Thursday, December 31, 2009

Riding Out the Year

Last year on this day I rode almost 60 miles on a bicycle. This year, not so much. This year temps were in the 40s and it was raining. I only rode 19. I rode on my new (Christmas) bicycle, a 2009 Schwinn Cutter.

The thing about the Cutter is that it is a single speed bike. All my other bikes have multiple speeds. If I need to climb a hill with those other bikes, I shift to a lower gear. To climb a hill on the Cutter I need to stand up on the pedals and mash my way up. Here's a map of my route today:

Yeah, the weather sucked, but the ride was pretty good. I was properly dressed (including some new wool gloves I picked up this morning for half price at Macy's). Also, the first part of my ride was into the wind, but downhill; the return trip was mostly uphill but at least the wind was at my back.

This "smiley face" elevation profile is typical for my ride since I live on high ground and usually ride toward the river. I rode on the Trinity River Trail for part of the ride. It was pretty much deserted.

I took some pictures at the low water crossing over the Trinity River.

Did I mention what a gray, desolate day it was?

Still, it felt great to get some miles in. Of course on the way home I stopped at The City Cyclist, where the staff was hanging out. Mike gave my Cutter a tuneup; when my wife picked it up before Christmas he didn't really have time to properly set it up.

The 19 miles I traveled today was the most I've put on the Cutter in one day. Riding a single speed bike takes a lot more out of me than any of my geared bikes.

Tonight we are going to a New Years Eve party. I hope everyone has a good evening and....


Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Just a couple posts ago, I was thinking my bike commuting days where through. My commute got more than twice as long and my knee was giving me trouble. Then my wife flummoxed me by buying me a new, unexpected and totally impractical single speed bike for Christmas.

I've used my break between Christmas and New Years to get to know the bike and take a few shortish rides on it. Being a single speed, I have to pedal at different tempos according to what kind of incline or decline I'm on, plus I need to get my butt out of the saddle occasionally to pound up a hill or accelerate from a stop. I think this was giving me a good workout and perhaps the varied pace helped my knee toughen up. But still, it was sore when I got home.

Until tonight. Tonight's ride was still shortish, about 10 miles, but when I pulled into the driveway my knee was totally pain-free. In fact the way it felt, I think I could have done another 5 miles without a problem. I was getting pretty discouraged about riding, but this single speed is curing me of that. Riding is fun again.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

It's a good thing that my wife understands this.

On my Christmas list, I had put a number of items, mostly tools for working on my bikes. My stretch gift, the one I never dreamed I get, was a single speed Schwinn Cutter that I'd been admiring at the bike shop. I figured I'd get some or all of the tools and that was it.

Instead, Mrs. Doohickie started at the other end of the list and got me the Cutter. I was in shock. I thought there must be some mistake. After all, I needed to work on the bikes I've got, I don't, ummm... errrrr... Wow. A new bike! My first new bike in 25 years!

Once I suspended all operations in the practical portion of my brain I realized this was the best present I could have gotten. Getting tools would have meant more work. This present is nothing but fun.

So far I've taken the bike out for only a short ride around the block, but it helped me rediscover something I was starting to forget about cycling: IT'S FUN!

On my geared bikes, when I spin out at the top of a gear, it's time to shift to a higher gear and pedal harder, only to top that out and upshift again, until I'm maxed out, working at peak efficiency, man and machine at maximum output.

Riding a single speed is different: You have to work hard in the beginning for a couple of strokes, then you're up to speed and can really accelerate. But eventually you run out of gear and..... WHEEEEE! It's time to coast! Multi-speed bikes are very businesslike and efficient; single-speeds are fun, even childish. Like I said...


I have a little time off work. That will give my knee time to heal. Eventually I'll start my new 16 mile commute. I'll work all that out. In the meantime, it's time to have some fun on a bike.

Thanks to Mrs. Doohickie for starting at the other end of the list. I never expected that.

UPDATE (Dec 27): The bike came with a set of decals in several styles. I used the same style Schwinn shows in the Schwinn Catalog: Traditional block letters spelling SCHWINN on the downtube, and the model name on the top tube. I think the bike looks pretty sporty with this livery.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Scenes

I will start my post about Christmas by presenting a picture of the tackiest house on our street. No, it's not ours.

