Monday, December 31, 2007

Not What I Had Planned

William Least Heat-Moon opens Blue Highways with the words, "Beware thoughts that come in the night. They aren't turned properly; they come askew, free of sense and restriction, deriving from the most remote sources." He then, of course, goes on to act one of these night-skewed thoughts and writes a book about the consequences of such an action. And this is the kind of tome that resonates with those of us of a certain restless nature, folks who think that zen might actually have something to do with motorcycle maintenance, that perhaps Thoreau's cabin was a bit too spacious, and that Proud Mary isn't just a good song, it's good career advice. So when late-night thoughts come askew, they tend to stick in my head 'til morning.

"I think I'm going to spend the entire last day of the year riding," I announce to my wife. It should be noted that Mr. Heat-Moon's wife left him sometime prior to chapter one of his blue book. It should also be noted that my wife, Christine, understands that when I say "all day" I mean "24 hours."

Christine never completely vetoes my more hare-brained ideas but then again, she never has to. "There will be drunks on the road," she says, looking concerned, logical and cute all at the same time. Words from a Springsteen song roll through my head, "Jesus sent some good women to save all you clowns."

I cut my plan in half. Christine leaves for work at 5:00 AM, I'll leave for my ride at 5:00 AM. I promise I'll be back home by dark. "Maybe I can do one of those Jill-style, picture-every-hour things for the blog" I think.

The first problem is, it's really freekin' dark at 5:00 AM. I take a picture of my breakfast at 4:20 AM, but pictures of breakfast are pretty dull. The second problem is I'm not much of a photo guy and dark pictures don't tell you much of what it's like to be out and about at 5:00 AM.

Let me tell you what it's like to be out and about at 5:00 AM in my part of the world on the last day of the year.

It's a few degrees above freezing when I leave home. My bike's studded tires buzz on the pavement, crunch on the gravel and shine in the light of my twin Planet Bike LED lights. The lights cast twin moonbeams, brighter than what hits the trail reflected from the half-lit moon hanging a few hundred thousand miles above the trees. My breath fogs out in little puffs.

A few cars roll by on the freeway but I roll on a tiny gravel trail, up to High Point. Slushy puddles shine like flawed mirrors and for an instant I think I see an owl lifting off, white and silent, like a warm ghost. A repeat performance betrays the trick. As my bike rolls up and down the rolling rises of the trail, the lights are bouncing off the low puddles. Those reflected light beams climb the trees. The owls are not what they seem.

I'm headed east, into the mountains. The small towns of Preston and Fall City still mostly slumber and I pass by un-noticed by the humans, noted by the rest. I'm the ghost the dogs bark at, and cat's eyes track me in the night. As I ride up the trail from Fall City to Snoqualmie and North Bend, the bulk of the mountains are beginning to glow with a mix of fading moonlight and gradual dawn, too diffuse to be logically associated with the eventual sunrise. Rabbits race perfectly haphazard, Brownian particles with cotton-ball tails that make me wonder for a moment about the wisdom of this particular bit of evolution.

It's still too dark for a camera but perfectly fine for a set of night-tuned eyes when I see the first of the elk. It's a small herd of large beasts, fat from the summer, wary but not rushed as they cross the path and slip, not entirely silently but with sound much smaller than their size, into the forest off to my left.

It's fully light by the time I reach Rattlesnake Lake, which is low and cold this time of year, but not frozen. I pretend to be a photo-journalist but my camera decides that it is time I put away such notions and decides that it has had enough of being a camera and instead would like to be a rock. Well, maybe not a rock exactly, but something that does not take pictures and is kind of heavy and really not worth lugging around. I got three decent shots before my camera turned to stone.

One of the photos is of the sign telling the story of Rattlesnake Lake, the site of the former town of Moncton. It's a story of plans not quite working out the way folks had intended. It's not a bad thing to be contemplating on the last day of the year.

