Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm Just a Sensory Refugee in a Land Use Wasteland

I hear peepers and whippoorwills.  At least I think I do.  Sitting in the recliner in my living room with the windows open I can hear the night sounds over Hatton Creek.  Under all of the other noise I can still hear the peeps and whips.  Barely.

Some knucklehead was still mowing a half hour after dark.  Cars speed up and down the road that has—in recent years—far exceeded its capacity.  Like most of the other roads in the area it was probably built in its “modern” form during the WPA days of the New Deal.  Neglected dogs bark against their leashes and through their cages. 

Idiots on ATVs ride aimlessly up and down both the minor county road next to our house and the main county road in front of the house in defiance of state law.  A few years ago I had to sign saying I was okay with the conversion of the road beside the house from a long private drive to a county maintained road.  In hindsight…

It’s bad enough that we’re surrounded by people so unimaginative that all they can think of to do for entertainment is ride ceaselessly up and down the road on side-by-side ATVs burning up gallons and gallons of gas (TEXTING ALL THE WHILE!!!).  And when we’ve had enough and flag them down to ask them to stop they become surly.  As if our rudeness was unjustified.

There was a time when I felt like Hatton Creek was a peaceful refuge. It was a place I could retreat to escape from noise and movement and tension.  Now there are far too many people living in this drainage.  It’s not just a few large families but instead there’s a large number of families of only a few each and it seems like there’s an SOV for everyone.  My elder family has sold off many lots to endure long retirements.  The noise pollution from the scab subdivision down along the creek alone is enough to make the ears twitch.

No longer are my grandparents the only ones living up in the holler.  Traffic up and down their road (formerly the driveway) never seems to stop.  The ATVs keep circling our house.  I keep gritting my teeth.  I fantasize darkly about putting an 8mm round through the engine of each one that passes.

I’d hoped by moving back into this place where we didn’t want to be (everyone assured us that many of the negative aspects had changed while we were away) that I could at least have some space from the sensory overload that is modern civilization.  But it doesn’t seem as if that’s going to be possible.  My options are limited.

Used to if you were really quiet and held your breath you could hear the sporadic hum of traffic on the Mountain Parkway off in the distance.  These days all of the local traffic drowns it out.  When I was a kid it was pretty safe to just play in the road out front.  I learned to ride my bike by coasting down this yard and crashing into the elevated roadway.  I forbid my own children to go near it except to get on the bus.

And even the former driveway (with three houses on it now) has too much traffic for me to feel 100% comfortable letting them play there.  I do, but I watch every vehicle going up or down like hawk, lecture ready to spout, fists clenched as I hear them approach until I see a mature and responsible speed traveled.  Like I said if I’d known a few years ago how much development would have occurred in such a short time all around me I would never have agreed to the paving of the road next to my house.  I’m a NIMBY that way.

I used to feel close to nature here.  I used to feel like Hatton Creek was mine to roam and to enjoy.  I used to know everyone that lived in this watershed.  That’s all gone.  And those I still know have thrown up walls of misunderstanding and resentment.  Nothing is easy.  No one is neighborly.  Family doesn’t seem so anymore.

At ten o’clock on a Sunday night most of the noises have died.  But then some penned-up dog begins barking and encroaching upon the few moments of peace.  Where its penned I once hiked out in the snow and built a small fire using primitive methods.  I used to go out and lay in the tall grass of that field looking up at the sky where lawn ornaments and neglected toys lay and where would-be suburbanites now act out the mundane drama of their lives.

Quietly I dream of being wealthy enough to own a large tract of land.  Large enough to hide the bodies of those who would trespass on my peace.  Large enough I could sit in the middle and pretend the apocalypse has come and convince myself until contrails split the sky and the dream overhead.

Mostly what destroys the peace of Hatton Creek is the grumble of motors and the growl of jackass knobby tires on asphalt.   No, your life choices are no imposition on me Mr. Redneck.   Not that you’d care.  That’s what “freedom’s” all about isn’t it?  Doing whatever you like regardless of how it impacts your neighbors.  Give me some more of that!

Give me more ATVs driven by children on public roads!  Give me more target-shooting in residential areas!  Give me more mowing and barking and traffic and blown transformers and ugly tract houses!  Give them to me until I can’t stand anymore.

I’m too young to be that guy…y’know, the one grumbling at all the neighborhood kids to get off his yard.  But I’m fed up with the disrespect, the state of inconsiderate oblivion that most people move around in, and the thoughtless development that occurs for the sake of making a few quick bucks.

