Thursday, May 29, 2014

It's Not the Heat, It's the Reality

I hate spring.  By the end of winter you just want to be outside without numb toes or windburnt cheeks.  Spring rolls in, everything turns green promising blue skies and sunny days, and for a few days at least life is good.  Then it gets hot.  Walking in the woods becomes an awkward dance of avoiding spiderwebs and skipping over snake look-a-like branches.  Bugs bite.  Lawns grow.  Spring rains turn into summer saunas.

My hope for the Mohican is cool temps and low humidity.  According to online sources (I know, pathetic, but still better than a weather rock) the weather looks great.  I am stoked.  Stoke-ED.
Y’know, I’m just going for a long mountain bike ride on Saturday.  It’ll be fun.
What happens when I get back?  Well, I begin running.  I want to be as fit as I can be by September.  I want to lose all of my lazy-fat and get slim and fit.  I want to be a well-oiled machine come Rugged Red time.  And I want to feel like I have a fighting chance at completing a 50k trail run around the time of the Cloudsplitter 100.  We’ll see what happens then.
Bike shop guy informed me that I have a Strava fan.  The guy’s faster than me, a better climber on the bike, but he has been perusing my rides because I pick good routes.  To me that’s a hard-to-beat compliment.  I’d rather someone be excited because I turned them onto an enjoyable route than feel crushed because they can’t steal a KOM away from me.
But if I lose 30 pounds he won’t be able to steal away any more from me.
Ah, it’s all in good fun!  Right?
This week has been a whirlwind of good ju-ju.  I’m on the cusp of being a certified planner.  Some things are churning behind the scenes that might just play out into a huge career step for me.  And my community is moving along a progressive and encouraging path.  I’m trying to be the one to bring all the existing threads and strands of effort together into one cohesive cord. 
The more I talk with people the more positive energy gets a-boilin’ and the closer we’ll be to seeing some real beneficial plans and actions. 
I’m posting this late on Thursday.  I was out this morning on a field trip and was unable to get something posted before lunch.  I’ve been nibbling at this post for a few hours in between other things.  I apologize in advance, but I promise by Monday you’ll most likely have a long, drawn out, ramblicious, and hilarity-filled Mohican 100k trip report.
And I can say right up front: it ain’t no trip to Cleveland.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Green Crush

If you've been reading my blogs for very long you know I like to make bold (and sometimes ridiculous) assertions and proclamations.  It's just kinda this thing I do.

Recently many checks have come due.  I said yeah I'd take the AICP and become a Certified Planner.  I gave in to peer pressure and signed up for the Mohican again this year.  Tuesday I took the AICP.  Tuesday I didn't quite crush the exam, but I did pass it.  By one point.  It's not official yet, but I'm confident in a few weeks it will be.

The Mohican looms.  It's the same old song and dance.  I didn't lose any weight.  I didn't train enough.  Now time has run out.  I'll do as well as I can do.  My only real goal was that I wanted to best my Alpine Odyssey time of 6:45 for the 100k.  Well, that and to finish.  I don't know how I'll do.  I'm just going to go and have fun.  No stress.

I had so much free time this past holiday weekend that I had decided at some point I was going to bike to Long Wall, rope-solo Big Country, and return home victorious.  Due to my other housekeeping and fitness activities I failed to muster the gumption to make that trek.  It is high on the list of treks still to make.

One of those fitness activities was a return to Pilot Knob for a trail "run."  Technically it was more of a run/hike because I'm fat, but the upside is that I didn't sprain the heck out of my ankle like I did last time I trail ran there.

Looking west from the promontory

Otherwise I didn't run or bike over the four days (I'm counting Friday) though I did work diligently on the backyard trail and in the garden.  I did study for the exam.

Tuesday I did make it over to Cave Run Lake (CRL) and I rode the ridge section of the Sheltowee Trace with Dave and Dirty Harry.  I beat them there and decided to get in as much riding as I could.  I climbed up from the visitors' center and rode out Lakeview Ridge.  As I left the Sheltowee fat drops of rain fell.

I didn't go far before turning back and at the junction with the ST I stopped and dried off a bit.  I had a text from Dave that they were getting ready to head up.  And then another that they were going to wait out the rain.  Then the rain started falling on me in earnest.

Finally I got another text that they were coming so I got ready.  Standing in the woods in the rain with nowhere to go is actually quite relaxing.  The ride at Cave Run was my victory lap after taking the exam.  I was enjoying it to the fullest.

Dave approaching the Sheltowee/Lakeview Ridge junction

Harry came out of the soup first.  He swam ashore out of the flood of humidity.  Dave lagged slightly behind.  We commiserated a few minutes before striking off for "the sign" (at the Big Limestone Trail junction).  I felt infinitely stronger from that point on. The climb up from the VC is a tough warmup.  The ridge proper gently rolls and sucks you in to the deep end of speed.  Current conditions are thick growth overhanging the trail and despite the rain dry as a boneyard. 

I blew my line a few times.  I reined it in but only just.  I glided and gouged over the roots and rocks like a surfer on a perfect wave.  I was deep in a state of flow and reluctant to re-engage with the confines of time.

We gathered at the sign for a few minutes and talked shop.  When thunder rumbled back over the lake Harry reared like a wild buck.  It was time to chase ourselves out of the woods.

My warm-up was complete, and I gunned for glory.  I didn't hold back on the downhills and I jumped up and down on the pedals to coast over the small hills.  I only slacked on the long final descent, the uphill crux, until I was back on a wider section of trail, and then I throttled up for the final push.

Despite Harry's gunshyness (from a recent broken collarbone at CVP) he came rolling into the parking lot right behind me.  He really wanted off that ridge before the rain came.  Of course it never came.

For a final hurrah before the Mohican it was beneficial.  Am I going to go wide open in Loudonville?  Uncertain.  I'm going to go.  I feel good after Cave Run though.  I don't feel quite like Superman, but I feel good.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Remember, Remember It's Not Yet November

Local primaries were held.  Being an independent means I literally can't participate in some decisive votes.  That sucks.  Party politics distorts democracy.  Down with party politics!

Anyway, while some slots were filled there are still some decisions to be made in a few months.  I'll get to participate in democracy at that time. 