I stow my expensive rock in my pocket, listen to a Canadian goose call out across the lake and turn my bike back toward the valley. There are more people out now, walking dogs or walking themselves, marveling at a day that has grown clear and almost warm.

It's time for second breakfast when I'm back in North Bend, so I stop at Twedes for eggs and more hashbrowns than I can eat. Somewhere back aways I had a plan for 12 hours of riding or at least a century but numbers don't seem to matter much right now.

I roll back down the trail, turning north up the valley instead of heading south and home. I want to see the town of Carnation, see that it's still there, despite the recent horror. I don't want to go through town, I don't what to gawk, I just want to know, somehow, that life is stronger than death.

I thought maybe it would be the dogs or the kids riding their bikes or the horses grazing in the fields that would do it and they all helped, but it's the light that surprised me. The unseasonable sun shining down on a valley still green. Waving to others on the trail, we smile, we say "Happy New Year". We know the darkest days this year are behind us and today we have things to do.

I ride north to Duvall, cross to the west side of the valley and turn south. At Union Hill, I head west again and climb up and over Redmond Ridge. At the old brick road I ride south and work my way to the shores of Lake Sammamish.

I'm eight miles shy of a century and well shy of 12 hours but I have a beautiful wife waiting at home. I roll into Issaquah, my home, my riding is done for the year.

This is not the ride I had planned. This was just the ride I needed.

I hope your 2008 is filled with the best kind of adventures.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Time To Ride

My buddy Joe Broach just wrote a little essay called "My Own Power" which contains a lot of nice truths. Joe's essay is a celebration of human mobility but it contains a bit of wistfulness when he writes:
"The past year has made it clear that my own power is not the same as your own power. And, it is not even in the same league as my distance riding pals like Kent and Michael. As it turns out, my own power is pretty ordinary."
Later on Joe states:
"I'll never be able to ride as far in a day as Kent or Michael or a lot of other cyclers do. And, I certainly can't access all of the woods I could by car."
It is in those wistful statements that I respectfully disagree with Joe. I think he goes awry when he confuses space and time. He's not alone in this. I do this often and so does every other person I know. But it's the wrong way to think about the situation.

Joe writes "I certainly can't access all the woods I could by car" but this can only be really true if those woods are at the end of some auto-only roadway. If it's just a question of distance, Joe could bike there. Maybe the trip takes lots of time and he'd have to pack lots of sandwiches. Maybe there are lots of hills and he'd have to use very low gears and pedal slowly and maybe walk beside his bike on the steepest sections. And maybe he doesn't have the time to do that. So those woods he longs for are not too distant, they are too time-consuming. The problem is not distance, it's time.

But somehow Michael and I are different than Joe. Distance is different for us. How can that be? Did we come to this planet when the sun near our home world exploded, carefully packed by our doomed parents in tiny rocket ships and raised by loving human couples in Smallville? So, of course, we leap tall buildings in a single bound, see with X-ray vision and ride farther than Joe ever can with his mere human power.

Or perhaps we have some other relationship with time? Do Michael and I get 28 hours given to us each day while Joe and the rest of the ordinary humans have to suffer along with only 24? That would explain it. Michael and I go farther because we get more time. We're lucky that way.

Or maybe, just maybe, the old adage has it wrong. Time is not money. Time is more valuable. You don't save time, you spend it at the same rate as everybody else on this planet. The rate is 24 hours each day. You can never save it, but some ways you spend it may work out as investments. Am I wasting three hours each day by cycling back and forth to work? If I drove a car my commute time would be half that, think of what I could do with that time I saved! But that hour and half each day that I drove, that hour and a half each day that I didn't enjoy, I know that would be wasted. And I know that I love my hours on the bike.

I go riding on Christmas, a three hour tour while Christine is curled up indoors with the cat and some cocoa and Christmas carols on the CD player. The boys are making dinner and Christine is used to my being uncomfortable with too much comfort. I tell her I'll be back by two.

