Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Midnight Ridazz All City Toy Ride Recap

Before I did the Toy Ride I wrote about my preparations. I never wrote about how the ride went. So I'll do that today.

First, the basic skeleton of the trip: I got a late start, making sure I had all my raingear, etc, and forgot to buy a toy. So I had to stop at Rite-Aid, which had a line. Then I hustled downtown to meet the contingent from Long Beach. I was late, but luckily I got to Long Beach Blvd and Broadway right when they were headed up Long Beach Blvd. We basically went all the way up LB Blvd to Santa Fe, to something or other, to Olvera St. Then we met the hundreds of other riders and rode around downtown, and then to the party in this lot around 4th St east of the river in this industrial area. I left before midnight to ensure I'd get the train on time.

The main theme of the trip: Lee brings up the Rear. I was riding the bike my sister had been loaning me, a 2003 Gary Fisher Napa, which is a perfectly good bike, but it has these kind of knobby tires (Hutchinson Acrobat) and it's not a bike meant for speed as set up. This became apparent as I quickly fell behind and had a hard time keeping up. Partly, this was because I just wasn't used to riding fast, at night, in the rain, with raincoat on, on LB Blvd. (Afterwards, I'd figure out it was due to the bike, but at the time, I figured it was cuz I was a wuss). Anyway, I'd catch up to the rest of the folks at rest stops, and John was nice enough to hang back with me for a while, and then Alan had the bright idea to have me go ahead with him so we got a headstart on the rest of the pack while they waited from the Downey contingent to meet up with them at Firestone and LB Blvd. We pulled pretty far ahead of the group, as it turns out, because of some delays on the part of the Downey folks, but we gave up all our lead when Alan got a flat. Watching Alan fix his flat was instructional, as I had no experience in such things.

Weather: On the ride up, it would stop raining, then sprinkle, most of the time. There were some downpours, but it wasn't continuously heavy rain. This was irritating. I had a poncho sort of shell but didn't want to have it on if I didn't need it. Plus, I had a cold, so I was feeling hot the whole time. So I didn't have on my rain gear the ride up, and didn't really need it that much. Once we all left Olvera street, then it started to really pour. By then, I had on my rain jacket, but I was having so much fun in the huge gaggle of cyclists, ringing our bells and running reds as a huge group while guys blocked cross traffic, that there was no way I'd be stopping to put on my rain pants. So my pants got soaked, and my helmet, so well-ventilated, allowed my head to get superwet. Plus, my glasses would get thoroughly covered in raindrops, and I'd have to keep wiping them off, and then they even got fogged up. Riding downtown in a huge throng of cyclists and not being able to see that well? Oh, it was exciting.

Interesting sights and sounds: On LB Blvd we passed a couple groups of working women in very skimpy dresses who were plying their trade in the rain. They appeared confused when we went by. A bit later, when we were around Vernon, we had some awful smells that are par for that area... then the weirdest thing happened. Suddenly we had the smell of the yummiest coffee replace the rendering plant/whatever smell, and up ahead appeared a coffee shop in the middle of the industrial area. Should have stopped. That was neat. And when we all rode around downtown, it was exhilarating being part of the huge group -- cars honked at us in a good way, people partying at nightclubs leaned out of the windows to wave and whistle and cheer us on... it was exciting to be a part of hundreds of bikes all lit up and tons of us ringing our bells....

Party: At the party, being soaked detracted from my willingness to mingle and meet new people.Here you can see a photo with Alan in the foreground, and me scowling in background, wet, confused, and anxious to get back to the train. The party went on all night, and folks who like to party seemed to be having a great time.

I wasn't too sure of where the nearest Blue Line station was, so I left the party early and biked downtown to 7th and Metro, then went to the Denny's on 8th and Fig and got a t0-go coffee and hit the facilities. Then I went to the Pico station and got the next train, which came after ten minutes or so. The next stop, Alan happens to pop into my car, which was funny, so we spent the ride home getting to know each other a bit.

The folks at the East LA Women's Shelter ended up getting a huge amount of toys, and that was the purpose, after all. The toys I donated: Mr Potato Head and an art set.

This is the spoke card that the Long Beach riders got (I think designed by Leslie). Everyone got the LA Midnight Ridazz spoke card as well. I am not one to put spoke cards on my bike, but I will keep those cards forever -- they are as important to me as my marathon medals, marking an important milestone in my cycling life, and hopefully the first of many fun rides.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Invariable Comments on Cycling stories.

This is the comment I got into the latimes.com on a bicycling editorial.