Since life has become overly complicated and I have so many things going on all at once I have decided to take a Memorial Day Memorial Blog Sabbatical until next Wednesday the 28th.  I need to focus my attention on passing the AICP exam.  I've just become the primary pinner-upper for a big project we're wrapping up at work because the previous primary author of the plan will be induced into labor tomorrow.  More on the plan later.  I'm also wearing a pannier-load of hats at the moment and I'm desperately trying to juggle all of my duties.  There just aren't enough hours in the day.

And let's not forget the Mohican...

Also, the Crash Test Librarian has gone into full editor mode on my book draft.  Once he redlines the mucus out of it I'll begin a serious final effort.  I'm not there yet, but it's coming up fast.

Hope you have a good holiday.  Ride like you mean it, and check back next Wednesday.  Maybe I'll have a cargo bag-load of good news and fun adventures to share.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Vindicatory Celebration

In October, 2011 I wrote about a frustrating issue I had with our mortgage holder:

Our mortgage there has been held by at least four different lenders in seven years. The current lender, CitiMortgage, tried to force us to get floodplain insurance last year. The house is absolutely not in a floodplain. They told me I was going to have to hire a surveyor. Fortunately we had already had the property surveyed and I finally convinced them we didn't need the floodplain insurance. But by then they had already started paying for the insurance to "protect their investment." And they charged us for it. If my parents hadn't needed a place to live I would have told Citi: "The keys are under the mat. Enjoy your waterfront property." But I didn't have that luxury.

I distinctly remember telling my wife that I knew we were being scammed.  I had no way to prove it, and didn’t think I had any recourse, but I was certain what Citi was doing wasn’t legal.  I found out about the scam when we received a notice that Citi had “purchased flood hazard insurance on [our] behalf.”

Over the past weekend I got the mail and found something incredible.  There was a class action lawsuit against Citi and we have been notified that we’re an eligible class.  What that means is that because I had to put up with Citi’s asininity we’ll be compensated. 

It’s satisfying knowing that my instincts were correct and my experience served me true.  See, I had worked for an engineering firm in Lexington way back in 2007 (the year I bought my first real sporty-sport bike) and my job description was “creating and editing DFIRMs.”  DFIRMS are Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps.  Not only did I smooth out the edges of the floodplain shapefiles and rectify digital floodplains with historic floodmaps, but I also ran a script which created rasters from the digitized stream stations and converted them to the shapefiles that myself and my coworkers edited. 

So when I argued with the Citi customer service rep (whose second or third language was English) on the phone I was the one in the binary equation who had the empowering knowledge.  I looked up the floodplain for our house.  I didn’t need to; I was already certain the house wasn’t in a floodplain.  I’d seen water flowing during a 100 year flood event and it was nowhere close to the house.  Physically the water can’t reach our home from the closest stream.
Red is house, big blue thing is the floodplain.
Land slopes upward from road to house and the basement floor
is probably five feet above the floodplain.
During the worst flood event in my lifetime
that floodplain didn't conform to the map at all.
When Citi told me I had to prove my home wasn’t in the floodplain I was fortunate that we already had a land survey of the property for another reason.  If we hadn’t there’s no telling how much we’d have had to pay an engineer or a surveyor for an elevation certificate.

After I corrected the issue and Citi removed the flood insurance requirement from our account I discovered they had not refunded the money we’d already paid (for two or three months) and I was furious.  Another frustrating call and they told me they wouldn’t refund the money because I actually had flood coverage for those months.  On a house that was not in the floodplain and never had been.

I don’t know what our compensation will be.  And I really don’t care.  It’s really about the principle of the matter and not money.  The impact to us, while not insignificant, wasn’t onerous enough to cause financial ruin.  It was certainly annoying and inconvenient.  Had we been forced to cough up the dough for a survey or elevation certificate in the end we might have been out thousands of dollars as I’m sure many involved in the scam were.

Having grown up near a small community with frequent flood events I vowed at an early age that I would never own a home within the floodplain.  It was satisfying to make that realization and stick with it when we bought our two different homes.  And I’ve been continually cognizant of floodplains when renting and for that matter just in my day-to-day life. 

I know this isn’t like winning the lottery, but it does feel like we won against injustice even if we didn’t even know the fight was going on.  At the very least it has motivated me to look deeper next time my gut instinct tells me something seems fishy.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Quick and Dirty

This really will be.

Last Thursday locals called dispatch to report oil leaking into a creek in the Red River watershed.  Media reports state that thieves had stolen piping from an abandoned oil tank and up to 1,000 gallons of oil had leaked into the stream which feeds the South Fork of the Red River that ultimately empties into the Red River upstream from where my family gets its tap water.
Am I concerned?  Oh yeah.  Am I going to do something about this?  Oh yeah.  What am I going to do about it?
I don’t know.  I have an ultra-top-secret scheme brewing.  It’s long term.  And who knows what will become of my master plans.  But it’s a plan.  I went into planning to save the world and just maybe with my new plot for world domination I can actually affect that to some degree. But it’s going to take years.

The reality is that this region has hundreds—nay, more likely thousands—of abandoned and decaying oil production accoutrements being overtaken by the local temperate rainforest climate.  While the speculation is that a thief caused this leak, I’ve seen with my own eyes evidence that there are many of these tanks an pipes leaking directly into the ground and groundwater all over the region.

Much like any other extractive industry, the oil industry in the Red and Kentucky River watersheds takes what it wants and leaves the junk behind for the local communities to deal with.
As a member of the local community I’m really not happy about that.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Relaxed Pace

Two events are looming on my horizon: sitting for the AICP exam, and the Mohican 100(k).  Not that I won’t have other things to do after those paramount events pass, but a lot of stress will evaporate after the Mohican retreats.