The old trees are silent and the moss is still green on the trails of the Taylor Mountain woods. By the time I meander my way up the trails and ultimately emerge near the Tiger Mountain summit the air has turned white with the snow of the season. My studded tires crunch and grip the trail. As I descend the snow gets wetter and turns to rain. Back in town, White Christmas is only a song on the radio and a mountain glimpsed out the window.

It's all within biking distance. I learn this one pedal stroke at a time and it's a lesson I get to keep relearning every day. Like Joe, my own power is pretty ordinary. And my own time gets delivered to me at a rate of 24 hours each day. I guess I could waste it racing around in some attempt to save it but mostly I spend it slowly, close to home. But the funny thing is those trips add up. My legs get into the habit of turning and I learn how many sandwiches it takes to go from here to there, even if there is Tiger Mountain or Portland or Minnesota or Mexico. I still don't travel far from home, but home is a lot bigger than it used to be.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Comfortable Cycling Clothes For Damp Days

I'd always assumed that the number of people in the world who look to me for fashion advice was basically zero, but my friend Michael made me revise that estimate slightly upward when he suggested "you should write about what you wear." And if Doug in Duluth can write his "What I Wore Today" series in two part harmony ( part 1 and part 2 ) well then by golly I can ramble on about my clothes and if you find this boring you can just surf away to any of the eight-hundred and eleventy billion other pages out there on the internet and I won't be even a little bit offended.

But before I dive into talking about my clothes, I'm going to talk about one of my buddies from my younger days, my pal Ed. Ed was an empiricist, always experimenting with one thing or another. He was also the kind of twelve-year-old kid who would use words like "empiricist" in daily conversation and recreationally read the encyclopedia. While there are bookworms who never take their learning out of the library or out of doors, Ed was never that way. Every bit of book-learning would be double-checked against the real world and Ed's parents where the sort of folks who were smart enough to let Ed and his brother Dave set up a laboratory in the basement and not get too upset when things would sometimes explode or some reptile would get loose. Empiricism may be a sure path to knowledge, but that path is seldom smooth.

We all grew up in northern Minnesota, in a little town about twenty miles outside Duluth. This is a region not known for its moderate climate. In the warmer months we would ride our bikes most of the way to school, stash them at our buddy Todd's house and walk the rest of the way, but in the cold months we would take the bus. The bus stop was at the edge of Epherd's Woods, a block from Ed and Dave's place and Pete, Tom, Dave, Ed and I would gather there each morning and wait for the bus.

As it got later in the year, we all began showing up to the bus stop in warmer, heavier clothes. All of us, that is, except Ed. Ed had this blue nylon windbreaker jacket that he wore through the fall and into the winter.

"What's with the jacket, Ed?" I asked him.

"Humans are extremely adaptable beings," Ed explained, "Natives of Lapland can sleep on the ice without blankets, while denizens of the tropics can work for hours in the sun without breaking a sweat. As the weather gets gradually colder, I am gradually adapting to the cold. You bundle, I evolve."

While we all admired Ed's continuing attempts to better himself, we also could not help but notice that part of his "evolution" involved arriving at the bus stop later and later as the weather got cooler. His brother Dave, the control portion of the experiment, dressed like the rest of us with big boots, a heavy jacket, scarves, a cap, mittens, etc. Dave would trundle from their home to the bus stop, moving slowly, like an old-time diver in a pressure suit, while Ed, would wait until the last possible moment and then quickly dash the block from his home to the bus stop. We figured that one day Ed would cut things too fine and miss the bus, but Ed's mom was stern about shooing him out the door.

The experiment ended the day the bus broke down. In Minnesota in those days they pretty much never canceled school because of cold, saving our "snow" days for the days when a foot or two of snow would make travel truly impossible, Cold, even 30 degrees below zero, was just something you would deal with. And on this day, we waited at the stop for a bus that did not come in a timely fashion. Ed dashed out at his customary time, his eyes looking down the street for the bus that should be coming, his teeth clenched to keep them from chattering. The bus wasn't there.