Maybe my contribution to society could be to get widespread buy-in for county-wide zoning…and then move away.  But zoning won’t bring back peaceful nights.  Zoning won’t keep rural areas from being developed.  Zoning won’t make me any less sensory defensive or less demophobic.  Zoning won’t make me like my neighbors any better, nor will it mend the rifts in my family.

In short, zoning won’t make any of us truly happy.  But as a Parthian Shot it could be very satisfying.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Dogwoods of War

I was dead on arrival at the base of Cobhill.  How maleficent (as in "bad") am I?  I thought.  Could I eat a little, stretch, rest, and maybe haul myself up the monster climb? 

Cobhill itself didn't worry me as much as Watson Ridge beyond.  It goes slightly beyond what I would call rollers and ends up being a series of short hills.  One maxes out at almost 20% and is just a couple of hundred yards long.

I was dog tired.  Jefestus rode KY 399 out to Heidelberg and then over to Irvine last week and said 399 was as good as Big Andy.  So why not combine the two? the scheming part of my brain kept asking in that nagging way that I hate.


Of course the route I chose--the route that made sense--put me at the base of Cobhill dragging 70 miles of Plateau surfing fun behind me.  I'd climbed Glencairn hill, Butler Ridge at the end of Big Andy, and a horrifically unmaintained climb out of Beattyville on KY 11.  Oh yeah, and that climb out of Heidelberg... Heil hillclimb!

Along Big Andy

Kentucky River at Heidelberg

Beginning the climb out of Heidelberg

Above Heidelberg on the way to Bear Track


I thought detouring to Bear Track would be beneficial.  I could drop in Janet's store, refuel, recharge and then charge on toward my destiny with Cobhill.  The long descent down Miller Creek should have been cake, but in fact it was a slog into a steady headwind.  At times I fought to maintain 14 mph.  At times 10.

A good place to rest, and there's a store right behind the photographer

I was a wrung-out rag laying crumpled up at the foot of Cobhill.  Home is so close from there, but there is so much climbing and so many rollers.  Rollers that at 10-20 miles out are fun, but at 70+ they just make you sick up.


I put off the inevitable evil by sitting down in the shade to begin composing this post.  And here I am.  What will I decide?  I've ridden less and felt worse.  I'm not cramping.  In fact, I felt okay, just a little wrecked.  But I wasn't trying to pedal the bike.  Typing is so much less taxing than crawling up the endless wall of Cobhill.

I dumped out one water bottle.  I feel so...pathetic.

Okay.  Cobhill it is.

[cue dramatic music]

Action shot of me near the top of Cobhill
Looking off the precipice...Cobhill

I'm not the maleficent beast I would like to be.  I'm a long way from malevolence apparently.  And sitting at the top of Cobhill feeling like the wrung-out rag that has been chewed up by a couple of pit bull puppies...?  If I lived at the top of Cobhill I'd be doing well.  I do not.  I might as well live 40 million pedal strokes away.

So as I lay on this metaphorical rock and wait for the angry crow across the road to come peck out my eyes I lay helpless, tangled up with my cursed bike, wishing for a quick end to it all...and a thought appears.  Why doesn't natural selection work like it was designed to?  I've been allowed to pass my scheming DNA to two other creatures.


I dragged myself out of the stupor I'd collapsed into after my walk of shame up Cobhill.  There was nothing left except to start pedaling toward home like the kicked puppy I felt.  I'd vowed no SAG before I left home and I meant to foolishly follow through.

Ugh.  I hate bikes.

I saw purple and white spots as I took off mashing down on the pedals for the long slog home.  They might have been the result of fried synapses or they might have been the lingering redbud and dogwood blooms and speckles of purple wildflowers everywhere.  It was hard to tell.  I'd been seeing those spots all day.
Seeing stars!

The last food I ate was at the bottom of Cobhill.  My gut wouldn't let me force anything else into it.

Sometimes letting go of the notion that you need to eat every half hour frees you to just ride.  Watson Ridge was torture, but I picked up the pace as I could feel the pull of home.

At least I wasn't wrestling a headwind after Cobhill.  Then I was blasting through Furnace.  Then I was in the home stretch.  My power was superficial.  I only managed to keep my speed up by maximizing the rollers.  If I didn't slam weakly down on the pedals on the downhills I'd have had to have granny-geared up even the smallest hills.  I was also gunning for the downhill b4 town Strava segment.  I knew what I'd been doing wrong, and I was determined to ratchet up a few places on the leaderboard.

I hit the apex at 20 mph and as gravity took ahold of me I pedaled with everything I had left.  Chest on saddle, fingers away from the brake levers I bombed down and down and down.  I didn't slow where I usually slow, and when I made the last curve before the long straightaway to the finish I cranked as hard as I could with no thought of slowing at the bottom.

I rocketed through the curve at the base and kept pedaling until I was beyond the end of the segment a few hundred yards further.  It felt like a fast descent.  I'd find out when I got home.

There is no way to return home without tackling a crux-type climb.  There really is no lesser of evils.  I've just got to tell myself that if Granny Moppet or Steamshovel kills me I can coast home from the top of either.  Granny Moppet took it's turn grinding me to a spiritual nub.

Then I was home.  I collapsed in a heap after stuffing two burritos and most of a quesadilla down my pie hole.  86 hard miles were behind me.  A week's worth of cares were obliterated.  When I looked at Strava I found I'd gone from 7th on the downhill segment to 2nd...and hit an amazing 52 mph.

Part of the last half of the ride was burdened with the turmoil of home and of the road behind me.  My...neighbors...have been troublesome.  Mandy had texted me while I was out and told me they were at it again.  I was grumbling inwardly and raging against the frustratingness of life.  My thoughts were muddied while I needed them to be more clear.

The ride was good.  Don't get me wrong.  Motorists were 99% well behaved.  My route was stellar.  Physically I didn't exactly rise to the challenge.  Last year I was still coasting on the base miles I'd been racking up in Colorado for five years.  I think they've finally worn off.

I was mourning my weakness.  The ride should have been crushing.  I should have ridden Cobhill clean.  I am a malevolent beast.  Just the fact that I decided to start up it when my computer read "70"...
The dogwoods have invaded!

Friday, April 25, 2014

THAT Kind of Transportation Planner

May is Bike Month.  I’m ready.  I’ve set up a meeting in my office to form a Bike Lexington Commuter Challenge team.  I’ve gathered all of the Bike Month, Bike Week, Bike to Work Day, Bike to School, and National Bike Challenge materials ready for saturation bombing.

I got all riled up and then realized that I will be at the Kentucky APA conference in Carrollton for three days of Bike Week and on Bike to Work Day.  Well…dernit.

Doesn’t matter.  I’ll be promoting the bike propaganda with abandon anyway. 

Regardless of whether or not there is any interest in my office I will be participating in both the commuter challenge and the national bike challenge.  Just for fun.

To get in the spirit of things I rode downtown for the Lexington Area MPO’s Transportation Policy Committee meeting on Wednesday.  It took 23 minutes to travel 5.4 miles halfway across town through windy suburbs.  I doubt I could have driven, parked, and walked to the council chambers in that amount of time.  The 23 minutes was basically door-to-door.  It took ten seconds to lock up the bike and I was inside signing in with security.

In the next two weeks I have FOUR meetings in town.  One is downtown again (BPAC) and the other three are all the way across town at the KYTC District 7 offices which is 8 miles one way.  But again, I think I can make it across town on the bike almost as fast as I could drive around town. 

And then there’s the KAPA conference.  It’s 107 miles from my house.  I can do that in a day.  Conference commute?

I was supposed to rip the CTL apart for bailing on me this weekend.  I decided to live and let live.  Lord knows I've bailed too many times on people.  But hopefully there will be a lot of good time spent in the sun by all this weekend.

And why not ride my bike across town to a meeting?


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ecstatic Tardy Terran Diurnal Anomaly!

I thought yesterday was Eartha Kitt Day.  I was so confused when I showed up at work dressed as Catwoman and no one else got the joke.

Yesterday was actually Earth Day.  I’d intended to bike my 45 mile commute, but the forecast was for rain.  I went ahead and got ready to ride anyway.  I wasn’t going to let a mere forecast thwart my plan.  I also went ahead and watered the potatoes I had planted last night for the exact same reason.  As sure as I didn’t then there would be no rain.  Ragnarok or no, I planned for the best.

The alarm went off at 4:45am and I checked the weather on my smarty-smart phone.  There was rain near Lexington.  In my sleep-fogged brain that was enough to cause an abort sequence that had me resetting my alarm for the normal time and climb back into bed.  I did not ride.

I said I was going to ride later in the week, but my schedule has suddenly taken a turn for the fuller.  I’m booked until Friday.  And Friday the CTL and I had planned on bikepacking to the Gorge. 

I drove to work.  On Earth Day.  I’ve also missed every World Car-Free Day since I first found out about the day.  Not intentionally, of course…

So I am a raging polluter and should be doused in tar sands oil in protest.  Go ahead.  I’ve got my eyes closed.

Things are different now.  Living in Kentucky has been a wakeup.  In Colorado the car-free lifestyle was somewhat normal, idyllic…feasible.  But after we moved back factors converged which locked me back into a 90 mile daily round-trip commute not including work-related travel throughout the day.  I’m not whining or complaining.  I made my choices, and I sacrificed a less impactive lifestyle with the hope that I could work to change things.  And I feel like I am in the best position I could be in to eventually affect change in a meaningful way.  I’m already starting to see the hints of a bright future.

For now I have to find contentment in a carbon-intensive lifestyle all-the-while knowing it’s not sustainable or prudent.  I won’t go into the limiting or contributing factors that keep me here.  Maybe as I unravel them I’ll share more of that.  My hope is that eventually (and not too far in the future) I can reduce my travel and increase my transportation self-reliance.

Then there’s a part of me that wants to throw up my hands and start doing my apocalypse dance.  It can’t come soon enough, after all.

And that leads me to mention a post which I will probably not publish due to some explicit language wherein I delve into the spiritual continuum on which I exist: abject indifference to enraged anarchism.  That ties in with my post from yesterday in which I made all four of my readers feel awkward.   

What I need in my life is simplicity.  What I want to do is trash facebook, twitter, email, blogs, digital photos, and computers in general.  I want to fling my iPhone across the pond and unplug the TV with a shotgun.  And then I want to move into a cabin on the edge of the woods near a fertile piece of ground for growing crops and grazing small livestock.  This would be a healthy change of venue for me.

Planting potatoes felt right.  I hope I did it right…not too much fertilizer, not too much overthinking and underwatering.  If I did we’ll have potatoes enough to get us through until next spring.  And that feels right.  That feels genuine and I want more of it.

These past few months I’ve discovered something positive about myself.  Yeah, really, positive.
I thrive in meetings and at conferences.  When there are discussions going on I am in my element.  I listen until I’ve coalesced all the bits of the conversation into a bigger picture of the issue, I identify the gaps, and then I share the holes I see with the group.  I’m a synthesizer.

I’m good at making good points.  But my good points are just the things I see that should be obvious to the group but for some reason are not.  My ideas are rarely novel or profound, they’re just hiding under the rocks that were already in the driveway when I pulled up.  I like discussion.  I like communication and conversation.  I don’t like reports, studies, seminar type environments where someone talks at me or there is some dry block of text to read and try to process. 

Anyway, Eartha Kitt Day was a bust for me.  And so was Earth Day.  I sat “under dull fluorescents in the same eight hour timeframe as a bunch of other pale, sallow people.” (The Oatmeal) and burned electricity like Genghis Khan conquering Japan with Fat Man and Little Boy and the Real Genius laser.  I don’t know if that makes any sense.  But it sounded good in my head.

I guess Earth(a Kitt) Day was a bust for me too because I didn’t get a book published.  Well, I would have had to have put forth some effort for that to occur anyway.  Right?  I am trying!

Happy late Earth Day.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Po-Tay-To or Po-Tah-To?

I was off half a day Friday as previously mentioned.  Okay, I’m off most of the time, but let’s try and stay on topic.  Ooh, shiny!

The plan was to go home wherein Mandy and I would build three potato bins (of “Grow 100 Pounds of Potatoes in 4 Square Feet” fame) and plant potatoes and other garden type plants in the afternoon time.

It didn’t work out that way.  The day was beautiful.  I travelled home expediently.  We obtained plants, seed potatoes, and we returned home.  After a few false starts I found myself sitting in the dark living room staring impotently at the screen of my iPhone.  There were myriad factors that kept me from being productive on Friday, but the underlying root of the matter was depression.  It just hit me full in the chest and settled there through most of the weekend.  There was no reason. 

The most frustrating thing about it was that I knew getting out in the sun and being active should be the best therapy I could give myself, but I was shut down like the EPA in a republican controlled world.  Saturday I set out on an intentionally epic mountain bike ride.  Friday night and Saturday morning I felt ambivalent concerning the ride.  I could have cared less if I rode or not.  I was most definitely not fired up to go and that wasn’t because I was scared of my own ambitious scheme.

Jefe wanted to do a big road ride, but considering the dry April weather and an impending May Mohican I just couldn’t relegate myself back to another paved ride.  I had to get out on dirt.

I dallied Saturday morning.  I didn’t get out until after 9am.  I climbed Furnace Mountain easily in my experimental 1x9 gearing.  It went fine.  I rolled out to Furnace feeling pretty good and marveling at the banners and bunting of redbud blooms skirting the roadway.  At Furnace I turned on Mountain Springs Road, and for a little while I felt pretty good.  But when I stopped to eat a little before descending fast past Crazy Kinley’s cabin (“Don’t shoot, your son is a good friend of mine!”) my spirits were definitely muted.

I’ve applied the moniker “The Hog Troughs” to the section between the last cabin heading east and Pilot Road.  ATVs and ORVs have rutted the road into near uselessness.  Even to themselves.  There were four-wheeler tracks around many of the big mudholes.  I botched the first Hog Trough, but only because I chose the wrong line.  Hog Trough #2 is the real beast and I made it maybe a third of the way up and then walked.  But I did clean the third Trough before bombing down to the last long section from Pilot up to the road.  The more mudholes I had to detour around the fouler my mood became.

Hog Trough #2

Mountain Chapel

A good place to rest in the midst of a mountain bike epic?

Proof that I wasn't cheating on an ATV

The "Nar's" (Narrows)

Popular historic dumping site

I rested at Mountain Chapel next to the cemetery.  I ate more.  I texted Dave L. that he should be out with me.  He’s a connoisseur of a good sufferfest too.  After I could rest no longer I dropped down on Red’s Hollow quickly to a long, steep gravel climb.  At the bottom I was certain I was going to walk it.  But after making it halfway and still being on the bike I decided I’d clean it or pass out trying.  In the loose gravel it becomes a real test of finesse to maintain traction and to not scratch out.  It was an even finer line with the 1x9 that I was used to.  I couldn’t gear down.  I just had to ply force and maximize traction.

Then I was up and over and within a couple of minutes bombing again down Barker Branch Road.  Blah, blah, blah, I rode a while and stopped to contemplate my route home.  Repeat.  Repeat.

I finally found myself on the Sheltowee Trace nearing White’s Branch Arch (somewhere along the way I climbed up to the "Nar's").  That’s when I came upon the two gentlemen hiking.

“How far to the bottom?” the older gentleman asked as I rolled to stop near them.

“Where are you trying to get to?” I asked to make sure I understood what he was asking.

“There’s a way down to highway 11,” he replied.  Ugh, they were in for a sufferfest if they wanted to head down Sterling Road.  Jeffro and I slogged up that on a scouting mission last year.  I have nothing good to say about the Forest Service since making that trip up Sterling Road.

I explained how to get there, and that once they started down and hit the massive section of blowdowns that they should keep going because the road opened up not much further down.

They cautioned me that beyond the arch heading toward the state park there were a lot of blowdowns.  Inwardly I groaned.  But quickly I determined that it would still be quicker to push on than to go back.  Plus, I was out of food and low on water.  Adding ten miles to the trip to avoid some deadfall seemed unnecessary.

Easily cleared section

Not so easily cleared or bypassed

Of course I acknowledged to myself that it could get really bad really fast.  I’ve done my share (and probably yours as well) of bushwhacking with a bicycle.  I know how bad it can be, and yet I soldiered on after wishing my fellow travelers good luck.

Despite the onerousness of the journey beyond the Narrows section of the Sheltowee this was the only section where I was able to focus on the moment and for a while forget my heavy mood.  As I’d traveled the easy section of Big Bend to where the United States Fascist Service obliterated the trail I hit the low point of the day.  I wanted to stop the bike, sit down, and just not move until someone came looking for me.  I was brain-tired and spiritually diluted.  Nothing seemed worthwhile to me at that point.  I was done.

But the challenge of getting through to Boyd Holler awakened the part of me that thrives through adversity.  The hikers were right: the ridge beyond the arch was insanely thick with trees hanging drunkenly toward the ground, and sometimes passed out in a throng across the trail.  One 200 yard section of trail was impassable, and the detour around was nearly as thick with small pines, greenbriars, and deadfall. 

I rode when I could, vowing to return with a bow saw in the near future.  The old road out there is amazing with lots of exposed sandstone to ride on, sweeping vistas visible for split seconds through the trees, and the challenge of some technical terrain courtesy of our very own USFS.

I paused at the top of Pot Hollow to text Mandy:

I’m not sure if the epic is almost over or just begun.  Got a mile or so of potential bikewhacking to get back to the main road.

The descent ended up being about like I remembered it from last year.  Again, it has potential, and just needs a little pruning and a few whacks from a mattocks.  At least it doesn’t suffer from mudholes anymore.

Finally I made it out to the pavement on South Fork and was beat down, but oddly, my spirits were somewhat raised.  I had no cell service, and after a few miles when my connection to civilization returned I saw I had a text from Mandy offering to pick me up in Bowen. 

Please! was my response.  I added that I’d meet her at Joe Bowen’s place.  He’s now a Bluegrass Bike Partner don’t you know?  We visited with Joe and talked local events for a while.  For a few moments I was coasting on the improved mood of my latter sufferfest.  

I didn’t get back to the potato bins on Saturday afternoon.  I wasn’t wrecked from my ride, but I didn’t have the will to be productive.  Sunday after church my family had a dinner for those with April birthdays.  We didn’t settled at home until nearly 3:00.  I knew if I was going to get those potatoes planted this spring it was Sunday afternoon or never.  And so I set about building three 2x2 bins and a low raised bed for lettuce and broccoli.  By the time Mandy returned home with The Boy from baseball practice The Bean and I had finished the bins, planted the potatoes and was mostly cleaning up. 

Getting ready for some row planting as well

And finally, for the first time all weekend, I was somewhat at peace.  The whole day on Saturday as I rode I meditated on how throughout my life I had felt those moments of apathy when I was in the midst of doing something I wanted to be doing, just for myself, and I wanted to stop doing it.  I was receiving no pleasure from the activity.  Before we had kids I was a prolific boulderer.  I would go out in the woods exploring with my two dogs and two crash pads until I found a cluster of boulders and then I would clean and climb as much as I could in a day.  If it was a good area I’d return and climb more.

Toward the end of my bouldering days I had more and more moments when I’d find myself in the woods, having walked aimlessly and then retreated in apathy back to the car without having climbed anything—and having repeated in the same day this process two or three times—only to find myself alone, with no desire to keep going, and absolutely no desire to return home without having climbed anything.  I’d hit these endless feedback loops and could never figure out what was going on.  Why was in so close to what I desired but unable to enjoy it?

I theorized back then that what I really wanted was human companionship and was lacking it.  But I’ve spent most of my life as a solo adventurer.  I truly love being alone and being self-reliant.  It fulfills me.  It had to be something else nagging me.

In the past year I’ve finally come to accept that I suffer from depression.  And I think the reason I never made the connection between my recreational apathy and my neurological malaise is because there are so many other factors that come into play when you’re exerting yourself.  You could have low blood sugar.  You could be dehydrated.  You could just be generally fatigued.  I assumed for so long that I was just overworking myself when it came to spending time in the outdoors. 

Saturday I was physically fine.  I had plenty of food up until the last hour, and that was when I felt best.  I had plenty of water until the last half hour I was on the bike.  The sun was shining.  I’d had plenty of rest.  There was no physical reason for my putrid state of mind. 

I wanted this post to be a light-hearted rendering of the weekend, but I can’t make it light-hearted.  I can’t sugar-coat this.  Most of my daily sugar-coating is an attempt to mask this I think. 

The bigger question for me is this: is the depression an effect of other issues I have (ADHD, SPD, etc), or is it a root cause that compounds the other issues?  Does it matter?

See, I didn’t have to change my whole blog format to write about gardening and my mental health issues!  I worked bikes into the story.  I could’ve even worked in a few of the transportation issues I pondered along the way as I rode on Saturday.   Like how and why so many ridiculously steep and curvy roads were built in the backwoods of Kentucky, and the disheartening demise of the country store, or what possessed the idiot who almost ran me over as I was making a left onto Joe’s road despite the fact that I had taken the lane and had given a left turn signal.

Tomorrow I promise to try and return you to your regularly scheduled asinine programming.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Dangers of Math

My current commute is long: 42-45 miles one way.  That’s a lot of miles a week.  Due to the topography and my impending middle-age it just wouldn’t be feasible (or sane, or defensible, or reasonable, or desirable) for me to be a full-time bike commuter.  As much as I would like to claim otherwise…

I’ve had a few conversations with my wife when we agreed it would be feasible once the days are longer and the weather more stable for me to ride one or two days a week.  Best case it would take me two to two and a half hours to make the ride one way.  And that’s after losing a few pounds and getting fit and fast.  Currently I don’t think I could do better than three hours one way.

