerseys, and on cool mornings they reminded me of why I really like them. They aren’t so tight, they feel great, they warm when it’s cool and they cool when it’s warm.

I had an appointment in Hollywood yesterday so I threw on a woolly over my t-shirt. Then I glanced out the window and saw the gray rain threats, so I stuffed a raincoat and wool cap into my backpack. A few drops of rain hit me on the 23-mile ride there. It was cool, the jersey was perfect, and the tailwind had me giddy.

After I finished my business I got ready to leave and the skies opened up. By the time I had put my raincoat on and rolled outside it was pouring worse than the sweat off your obese neighbor wedged into the next-door-airplane-seat.

Plus, the temperature dropped hugely, so it wasn’t rain, it was cold rain. I pulled the wool cap over my ears and started pedaling.

In minutes my pants were drenched all the way through to my parts and my shoes were waterlogged. The jacket, sold to me by Baby Seal at the Bike Palace, worked wonders, but after a half-hour of relentless rain, and water walls being sprayed by the passing cars on LaBrea, the freezing wet started to get down the neck and into the raincoat.

Thirty more minutes and my inwards were as soaked as my outwards. My hands and feet were going numb and the rain kept pounding. It didn’t let up until Torrance, and then the sun broke through on the first part of Silver Spur. It reminded me that when you’re in a car you’re cozy and warm but you don’t get the joy, the incredible joy, that happens when the rain stops beating you and the sun comes out.

But that wool jersey and wool cap had kept my core and my head as warm as company in bed, even though soaked.

I got back and unzipped the rain jacket. Out in a rush came the warm, nostalgic smell of sweat-and-wet wool. I breathed it in. It didn’t smell all that great. But I didn’t complain.

END


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Hateful drivers?

November 19, 2019 § 15 Comments

For years I’ve had it in my head that cagers in LA hate bicyclists. That drivers are the enemy. That as far as they’re concerned, the only good cyclist is one driving a car.

Yesterday, though, it struck me that I have been terribly wrong.

It’s true that there is a disturbing number of cagers who, when they see bicycle underwear, racy bikes, helmets, and Terminator glasses, go apeshit. I certainly haven’t imagined the decades of honks, middle fingers, punishment passes, offensive shouts, and physical altercations that have happened while being a #leakyprostate #mastersfake #profamateur cyclist.

However.

Yesterday.

I left the South Bay at 11:30, rode through downtown, had a meeting in the Fig/Cypress area, rode through densest LA crosstown traffic, crossed Hollywood to Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, had another meeting, then pedaled through insane 6:00 PM Santa Monica traffic, all the way down Arizona to Ocean, along the entire length of Main Street which was jammed bumper-to-bumper all the way into Marina del Rey and the marina bike path. I got home at 8:20.

It was the most extended traffic jam I’ve ever seen, literally stretching in a giant loop around the bulk of the LA metro area. But get this: I got honked at once.

And get this: I’m not even sure the dude was honking at me.

And get-get this: I had innumerable vehicles nudge their stopped cars to the left to make space for me to get up the gutter or to split the lane, and the couple of times I had gnarly, high speed, no-room-to-maneuver left turns with no space to change lanes (think hanging a left onto Argyle off Franklin, with 8 billion cars queued to get onto the 101), I made the move by simply putting out my hand in a “halt” sign and watching as traffic patiently let me cross two lanes of traffic and slot into the left-hand turn lane.

Equally telling, in the long stretch along Fountain Ave., which has BMUFL markings, my 16-17 mph speed and liberal interpretation of the numerous stop signs angered no one, engendered no punishment passes, no middle finger salutes, zero ugly honks.

What does it all mean? Here’s what it means:

  1. When you are riding with seven super bright rear lights, people see you from a long way off even when they are texting. And a big chunk of motorist rage is their shock and surprise at having you “come out of nowhere,” i.e. having to navigate your presence when they weren’t paying attention in the first place. This displaced anger is a large part of cager rage–they’re the ones at fault for not seeing you, and they blame you for it. Put on the massive rear lights and voila, the rage disappears.
  2. The brilliant, 1200-lumen headlights also explain why cars make space when you’re up against the curb, passing a hundred stopped cars as you skip to the front of the line. Your headlights blast their side and rearview mirrors, a/k/a THEY FUGGIN’ SEE YOU. And a lot of cagers are either cyclists or at least sympathetic to them or, perhaps, appreciative that one bike means one less car.
  3. Hair (or bald head). When you ditch the helmet you look like a person. When you wear the helmet you look like a Star Wars storm trooper. Remember them? They were the true villains of the whole movie. But underneath those helmets that fell off after Luke killed them with his blaster, they were actual people. It’s just that when you saw the mask you hated them because mask = enemy.
  4. Backpack. Storm trooper cyclists deserving of death look inhuman. Person on a bicycle lugging a backpack looks like a barista late for work, and a late barista means you may not get your coffee! It’s hard to feel superior to a storm trooper all sleek and shaved and getting fit while you’re gaining weight sucking down a mocha frap in a 3-hour traffic jam. But it’s impossible not to feel superior to someone who not only is too poor to own a car but who also has to carry a backpack en route to a minimum wage job. And when you feel superior, you often feel just a little bit nicer. At least you don’t feel consumed with rage.
  5. Jeans and t-shirt and sneakers. This completes the human outfit. #winning

There may be other factors involved. I’m sure they are. But yesterday wasn’t an anomaly. I’ve now crisscrossed some of the nastiest gridlock in LA, Orange, and San Diego counties, and my experience isn’t that motorists hate me, it’s that they see me. And once seen, for the most part I’m safely and patiently steered around.

Light yourself up. Take the lane. You will be surprised.

END

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