At the stop we speculated as to where the bus might be and twenty minutes later when it did show up, the driver explained that our regular bus had stalled at the base of the hill and a replacement had to be dispatched. Ed by this time was as blue as his windbreaker and spent the duration of the bus ride curled into a fetal ball on the bus seat closest to the heater.

The next day Ed showed up at the bus stop wearing the biggest, warmest snorkel parka I have ever seen. Years later I would see the character Kenny on South Park and be reminded of Ed. Somewhere from deep within the cozy confines of the parka Ed explained, "Humans also evolve via artifacts."

And now, thirty-six years later, I'm thinking of my own artifacts of comfort, the clothes I wear each day. Like my friend Ed, I am an empiricist. What I wear is what has survived the tests of time and climate. These items may or may not be right for someone else, somewhere else but for this forty-nine year old fellow living and cycling in the Puget Sound and Cascade Mountain regions of the Pacific Northwest, these are the clothes that get the job done.

In contemplating my wardrobe I notice that mostly I don't have "bike clothes" and "normal clothes." I haven't had a car or a driver's license in years, so biking everywhere is "normal" for me and it would be "abnormal" for me to have clothes that don't work for cycling. Just as most drivers don't have special clothes for driving, I don't really have many special clothes for cycling. I do have a few bits of safety gear and a rain jacket that is cut to work well on the bike but most of my clothes came from places other than the bike shop.

I'm sure people in sunnier climes have more intelligent things to say about dressing for warm weather than I do and I'd be hard pressed to come up with something better than what Grant Petersen wrote here. Like Grant, I favor loose, button down shirts for summer riding. On very hot days if I know I'm going to work up a sweat coming into work, I'll cool down for five minutes or so (I'm usually the first one at the office), do a quick sink-shower in the bathroom and switch into a different shirt for the work day. But for many times with a cool, loose shirt, I don't work up an unacceptable level of sweat. Part of this is a function of living in the relatively cool Pacific Northwest and part of it is logging lots of miles. One of the convenient truths of bicycle commuting is that the more you do it, the easier it gets. As my friend Ed would say, you evolve. So a younger, out of shape me might have gotten to work a soaked, stinky mess, the older, maybe a little mellower me often finds the trip is "no sweat."

But it's the winter weather that people seem the most curious about and again I'll defer to people in more extreme places for serious advice about bike riding in the sub-freezing zone. Jill in Alaska, Doug in Duluth, or Scott in Minneapolis all have more intelligent and timely things to say about cold weather riding than I do. Even though I grew up in Minnesota and still think of it as a swell place, one of my adaptations took the form of migration. For the past 14 years, I've made my home in Issaquah, Washington. Not long after Christine and the boys and I moved here, I was on the phone talking with my father, who still lives in Northern Minnesota.

"How do you stand the rain, son?" It was February and it had probably been raining almost every day for the past few months in Issaquah.

"Dad," I replied, "what's the current temperature back there right now?"

"About four."

"And how many feet of snow are on the ground right now?" I further pressed.

"About four," he admitted.

"You don't have to shovel rain, Dad."

And that is one of the reasons I've chosen to live in the Pacific Northwest. Because of this choice, my wardrobe is optimized to deal with conditions that are often damp but rarely icy or bitter cold.

Starting at the top of my head, I have a helmet. I won't go into the big helmet debate right here other than to say it's the law in King County (where I happen to reside) that cyclists wear helmets when riding. And over the years I've found it to be a handy bit of gear. My helmet is sized to fit snugly over my cap and since I ride a lot at night, I've added a couple of lights and some reflective stickers to the helmet.