After those discussions had stewed in my beanpot for a while I sat down one day to calculate all the loot I’d be saving.  I was surprised once I counted all the costs that it might actually be cheaper on the surface for me to drive my car than for me to ride my bike.  This is going to take just a little explaining, so bear with me.

Gas is about $3.25 to $3.75 a gallon these days.  I know that’s a wide spread, but this thought process has been a few months coming.  My car gets around 30 mpg give or take.  My commute is roughly 45 miles (I’m normalizing the numbers because it’s easier math for me).

Per day I spend about $10.50 on fuel for my car.  At first glance I thought by riding my bike I could easily save $10-20 a week by riding.  But then I started calculating how much extra food I would need to fuel my body to cover those distances in a reasonable amount of time (three hours or less).  I was surprised.

According to one online calculator I would burn about 5,400 calories just by commuting back and forth from work.  Then I started doing the financials on some common foods.  For a $3.00 loaf of bread I could claim 1,540 calories.  It would take about three and a half loaves of bread to provide the raw calories I’d need for my travel for the day.  That would cost me about…$10.50.

Then I calculated cost-to-calorie ratios of some other foods and kept coming back to about $10—and sometimes even more—to supply the needed calories for my scheme.  The only way I could maximize my superficial savings would be to fuel up on junk calories.  That seemed to defeat the purpose by sacrificing my health to save a few pennies.

Though I would sacrifice my health for one of these

I haven’t delved too deeply into the hidden and external costs yet, but I fear I may be as surprised once I do that.  It is easy to presume that the maintenance and upkeep of operating a bicycle is cheaper than that of doing so for a car.  I started thinking about it, and something occurred to me: the amount of rubber that is lost from a bike tire might be equal to the amount of rubber lost from a car tire on the same trip.  The difference is the beefiness of the car tire.  So is my monetary cost in rubber lost equal across the miles?  Presumably for moving the same amount of weight the same distance it would be if the rubber were of the same general grade.

The biggest difference then would be that the automobile commuter propels greater weight around than the bike commuter and therefore it may end up being cheaper only because of the difference in weight and mass, and not in the fuel itself.

To offset the caloric fuel costs the frugal cyclist could bum food, take advantage of free food opportunities like Easter egg hunts, Christmas stockings, and other random party favors; or in season he or she could look into gleaning from fruiting trees and shrubs along their ride.  I recommend The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer.  Of course, foraging will add time to your commute.

One last thing to consider is that in our corporatist society time is money.  Would you prefer to spend half an hour behind the windshield or an hour to an hour and a half behind (handle)bars?  Would you give up more of your day to commuting if you could convert that commute to active transportation?

On Friday I proclaimed that I would commute by bike to work tomorrow, April 22 Earth Day, and I fully intend on carrying through on that proclamation.  However, due to an overly soggy forecast I may have to bump my 84+ mile round trip commute until later in the week.  I’ve planned and prepared for a bike commute tomorrow; however, I have no intention of making such a long and mostly untested journey in rainy conditions.  Wednesday I have a meeting late after work which negates the possibility of riding then.  That puts me out until Thursday or Friday.  It will happen, and it will happen soon.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Field-Work Friday: Good Friday

I was pleasantly surprised last year when I discovered my office gave us half a day off on Good Friday.  I took advantage of the loosening of my cubicle/cage door and rode my vintage Bianchi sporty-sport bike the 42 miles from Lexington to home as was chronicled in a post entitled The Long Commute Home.  It was my first real bicycle commute since moving back to Kentucky from Colorado, and it was grueling in a good way.

I cut across southern Clark County and stuck close to the Kentucky River as much as I could to avoid roads with heavier traffic, but the trade-off was much heavier topography.  What I’d not anticipated was the poor gearing of the 1986 road bike.  It obviously wasn’t designed for climbing.  It killed me.
Since then I’d not had the chance to repeat that commute on a different bike and had considered catching a ride to Lexington Friday morning with the sporty-sport bike in tow only to return like a red blaze in the afternoon repeating my 2013 Good Friday route.  But then I came up with a better idea.
My wife (Mandy) had mentioned that Good Friday was the day you’re supposed to plant potatoes so I said we should build potato bins and plant potatoes and work around the yard since the kids would be in school for the afternoon.  She was agreeable so I changed my plans to ride, knowing there would be plenty of time over the weekend and going forward this spring (now that it’s warm) and we’d be burning good calories to grow some calories.
This morning a thought struck me…Earth Day is next Tuesday.  In my head I started composing a post for next Tuesday and I remembered this photo I took on Earth Day in 2011:
I-70 in Wheat Ridge, CO

You know it: I decided I am going to commute to and from work—84 miles round trip—next Tuesday if…yes, there is a condition…if the weather cooperates.  Realistically with a 42 mile commute it wouldn’t be worth it if I had to ride through steady or heavy rain or high winds.  That’s just too far to ride to work unless the conditions are within a certain range of acceptability. 
What I hope is that I can break the current commute barrier and begin regularly, when it’s feasible, commuting to and from work at least a couple of times a week.  I know that’s kind of shooting for the moon, but if I can pull it off even a couple of weeks a month then I will start to see an economic benefit really quickly.  If I were ever fit enough to really slay the ride and knock it out in around 2 hours each way I might be able to ramp it up to three times a week when the weather is primo.  The problem then becomes the amount of time I spend on the road.  In the summer, in the mornings, I’m really stealing time from no one, but in the evenings getting home at 6:30 pm regularly becomes a burden on my family.
Perhaps I can negotiate with my supervisor and find some flexibility in scheduling…
This should be the incentive for me to lose 30 pounds.  To be fast enough to make this commute in a reasonable amount of time I need to drop the weight.  Through dropping the weight, and by dropping the weight, I could save my family considerable amounts of money.
While this whole idea might seem crazy to some, my mind has evolved to the point, through experience, where I see this as a real possibility.  In practice it all may fall apart due to laziness or psychosomatic wussitide.
I’ve been itching to get out and ride more.  And of course I’m signed up for the Mohican 100(k) and have been riding my mountain bike exactly 0% of the time lately.  It’s coming out of the Bike Cave this weekend. 
In the very near future I fully expect to be able to report on early bikecragging attempts in the Red River Valley as well as some biketouring/packing activity.  There are also mountain bike trail construction days in my future.  Oh, the calories I will burn!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Redbud Nuclear Winter

Last Saturday was a beautiful spring day.  To me it felt downright hot as I pedaled my bike around the Cumberland Plateau.  

A lingering winter has delayed my body acclimating to warmer weather.  Thankfully I got to sit in an air conditioned cubicle all day on Monday, and THANKFULLY the high was only in the 30s on Tuesday.  The heavy wet snow was a nice touch.

The redbuds had just popped on Saturday.  They were sometimes hard to spot, and the expected splash of color just wasn't there.  By Tuesday there was a lot of purplish-pink splatters across the landscape, along with a hearty green tinge.  


Of course all of this was over-blanketed with white.  It was bizarre to see so much color under the snow.  

It was a brief return of winter.  2014 is kind of a winter zombie, undead and stalking our collective sanity, hangry for our brains.  Hopefully the decapitating relative warmth of the latter part of the week will end this horror/drama/comedy b-movie of seasons and we can just get on with the summer blockbusters.

I had a nice ride with my librarian yesterday eve' and I applied some highly technical gear to Tharp Ridge Road (the infamous "Water Church Hill") and determined its crux grade is nearly 17%.  I replicated the Star Trek-ish technology to Steamshovel Hill on the way home only to be shocked at its mere 16.6% grade.  Scandalous!

Of course you know what this means...this will be the summer of grade inventories...assuming it ever becomes summer.  This might just turn into Cycling Season Z.

Early morning in Stanton

Later on Tuesday near the state Capitol

Photographic Wrap-up of the Redbud Tale

And here are the photos I didn't manage to work into my previous posts.  Please enjoy!

London, Livingston, and all the smaller communities along the way were very hospitable.

Downtown London

PedalKY is the new statewide citizen's advocacy group

Alpine start, heading out of London
Loved the permanent signs indicating the routes!

Tom cresting the Greenmount-Victory climb

Hazel Patch Road

The century route ran with the Sheltowee in a couple of places

Livingston is Kentucky's newest Trail Town

And was very much in the spirit of things!

The carnage on Tussey Hill's final pitch from below
22% from the side

Tom killing it

More bicycle friendliness!


Jeaph Mowsur cresting Tussey Hill

Casey slaying it

Yeah, we gotta ride with this guy...

Yep, the Cannonball grinding up Tussey