I’ve seriously considered trading the sporty-sport bike for something more my style.  In a day or so I have a little bit of good news to announce, and that news relates to the “need” for a more suitable commuter/touring bike.  I’ve had my eye on Mark’s Disc Trucker for some time, and maybe now is the time to begin staging a hostile takeover. 
You’re probably asking yourself why I would steal a bike from a friend and librarian.  I’m asking why you don’t just send me money to help me buy a fleet of Surly-themed bikes.  Disc Trucker, Krampus, ECR, Ogre.  Why would I need three mountaining type cycles?  It’s secret.
The thing is…the sporty-sport bike makes me feel nimble and quick.  It feeds my speed-obsessive nature.  It makes me feel like I could be a contender.  We all know otherwise, but still…
Anyway, I went for a ride with Mandy and Casey the other day.  We did the obligatory Gorge Loop.  Since I had previously broken three hours I had nothing to prove, and I opted to ride the Cannonball.  Limiting myself on the heavier bike was actually relaxing.  I had my camera.  I wore real clothes.  It was just a nice ride.
The weather was perfect.  It wasn’t too hot, and I wasn’t freezing like I had been Friday night at Bean's softball game.  The cooler weather is nice, but I was almost ready to pack up all the winter clothes.  Glad I didn’t.
For the most part I rode to myself as Mandy and Casey chatted.  I enjoyed the scenery and took a few photos as we surfed the dapples on the pavements under the green canopy of trees.  Mostly I just rode along with my thoughts and lived for a time in memory, thinking back on days of my younger years when I enjoyed true unabashed freedom in the days before school loans and the responsibilities of being a husband and father.
But I didn’t feel free then.  At that time in my life—when I roamed at will through the Red River Gorge and sometimes hiked or climbed eight days a week—I felt enslaved to my youth and inexperience.  I didn’t have money or the means to make money.  I was enslaved to low paying jobs, no local opportunity, and no examples of success to pattern my life after.  I felt enslaved to destiny and so I set out to find my way out of the dark valley of my life.
There was a lot of traffic on Sunday
I was successful.  I found a family.  I worked ridiculously hard to finish college, get a degree, and start down a career path…even if it was a bit late in life.  I was free to determine my own path, and the course of my days when I was younger, but I wasn’t empowered like I am now.  I didn’t have the amazing support of an incredible wife and the love of two truly amazing children.
Saturday night I swapped out Mandy’s drivetrain.  I gave her a new chain and cassette on her bike.  She’s been riding enough that she really had worn them out.  My own drivetrain needs some love as well, but since she primarily rides one bike and I spread out my travels on three, I had to prioritize hers.  And I’m glad I did.  She has a couple extra teeth to climb with.

And climb she did!  Despite the crazy motorists who insisted on passing three cyclists in a steep curve Mandy killed it.  We stuck together and in about 12 minutes we cranked up the stout hill.  It wasn't easy, but even after expending all that force to climb up on the ridge we all still had plenty left to carry us home feeling good.
We had a good ride.  We made great time despite it being a social ride.  After a long pause at Sky Bridge Station for Ale-8s and some tech cord (oh, we be climbin’!) we pushed for home.  And we pushed hard.
Casey peeled off at South Fork and Mandy and I set into a solid pace on home.  When it was all said and done our overall average was a full mile an hour faster than their usual pace for the Gorge Loop.  And it wasn’t because I was pulling draft duty.  They stayed out front most of the time and set the pace.  I was truly along for the ride.
Saturday I had started a descent.  The big picture was dragging me back into the mire.  I was wrestling again with demons and dragons.  I was mortally afraid of where my week was headed.  But the ride, and subsequent garden work (we have quite a bit of greenery in the ground to take care of) seemed to boost my spirits out of the muck.
I’d had some trouble with the mountain bike.  Broke that spoke, Jeff fixed it and five others and trued the wheel, and then when I put the tire back on the valve stem leaked and I couldn’t stem the flow.  After digging in the dirt for a bit I retreated to the Bike Cave and fiddled with the wheel for a while and sorted it all out.  Monday morning I subjected The One (my trusty mountain bike) to the indignity of being hauled on the back of my car to work so I could ride at Veteran’s Park at lunch.
There is no relaxing at VP.  I go full out.  When I go to there I go to fight.  And I don’t expect to come back without feeling like it.  It’s a different kind of relaxation though.  It’s a full on mind flush-out.  I can’t do much thinking or pondering when I’m slamming down on the pedals and my chest is heaving to the point of bursting.  VP is about maximum effort for me.  That’s why I go at 11:00am through the week.  Nine times out of ten there’s no one else on the trails.  And then on the tenth time I almost run over babies walking by strollers pushed my mothers who don’t realize it’s a mountain bike trail, or trailrunners who have to have their dogs and tunes while the mosey along the bike trail, or nature lovers oblivious to the sub-Clyde mass barreling at them at a high rate of speed.
Yesterday I felt like I was giving it 200%, but Strava tells a different story.  I was going all out, standing up on the pedals to climb hills I normally cranked from a seated position, tucking deep into myself to keep from clipping small (and large) trees with my shoulder and head, and I finally figured out the berms and rode them as fast and as hard as I could.  No dice.
I must have been calorie deficient.  While I was putting forth the maximum physical effort, I must have been running low on fuel.  On the very last turn before exiting the woods my front tire skidded and I ended up splayed out in the trail with some nice mudrash to take back to work.  Stung a little.

Man, I was sure I was sparking a whole slew of PRs though.  It felt like I was back on the moon of Endor chasing Jedi.  I mean, that’s why we mountain bike, right?
Oh well, there’s always lunch today.

Monday, May 19, 2014


Lately I’ve been busy at work.  The organization I work for went from a Planning staff of three to uno.  That uno is me.  Our Land Use Planner left to go work for KYTC and a couple of weeks later our Senior Planner resigned.  While I’m the Transportation Planner, I am also the only person on staff with formal Planning experience.  Therefore I became the de facto interim DIY Land Use Planner as well.

During the mass exodus I received my denial/approval to sit for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam.  I was initially denied based on my response to one of the qualification criteria, but that particular response had previously been accepted, so after my outraged protests I was approved.  It was a two-edged blessing.  While I was happy to be able to take the exam, I had less than two months to prepare.

And then my occupational ecosystem crashed.  Too much was due all at once, and I had no one to rely upon to help my paddle away from the end-of-the-month cataract deadline.  During that last week of April I was seriously in danger of losing my ever-loving mind.  I persevered.  And now I have some breathing room in May.

My exam date is May 27.  They say successful exam-takers study 80 to 100 hours in preparation.  I have two weeks before the exam and have studied not one whit.  I’m hoping I can reschedule the exam to November.  I wasn’t aware that the possibility existed before yesterday morning.