Under my helmet I always wear a cap. In rainy weather the brim keeps the rain off my glasses. On sunny days it keeps the glare out of my eyes. The brim also shields my eyes from headlight glare when I'm riding at night. For years I used cotton or wool cycling caps but my favorite cap now is a nylon runner's cap I bought at REI. In colder weather, I use a Buff as an earband. The Buff is a very light tube of Coolmax fabric that I can fold into various layers and configurations depending on the temperature. I thought it was kind of expensive when I first bought it but I've used the Buff for years now and if I ever loose this one, I'll go right out and buy a replacement.

My main torso layer is almost always wool. Depending on how cool the day is it may be a thin layer or a thick layer, anything from a Smartwool long sleeve zip t-shirt, a wool club jersey or a sweater from a thrift store. If the day is dry or the more common light Pacific Northwest drizzle, my over layer will be my Marmot DriClime Windshirt. The DriClime sheds light rain quite nicely and of course it's great as a wind-blocking layer. And if it does get wet it dries out quickly. TheDriClime is designed to wick moisture from the inner layer and I've found that many times I stay drier wearing the DriClime than I ever did with a true rain jacket. If there is heavy rain and I feel I need something more waterproof, I'll wear my Rainshield O2 rain jacket. The DriClime and the O2 combined weigh less, take up less space and work better than any single jacket I've ever owned. For conspicuity, I wear very light weight bright yellow Bicycle Alliance nylon vest over whatever jacket or jersey I choose to wear.

My hands are another place where I have a wool base layer combined with a more visible synthetic top layer. Military surplus rag wool gloves stay warm even when wet and can be easily wrung out if they get soaked. Every pair of "waterproof " glove I've ever tried has been problematic. Either the gloves would leak or they would be so waterproof that my hands would sweat. Once wet, the gloves would loose their ability to insulate, making things miserable, and the damp gloves would take way too long to dry. Wool gloves don't keep my hands perfectly dry, but they keep me very comfortable. Wool insulates even when wet (I wrote about this a few years ago) and that's why it forms the basis of my "comfortably damp" wardrobe. For a while I carried water-proof nylon shells to use with the wool gloves in heavy rain but I eventually figured out that the wool gloves alone were sufficient. I do wear Glo Glovs over the wool gloves most of the time. Day and night, the Glo Glovs help me when I've communicating with other road users via hand signals. And, in the interest of civility, I tend to use all my fingers when I signal.

From the waist down my base layer is a pair of lycra cycling shorts, what Scott Adams identifies as "dorky pants." Despite the fact that pretty much everybody knows that I am a dork, I do have a fondness for pockets and I got tired of all the chicks checking out my finely sculpted buns, so I over the dorky pants I wear a pair of REI Sahara Convertible Pants. The Sahara pants are made of lightweight Suplex nylon and feature plenty of pockets and zip-off legs. I have several pairs of these pants and wear them year round. The nylon dries really quickly but in heavy rain, or extreme cold I add a pair of Rainlegs as a top layer. As I noted in my 2006 review of Rainlegs, these things work well but they do kick the dork factor back into high gear. I guess I can't deny my true dorky nature. And if I'm going to be a dork, I might as well be a safety dork, so I wear yellow reflective ankle bands to keep the cuffs of my Sahara pants out of my bike chain and to further increase my conspicuity. By the way, if you find yourself slipping the word "conspicuity" into conversation, you too may be a safety dork.

My big breakthrough in foot comfort was when I finally decided that for the riding I do, cycling shoes are not the solution. For the past year I've been riding with plain platform pedals. My shoes are Keen Targhees that I wear over either a pair of thick wool socks or a couple of pairs of thinner wool socks. The Keens are pretty weatherproof, but if things are really nasty, I layer a plastic bag (bread bags work great) between the inner and outer sock. This system works better than any fancy membrane sock/shoe cover/cycling shoe combo I've tried.

