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.