'Round here, we do a Christmas pageant at our church. This year I reprised my role as Cow #2 (in this pageant, the cows tell the story). Here are a couple pics from the rehearsal. First, one of the wise men:

Then the baby Jesus, along with his mom and dad as Mary and Joseph. For the actual pageant they cleverly disguised big brother as a donkey.

The actual pageant went off okay, despite the fact that Cow #2 was blinded by the spotlight that was the star above the manger and couldn't read some of his lines. (Thanks to Cow #1 for the help!)

We belong a church, but attend that church and two others kind of regularly. Our friend Betsy preaches at a small church and we heard her sermon based on the charge the Angel Gabriel gave to the heavenly host before they went to honor the birth of the Christ child. She really got into her role, wings and all.

Finally it was Christmas Eve. Shortly after we awoke, the snow started. Our thermometer said it was too warm for snow, but the snow disagreed. Either way, the weather stick pointing down always means nasty weather.

The plan for Christmas Eve was to go to church at the Episcopal Church where our son sings in the choir (they hire a few college students). Then we would go to church at the Presbyterian congregation where we are members.

As we drove to the first stop, we marveled at the snow that was falling. This might be our first White Christmas in Fort Worth in many years.

As we walked into the church, we saw this snow was getting serious.

The drive home was treacherous. My son lost control at one point and skidded across a couple lanes. Luckily no other cars got involved.

So once we got home, we decided to stay. Services at the church we belong to were canceled on account of the weather, and that was fine with us. The snow seems to be over, but the wind is still whipping around pretty good.

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas. And stay warm!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Depressing...

I'm changing jobs. Instead of 7 miles, my commute is now 16.

My knee hurts, especially when riding distance.

Is this the end of my bicycle commuting?

I hope not.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Worst Breakfast Ride EVAR.

Although the crowd was small- there were only five of us- the ride to breakfast was fine. The weather wasn't even too bad despite the cold temperatures; I think all of us were properly attired. Breakfast was fine. I rode with the group back to where they get on the trail and instead of riding back to the starting point with them I set off on my own to ride home.

The first couple miles were fine, but then my left knee started to hurt. No biggie, I thought, I've felt a little pain in my knees before and just rode through it. But this time it got worse and worse and worse. I actually had to stop a few times to get off the bike; at that point I was having muscle spasms in my leg. The up-hills were the worst. I considered calling the wife and sagging home, but pressed on.

Then the achy knee started to get downright painful. When I rested the knee it was hard to put weight on it. Still, I thought I could make it home. I was getting close- about a mile out- and then it happened: the rear tire went flat. I noticed it in the median of of a road.


From there I just got off the *@$##& bike and walked the rest of the way home, knee hurting, rim bouncing on every little bump.

I made it home in one piece. I popped some Advil and crashed for a couple hours. The knee's been sore but not very painful after that. Since I'm transitioning job sites and going back and forth, I'm not bicycle commuting right now. Hopefully the rest will let the knee heal.

I think the cause might be some adjustments I made to the bike; I think I may have been hyper-extending the knee on the downstroke. So I lowered my seat a little bit but I still haven't fixed the flat. Maybe over the holidays I'll feel like dealing with it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

And be careful with knives while you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner. In other words, don't be like me!

WARNING: Link leads to self-inflicted gore.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Long Breakfast Ride

This morning's solo breakfast ride included an extensive off-road portion, a delicious breakfast, and a good deed.

I recently found Fort Worth Architecture's site, including a forum, and read a post about an abandoned rail spur not too far from my house. I decided to try to ride the spur and see what it is like.

I rode to the spot where Southwest Boulevard crosses the rail line and followed it north.

In the first section of the trail, it runs behind several back yards. The rails are gone but the road bed is still there and solid, even though it is overgrown with vegetation at places.

There is a large open area in there that would make a nice park.

The bridge that crosses Camp Bowie Boulevard is still usable, although there are too many exposed nails to actually ride a bike across it. If this were ever turned into a bike trail it would be easy to put a new deck on it though.

The next section is similar to the previous section, except that it runs between businesses and is not as overgrown.

After that there is a section where it was not really possible to follow the actual railroad bed. But it runs along the west edge of the Z Boaz municipal golf course and there are no fences to block access (on the south side there is a fence along the road, then it turns in and runs a short length, but then it just ends).

So I just rode along the edge of the golf course for most of it, and used the cart path for a good bit of it. At the north end I followed into the parking lot of a Fort Worth maintenance center that is behind Rick's Cabaret (a strip joint), then out through the Rick's parking lot.