Well, that's it. That's pretty much what I wear. But that certainly doesn't mean this is what you should wear. People live in different places, have different metabolisms, and have different tolerances for temperatures. We're all experiments of one, empiricists clothed in artifacts.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Why Cupholders Make You Safe

Malcolm Gladwell writes really smart interesting articles and books and I recently found his treasure trove of stuff here:

My favorite piece, Big and Bad: How the S.U.V. ran over automotive safety, contains this gem:
Over the past decade, a number of major automakers in America have relied on the services of a French-born cultural anthropologist, G. Clotaire Rapaille, whose speciality is getting beyond the rational—what he calls "cortex"—impressions of consumers and tapping into their deeper, "reptilian" responses. And what Rapaille concluded from countless, intensive sessions with car buyers was that when S.U.V. buyers thought about safety they were thinking about something that reached into their deepest unconscious. "The No. 1 feeling is that everything surrounding you should be round and soft, and should give," Rapaille told me. "There should be air bags everywhere. Then there's this notion that you need to be up high. That's a contradiction, because the people who buy these S.U.V.s know at the cortex level that if you are high there is more chance of a rollover. But at the reptilian level they think that if I am bigger and taller I'm safer. You feel secure because you are higher and dominate and look down. That you can look down is psychologically a very powerful notion. And what was the key element of safety when you were a child? It was that your mother fed you, and there was warm liquid. That's why cupholders are absolutely crucial for safety. If there is a car that has no cupholder, it is not safe. If I can put my coffee there, if I can have my food, if everything is round, if it's soft, and if I'm high, then I feel safe. It's amazing that intelligent, educated women will look at a car and the first thing they will look at is how many cupholders it has. "
Damn, I better make sure I keep a latte on my bike at all times. For safety, of course.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Story of Stuff

My son Eric loves to rant about my being a "a damn hippie" when I post links to anything that even remotely suggests that our consumptive habits are having dire effects on the planet. Well, Eric, this disclaimer is for you.

Don't watch this 20 minute video. It'll just piss you off:

Like pretty much every American, I've got way more stuff than I need. My wife will enthusiastically attest to that fact. And I have way more bike stuff than I need, even though I try to pare it down and I really don't buy into the "ten-speed is great, nine speed sucks" or "I can't believe you're still riding steel" mindset.

My scrounging tendency often works against me. While I may make fenders out of old campaign signs or rework old bikes to suit my purposes, I'm a sucker for tools ("I can use that to fix old stuff!"), parts ("I can use that to keep old stuff running!") and nifty gadgets ("that jacket with zip-off sleeves can replace my jacket and my vest!") and the next thing I know I have lots of tools and parts and not only a jacket and a vest but a jacket/vest and wait a minute, don't I have something like four other jackets here? And don't get me started on t-shirts. How the hell did I wind up with so many t-shirts?

Living in a small place and being car-free helps keep me conscious of my stuff. Almost all the stuff filling our place was lugged here by my wife or my kids or me under our own power. Of course, it's really to easy to click on something at Amazon and have that guy with the brown truck show up a few days later with the latest bit of niftiness. And of course, I'm part of the problem. I've got Amazon links on my site, I tell people about nifty things I've found and heck some of those damn t-shirts spilling out of my dresser drawers are things I myself designed and sell.

But you've gotta have some stuff, right? Well, yeah, you do. But it's a balancing act and some days I feel more out of balance than others.

It's a lesson I keep re-learning, one that often seems the clearest when I'm out on my bicycle, going up a hill. Everything I have with me gets weighed, maybe not on a scale, but with each pedal stroke as the grade goes up. The stove and fuel that I brought for comfort in camp do not give me comfort on the climb. So do I take them with me or not? It's a calculation that can be made both ways.

The video I linked to at the top of this post talks about the environmental costs of all this stuff but it's not just the big environment that's polluted, it's the local environment that's polluted. My apartment, my desk at work, my mental spaces are all filled with too much junk.

I don't need a shed for all this stuff, I need to get rid of many sheds worth of stuff. What I need, what I really need, I'll keep. Right now, I need to go on a stuff diet. For every item that comes in, at least that much has to go out.