All comments on anything bicycle related boil down to three:

1) Cars are evil. They are the Problem. Traffic congestion is good cuz people will stop riding cars. Peak oil is good cuz people will stop riding cars. The sooner we are forced to stop being gasaholics, the better. Oh, come soon, Lord King Messiah Peak Oil!

2) It's not about cars vs bikes, folks. It's about walking, cycling, and using public transit when it makes sense, and using cars when it makes sense -- since most trips are only a couple miles, why not use bikes instead? Bike kids to school. Bike to work. Or bike to the train or bus. Bike to the grocery store. It saves gas. It saves money. It saves gym membership fees. It makes you happier. It is fun. I mean, they make cool bike racks with BUILT-IN bottle openers, folks... Hurrah for bikes!

3) You know who rides the most bikes? The Pinko Commies in CHINA, that's who! After that, the SOCIALISTS in Europe! Barack HUSSEIN Obama wants to take your RIGHT to a car away from you and make you ride stupid bikes! And after they take away our bikes, they take away our GUNS!

Since I made this comment, I have realized that my list isn't complete. The ones I have more of less mark the ends and middle of the continuum of comments, but there are at least a couple consistently made that I can summarize right now as a) cycling is too dangerous -- there are too many crazy drivers out there who are inconsiderate and inattentive and b) cycling is too dangerous -- there are too many crazy cyclists who are inconsiderate and inattentive.

Anyway. I'll have to work on it. It's fun, because you really do seem to get at least one comment from each of these categories whenever you have an article about bicycles online.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Before Midnight Ridazz All-City Toy Ride

So in an hour, I'll head out to Lincoln Park to meet up with the other riders heading up to LA for the Toy Ride -- everyone brings an unwrapped toy that ends up donated to the East LA Women's Shelter. It's a 21 mile ride, and they are going to do it via streets (instead of via the RIOLA bike path). It should be a lot of fun, but I wonder how many people will be doing the ride. Once we get there, we'll ride around downtown to Olvera St, and then there's a huge party that goes on all night. I am going to be catching the Blue Line back home (the last one leaves around 1250am) but yeah. Party people will be partying all night long. Real midnight ridazz are like that. I am just going along to soak up their glow.

I am Prepared. These are the things I got today.

  • Extra tube for my bike.
  • Tire irons.
  • First Aid kit.
  • Rain Jacket with Hood and Rain Pants (in case it really, really, really rains heavy)
  • Xmas lights (battery powered).
  • Planet Bike Blinky 3x mounted on my helmet.

The blinky officially makes me way, way, too lit up, but basically, the idea is that if I get hit by a car with all the lights I have, there's no way in hell anyone can say they didn't see me. So now, illumination-wise, I have

  • 1) Planet Bike Beamer Headlight mounted on handlebars, steady
  • 2) Knog Skink 4 led headlight mounted to the head tube, flashing
  • 3)Trek Bar End red lights
  • 4) Planet Bike Blinky 3x mounted to rear rack
  • 5) Planet Bike Blinky 3x mounted to helmet
and this doesn't count the string of xmas lights. Again, the idea is both visibility and a bar to allegations of comparative liability in the even of a mishap. Not that my being way too lit up is necessarily going to stop allegations of fault -- when I handled auto claims, I had people who hit parked trucks allege the parked truck was somehow at fault. But yeah.

So now I realize that while I was buying all this stuff for me to ride the toy down to LA, I forgot to buy a toy. I'm smart like that. So I'm off to get a toy.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Compton Creek Tour

This was a perfect Sunday -- I slept in till 9am, then had coffee and breakfast with Lana, then she went to poi and yoga class, and I biked to the Blue Line and met up with a bunch of other Long Beach Cyclists, for the Compton Creek ride.

We took the Blue Line to the 103rd St Kenneth Hahn station, and got there early enough so that a few of us went over to the Watts Towers for a few minutes. I hadn't visited the Towers in 20 years and it was neat to see the detail and beauty again.

Then we started our ride -- Alex Kenefick, with the LA and San Gabriel River Watershed Council, among other things, was the tour guide for our motley group of 19 cyclists.

We saw the different ways the Compton Creek was 'channelized' in different areas, learned about all the different authorities that had control over various parts of the creek -- County of LA, City of Compton, Army Corp of Engineers, how each entity had its own priorities and objectives with regard to the creek and river, and how that made planning and improving things challenging. We heard about some neat projects in the works to improve access to the Creek and create greenspace.

We spent most of the time riding along the Compton Creek on the bike path, and most of the time, we were the only ones on the bike paths. There were a lot of interesting situations where the bike path would stop at a major street, and there'd be no way to bike across the street, raised island, busy traffic, etc, and you could see how these problems would make using the bike path unappealing for people.