A little north of the golf course the rail line crossed I-30. The bridge across the freeway is still there and in great shape. In fact there was fresh crushed stone on the bridge so it is being maintained. To get to that bridge, though, I had to cross the access roads (which had rail crossings when the line was active), four of them total, which carry high speed traffic.

North of the freeway the track ran just west of Ridgmar Mall. The railroad bed is prominent here; it is raised above grade level. It is easy to follow.

I crossed Route 183 at the traffic light at the west entrance to Ridgmar Mall.

From there, I picked up the trail up again behind Ridgmar Farmer's Market.

Following the rail line took me around the south end of Naval Air Station Fort Worth. There is a narrow stone trail here which I followed. As it got around the south end of the base and swung north, it got more and more rough; I almost went over the handlebars at one point. It looked like the trail ended so I jogged over toward Spur 341. (Looking at Google Maps, I don't think it ended, but it appeared that way when I was on the ground.) There is actually a barbed wire fence I had to get over to get to the Spur 341 right of way. No pictures of this; I didn't want any visits from base security.

From there to White Settlement Road, I rode on the shoulder of Spur 341. I used the White Settlement Road bridge to cross 341, then picked up the trail again. I went north on the rail path

...and it was pretty clear until I got to a creek.

The trail ended there for me because there was a sheer drop of at least 10 feet. The footings for the old rail bridge are still there. I could see the Lockheed plant from there; it was just maybe a quarter mile away.

For the return trip I followed the same path except I continued on the rail bed south of White Settlement Road.

Very passable, except that it is used as parking lot space for a private business just west of Grants Lane.

Continuing on, I got on Grants Lane (which is basically a two-way low speed frontage road for 55 mph Spur 341 which runs just east of Grants) until I got to Colton Drive and crossed 341 there. There was a break in the barbed wire fence here so I went across and picked up the path.

It wasn't on the same path I came in on; there are two paths that run parallel to each other, with a wet drainage area in between. This one was not the railroad bed, just a dirty clearing area at first, then a barely visible two-track path through the grass which, it turned out, was much easier to navigate than the path I followed originally. I encountered some pedestrians using this path to walk from the residential area west of Grants Lane to Ridgmar Mall.

The path comes together with the stone path right behind the Farmer's Market. I was hoping to grab some breakfast at the Farmer's Market but they open at 11 for lunch. I ended up getting cruising down Camp Bowie Boulevard looking for somewhere to eat and came upon Galligaskin's Submarines on Camp Bowie with signs advertising breakfast burritos.

The breakfast menu:

At last- food!

This was the "small" burrito and it was packed. It was the kind of thing that once you pick it up, you can't put it down.

I thought $2.75 for a fresh made breakfast burrito was a pretty good price.

I continued west and started to follow I-30. I rode past Arlington Heights High School, then turned around when I spied an old Schwinn locked up to the railing.

It's hard to see in the picture but the chain guard said Schwinn Panther; I would guess it was from the 1970s. Since I had stopped I decided to take a few pictures of AHHS which is a classic old school building.

Since it now faces out toward I-30, the effect of Western Avenue, a stately medianed boulevard feeding into the front of the high school is lost. Now there is simply a pedestrian bridge over I-30.

That was enough for a breakfast ride, and I headed for home. But wait... I haven't gotten to the good deed part yet. This is Jim.

Jim is visiting daughter in Fort Worth from Iowa. He has a nice older Trek he brought with him to tour around Fort Worth. He had ridden the Trinity Trails but was attempting to loop back to his daughter's apartment on Bryant Irvin on the surface streets. Since the only map he had was a Trinity Trails map, it didn't serve well to help him navigate through the streets. I passed him and waved hi, and he waved back. I looked around and noticed that he was just kind of sitting there, not really riding, where the train trestle crosses Trail Lake near Granbury.

I pulled around and asked if he was lost and he replied, "Oh boy, am I!" So we rode Trail Lake southwest. After crossing Hulen we cut across Granbury to Granbury Cutoff and over toward the southwest hospital district. When we got to where I could give him easy directions for getting back to Bryant Irvin Road, I left him and headed back home. I heard nothing of disoriented visitors or downed cyclists in the evening news, so I can only surmise he made it back okay.

I did almost 40 miles, but with the off-road portion it felt like more than that by the time I got home!