I attended the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association’s (KAPA) annual conference at General Butler State Park near Carrollton.  Initially I had intended to attend the various general sessions offered at the conference, and then I noticed that all day each day there was a marathon AICP exam prep session.  I had to go to that.  I couldn’t justify skipping the prep sessions.

On a side note, I was also there two accept two awards for plans created by my organization.  I was primary collaborator in an environmental justice study that won for small jurisdiction.  But it was actually an acceptance speech by Judge-Executive Henry Bertram of Pendleton County after he received an award for outstanding civic/elected official that stuck with me.  His county isn't in Eastern Kentucky, but he encouraged all of the planners in the room to do what they could to reach out to Eastern Kentucky and try to get ahead of the curve as coal ceases to be the primary economic factor in the region.  It got me thinking.

At lunch the speaker made a good case for marrying planning and public health.  One of my cohorts from KYTC spoke up and the conversation about public health and transportation got me thinking hard.  I've still got some processing to do, but I think this is really a key equation.

Thursday after the sessions were over I went back to the room, changed into my running clothes, and took off for the lake trail.  All of the other trails in the park are currently closed for maintenance, which is why I didn't take the mountain bike.  I had a good run, but I'm just really out of shape.  It wasn't as enjoyable as I would have liked for it to be.

I had dinner at Down on Main Street in CarrolltonCarrollton is an Ohio River town and is quite picturesque. Down on Main Street has a phenomenal $6 burger.  I wandered around taking pictures after eating before I returned to the state park lodge for the night.

Downtown Carrollton

Carrollton and the Ohio

In the room as I was planning my return route home I realized Carrollton is only 13 miles from Port Royal.  Port Royal in Henry County—as you certainly know—is the home of Wendell Berry.  How could I not swing through ole Wendell's town and gamble on bumping into one of my favorite authors?  

Port Royal, KY

Friday morning I finished up my AICP session and headed home by way of Port Royal.  I was passing through Jayber Crow country.  I didn't see Mr. Berry leaving the post office, or heading into Rick’s Farm Center and Restaurant for lunch.  That's okay, it was still cool to see the little town.

As I made my way home I pondered the public health/transportation connection.  After the lunch speaker was finished on Thursday I went and chatted with my KYTC colleague.  By the time he and I spoke I'd made some additional connections in my mind with the comments made by the Pendleton County Judge.  No matter the will or intentions in Eastern Kentucky there are practical barriers to a robust bike-ped infrastructure network.  Even of you could overcome the socio-economic and cultural roadblocks you'd still have the topography to deal with.  And that's no easy obstacle to overcome.

After I returned home Mandy and I were talking and she pointed out that in Eastern Kentucky you're not likely to get public support for active mobility infrastructure by making the tourism case.  And she's right.  Eastern Kentuckians aren't going to get behind projects primarily designed to bring Buckeyes and Hoosiers through their backyards.  If we're ever gong to build big regional greenways or even small local trail systems we're going to have to do it for ourselves and by ourselves.  If it attracts furriners and their money then that will be an added bonus.

But first we have to find ways to get ourselves of of the mire of leading the nation in smoking, obesity, childhood obesity, heart disease, etc, etc. by taking the reins of our own destinies.

The key connection I made was that we need to stop saying we'll be healthy when we change our lifestyles and start making time to exercise, and instead say that we'll change our lifestyles by employing our own human power to provide as much of our daily energy needs as possible.  We need to abstain from being dependent upon machines to satisfy our whims.  Work should cease to be work and begin to be an end unto itself; a dignified activity that we can feel good about.

The third plan that won an award from KAPA was a plan for "everyday trails" in a Louisville neighborhood.  The intent of the project was to create trails that people could use to get where they need to go.  Everyday trails.  And that was the final piece.  Instead of working to provide places for people to go when they're taking time out of their lives to exercise we've got to integrate exercise back into our lives.  We've got to work to provide linkages that will give us the right kind of options that make our lives easier while taxing our muscles.

Let's change the status quo.  Let's change the paradigm. And let's stop segregating the maintenance of our health from living our lives.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Sun Shines Bright

I believe in providence.  So I'm not sure how the miraculous reduction of knee pain plays into my Matrix-reality experience.  And I'm not sure how my day of being Superman plays into the previous epoch of my life as a depressed Clark Kent.

And it's only a little depressing to me that my high energy day on resulted in minimal gains, but not so much as to burgle my thunder completely.  I'm stoked about my ride and I want to tell you all about it.  But first let me set the stage a little.

I’ve been coasting along in a haze.  I’ve been riding from time to time, but never feeling strong like I did last year at this time.  I theorized that the base miles I had built up while in Colorado have finally “worn off.”  My poor showing at the Mohican 100 last year, and my disappointing 12:24 finish at Leadville really cut my legs out from under me.  Most of my cycling enthusiasm since Leadville has been forced.
Last Thursday I rode at Veterans and felt really good.  And then a spoke pinged.  Yesterday’s post delves into the mental bleakery I experienced beginning somewhere around that point in the chronology.  Honestly, part of the reason I didn’t do my Friday field work by bike was apathy.  I drove all over the place and hardly even walked to verify what I needed to verify.
Deep in the wilds of Larryburg
But Saturday was preconceived to be a ride day for me.  I ignored the weather forecast and determined to ride regardless of what the sky could throw at me.  Oddly, I was excited to ride. 
Jeff was sickly.  He sounded like an emphysemic trucker momma on the phone.  By 9 am Saturday morning I was settled on a solo ride of undetermined route.  I’d been tossing around the idea of doing the Outer Gorge Loop, an 80 mile ride through a rural crenellated topography, but had not decided one way or the other.
It took me another hour to get the bike ready and to get dressed and fueled up.  I started out with pancakes (including a magic bike pancake!), two eggs, OJ, and coffee.  I took with me a Clif Block, two Larabars, and a bag of cranberries and seeds trail mix along with one bottle of water and one bottle of Skratch mix.
Happy Bike Month!
At 10am on the nose I opened the portal to the Bike Cave and was faced with curtains of cold rain.  I grinned.  And I pushed the bike into the rain and pulled the door closed behind me.
I was on the Dogrunner with a rain jacket in a handlebar bag on the front.  The temperature was around 70F when I left and was supposed to peak in the 70s.  The brisk rain and moderately warm temperature was actually an optimal combination for me.  My engine runs hot.
I didn’t set out to break any records.   I had no Strava segments in mind to conquer.  I had no times in mind to best.  I was riding alone so I didn’t have to keep up with or slow down for anyone.  It should have been just a pleasant ride through continuous rain.
Friday evening I went out for a trail run in the rain.  I drove up to the Martin’s Fork trailhead on the far side of Nada Tunnel and ran up to the Grays Arch Trail and looped back down the D. Boon Hut Trail and returned via Martin’s Fork.  It was a 3.3 mile run after most of the rain had subsided for the evening.  I saw a stand of pink ladyslippers along the trail, as well as literally tons of other wildflowers, and I had a fantastic run.
Cellphone capture in the rain
The rain has historically never been a deterrent for me to venture outside.  You see, the human body is mostly water and water is not poisonous or corrosive to skin.
On my trail run I remembered (and when I say remembered I mean intentionally meditated upon) that I kinda revel in adverse recreational conditions.  I’ve never been one to discard an opportunity to paddle, hike, rock climb, bike, or run because it was too cold, too wet, too icy, or too hot.  I enjoy suffering.
I turned up KY 77 toward Nada Tunnel.  It’s a long gradual uphill that I’ve never really gone all out on.  I’m usually saving energy for Sky Bridge Hill or whatever huge big ticket mileage I’ve schemed up for the day.  But not on Saturday.  I had been cranking along at a steady cadence slicing through the rain and the standing puddles on the road as I got further from home with little notion of where I wanted to go.
I was moving up toward the tunnel with incredible power.  I realized my knees didn’t hurt as usual.  My legs felt like pistons.  I glanced down as the grade kicked up and watched as I held my speed at 13mph.  My breathing never faltered.  My legs continued to churn at the pedals with seemingly bottomless stores of energy.  I noticed the time on the computer: 52:00. 
The first benchmark on my Red River Gorge time trial sprints is the KY 77 and KY 715 split just past the Iron Bridge.  My first attempt at a sub-three hour Gorge Loop ride from home put me at that point at an hour out.  My previous attempt in which I had all kinds of Strava segment PRs but missed my better time by two minutes I was six minutes down when I reached the split. 
As I approached the tunnel on Saturday I knew I had eight minutes to make the split if I had even the remotest chance of breaking my previous record of 3:12.  There was no question of breaking three hours.  I’d piddle around (so I thought) on the ride out from town and had actually stopped twice, once to adjust my handlebar bag and once to take a photo, and thought there was no way I would make up enough time to chase down the elusive 3:00 time.
I had to stop
When I reached the split I was two minutes down.  I headed into the inner Gorge and opted for going for my record instead of a leisurely 80 mile ride.
As I cruised eastward toward Sky Bridge Hill I still felt strong and was keeping my speed around 20 mph over the rolling terrain of the riverside road.  I ate on the hour and stayed on my cadence the whole time.
At the Concrete Bridge I was up by six minutes…over my faster time!  I’d actually gained eight minutes on my previous ride over a seven mile stretch of road.  Just before starting up Sky Bridge Hill to climb out of the Gorge and up onto Sky Bridge Ridge I heard angry thunder.  The rain had started up again as I crossed the Sheltowee Trace.  It had slacked as I reached the base of the crux climb of the ride, but I worried—if only briefly—about being up on the ridge with the threat of lightning.
I decided quickly that the ridge is still fairly protected out to Pine Ridge, and if it was bad when I reached Sky Bridge Station I’d bail on the time trial and take shelter there.  I raced on as if I expected to need to take shelter, but really I was focused on breaking that record.
I didn’t push too hard climbing SBH.  I had enough trouble keeping my rear wheel from breaking traction on the wet pavement as I crawled up the steep road.  Sky Bridge Hill went.  It was nothing to write home about.
Then I was pounding out toward Pine Ridge.  The lightning never really came back, and I pedaled on and on and on.  My third benchmark was to reach Pine Ridge by two hours into the ride.  On my last two rides I didn’t manage to break two hours there leaving me an hour to cover 22 miles.  That’s a long hour.  And on both of my past two serious attempts I fought headwinds and fatigue all the way home.
Saturday I reached Pine Ridge ten minutes up.  As I carved through the water past Sky Bridge Station my cyclo-computer read: 1:50.  I had an hour and ten minutes to cover 22 miles.  And despite the crazy weather of the day there didn’t seem to be a strong headwind coming from anywhere.
My spirits soared, but I was still a long way from home.
As I cranked on from Pine Ridge toward Slade I marveled at how strong I felt and how little resistance I had encountered.  My knees weren’t singing their usual chorus of squeaky, off-harmony pain.  I wasn’t cramping.  It was as if I had somehow miraculously lost 10 pounds since I’d stepped off the scale earlier that morning.  I felt like a racer.  I felt fast.
I had to take it slow down Slade Hill.  Or did I? I felt conservative descending the sinuous road on wet pavement.  But according to Strava I claimed another PR there on Saturday.  I tore the paint off of everything at Slade as I rocketed through.  I kept forcing my pedals around and around.
A half mile past Slade I saw my car coming at me.  The horn honked joyfully.  My SAG mama had come to my rescue!  The weather must have been truly wretched at home.  I kept on toward my goal.  Nothing was assured at that point.  I was going to be cutting it close.
At the long straight stretch at Middle Fork FD Mandy eased up beside me and rolled down the passenger side window.  I was steady at my 22 mph cruising speed.
“It was really bad at home!” she called over the rain.
I nodded and called back: “I think I can break three hours!”
“Then go!” she called and pulled away.
I hunched over my bars and chased that Share the Road plate into the mist.  I still felt strong. 
On towards Stanton the miles kept falling away.  I recalculated the speed I needed to maintain as the miles dropped off and the clock hands spun.  That needed average speed kept falling lower and lower the closer I got home.  Unusual, as most of the time that average speed goes up and up until it hits a certain point—a threshold that I cannot reign in—and I give up.  As I came hot and heady into Stanton proper my cyclo-puter displayed an absolutely unbelievable 2:43.  I had less than five miles to go.  My best fuzzy mental math told me I needed to keep up about a 17 mph pace all the way home.  A glance down told me I was still hanging onto a truly unbelievable (for me) steady speed of 20+ mph.
I had to make some decisions.  If I continued straight through town I wouldn’t have to climb over Steamshovel Hill, but that route was slightly longer and I’d risk getting caught at the traffic light.  If I cut over and crossed at the bank I’d have to ride Steamshovel which could seriously ding my speed.  As strong as I felt even at that point I knew I wouldn’t glide over that short little wall.  I chose Steamshovel.  It was shorter and I could make up a lot of time lost on the long backside descent.
On that bomb run I chased a car.  And watched in horror as he slowed to a stop in front of a house at the bottom of the hill, parked in the road, and flung his door open into my path.  A portly moto-enthusiast extricated himself from his car and I just knew he was going to step into my path and take up 100% of the road in front of me.  I was maxing out at 35 mph as this all unfolded. 
The man didn’t step into my path, but I ended up with about five feet of real estate in which to maneuver at nearly 40 miles an hour.
When I turned onto my road with less than a mile to go I had been out on my bike for 2:54.  Never was there a better time to hammer on the pedals.  With no significant obstacles left to slow me down I gave a full final effort.  I reached my driveway at 2:58.  Record broken.
That ride seemed to have shattered a downward cycle I’d been in for quite a long time.  Or maybe it was the ride in combination with many other things. 
Friday was relaxing for me.  I did my field work, returned home, and spent the evening watching mindless action movies while my wife had a few ladies over to the house.  Saturday I left the house with no pressure to ride or any specific agenda.  I rode what felt good to ride.
I’d gotten an email on Friday from a former co-worker letting me know an environmental justice study we’d worked on has won an award from the state chapter of the professional organization I belong to.  And between Thursday and Friday I finally seemed to be getting my nose above the surface at work and things seemed to be coming together carrying my confidence along on a deluge of positive energy.
The ride…or maybe I should start referring to it as The Ride…was the culmination of a lot of busy time for Chris.  On Saturday I truly felt stronger on the bike than I have since before Leadville.  Maybe it was because the rain knocked the pollen out of the air.  Maybe I ate the right thing (magic bike pancake!), or maybe all of my efforts of late have finally started to build up my confidence enough that my spiritual malaise has eased.
There was a lot more to the weekend that was positive and upbeat.  The rain did little to dampen my mood, and it did a lot to help our garden.  This week looks to be pretty busy too, but I feel like I have the energy to face it.
Oh, Jeff offered to true my wheel after replacing the broken spoke.  So we went and visited the Mozhican clan on Saturday evening and I got to recount the entire ride as the broken spoke was laid to rest.  I’m finally fired up about the Mohican 100k.  We debated the merits of 3x9 versus 1x9 and on our respective plan of attack, the impending Proofer epic that will undoubtedly dominate the scene, and just our general excitement for the upcoming mountain bike race.
Spinny wheel courtesy of the Furnace Mountain Wooden Bike Company
The uncertainty of the adventure of the Mohican is part of what draws me to it I think.  I might fail miserably.  Nothing is assured.  But if I get out there and feel like I’m killing it then I’ll have found another one of those brief moments in life that feel perfect, and right, and that speak to my soul like little else.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Broken Spoken

I don't know if the broken spoke triggered my descent.  I think I was doing pretty good until that happened.  It obviously cut my ride short, though I was going for a longer than usual ride.

My afternoon was overcast.  I couldn't focus on stuff I was supposed to be doing.  I'd been overly productive before my lunch time ride, so when I finally could take no more and headed out for "field work" I felt like I'd had a full day.

The bike shop is on the way out so I stopped in to see what could be done about my spoke.  I know what's involved.  You put in a new spoke and then you need to true the wheel.  I could do this except I do not have a truing stand.

"I can try to get to it," the bike mechanic sighed, not even concealing his exasperation.  I need a quick turnaround because the Mohican is three weeks away.  That, and I'll be gone all the end of next week to the KAPA conference.  At General Butler.

I should have bought a spoke right then.  Or three.  Jeff can true a wheel.  Heck, he might even have a truing stand.  I didn't.  I left the city for my own private cycling dystopia.

On the long drive home my mood began to decompose.  By the time I got home it was downright rotten.  I changed from my business casual uniform to running clothes , but I knew I wasn't going to run.  I wanted to run or ride even, but I was back in the fatherland just in time for the big yellow school buses to take over the roads.  My antisocialism keeps me off the roads during peak times.

The air was warm.  I was sweating in my khakis as I drove the last mile home.  Then I changed clothes.  Then I plopped down on the couch proclaiming my subconscious intention to do absolutely nothing ever again.

"Is everything okay?" Mandy asked when she got home.  It wasn't really, but what could I say but yes?  At the time I wasn't 100% cognizant of my decayed mood.  The instant she asked me the question I was aware that I might not be okay.

I wish I had the presence of mind to track my moods.  Things had been going okay for a while.  I'm not sure when I took the dive.  The big picture has been growing.  It's complex.  It's...big.

I'm loving my job, but it's been breaching my floodwalls with pained regularity.  I'm where I want to be and sometimes I'm surprised at how far I've gotten, but I'm also scared of getting into heavier waters.

We don't have a store of financial resources to draw on.  Too many mundane obligations drag is down.  Too much is uncertain (at least in my mind) and I'm unable to prioritize anything.  We need to do so much to our house, but everything we need to do involves money we don't have.  There's so much to do on any given day-- gardening, mowing, fixing this and fixing that--I can't find a place to jump in.

My family (my dad's family) have been less than subtly hinting that they're not happy with the state of our lawn.  I could care less.  Our family history is full of asinine encounters and pointless tensions.  But if they're going to make an issue of my tall grass then I'm going to retaliate in the passive-aggressive defiance I'm best at.

From the family's county road a couple of wheelbarrow loads of gravel washed into our yard.  Neither the county, nor anyone who benefits from the road offered to clean out the gravel from our grass and where it had buried our water meter.

I shoveled it all in the road where it can't wash back in.

My uncle drove his small tractor into our yard and parked it while he got his mail from the common mailbox the other day.  He's the punk troublemaker in the family.  After I shoveled the gravel back into the road (actually on the shoulder) I put in a couple of landscaping ties with stakes to hold them in place to keep the gravel/my uncle out of the yard.  I was waiting for someone on Chainringville Road to stop and complain. 

A carload of chain-smoking gap-toothed trailer princesses glared at me as they turned in and utilized the road I was in the process of DIY maintaining.  I think they stood on the porch and griped so I would overhear, but I might be wrong.  They may have just been talking loudly on their cellphones in their gruff voices.  Lovely, lovely voices.

I needed to pull a spoke to take with me tomorrow, but I don't really have it in me to do much of anything.  Eating took all the mental energy I could muster.  I didn't want to watch TV.  I want to go to bed and sleep for a week.  I want oblivion.

I wrote the preceding paragraphs a few days ago.  It's time to wrap it all up, and I've got a much more positive story to tell that picks up where this one leaves off, so we'll leave it at that.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Field Work Friday: Work-horsing Around

It’s another Field Work Friday!

Today I’m in Larryburg (halfway between Moetropolis and Curlyville) collecting bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure data.  I was in Gay Paree earlier in the week.  It’s a hard, sweaty job, but somebody’s got to do it.  I utilized the utility bike in Paris.  It worked rather well, but after lunch I opted to park downtown and walk instead of trying to ride block-to-block.

I’ll have more to report come Monday.  Or maybe I won’t.  Next week is going to be ridiculously busy.  I’ve got a big committee meeting, two public meetings, a state rail planning meeting, and the state APA conference.  So much for Bike to Work Week/Day.

Yesterday I took a lunch ride at Vet Park.  As I approached the beginning of the blue loop for a third lap I heard a loud pop.  I guessed it right: broken spoke. 

This is not good as I really need to be riding the MTB as much as possible these days in preparation for my utter destruction in Loudonville in three weeks.  So I’ve got to scramble, get a replacement spoke, and sweet talk Jeaphro into truing my wheel ASAP.

Oh yeah.  I didn’t forget about it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Just the Facts Ma'am

Recently Lexington (actually Jessamine County, but no one is very good at making the distinction) has been in the news for a supposed injustice toward one single mom who is a car-free commuter.  She rides 18 miles round trip from her home in Jessamine County to her place of employment in northern Lexington.  She uses some of the busiest roads in the area and has been cited (in Jessamine County) three times for reckless and careless “driving.”

The story first came into the limelight from WKYT, the local CBS affiliate.  The Lexington Herald-Leader also picked up on it, as well as a few other local news outlets and even some national information sources.

I composed a long rant about the issue but redacted it after chatting with some local cyclists who are closer to the issue.  But the new information I gained was simply hearsay and after a few false starts I realized I couldn’t go to press with a post touting that information as gospel. 

Last week I sat in two meetings with other local transportation professionals and the issues came up both times.  In one meeting some were suggesting that perhaps the Transportation Cabinet needed to up the sweeping schedule of US 27 in light of this story.  There was a good discussion on the practicality of process of increasing the frequency of sweeping on that road and others.

US 27 south

The Lexington Area MPO’s Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee list serve was also very active with conversations back and forth about the issue for most of the week.  Again, the issue is complex because while cyclists are not legally prohibited from using the drive lanes of US 27 it makes no practical sense to do so when there are other options available (I’ll get to that shortly).

From the outside the issue seems pretty cut-and-dried.  Most cycling advocates see this as a clear infringement on the rights of a cyclist.  And at one level it is.  Many locals in the know see the issue as that of a rogue cyclist choosing the wrong high ground to make a stand.  It appears as if Ms. Schill could choose to change her behavior and incite less motorist animosity, but chooses not to on principle.  So here is my effort to spell out the facts and let the rest of the world make a judgment call. 

Kentucky has just dropped from the 47th Bicycle Friendly state (2013) to #48 in 2014.  Lexington is a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community.   There is a new statewide bicycle citizen advocacy group in the beginning stages called pedalKY.  Lexington has a very active and progressive bike-ped and mobility program as well as the Bike Lexington citizen interface which is currently hosting a Bike Month commuter challenge.

US 27 (the point of contention in the Cherokee Schill saga) is a four lane full access major arterial with center turn lanes and ten foot paved shoulders with rumble strips on the extreme left edge along the white line.  While there is detritus on the shoulders they appear to be in fairly good condition and passable to even the skinniest bike tire. 

Just south of the intersection with Man O’ War Boulevard US 27 has an ADT (Average Daily Trips/Traffic) of 53,704 estimated in 2006.  There are no shoulders for most of this section.  Moving south, just south of the Fayette/Jessamine County line the ADT drops to a mere 37,021 (2007).  A little further south past Brannon Crossing it drops to 36,061 (2008).  The speed limit is 55 mph.  It’s 1.4 miles south from Man O’ War to Brannon Crossing.

from KYTC

Where the ADT is the highest the paved real estate is about 65’ wide.  And like I said, that’s four lanes with a center turn lane.  It averages out to about 37 cars per minutes (about a car every two seconds) over the entire day. Peak times are obviously going to be much, much higher.

At Brannon Crossing KY 1980 heads east and has an ADT of 4,977 (counted in 2008) and connects over to Clays Mill Road with an ADT of just over 12,000.  By taking this alternate route it would be possible to avoid the section of US 27 with the highest traffic and no shoulders.  I cannot attest to the feasibility of riding on this road, but I will investigate the matter in the very near future.  At a minimum this would be a 2.5 mile longer route than taking the direct US 27 route into town.

US 27 heading south, just south of Man O' War Blvd
ADT here is 53,000+

What’s really scary—and I don’t know if she’s using the road north of MOW—but the ADT at US 27 and New Circle Road is over 90,000 with no shoulders or bike lanes.  I truly hope she is jumping off on side roads north of Man O’War.

Now, let me tell you where I’m coming from.  I’ve ridden in traffic in Nashville, Tennessee, Dayton, Ohio, Lexington, Kentucky, Denver, Colorado, and countless smaller cities and towns, backwoods and country lanes, singletracks and bushwhacks…I’ve kind of seen it all when it comes to riding a bike. 

I’ve been an unrepentant lane taker.  I’ve nearly been killed by buses and semi-trucks.  I’ve been hit twice by motor vehicles.  I can’t count how many near-death-experiences/close calls I’ve had.  I’ve ridden in heavy traffic with my kids.  I’ve ridden in any kind of weather and lighting condition you can imagine from extreme heat (104F), to hail, to high winds, to fog so thick you couldn’t see the backs of your own eyelids, to deep snow, to solid ice, to torrential rain.  And I’ve jockey for position in heavy traffic in all of those conditions.  Successfully.

I understand Cherokee Schill’s plight.  I’ve been without a car and needed to go to work and to pick up the kids.  I’ve ridden many more days when I didn’t want to ride at all than I can count.  I’ve hated the world for being so obstinately arranged not in my favor.  I’ve cursed at motorists.  I’ve punched drivers’ windows.  I’ve flipped people off.  I’ve heard all of the stupid angry unenlightened rhetoric spouted by ignorant motorists who really don’t understand the issues but who are too selfish to look beyond their own whims and wishes to see the validity of the viewpoint of the cyclist.  I’ve seen hatred in people’s eyes toward cyclists.  I’ve tasted the venom they’ve spouted and I’ve done my best not to spout venom back.

In the final analysis there is one truth: on a bicycle you will always lose.  Even if you escape a crash unscathed you lose.  Even if you beat the citations…you lose.  Even if you get three foot passing laws, more vulnerable user laws, and platinum level bicycle friendly community status for your community…you will still lose.

The vast majority of people do not ride bicycles and therefore cyclists will always be marginalized.  Until that fact changes the best tactics is one of sheer self-preservation.

I came up with a motto once.  Be visible, be vigilant, and be consistent.  I abide by this as a cyclist and a motorist.  Visibility and consistency are for the other users, but being vigilant is for me.  As long as I maintain 100% awareness of my surroundings I retain the power to avoid potentially harmful conflicts.  And riding in traffic you can never let your guard down.\

My philosophy is one of avoidance as well.  I take the less busy routes.  I travel at off-peak times whenever possible.  I minimize my exposure to high speed traffic and overly congested areas.  I take sneaky short cuts.  I take wide side streets.  I jump on the sidewalk if it benefits me.

That’s the beauty of the bike.  If I only behave as a vehicular cyclist then I betray the freedom of the bicycle.  If I obstinately carve out a slow moving hole in traffic I’m a terrorist and not a diplomat for my cause.

When I need to take the direct route I take it.  I take it with confidence and with the experience and knowledge of decades of riding in every kind of condition imaginable.  I control the space around me on the road with subtle lane placement, hand signals, speed and deliberate eye contact.  I’m good at it.  I wouldn’t try to teach my riding style to anyone else, and I wouldn’t advocate my tactics for anyone but the most confident of cyclists.

I don’t truly know what Cherokee Schill should do or how the local cycling community should react.  There’s part of me that thinks I could only know if I were to ride her commute myself in the same conditions.  And since there is already a lot of negative press surrounding Ms. Schill’s actions I don’t think I’m going to exacerbate the problem with an experiment.  I do know there are a lot of local cyclists who think she could easily make different decisions and reap the same benefits from cycling to and from work.

I feel like she is making the right stand in the wrong place.  And that is really the crux of the matter.  As a cyclist I want to rally round the flag and lend my voice to the conversation.  But as a cyclist I don’t want to undo any gains that have been made in the region for cyclists' rights and enjoyment of the road.  This area does not suffer from widespread animosity toward cyclists, and I would hate to see this ferment into that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Testamonial Testifying

Recently it has come to my attention that my bloggular existence has—not low social proof but—negative social proof.
I'm a fairly smart guy, but I didn't know what any kind of social proof was.  And now you know that you didn't either.
In the article I read I learned that: "people need to believe that they are one member of a larger herd."  So I decided I could incorporate a few simple items to make you, my Dearest Readers, more comfortable in your cud-chewing glory.  I decided to compile some testimonials from my core reader group and share them with the world.  Without further ado…
On the academic stimulation of the blog:
"Your blog is like an intellectual oasis and this county is the Sahara."
"Really interesting story."
"You da man!"
On the emotional evocativeness of the blog:
"Reading your blog now and feeling unreliable"
"Are you alive?"
On the look of the blog(s):
"I really like the look
f the new PE."
"What's with the blog today?"
On posting and content in general:
"You might've jumped the shark with two-post Thursday"
"I have the same rants in my mind too!!"
"If you weren't on a family data plan I would be cussing a blue streak at you."
On the entertainment value of the blog:
"You're too creative for your own good man!"
"So funny even when you are cranky."
On the overall literary quality of the blog:
"I just finished reading your spill on your Saturday ride on The Chairing Report, and its like I could of written that piece myself."
Some personal observations/criticisms:
"I'm tellin ya you need a single speed!"
"I love you like a fat kid loves cake"
"I miss you like an idiot misses the point."
Okay, that last one was from my wife, but I think it supports the overall testimonial ambiance in this non-nutritional throw-away post.
Anyway, it’s obvious to me that my readers are here because they value a quality portal into the wit and wisdom of my literal decades of experience riding a bike and rooting around in the compost pile of the internet here on the…well, it’s not the Pavement’s Edge here, now, at this moment.
I was hoping you wouldn’t go there.  I know! I know!  I’ve been neglecting the new Pavement’s Edge page.  My big boy job has gotten the best of me.  I don’t have as much time to pontificate as I used to.  In fact, I’ve even been taking work home.  I know; it’s like the world has come to an end.
I’m hoping to get out ahead of the cubicle life a bit and write up a reservoir of content to trickle out to the world.  I’ve got lots of good ideas that need to be vetted to the world.  I really wanted to be ahead of this cyclist on Nicholasville Road issue, but once I realized that it was much more complex than it first seems I decided to back off until I had enough information to sound off with some semblance of reason.  Soon.  I promise…
Bike Month is pedaling on without me too.  I desperately want to be churning out some quality content from the Blog-o-Mill as the month progresses, but I know I’m going to be tied up with more pressing things until near the end of the month.  So be it.