For lunch we stopped at Cliff's Texas Style, "Home of the Original 22" CliffHanger Burrito." 4 of us split a 22", and it was really, really good. Cliff himself, a really nice guy, very gracious and classy and funny, came out and sat with us, and we talked for a bit. It was a great lunch, really good food.

When we weren't on the Creek itself, we were riding through neighborhoods, and got to see a lot of neat stuff. I think one of the best parts of the whole bike ride was when we were riding down one residential street in Compton, and this little boy happened to be bringing his bike down his driveway to the street, "Oh, Wow!" he said as we all rode down the street waving, ringing our bells... and we rode through Richland Farms, an Equestrian neighborhood in Compton. I never knew this area existed, and it was so cool... horse properties with tons of people out riding their horses down the streets, some houses with roosters and chickens out front. And when you ride you get all the sights and sounds you miss in a car -- and the smells, too.

After the tour of the creek was officially ended, when we got to the point where the creek hit the LA River, near the Del Amo Blue Line station, those of us from Long Beach rode down the LA River trail back home. A Mariachi band was playing at a house along the river, a few hundred feet from us, and we stopped and listened to them play. When the song was over, we cheered them, they waved to us... that sort of stuff happened the whole time. That was something I wasn't expecting -- just a lot of neat little interactions with folks in their neighborhoods in a way you just wouldn't have happen if you were driving by.

It was a great day with great people.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Political Temperment test


I am a registered Green, but I do not see myself as extremist. I am a very moderate, pragmatic person by nature. After taking this test and looking at results for other countries, I realized -- due to having an English mother, and spending time growing up in England and New Zealand, my idea of the appropriate role of government is very much mainstream English/European. I feel leftist compared to most Americans, but compared to Europeans, I'm a centrist.

You see the difference between US and Europeans especially with healthcare debate silliness. American conservatives are horrified at the idea of Socialized Medicine, but European conservatives like it just fine - some political commenter I forget pointed out that you don't hear European or Canadian conservatives complaining about their health systems and demanding a system more like America's.

Anyway. I have Billy Bragg's version of 'The Internationale' here somewhere...

Monday, November 02, 2009


The current trial of Dr Christopher Thompson has people thinking and writing about bicycling rules and safety, with lots of articles popping up recently in places like Slate and the LA Times. And today, USA Today columnist Chris Woodyard takes on Long Beach's Sharrows on 2nd St, showing everyone who actually knows the area that he is clueless about the whole thing. And last week he did a column generally critical of bicyclists on the roads. And from the comments, it's clear that many people just hate bicyclists -- either they hate the $5000-road-bike-and-Spandex crowd that takes over the roads on the weekends. Or they hate the beat-up-old-Huffy-from-a-yardsale users who either can't afford a car or can't drive a car because they got a DUI and lost their license. Or they haven't got as far as noticing who rides what kind of bike -- all they know is that bicycles are on the roads and making them have to pay attention to the road, and brake and change lanes and other unreasonable things.

So it is an interesting time to start bicycling regularly. I just started a month ago, bicycling 1.5 miles from home to the Long Beach Bikestation, where I valet park my bike (for FREE) and then catch the Blue Line light rail to downtown LA. I have gotten a Bell helmet from Target that fits really well, And I have bought a rear rack, lights, bell and helmet mirror from Bikestation, and have figured out how to hang my backpack and grocery bags, like panniers, from my rear rack. I'm a bicycling fool, I am. With my 1.5 miles to and from the Bikestation, and my little rides to Ralphs and Fresh & Easy.

This isn't really the first time I have used a bicycle as transportation. For a time, I rode my bike 6 miles each way from home to Cal State Fullerton, and then another 4-6 miles to my jobs at the library or Disneyland, then 3-5 miles or so back home. I did this until my dad got an old pickup as a second car and we didn't have to do it any more, unless my sister was using the pickup.

At the time, I was just doing it because it beat the bus, and I had no car. But today, it's a little different. Rather than living in the middle of a suburb built for cars, I am living in Long Beach, with stores and entertainment within easy walking and biking distance. It's actually simpler to ride the bike than drive the car. It's more fun. And I drive my car for work, if I have to travel, or when I drive my daughter to her mom's and do some shopping. That ends up being once or twice a week I'm in the car. Other than that, I don't use it. Which reminds me-- I have to tell my insurance agent so I can get a break on my car insurance.

And another benefit of being in Long Beach is how there's a real bicycling community. There are lots of folks getting around on bikes, there are bike rides and events for bikes (like the 50 mile full-moon ride tonight that I am not doing, although I want to) and a city with a serious desire to make the city more bike-friendly and the dollars to do it. And there are lots of committed activists and enthusiasts to learn from and listen to.

Anyway. Bicycling. Good.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Uh, oh. I forgot to love my virus into leaving.

And here it is, weeks later, still lingering, still giving me headaches and dizzyness and body aches and a general sense of being off and ill. I should have been doing my creative visualization I talked about, sitting down and nurturing my poor viral visitors into confidence and self-esteem so they could, like mature viruses, leave the nest and strike out on their own.

But I forgot. And the virii have apparently stayed on and make me feel icky.

Or it's not virii at all, but an infection. I need to figure out the answer, because the ways you creatively visualize with virii and bacteria are totally different. A lot of the stuff you try with virii, the bacteria will have none of. I am very much against visualizing violence against a virus or cancer. But bacteria? All they understand is violence.

Oh, of course, I don't mean all bacteria. Some of my best friends are bacteria. You know, the kind you get in Activia and Yakult. Those are good bacteria, helpful bacteria, pleasant and peaceful. Not the shiftless, evil, no-good, rock throwing, bomb-belt-wearing bacteria I inveigh against here.

If I have a bacterial infection, I'll proclaim, in my best Inquisitor voice, "Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoset." And then I'll destroy them all. Just like the end of Apocalypse Now. But in my body. Ouch!

Sure, the good bacteria will die, too. But I can always buy more Activia and Yakult and repopulate the good. So it's OK.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gandhi = Evil

When Obama got the Nobel Prize, and people pointed out Gandhi didn't get one, I was thinking "Well, of course that sleazy hypocrite never got one!"

This article is a good briefing on why Gandhi, in my opinion, is about the worst person in the world we should be emulating today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why is Albom crap? Or: It's a Wonderful Life Sucks. Ikiru is Awesome.

I know Mitch Albom is awful, awful, awful. And it's not merely because he's sentimental. Rather, he's mawkish. Not sweet, but treacle... not simple, but simplistic. And he does it on purpose, writing books easily digested by 4th graders.

According to an article online, his favorite movie is It's a Wonderful Life. Which made me think.

What makes It's a Wonderful Life suck, and makes Ikiru one of the best movies of all time? To me, Ikiru and It's a Wonderful Life take on the same issues, but Ikiru does so with honesty and integrity.

But there's much more to it, and it comes down to small differences and huge ones and it's all too much to think about right now.

When I can rewatch both movies and think about it, I'll have the best blog entry ever, and I'll be able to explain it so well that not only will I make sense, but people will even put the Albom books down and pick up something good instead, something that may be sweet, but even more important, is nourishing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fighting this Cold.

I am Fighting my Cold.

It's one of the things required of patients. (At least in the West -- we'll ignore Ayurveda's totally different take on sickness cuz it's too rational and unfun.) We must be in the right mindset to fight our illnesses. We fight our diseases. It makes a difference. Are you going to roll over and let that disease kick your wimpy ass? Or are you going to learn to defend yourself?

When Sally gets cancer, we reassure ourselves that Sally will be ok -- after all, she's a fighter. Meaning that she'll what? Well, that she'll do what everyone else will do. She'll dutifully go for her treatments. She'll take her vitamins. But beyond that, she'll adopt a hostility toward her disease. She'll think of her cancer cells as illegal aliens, as Nazis, as BHO himself if need be, and she'll creatively visualize the most horrific violence being perpetrated against the evil Cancer cells. Because the Cancer is definitely attacking her. And Sally is not going to take it. She's fighting back. She's going to beat it.

I have never been much for fighting. I may have blogged years ago about my way of thinking... I want to have people creatively visualize their cancers as themselves, basically. After all, cancer is when the cells refuse to die. The cancer cells are having trouble letting go and facing their mortality, just like we are having trouble. So if cancer patients visualize holding their little scared cancer cells in their arms and rocking them, comforting them, telling them it'll be ok, helping their cancer cells transition from this plane to whatever awaits beyond the veil. Surely that will work just as well as imagining hatred and violence and destruction.

So that's what I should do with my cold.... it lingers, and then my body aches come back, and clearly the virus(es) in my body are not ready to go. They clearly are enjoying being here on this world, in my body. And why wouldn't they? The weather is beautiful. I have a beautiful family, and great coworkers. The virus has been living vicariously through me the last couple weeks, and is enjoying my life too much. So I have to hold my cold virus close, rock it, whisper to it, tell it that there's a whole world out there to explore, loads of wonderful hosts within which they can explore the world.