Monday, August 31, 2009

We'll Meet Again

Quick question: What's the hottest album on the British charts, coming out of nowhere to get up to Number 20? And who is the oldest singer ever to have an album on the British charts?

The answer is Vera Lynn- We'll Meet Again. Read more here. If watching this video doesn't bring a tear to your eye, you have a heart of stone.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'm too old for this stuff


On the commute in to work Tuesday, I was at an intersection. The light turned green and I started out. I decided to stand up on the pedals to accelerate a little quicker and ZOUNDZ! something in my back popped/slipped/pulled. I was about halfway to work and had to make the call: Go home and phone it in, or continue on to work. Being the stupidly loyal employee I am, I rode into work.

I took some Advil and called my doctor, making an appointment with my doctor for the next day. It took a couple hours for the sharp pain to subside. The next day the doctor said I had "only" strained my back. Relatively good news, but still- Ouch ouch ouch. The anti-inflammatory the doctor gave me didn't seem to work as well as Advil so I'll be switching back to the Advil. And for the next few days at least, bicycle commuting will be a spectator sport for me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Left Turns on Big Roads

Keri does it again! Keri over at CommuteOrlando Blog has put together a great, informative flash animation demonstrating several ways to make left hand turns on busy streets. The discussion following the post is good, too; it goes into further depth on the pedestrian left turn.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


My pal, R A N T W I C K recently put video of one of his bad weather commutes up on his blog. It's so awesome I have to share.

As Rantwick sez: "Please do as I say, not as I do. Take cover in bad weather."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Putting the lights to work

Here is my commute today: 23 miles round trip. After work I went to a meeting at the Habitat for Humanity office on Jones Street and Berwick. I did my little jaunt after work that's becoming my custom- north on Bryant Irvin Road, then Overton Ridge, onto Hulen, all busy streets with lots of retail. I cut across from Hulen to South Drive along Barwick, trying to remember in my head the best route to the Habitat office. I knew that Granbury was the shortest route, but it tends to be a fairly high speed route and not too bike friendly in my estimation. I decided to go for it anyway, and rode along Granbury for about two miles, then turned onto Berry just east of TCU and followed that another mile and a half. Berry through that stretch is not what most would consider bike friendly either, and includes several steep hills to climb for the bridges over the train tracks.

But I did it. I took the lane like I was meant to be there and the motor traffic got over itself. It slowed behind me and eventually went around me. The worst thing that happened was a carful of joyful teens yelled at me, but it was a good-natured kind of a yell- kind of "Way to go, dude!" I stopped at a McDonald's for some dinner, then followed the I-35 access road to within a couple blocks of my destination. No biggie, and so far all in bright daylight.

The Habitat office is squarely in what one would call a low-rent district: well-worn industrial buildings interspersed with older, smaller homes inhabited by recent immigrants from the Spanish-speaking world. Fort Worth has some great residential neighborhoods; this is not one of them. The area is called Worth Heights.

The meeting went well, but by the time it ended it was past dusk, almost entirely dark. I put my headlight on steady, my rear SX-6000 on steady, and my Superflash on blink mode; I think that provides maximum visibility from the rear. I also wore my high-visibility vest.

I didn't want to go back to the freeway access road, so I cut through the hood, which after a few blocks became entirely residential- very modest immigrant housing- until I came out by La Gran Plaza, which used to be a vanilla suburban shopping mall, but now is an urban outlet mall that services the local population. I used to go in there occasionally until I realized no one in there was speaking English. Since "no hablo Español", I just don't feel comfy in there anymore. This whole neighborhood had that feel. Because I don't speak the language I feel a little intimidated. My biggest fear actually was loose dogs in that area though.

I followed the north edge of La Gran Plaza along a secondary through street. I didn't want to get lost though, so I cut over to Seminary, a pretty heavily traveled thoroughfare. I was pleased to see that the right lane was very wide- bike boulevard wide- and the shoulder was largely clear of debris (mostly, I suppose, because it wasn't a bike lane). After a few minutes of riding, I was out of Worth Heights and approaching the Seminary area (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary). Still not the best of neighborhoods, but there is a bit of a "university bubble" around the campus.

I planned to ride Seminary nearly to its end which puts me into a familiar neighborhood, but at this point I just wanted to get home. So I turned left on James, another main thoroughfare, which turns into Crowley Road at I-20. Crowley Road is an urban-sprawl enabler- 40 to 45 mph limits (with 50-55 being common), three lanes in each direction, with a left turn lane (no median). I bought my commuter bike from someone who lives in this area, and was terrified to ride it home down Crowley Road back then (a year ago).

It really wasn't bad at all, even though there was still a decent volume of traffic. Having a bright blinky light along with a steady-on light on the rear seems to do the trick. The vast majority of people gave me more than enough room, and no one really got close to me. Overall, I think the lighting was a success.

Oh... and if you want to see Tuesday's ride home, click here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Ride After Work

After work this evening, I took a little ride. Mrs. Doohickie and I, along with our pastor, went out to a neighboring church that's trying to build itself up; they are seeking advice on how to do so and so we are serving on their advisory committee (sounds official, but it more of a meeting of friends and future friends to try to grow a little church).

The church is not too far from where I work, only 4 miles, so I rode my bike over there after work and met the others there. I packed both a lunch and a dinner today (if you can call a tuna sandwich dinner) and decided to ride over to the church before eating it. I stopped at an elementary school across the street and ate at a little table near the entrance.

We had our meeting, then it was time to ride home. At this point it was nearly dusk. I retraced my route until I got to the river, and decided to follow it for a while. I took some pics along the way. On the one hand I want to apologize for the crappy cell phone pics; on the other, the blur of the slow shutter does kind of capture the motion of the bike (yes, I take pics on the move). I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. You can see how the sun was steadily setting as I rode.

This last one was taken at the low water crossing at Overton Creek. The river is rather wide at this point; almost lake-like.

I took more pictures after that, but it was too dark for my cell phone to get any decent pictures. Shortly after that I was off the trail and back on the streets. I turned on my headlight and tail lights and enjoyed a very peaceful ride home in the increasing darkness. Dusk is one of my favorite times to ride. The excitement of the day is over; it is peaceful. The heat of the day is dissipating. Hurrying just doesn't seem right; better to ride slow and savor it.

Here is my route for the day, from home to work, to the church, then along the river before heading for home. Altogether about 25 miles.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tail Lights

A comparison of two tail lights.

The first is the an SX-6000 Extreme Mini-Pro by DuraVisionPro. It's pretty much this light. Retail price on their site: $19.99. Retail price at my LBS: $10.99.

The second is a Planet Bike Blinky Superflash. Retail price on their site: $29.99. Retail price at my LBS: $23.99.

Basically, this is a comparison between your basic bike shop LED tail light and one of the most popular tail lights sold. Is the Planet Bike Superflash really worth $10 more than the LBS competitor? I think so.

The first discriminator for me is the battery used. The Superflash uses two AAA batteries. So when the batteries need to be replaced, you can get batteries anywhere, and cheap. The SX-6000 uses two CR2032 watch batteries. They don't seem to last as long as they should, you have to make a special trip for them, and they are more expensive than the AAAs.

How do they work? Well, the Superflash is better again. In constant-beam mode, you can see how much brighter the Superflash is on the right.

The Superflash is even better in flash mode. This little video demonstrates the difference. You can see the Superflash, again on the right, blinks the two smaller LEDs at a fairly rapid rate, then periodically the big LED lights up.... POW! If you want cars to see you, this light is the one.

On the downside, there really isn't a less-powerful setting. In constant-beam mode, the Superflash only lights up that superbright LED. Out in traffic, this is clearly an advantage. If you're riding in a group with other cyclists, or riding on a trail, it may be too much. For those applications, the SX-6000 is actually a better tool for the job.

But if your primary goal is to be seen, the Superflash wins.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

25 Years and Counting

Who knew that such a cutie could fall for me?

25 years ago today we said, "I do." I still find it hard to believe PennyCandy agreed to share her life with me, but I'm sure glad she did.

We've had our ups and our downs, but it's been more ups. She's been a great mother to our two sons. I'm proud of how she finished her degree and became a teacher, and as a lead teacher at her school she's helping other teachers improve their craft. I really admire her for all she does.

But even more importantly, I love her. I love hearing about her day- her triumphs and her frustrations. I love her faith in God and in humanity. I love how much she's overcome to reach her accomplishments. I love the way her blue eyes sparkle when she shares a secret with me, and the way her touch can relax me. Without her, my life would be wretched; with her, it is complete.

I've loved spending the last 25 years with her. Happy anniversary, honey, and I hope we have many, many more!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Long Way Home

Sorry folks, no pictures; my phone battery was dying.

Anyway, tonight several people from our club attended a meeting to unveil the design of a new bridge to be built in Fort Worth. I rode into work in the cool of the morning (about 7 miles), then after work I rode when it in the mid 90s another 7 miles to the Botanical Gardens where the meeting was held. I rode with a guy I work with; he drove to work but his wife showed up at quitting time with their bikes. The three of us rode down the Trinity River Trail. I started out in front on my hybrid commuter and tried to cut a decent pace into a slight headwind... I was doing about 17-18 mph. When I started to falter, Marty took over and led the rest of the way on his road bike.

We stopped for a bite to eat at Ol' South Pancake House, then went to the meeting. Six people from our club showed up, five on our bikes and wearing club jerseys (plus the son of one of the members). Except for a short ride to connect to the Trinity River Trail, the whole ride was virtually on the trail itself. Riding is so much better when you don't have to climb steep hills, wait for traffic lights, or mess with traffic.

The bridge will be an extension of Stonegate Boulevard east from Hulen Street into a currently undeveloped area that will soon be known as Clearfork. It's pretty much right in the city, on the near southwest side. The bridge will connect Hulen with new development and provide a route across to Bryant Irvin Road, just south of a massive rail yard. This pass-through may really help my commute. They plan to start construction in the spring and be complete by summer the following year.

The proposed bridge design is rather stunning. It will consist of three spans: East- and west-bound motor traffic, two lanes each way, and a third span between them and a little below that will be for pedestrians and bikes only. It will tie into the existing Trinity River Trail on each bank, aiding both recreational and transportation riding. It will provide something I've said this city has needed for a while: a viable route that crosses the river instead of just running along it. (Fort Worth has two major barriers to bike travel- the river and the rail yard, meaning bike traffic is forced to funnel onto a few very busy roads with bridges over them).

The purpose of the bridge is to link the new Clearfork development to the Hulen retail district, but also to facilitate non-motorized access to river trails. The design looks like it will succeed in meeting all these purposes.

After the meeting, I rode home alone. It was a nice, quiet night ride; it's been a while since I've done one of those. Without mapping it, I'd say the ride home was at least 12 miles and I did it easily within about 45 minutes. I found some nice quiet routes and hardly stopped at all. And it was cool. Waiting until 9 pm to commute home has its perks.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

We Apologize for the Inconvenience

I'm sorry that I haven't posted in a few days. My new project (see post below) has been taking up a lot of my online time. A lot of the time I've spent won't ever be noticed by people reading my new The Mixte Gallery blog, but hopefully it will help keep it organized. Also, I decided to try Wordpress for the new blog and there's a learning curve associated with that.

And online time has been at a premium lately; a click over to my Doohickie blog will explain why.

I'm still commuting though and doing my breakfast rides on Saturdays and maybe will begin to ride with another group that may form in Fort Worth, if Myles has his way.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Summer of Eternal Houseguests Continues!

We're in the middle of our third time (or is fourth?) time of having an out-of-town family member stay with us. This time it's Penny Candy's niece, NP Diva. On Wednesday the whole crowd of us went downtown for dinner and a movie to celebrate Penny Candy's birthday. We started with dinner Uno's Pizza.

Yeah, it was Uno's Pizza, but I'm the only one that actually ordered the Chicago-style pizza.

Mmmmm.....dig in!

After dinner we went over to the AMC Palace theatre and got our tickets.

This is an almost-formal portrait of NP Diva at the base of the DR Horton Tower across the theater.

We had some time to kill before the movie so while my sons went into Barnes & Noble to look around, the rest of us checked out the local scenery outdoors. There was outdoor music on the patio at 8.0.

Penny Candy ran into someone she knows from work.

People-watching in Fort Worth- the mr. had on cowboy duds and his mrs. had a Muslim headscarf.

Artsy-fartsy pics of Fort Worth architecture- looking straight up at the DR Horton Tower

The foreground here is the DR Horton Tower and in the distance its near-twin, the Wells Fargo Tower.

A contrast in styles- the very old Haltom's Jewelers and the DR Horton Tower.

One of the restored gems of Sundance Square housing several restaurants including Razoo's.

I forgot to take a picture of the Chisholm Trail trail mural on the other side. This building has radio studios in it (including one with a big picture window that looks outside on ground level.

The building behind it is simply "The Tower". It was razed by a tornado in 2000 but now has some of the most exclusive condos in the city.

Before the tornado it was the Banc One building. After the tornado, they built a new Banc One building (to the right of The Tower) going from a glass tower to a new-built art deco style building.

Finally it was time to go into the theater.

After the previews we took in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It was a good flick.

We've had a lot of fun this summer. Having guests to entertain means we get to enjoy our city in a way we don't usually do anymore, and we begin to remember all the things we love about Fort Worth.