Quality wins out over quantity. The TV just lost out to 1080 pages of Thomas Pynchon's latest novel. Stuff I've kept "just in case" for too long are going away. Books I won't re-read will go to the used book store, good clothes can find some other man to wear them. The almost-right jackets can keep someone else dry. At least one more bike needs to go.

I may still get that shed. I will probably by the next great bike light that comes out.

I'm not off the treadmill, but I'm trying to think about my steps.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Orson Scott Card: Three Essays

Now I'm sure that I don't agree with every word Orson Scott Card has ever written, but then again I'm not always sure I agree with every word I've ever written. As somebody once wrote, "I don't know anybody smart enough to be 100% wrong or dumb enough to be 100% right." I do know for sure that I don't have all the answers and that's one of the reasons I try to read at least some stuff that I don't agree with. And along the way I find things that may make me go "Yeah, right on!" or "Jeez, what a moron" or in my favorite cases "Jeez, maybe I've been a moron on this." I still am pretty sure that Mr. Card and I have some disagreements on certain policies, politics and personalities, but the man does think about things and he's one of those writers who makes his readers think about things as well. So I spent a bit of time this past weekend reading through this site:

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine where Mr. Card and I differ, but I will tell you that these three essays:

Life Without Cars:

Walking Neighborhoods:


Oil -- Past the Peak:

are some of the ones that had me saying "Yeah, right on!"

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Major Taylor Ride

If I wasn't so darn well suited for my job at the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, it's a pretty safe bet that I'd be working at Bike Works. Dara and her crew not only do terrific work, they consistently demonstrate just how much fun it can be to change people's lives through bicycles. Every time I volunteer at Bike Works or work with them on a project, I'm reminded that the velorution is happening right now. Whether it's teaching kids to fix stuff or getting people rolling on rigs that cost less than what most folks spend on a monthly car payment, the lessons are the same: this is what's possible, this is what's practical and this is how you do it.

This week three of the Bike Works folks, Jayanthi, Joe and Melanie, all have birthdays. This is also the week that the great cyclist Marshal "Major" Taylor was born, so it just made sense to have a celebratory ride. Friday night, November 30th, 2007 a bunch of us gathered at Bike Works for little off-key singing of Happy Birthday and a ride up to a restaurant in Seattle's central district.

It's 36 degrees Fahrenheit as we gather in the cool air. It's cool enough that as we discuss techniques for keeping feet warm (slightly bigger shoes and double socks, one pair of which is wool), our breathing fogs the air. On occasions such as this we all naturally check out each other's bikes. My favorite of the bunch (excluding my own Red-Bike-of-Courage) is a neat old orange Peugeot set up as a fixie with cowhorn bars. This turns out to be Melanie's rig but right now, a couple minutes before take-off, she's realized that it's dark and she doesn't have lights.

As Red Green says, "if the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy." I can't let Melanie go riding with just her 100 kilowatt smile for protection and thanks to the Bicycle Alliance Get Lit program, I've got a spare set of lights in my handlebar bag. Melanie tries to protest, "but those lights are for the needy..." "And that's why I'm carrying a set around, to give out to some needy unlit cyclist," I tell her, "right now, that's you. Call it a birthday present or later when you get yourself some lights, pass these on to somebody more needy than you. But right now," I say firmly, "we're lighting you up."

In addition to having the best lights of the group, I'm also the guy with the working camera. Tina takes the group photo of the gang. See the guy with the bright reflective sash and helmet near the center of the photo? That's me.

It's a nice ride but I do notice that a bunch of my Bike Works buddies are a bit too black in their bundling. I'll have to talk to Dara and Melanie about scheduling a Get Lit fashion show at Bike Works sometime soon.

I have to get home to Issaquah, so I wish everybody a safe ride and split off from the group at the I-90 bridge.

At home I read more about Major Taylor, a truly inspirational fellow. This website:

has a lot of great information about Major Taylor including the final chapter of his autobiography here: