Sunday, October 23, 2005

weather changes

Now that I'm healed up from recent unpleasantness (knee injury followed by some problems in the abdomen), the weather's suddenly gotten rather cold for bicycling. And my cash is tied up enough that I'm not up for a lot of golf expenses.

So I'm thinking of how to adapt.

Last evening, for example, I walked somewhere I'd normally bicycle. Walking is good exercise, and I get some during the workday anyway. This winter I may do more aerobic walking, but we'll see.

I did hit the driving range last Saturday and hit just under 200 balls. Was great upper body work, and I love getting out into nature, even if it's limited at the range.

My buddy Groff recommends that I pick up a magnetic bicycle trainer for the cold weather months. He swears by his, and I'll have to consider it.

This may be the year I finally get a gym membership and start on a more formal training. I hate to blow that kind of dough, but it may be a good call for a while.

Lots of decisions to make about this stuff, because if I don't work on improving my condition, my personal goals will suffer impediment.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

pics taken during bicycle trip on the day after Katrina has several pics of my bike trip on the day after Katrina.

THOR (no, not That one)

I haven't been able to get out much lately for cycling, golf, general exploring, etc. After Katrina, my knee was hurt, I had to let a whole bunch of cuts heal, and most of the places I want to explore basically don't exist anymore.

But my healing up has gone well enough so far, and I've been out cycling a few times. Yesterday, however, may have changed things for me somewhat dramatically. Only time will tell, really.

About halfway through a nearly 13-mile ride, this gorgeous dog started keeping pace with us. He trotted along with an obvious limp at easily our average cycling speed. No efforts to encourage him to go home had any effect.

The dog ran over six miles to take up residence at my place. And frankly, I hope he sticks around. Based on the looks of him, I don't think he's received the best of care, although no signs of obvious abuse are evident.

Update: We've now ID'd the dog and had someone return him to his home.

I've been so impressed by my brief experience with this canine that I'm curious what sort of dog might make a good cycling companion.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

enough Katrina, already

I've now got power at my house, and am told that the phone service may be restored as soon as some time next week. Cable/internet service will be restored at an unknown time.

I'm tired of whining about Katrina. heh

Instead, I will talk about my bicycle. I've added a dual basket to the back of my Trek 7300. This should prove valuable for grocery shopping, carrying dry clothes & such for the commute to work, and general load-bearing. It's a very utilitarian modification, particularly since I like to carry an assortment of *stuff* with me.

Carrying more gear with me should also help condition my body to make longer trips with more load, which is an ultimate goal of mine. I aim to rack the bike on the trunk of the Sentra, head off for the occasional weekend to some town or other place I want to explore, and go trekking. The bike's already proved its merit, thanks to Katrina, so now I just have to work on conditioning and wait for the weather to cool down a bit over the next few months.

I look forward to some golf/bike combo trips this fall and winter. Fortunately, you can play golf very nearly all year in the Deep South while weather ceases to be supportive of the game in other parts of the country. Maybe I'll wait until the end of hurricane season, though. ;D

Monday, September 05, 2005

Katrina, Day 8, 11:30 a.m.

There's some sort of loud commotion (Is that redundant?) across the lake. I hope it's Entergy! As far as I can tell, power is slowly creeping nearer. Y'all will know ASAP as I get more info.

Katrina, Day 8, 10:37 a.m.

By Crom, it's hot!

People said that trash pick-up would happen today. I'm maintaining a healthy skepticism, but I put the rotting food & stuff out on the streetside anyway. If nothing else, it may lure the wasps & hornets that much farther from the house. My supply of wasp & hornet spray, while ample for the moment, is still finite, so I don't want to be wasteful.

Ever seen a hornet? If a yellowjacket was an SUV, a hornet would be a HUMMER. They're frelling evil. (And if you have no idea what a yellowjacket or a hornet is, you may want to wear armor and carry lots of antihistamines when you visit scenic Mississippi. You're may not be prepared for our... wildlife, to be polite.)

I've rigged up some primitive but loud alarms on the house's entry points, which may ease my mind a little more when I'm away. And I plan to wait out the heat of the afternoon in Florence, where I can flee the heat, wash some clothes for work, and get a hot shower. I don't *think* I've had a hot shower in over a week, but a lot of the details are turning blurry. Good thing I've been journaling!

Yesterday I had the luxury of reading some gmail while I visited with my sister, and I discovered at least one other guy who had a bicycle at the ready when the storm hit. He evacuated New Orleans to Baton Rouge on his tourning bike. Seems he made it a good distance until he had a flat tire.

Get a bike! :D

Katrina, Day 8, 12:48 a.m.

Try to be in at least decent health when planning your next calamity. Fitness makes all the difference in the world. So if you take my advice and get a good hybrid (although there are other fine bikes - no religious wars about bike varieties here), get out and ride the thing.

No need to get in hard gears and punish yourself for being out of prime condition. Stick to easy gears and rides of a pleasant duration. And when you feel so inclined, take some longer pleasure rides. You'll want to go farther as your body gets into the groove.

And shop around for ways to carry some stuff comfortably using your bike. Have some bags such as panniers, or baskets, or roped-on buckets - whatever makes you giggle.

If you get on that sucker & ride, particularly if you make it a point to derive some pleasure from it, you'll be much more ready for the unexpected. And in the meantime, you'll look & feel better, save money on gym memberships (that you probably wouldn't use anyway), etc.

Katrina, Day 8, Midnight

I took a break from guarding the house today. My brother-in-law delivered some clean towels & other provisions and lured me away for a couple of hot meals, ice cream, a cold beer, and family. Was nice.

They're not quite back at 100%, but are very nearly so and were in great spirits. And I got to spend some time with a long-lost friend - one of my first and longest friends, in fact. His daughter & my niece carry on in so many of the same ways we did as boys.

Many pleasant childhood memories were rekindled. Heck, this was the guy with whom I got my first tattoo.

Plus, I got to check gmail a bit & update my blog. I'm trying to keep my people out there as in-the-know as possible. To my mom and everyone else who can't reach me, know that those nearby who wish me well are seeing to it that I get everything I need.

Wednesday I've got an appointment to have a dual basket saddlebag-like contraption modded onto the bike. It's just about perfect for carrying groceries, dry clothes, & other essentials for the daily commute, or whatever needs doing.

I gotta tell ya, if you've got to survive the unexpected, you could do worse than own and use a well-built hybrid bicycle. For your next apocalypse, consider a hybrid with the ability to haul as much gear as possible as far as possible and as comfortably as possible.

For me this currently translates to twenty seven gears for achieving reasonable speeds & mounting stunning steep inclines. I've got front shocks, but if I had a solid fork up front, I could attach even more gear to it. (Everything's a trade-off.) I can carry a heavy payload on the back, and two water bottles.

I *wish* I had a trailer, so I could carry more gear. And I *wish* I had a $400 high-definition headlight already, so I could ride home from work in greater safety and style. I *wish* I had these trippy spoke lights called hokey spokes, because I think they're cool. :D

But I love my bike, really. And I can't believe my good fortune of buying this particular bike a matter of days before Katrina hit.

TREK, if you're listening out there, I'd endorse you any day of the week. And The Bike Rack on Lakeland Drive, too. Without y'all, I might be in really dire straits right now.

I'm still planning on touring Mississippi towns by bicycle this autumn. But it won't be the same. We'll not be the same again any time soon.

Now don't get me wrong. Mississippi and our neighbor states hit by Katrina are all filled with people capable of fearlessness and compassion, humor and insight, and a rich, varied oral history. We'll survive and pass Katrina stories down for generations. But so much beauty & life has already been lost.

My favorite restaurant on the coast is surely gone. There's a fair likelihood that I'll find out that I know or love someone who hasn't survived. The casinos in which I first legally gambled are toast. The place where I got my first tattoo. The places I got tattoos #4 and #6, as well!

The Zen Temple, the restaurants, the jazz clubs....

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina, Day 7, 9:05 p.m.

A couple of five-year-old girls are outside on a swing set playing Entergy linemen. They say they're busy connecting down power lines so the news channel can come back on.

This is definitely a sign of the times.

A freaky, freaky sign of the times.

I should be back guarding the house by now, but am taking my chances to enjoy a hot meal with my sister, brother-in-law, an old friend from grade school, and their daughters (the ones pretending to be restoring power).

This is the first time I've seen a television actually on in a week. It's all reruns. Go figure.

Katrina, Day 7, 2:21 p.m.

I just had a hot lunch and a cold beer at my sister's place, where I've been typing up these last few entries. They and Aaron are working to see to it that I get the remaining supplies I need to take care of myself.

I'm determined to see to it that I get a more vitamin-rich diet, and they're helping as best they can. I slam on Wal-Mart as much as the next guy, but their supply chain has at least ensured that *stuff* is available to people who can get to a Wal-Mart or have someone get there for them. Some say that Wal-Mart has done a better job of this than any government, and one guy I know asserts that this is because Wal-Mart is bigger and more powerful than the government. I stay out of the middle of all this, because I just want to survive, work, bicycle, and blog (not necessarily in that order).

Entergy trucks have been spotted in my neighborhood today to begin the repair work. I've heard that it'll still be a while before we see any real effects from this because of the total failure of our local grid. Cleary Heights, a.k.a. the Hoover Lake area, where I live, was apparently hit harder than just about any place around here. From what I've seen on my bicycle tours of the area, this is an understatement. Cleary Heights has been an absolute wreck for the last week.

Katrina, Day 7, 10:35 a.m.

My sister and her husband have been trying to help out, since they live in Florence, which is a few miles away and has is way ahead of Hoover Lake when it comes to utilities. Highway 49 runs through Florence on its way to the Gulf Coast, so establishing some sense of normalcy there is relatively important.

The problem with situations like the one I face isn't that people can't live without phones, power, & such. The problem is that we've built a civilization that *depends* on these things. Downed power lines are a threat in themselves (took one in the face on my bike the other day... ouch), but they can become worse when power eventually returns or some numbnuts plugs his new generator into the household power grid & sends electricity into unsuspecting neighbors outside (which has happened here lately). [For the love of all that's holy, read instructions, people!]

We need water to live, but the water coming from our pipes is deadly with microorganisms. I have to bleach everything & air dry all clothes & towels. The rotten food attracts wasps, which lurk just outside every door. Some have entered the house and behaved aggressively. If they aren't killed before they can sting me, I'll definitely have the essence of that garbage injected into me alongside the usual toxins associated with such stings.

Fortunately, they've been managed so far. I don't think any more are still in the house, so I mainly focus on keeping others from entering.

Katrina, Day 7, 8:13 a.m.

The number of unexplained bruises on my body is growing. This concerns me, because it means that either I'm sustaining more damage than I'd thought (possible, considering the number of places where my skin is cut & torn) or something's going wrong internally. Possibly both. Hopefully it's nothing to worry about.

There seems to be a lot of media coverage on certain coastal cities, but not a whole lot on neighborhoods like mine. I guess our problems just aren't as sexy. I've seen military helicopters flying overhead since last Tuesday, but not they're Apaches armed to the teeth and flying just above treeline. I'd much rather see troop- and load-bearing choppers bringing MREs, water distillers, and medical assistance. Add in the fact that my brother was packing a shotgun when he made his quick trip, telling me to avoid televised news (advice repeated by Aaron upon his return from Arkansas), and I want a weapon... NOW.

I do appreciate some of the side-effects of all this. No power for miles means less light pollution, so stargazing has been considerably more gratifying. As power slowly returns to nearby towns, it's already fading, sadly. If you've never seen the milky way with the naked eye, you've missed one of the natural wonders of the world, worth a trip to the desert to see.

I've also seen more people on bicycles, and I'm hoping that drivers will begin to think of bicyclists as less odd. And I do tire of the way people tend to treat me as strange for living as though disaster can strike without warning. Now that it has, perhaps some people's attitudes will shift.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina, Day 6, 10:05 p.m.

Aaron & Rocky came by to offer me some things I'd love: a hot shower & a cool place to crash for the night.

If only I could accept! But if I'm gone overnight, who will guard all the stuff?

I'd nodded off in the rocker on the back porch (where I write all this stuff in between opportunities to upload it), writing that last entry when their knock awakened me. It pained me to decline, but this is one of those decisions you make not for immediate personal gratification, but out of desperation. I can't say how many of my decisions during all this are the best decisions, but I'm doing the best I can think to do. Just like everyone else.

There have been too many such decisions of late.

Katrina, Day 6, 7:05 p.m.


No, really.

Last night, Shelton & I cleaned the rotting food from a friend's freezer. Today I had to throw out my own. It's heartbreaking to have to throw out what had been a very nice pantry like that. Deer meat from a free, hunted animal... Beans, peas, fruits & vegetables bagged & jarred in our own kitchen... A small fortune in store-bought fish & chicken... All gone. Near total loss. Rob sad.

I'm completely alone now. My brother came out from Texas in a rented SUV to bring a little fuel, some food, cash, and provisions... and to extract my elderly mother. After much family drama, she grabbed a few things & went with him.

Although this leaves me so completely alone, I feel she made the right call. She needs to be in a safe place with the resources for her to stay alive instead of risking all on on a stand-off against the Third World we've become.

My brother James had seen footage of Katrina's aftermath and came armed. I understand that people *in my neighborhood* have contracted dysintery from the water contaminants merely from using the same towel twice.

I worry about disease and theft. I've been assured by a friend that I'll have a firearm soon. The sooner the better! People are acting erratically - at least some I've personally encountered. Others seem to maintain varying amounts of stoicism.

Me, I prefer to live *outside the box*. I rode with my brother & mother on a few errands in Jackson right before her departure. He pulled into the gas line, and I opted not to wait through it. I donned my helmet & gloves, rolled my Trek 7300 from the back, and zipped off down the street.

During my excursion, I chatted with a cop, rode to a nearby Back Yard Burger, ate lunch in, went to pick up a hot Kenya AA for my mother (who has suffered through a wicked hot coffee deficit), and returned. They'd moved forward maybe 50 feet.

Many of my neighbhors have spirited off to Texas or Arkansas. Some have already returned, probably due to having viewed footage on CNN or the web. I hope some of the returning refugees have brought outside provisions. Some I know haven't, but won't accept any offers of help. Wierd, eh?

I offer to deliver a hot meal to someone who I know is unable to furnish one for himself, and it's not accepted. I bike past someone stuck with a half-sunk car in a flooded underpass, but they decline offers of aid.


I always hated my brother, but I gotta throw him a bone at this point. He came out here at considerable personal expense to drop off provisions & extract my mother to safety. Maybe he really isn't the guy I grew to despise all those years ago. Heck, I certainly wouldn't want someone to hold me accountable for every questionable thing I did when I was young, either. Sometimes we just have to move on. He really came through when so many others are letting us rot or profiting from our journey through hell.

Thanks to him, I've got another bottle of premium tequila, non-perishable food, gas, and freedom from worry about my mother's safety.

Lots of what I normally take for granted in my usual life has died off before my eyes or in my very hands. And the deepening solitude taxes me in a variety of ways.

Aaron's returned from Arkansas for a variety of reasons. The tree in his house has made it too unsafe for habitation, so he'll be crashing with a friend a county or two away, where there are utilities & such.

Personally, I discouraged him from returning. It sucks here! But it was his call.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina Day 5

I've just finished typing up a bunch of journaling I wrote up during the course of the week and posted it to this blog, back-dated to maintain a reasonable sense of chronology. Fortunately, I frequently thought to jot down what day & time it was while I wrote all this stuff with pen to paper, figuring I'd eventually find an opportunity to upload it.

I didn't blog anything yesterday, because I awoke to find that they'd gotten a cell phone signal up somehow, and I had 6 messages in voice mail. I'd been firing up the cell phone a couple of times daily just in case coverage came back, and now I'd hit paydirt.

Well, it turned out my boss fired me and wanted the cell phone back immediately. He'd actually fired me effective the previous day, but was waiting until I called in to tell me. Right before Katrina hit, I'd emailed him describing a job offer I'd received from another company, asking him when he & I could talk about it. So he axed me.

Fortunately, the other company was willing to let me start immediately. As in, hose off in the back yard, hop on the bike, and get to work! So I did.

It's a 10.9-mile commute from my front yard to the new office by bicycle. They're letting me bike in without complaint so far because of the hurricane. After things have gotten back to normal, I imagine they'll prefer that I at least find some way to get showered. heh

One of the guys who runs the place asked me about the cuts on my legs today. When I told him about how I'd been bicycling from town to town to move information, food, and water during the hurricane & aftermath, he seemed to approve.

Now I'm back on the web, at least when I'm in the office (which won't happen again until Tuesday once I wrap this up, because it's Labor Day weekend and I don't have keys to the building yet). It's tough leaving this place with its air conditioning, lights, phones, and working toilets every day to go home to none of the above. But I can't leave my home and 75-year-old mother unattended indefinitely.

I imagine I'll have more to say upon my return, although I won't have an endless amount of time to say it, because I'll be at work. I've spend the last few hours here typing back-dated entries after everyone left for the weekend.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina Day 3, 5:15 p.m.

A pair of mallards just approached me. One is clearly injured, and I suspect they haven't been getting their fair share of the food suitable for ducks as a result. I threw 'em some dried corn as quietly as I could manage. Some other ducks figured out the score and are closing in, seemingly calling the others, as well.

Well, I gotta give credit where credit is due....

We have postal service now. Once the import of this settled into the must of my mind, I wrote a brief For The Love Of Frelling Anything, Send Help!!! letter to someone in Virginia, asking that the message be distributed with some haste.

What *is* the outside world doing to help us, anyway? I *know* already that we're groping in the dark, alone together (if you can squeeze some meaning out of that). But what about the rest of y'all, watching this on CNN and discussing it from various angles? Are y'all dropping everything to organize a massive relief effort? I guess time will tell.

And where's the National Guard? Where are our Reservists? Oh, they're off in Iraq.... Crap.

Look, I'm not gonna get all political here, but if some military folk show up here with water and working toilets, I doubt we'll start shooting at 'em or organize some insurgency. That's all I'm saying.

Katrina Day 3, 4:00 p.m.

The clouds have done little but tease and threaten. I'd love to stand in a cold rain for a bit, but I'd hate more rough weather slowing down relief efforts.

On the radio I hear that many others are no more fortunate than we are. People need power, ice, baby formula, medicine, food, water, gas, and pretty much everything. At least I have a really good bike & some food. My house doesn't have a tree running through it. I have enough tea to last for at least several days.

I worry about my mother, who's 75. There's no way I can cool this place down for her or arrange for any kind of appropriate diet. She's been away all day to see a doctor, who I hope has air conditioning and such, so she can get at least a brief break from conditions at the house. [Turned out later she'd had no such luck.] She doesn't even know Aaron's gone to Arkansas.

Katrina Day 3, 12:30 p.m.

90 degrees in the shade, according to the bicycle computer, which also indicates that I've pedaled for over four and a half hours in the last few days, totaling 75 miles since I bought the bike 12 days ago. I guess you could call it bike training, but surviving a hurricane is more like the actual event than like training.

In any event, I've decided about the best thing I can do at this point is to pour up a shot of Don Julio Blanco, sit on the back porch in shorts, and pretend this is all jsut a really adventurous vacation in Mexico.

Ahhh.... God, how I love the smell of a premium tequila! In fact, I feel a little sorry for people who can't appreciate this wonderful substance as I do.

These last few days have given me the opportunity to actually meet some of my neighbors. So far, a little to my surprise, I seem to like them.

I've also had more opportunity to get to know the local wildlife more intimately. Squirrels, by the way, are insane. I can not express this too strongly. I thought it was crazy for me to bike in the hurricane, but these little freaks must live on adrenaline the way we do with oxygen.

I wonder how many other people are journaling & blogging their Katrina experiences. And of those, how many are writing as events transpire in a stream of consciousness, the way I am? When the power & internet connections come back online, will a deluge of personal reflections suddenly appear?

I'd love a second shot of tequila. But who knows when I'll be able to replace this stuff? Gotta stretch things out. Dammit.

I sure hope Aaron remembered to take a good, thick book to read when he left for Arkansas. Without a fair bit of diversion, he may find some of his exile difficult to tolerate.

I notice that many of the details of day-to-day living have changed for me while I await utilities & the chance to work again. I usually carry a bag of stuff with me, for just in case everything goes to hell all of a sudden.

Well, everything has gone to hell on me all of a sudden. And I happened to be home when it did so. Now I find that my emergency supplies have migrated from the bag to various places where they're generally used or at least easy to obtain when needed.

People pick on me quite a bit for carrying so many contingency-related things. I wonder if I'll seem so odd when we all go back to work....

Just a few days ago, we were thrown sideways by hurricane winds. Now, however, not a breeze moves the choking stillness. The air is still, humid, and hot.

[time passes between paragraphs]

What had been a perfectly blue sky has now filled largely with ominous clouds. Wouldn't some nice lightning storms hit the spot about now? That would be just craptacular!

I've pulled the front off a fan, so now I can give it a good twist with my hand for a few moments of light breeze. And I've re-hung the porch swing (wisely taken down during the hurricane), which brings a little relief from the stifling heat.

Katrina Day 3, 10:56 a.m.

Aaron's gone. That sure happened fast.

I inherited a bag of charcoal that should last up to several days if used with care. And I'll do some light cooking on Aaron's propane grill until that runs out. If power's not restored by then, and if we don't encounter any more foul weather, we'll be able to burn debris in the back yard to boil water & such.

The ducks that come to our back yard to eat corn are starting to look tasty. And Aaron mentioned having a tackle box, so fishing will be an option if necessary.

Katrina Day 3, 9:37 a.m.

Tuesday was a long day. I didn't write much in my journal beyond some notes on how bad things were and a list of crap needed before the next apocalypse. Having lost water, things were looking increasingly desperate.

I was able to find my friend, and we did some trekking about, looking for roads, food, water... pretty much anything.

I took a bit of a shower from a water hose at my sister's house in Florence this morning. They were able to even provide soap, a rag, and a small ( by my gargantuan standards) towel. It felt soooo good!

At least a few people out there recognize Aaron & me as the two guys on bicycles at this point. We've been able to carry small loads from place to place by bike, and yesterday we had the only real means to travel from Hoover Lake to Florence. Even the Rankin County Sherrif Dept. car we saw yesterday had to turn around at a completely destroyed stretch of road we were able to navigate.

I've taken quite a few pictures during & since Katrina blew through. The place looks like we've been bombed. I haven't had the heart to take a bunch of pictures of destroyed homes, big trucks with broken axles, and other identifying property damage, although I did snap a shot of a mansion gutted during the last storm some weeks back.

I've logged 74 miles on the 7300 since I bought it a week & a half ago. 35 of those miles have been logged in the last 4 days.

Sadly, Aaron now plans to leave. A relative from Arkansas is currently heading down with gas for the return trip, trying to find a way in. If she succeeds, Aaron & his family will take the same route back.

Having Aaron around has made this Katrina business a lot easier on me, if only psychologically. I don't know if my job still exists or when anything will work, and using the restroom in the traditional way ceased to be an option early Monday morning. Things like this are easier to tolerate with a long-time companion around.

Besides, he's my only biking buddy. Without him around, I'll have to be more selective about my routes for food, water, & other provisions, because I won' thave back-up.

And it'll be tough not to worry about him out there on the road to Arkansas. If they encounter problems, he'll be the only able-bodied adult to take care of several people and his cat Cheyenne. And since he's already been robbed twice, I imagine looters will consider his place a prime target. My first move will be to make several trips to bring the survival-oriented goods from his place over here for safe keeping.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina Day 2, 2:25 a.m.

Power is out in most of the state.

Most of the cell phone towers don't have back-up generators & depend on the power grid to be up.

The cell users who can get any kind of signal are using their cell phones constantly, which is reducing availability even further.

I just treated myself to a Diet 7-UP from the fridge. I grabbed a few ice cubes, since the fridge has been warming up since 9 a.m. Monday. There's a puddle of water in the ice box already. We are so screwed. The prospect of all our hard-earned food rotting in place is unappealing to say the least.

Because of our location, I hope we're back on the grid sooner rather than later. The more rural and remote locations will be the last, and the urban centers will be first. We're in the middle - heavy residential between towns & not too far south of Jackson.

If we can gain access to a working phone in the morning, the first task will be to find people with working freezers, so I can transport food out by bicycle. Next up will probably be to bring back more charcoal. One way or another, that bike of mine will be put to use. But I don't have any spare tubes, so I'd better not flatten any tires. If the bike shop's even open tomorrow, I'd be in shock. Besides, it's nearly 15 miles away. I can bike 15 miles, but I've just taken my last warm shower for the foreseeable future.

Katrina Day 2, 2:00 a.m.

It's closer to 2 a.m. now. Sitting up and writing sure beats lying in bed wracked with anxiety in the dark.

Occasional useful bits of info come via radio, and I talk with my mother, who has her own thoughts on getting through all this. Who knows how many others are awake out there right down the block or scattered through the storm path? Most of us are unable to communicate with one another, but we have more in common right now than we'd usually imagine. A Category 5 hurricane is capable of wreaking so much havoc that we're all unified in a variety of ways. We'll need each other to get back on with the routine of our lives.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina Day 1, 11:30 p.m.

I went to sleep shortly after writing my poem. It had been necessary. After my bicycle tour through Cleary Heights, I'd become frankly unpleasant to be around.

My discovery that even escaping via bicycle was simply too dangerous due to all the fallen power lines & such has upset me more than I'd anticipated. Not only is there a serious risk of electrocution from any of those lines that may be hot, but the lines themselves are difficult to see. I had nearly entangled myself within 45 seconds of leaving the house when an unseen fallen line snagged in my front V-brake mechanism.

The winds were supposed to have died down somewhat by this point, but the constant howl continues unabated. We lost power around 9 a.m. & phones somewhere around 4 hours later. Stepping outside, I see a faint glow in the canopy of storm above, brighter in the direction of Byram by my best guess. Byram's in Hinds County, whereas I'm in Rankin. Last estimate is that we'll have power restored in three weeks. What a difference a few miles makes.

From the wreckage I've already witnessed, even an inch can be all the difference in the world. Some homes still had phone service earlier, but not ours. We've been struck (our house, that is) by falling/hurled debris, but we know of no structural damage. But a chunk has been torn from the neighbors' house. People I've known for years are trapped in their homes or have fled somewhere.

No wonder I'm grumpy!

I haven't been actually dry since this morning, when I'd been hanging out at my best friend's house around the lake. At the time, he had power, but we didn't. Now his house has a tree in it.

What are we ever going to do with the fallen trees? They've blocked roads, impaled homes, trashed fences, yanked the phone/cable/power/etc. grid.... They're everywhere. Some trees have been mangled, but others have simply been ripped from the ground in their entirety.

I guess I should've taken a camera along & snapped pics of the carnage out there when I rode my 7300 through the hurricane. Aaron & I had talked about heading out in the morning to take some "after" pictures. But now I don't even know to where he fled, & what I went through on my bike put fear in me.

He can't have gone too far. Fortunately, he'd freshly aired the tires on his Schwinn Mesa, so he can technically have escaped entirely (although the whole world around us seems obliterated, so "to where" would still be the question), but he wouldn't likely abandon his cat entirely. My best guess so far is that he went to check in on (and possibly stay with) family.

At times it'll grow quiet outside, & something in me hopes blindly that it's suddenly passed - that we can get on with the business of clearing roads, de-treeing homes, and generally doing *anything* not to feel like the helpless little mammals we so clearly are. Even the Governor is helpless to do much beyond wait for the morning and tell anyone fortunate enough to have a working radio to stay put.

Of course, not everyone does stay put. Some people tried to return to their coastal homes as early as this morning, when we hadn't even been fully hammered by Katrina yet. And there are also idiots like me who just can't resist sightseeing on bike, foot, or vehicle of choice. Not bright.

I burned off half the battery reserve in my laptop & a bunch of AA batteries in the digital camera during the afternoon in order to snag some digital movies of the trees swaying, waves whipping along the lake, etc.

When we discussed what preparations we should make for this, we anticipated outages lasting as long as days. Now, we face weeks without power & phones. Gods help the people with addictions to feed out there. I'd sure hate to be grinding my teeth in need of nicotine, cocaine, crystal meth, or some other substance. Heck, I'm kicking myself for not picking up enough oranges & bananas!

We've got enough charcoal to grill out one more time - clearly not enough. I'll be able - maybe - to dry out wood for fire cooking, but everything's pretty water-logged. We've got enough non-cook food to last the week, I'm sure. And there's cash in the fire safe. I'll be able to bike out for provisions once stores start opening again.

The food in the freezer will keep for a few days, but not for a period of weeks. Deciding what to do about that is high on our list, presently. We didn't have adequate warning to cover every possible contingency. I'm afraid it'll be impossible to get through this without some losses. Fortunately, we (in my family) prefer to always maintain a base level of preparedness.

We've got candles, matches, flammable fluids, rain gear, cameras, a charged cell phone (in case service resumes), books to read during daylight, and a bunch of other stuff that mostly takes up space during non-emergency situations. I even tried to park my Sentra in a spot that I figured might suffice, which is a serious consideration when one expects everything to go to hell. (And it's World War III out there - trust me.)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

In case anyone cares about this sort of thing, I've uploaded a pic of my new TREK 7300 and the 3 Wood that Dan (one of the club builders in the golf forum) made for me. It's in the Padre personal album at the forum.

I've just returned from a 12.2-mile ride in the hills (bringing me up to a 51-mile total for the bike, which isn't bad for one week's riding, particularly since I haven't been able to ride every single day) and figured this would be as good a time as any to take a pic of the bike before the hurricane hits. (I hope y'all who are down in the real thick of the hurricane are doing OK!)

Yesterday I snapped the chain, and while I had it in for repair I snatched up a rear rack for load bearing as I take increasingly longer rides, leading up to day- and weekend-long touring rides when the weather cools a bit in the autumn. Before I start touring, I'll be adding greater amounts of load to increase my conditioning and get a feel for what all will be really needed for those trips.

Since I plan to transport the 7300 on or in my Sentra for these trips, I should have no trouble carrying along a complete set of clubs, so I should do at least some weekends consisting of both bike touring and golfing. This will allow me to visit a few of my semi-local fellow forum participants, like some of the Florida contingent.

As temperatures cool, and particularly as I migrate over the next weeks from 1.5 jobs to only 1 job, I should be able to tick off more mileage. Now that I'm on a properly-fitting bike, I'm venturing farther from the neighborhood and doing more exploring, which makes the whole process much more enjoyable.

With this oncoming hurricane, I think I may continue riding for another day or two before I take a recovery day, because I presently expect the weather to dictate one or two for me soon enough. Let's face it, even on a bike with brakes that work well under damp conditions, I'm not interested in excessively risking injury from flying/falling debris.

Exertion good. Injury bad.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I took off this morning thinking I might bang out a quick 30 miles on the new TREK 7300. I did squeeze off an enjoyable ride, but my chain snapped just short of the 10-mile mark.

Fortunately, I'd taken a route near home and (by fluke) happened to be less than a mile from the house at the point where the chain failed. I looked around for several minutes for stray chain bits and walked/coasted (very hilly here, as mentioned previously) back to mi casa.

After a shower, I packed the bike in the Sentra and rolled on to The Bike Rack on Lakeland Drive, where they quickly replaced it. They were more concerned about my well-being than about anything else, with a secondary concern that I was still happy with the new bike.

Just for the record, I'm very pleased with the new bike, and feel confident that I've chosen the right shop for me. Tom, Rex, and the staff in general have catered to me with thoughtfulness and professionalism. And the bike's proving well-suited to my needs and tastes.

While there, I picked up a stout little rack for the rear of the bike, which I was able to mount with little fuss back at the house. For commuting, day touring, errands, and general running about, this is a great investment.

I'll take another crack at that ride either this evening or in the morning. It doesn't have to be a full 30 miles for me to be happy, because I just enjoy getting out and about. 30 is just a distance I should be able to cover comfortably in a few hours. 10, 15, or 20 also allows me to cover a lot of local scenery. As the weather cools (unlike the literally deadly heat we're experiencing currently), I want to be conditioned to enjoy touring some of Mississippi's great towns on weekends this autumn, so I keep that goal in mind as I set up challenges for myself in the present.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

local treasure

I'm so amazingly fortunate. I admit it.

I live in a place where gorgeous scenery awaits right outside my door. Lakes, hills, farms, trees, and winding roads come together in a kaleidoscope of scenery, making even short jaunts into mini-tours.

Friends I've known for years are reachable on foot or bicycle in safety. And I can bike to the office (where a shower awaits) in an hour and a half of casual spinning.

In an hour of cycling local roads, I may be honked at by a driver or two (but usually not), but now I just reply by dinging my little bell. It's usually pretty tame around here, and most of the people I encounter while riding range between neutral and friendly.

People do let their dogs run wild, though, which has both positive and negative aspects. OK, by positive I guess I'm being generous. I get to practice kicking dogs in the face without breaking any more stride than necessary. That's motivating!

The negatives you can imagine. And if you can't imagine what's negative about being chased by dogs while out riding a bicycle, you've missed out on too much of life for me to be able to help. You're just unreachable.

But it's a small price to pay for the many niceties of living on the edge of a rural paradise.

random 7300 prattling

According to my cyclocomputer, I've racked up 28 miles on the new bike since Sunday morning.

Maximum speed so far... 34.6 MPH. I imagine I can top that speed somewhat on longer, steeper downhill slopes, but probably not by a great deal.

I've invested $12 in flashing LEDs for the handlebar for the benefit of semi-conscious drivers simultaneously drinking coffee, fiddling with the radio, rubbing their eyes, and reading the paper at 6:00 a.m.

This bike is crazy good for the hills around here, and it's quite comfortable so far. I haven't made any trips longer than 10 miles yet, so I don't know how how comfy it'll be on longer touring rides.

The handlebar doesn't allow for multiple hand positions, so that's probably the first thing I'll need to tweak for seriously long distances. Maybe a solid fork front fork eventually, although when it reaches that point I'll probably be thinking along the lines of a dedicated touring bike. This puppy is great for cruising my hilly rural world as-is, so I may not make many mods to it at all, and certainly not in the immediate future (except for things like headlights and panniers).

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Finally got the new bike

The first few bikes I tried to obtain turned out to be just too difficult for the bike shop to track down in a reasonable amount of time. Highly specialized bikes are just tougher to find. Plus, summertime is not the best time to go hunting for bikes in a picky way due to increased demand and the approach of the new model year for bikes, and more people seem to be buying bikes due to the rise in terror attacks and North American gas prices. (If only people around here realized how cheap our gas is, since our taxes subsidize the pump significantly.)

So anyway, I popped into The Bike Rack to check in with Tom, who's been helping me out with the bike hunt. I'd already stashed a healthy bit of cash in an account there for when we did settle on a good bike for Rob, and had some extra dough in the pocket. I turned Tom loose to fit me up with one that would suit my needs, because he knows the geometry of my body, what I want to do and under what conditions, etc.

Don't shop for a bike. Shop for a bike shop! If you're gonna be spending a lot of time & money on something like this, it's good to have some insanely knowledgeable pros understand you & your biking needs.

Turned out he had a couple of frames that fit my body well, and one was a Trek 7300 Multitrack. At first, I cocked an eyebrow at the front suspension and shock absorbing seat post, because I've been using stiff frames all my life. But he took the time to tutor me on tweaking the suspension, and I took it out on the road a few good times. I'm happy with it.

No disc brakes on this model, but the V brakes seem quite solid, and Tom assures me they should do what I need 'em to do. And now that I'm working two jobs, and therefore can't seriously commute by bike for a while, I don't see the disc brakes as quite a necessity for this one. (When riding recreationally, wet brakes are less of a big deal than when riding to work on a tight time frame and rain hits from out of nowhere.)

After riding it around a bit, I was sold on the ability to shift gears with a flick of the wrist instead of the more familiar (and frankly taxing) thumb shifters.

I really didn't have to change anything on it. I just had 'em tack on a basic speedometer and a couple of water bottle mounts, and was ready to roll on out the door.

And, since I'd already stowed away a tidy account, I only owed $13.83! Me gusta mucho.

Friday, July 15, 2005

I haven't been blogging much lately, mainly because I've been working two jobs. Gotta find some way to pay for the new bike, after all!

But I have gotten out a little, despite my routine of mostly work/work/sleep. In fact, I bicycled to work the other day. By my best estimate, it was just over a 30-mile round trip.

My X500 hasn't come in yet, so I made the trip on my bud's old Trek mountain bike, which is still a fine machine, despite its age and mileage.

For every "less pleasant" driver I encountered, there seemed to be three or more going out of the way to be courteous and dozens who were at least far from dangerous. Cheers to drivers who share the road!

The fact that my second job (temporary though it is) often involves a lot of serious manual labor is helping to offset the reduction in trekking-type exercise. Nothing wrong with a little muscle tone, and it's certainly good to vary the kinds of workout one gets.

By this weekend (which is fortunately almost upon me), I plan to grab some pictures from the digital camera, taken right after I hopped off the bike at the office. As they said in Apocalypse Now, "Oh, the Helmet Hair!"

Friday, June 10, 2005

On the bizarrely off chance that anyone reads this blog, I figure I'll point out that I was out of town a few days this week & hustling pretty much every day for the last week or so on various fronts.

My new Acer XP Hollow Core irons (3 through Pitching Wedge) have arrived. I had GigaGolf build 'em with TrueTemper Feather Flight shafts (cut with an extra half inch of length, because I'm tired of swinging too-small clubs), Lamkin Crossline grips, and a 1-degree lie adjustment.

These are some fine irons, inspired by Callaway's Fusion irons, which I want badly but can't justify spending $1200 to buy. Yeowch!

Each club has a titanium club face, hollow club head, and rubber shock absorbing thingy on the back (except for the pitching wedge, which lacks the rubber thingy). The basic idea is a wider sweet spot with a trampoline effect on the ball, which should theoretically enable one to make more off-center shots go straighter and farther.

I've only gotten them out a couple of times now, so it's too soon to give a thorough review, but I like 'em. If nothing else, it's so nice to finally play with custom-fit clubs that also happen to look nice & stylish.

Of course, it's too wet to do much golfing, but that's just nature.

p.s., My heart belongs to Annika. ;-)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Yesterday I wanted to swing some golf clubs so badly it hurt. But it was deadly frelling hot outside, so I held back.

We waited as late as we could, then trekked off for a several-mile ride & some swimming. I put in a little over 3 trips swimming back & forth across the lake, at the end of which calorie debt was kicking in. That cookie I ate right before hopping on the bike had given its all, and I was having to tap into my built-in energy reserves.

I never made it to bed until probably 1:30 a.m. or so afterward, because after a quite successful conversation in Spanish with some of the guys at my favorite Mexican restaurant (in which we discussed tattoos and tasty latinas) I was really jazzed up & wound up studying much later than normal.

What does Spanish have to do with trekking? Well, not much if I never plan to trek beyond my oh-so-white neighborhood. As much as I love tequila, Mexican food, the Spanish language (with which I have just a tiny bit of proficiency), and latin music, my best bud says that one day I'm going to go for a quick visit to Mexico and never be seen again. ;)

If so, I'd better have a great bike!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I get to play a round of golf at Dancing Rabbit on June 16th, and I'm pretty stoked. At least one of the Ragin' Golf guys will be there, and I'm hoping a couple of other buds will make it as well. It's the kind of golfing location you can see in magazines. Sweet.

On the bike front, financial obligations will probably slow down my ability to pay off the new bike. So instead of having it payed off a few weeks from now, it may be more to the tune of a few months from now, but I'll just pay off as much as I can toward it. I want that bike.

In the meantime, I'm still biking as much as I can. A bout of sciatica due to lugging heavy crap around for work is presenting some problems, but I'm toughing it out. Fortunately, I'm free to sit on traditional buddhist meditation cushions at the office, which is helping the sciatica a great deal.

One day at a time. One day at a time.

Monday, May 30, 2005

What is trekking?

Trekking is an interesting word, referring to the making of a slow or arduous journey. In the sense of getting out & about on a bicycle, the word is contrasted with bicycle touring, which seems to refer to sight-seeing on a bike for pleasure and recreation.

Can bicycle touring be slow and arduous? Most definitely! But it doesn't have to be.

You can bicycle tour without trekking, and you can trek on a bicycle without touring. But in the sense of long-distance recreational bicycling, there's a certain room for overlap in usage.

So, why am I Trekking Bob, and not Touring Bob? Well, I think of touring as something I'd ultimately like to do, but as a rule I'm more into getting out and doing the challenging stuff than I am into sight-seeing. I also like to swim up near my limits and do other things that are a real stretch.

According to

"Trek was borrowed into English in South Africa, where the word was used by the Boers for a journey by ox wagon. A seminal event in the history of South Africa was the “Groot Trek” from 1835-1843, in which more than 10,000 Boers, the Voortrekkers, left the Cape Colony and traveled north and northeast because of economic problems, conflict with the Xhosa, and discontent with British colonial authorities, who had forbidden the slave trade and postulated the equality of whites and non-whites. The British, who seized control of South Africa from the Boers at the turn of the 20th century, seized the word trek during the 19th. Trek is recorded earliest in 1822 in the compound trektow, “a rope joining the wagon pole and the yoke to which oxen were fastened.” Trek in this compound is either the noun or the stem of the corresponding verb in Afrikaans, trekken. The earliest recorded use of the noun by itself is found in 1849, where it means “a stage in a journey by ox wagon."

Saturday, May 28, 2005

I've been swimming once and cycling semi-constantly over the last few days. Will likely take a day or two off from the bike at this point just to let my muscles & such catch up with me. Still plenty I can do to the tune of stretching, push-ups, and other forms of exercise. Cross-training after a fashion, I guess.

I try to google up interesting info on the bike I've got on order, and while what I can find tends to be interesting, there's little of it. (Although if I could read Dutch or German, I'd apparently be able to find more on it.) I have, however, found out that the Trek X500 is currently being used for U.S. Postal Service delivery in several major U.S. cities and for 7-day tours of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. On the website for the Vietnam bicycle tour, they describe the X500 as Ultimate trekking bike, a real achiever.

I guess that speaks well of it, because I'm certain that mail carriers cover lots of interesting terrain under heavy loads, and the Mekong Delta tour involves 50-60 km of cycling per day on a variety of roads (including dirt roads).

Not only does this suggest that the bike can hold its own, but if only because of the mail carrier gig, I won't be the only guy in the U.S. that's got one. heh

I have found a few guys making comments in actual English about their own X500's.

Says one cyclist: I have a trek X500. Heavy as a tank. I would guess about 35 pounds before any baggage. It’s advantage is that there is nothing to buy except bags. It has cheap lights (LED), good racks, bell, fenders and mud flaps, disk breaks, good kick stand, built in pump, 37mm tires and a built in lock. The kitchen sink might be there too I have not looked. It also has ridiculously low gearing. Inner chain ring 22, largest rear gear 38, that is low! I love the built in lock. Just like locking your car.

I use it around town, for shopping etc, It does not need good roads. My longest rides are in the 60-70 mile range loaded with junk. I’m planning in riding from Orlando FL to Boston MA next month. Best part of it is that it makes my Seven feel like it is nothing but a rocket engine.

And another: I purchased a Trek X500 in January 2005 and I love it. Great geometry, very comfortable and stable ride. Gearing is great for around town and commuting. The ride reminds me of the early 70s General Motors cars with the big bench seat and the smooth ride down the highway! I am a clydesdale (6', 260lbs) and this bike is built to carry not only my load, but also any cargo - it's built like a tank, with great wheels and 700X35 tires. The racks are bomb-proof, too - very high quality and very sturdy not only with mounting but with a load as well. The only cheesy thing that came with the bike is the less-than-efficient headlamp. I also have a great racing bike and a mountain bike, but the X500 is absolutely perfect for errands around town and commuting. Park the car!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Today I had the pleasure of hanging out at the most gorgeous golf course I've ever seen with the naked eye. Patrick Farms, right here in Rankin County, is just stunning.

I was sponsoring a hole at a charity golf scramble (will post pics later) and got to hang out with a whole bunch of cool people in a darn pleasant atmosphere. Then I had to head back to the office, because I needed to prepare for a 4-hour training session I'm providing in Crystal Springs first thing in the a.m. Such is life.

When I made it home, I hung tight for a while expecting to hear from a bud to go biking & swimming, but we wound up going in separate directions. Worked out for me, though, because I've been craving some longer rides and wound up biking around 15 miles at the pace of my choosing. Was nice.

My hands are feeling it a bit, though, because I outgrew my cycling gloves a good while back and haven't replaced 'em yet. So all the road shock hammers into my hands. No big, of course. In a worst case scenario, I'll just not be able to do another 15 tomorrow. Will have to see.

If I do get in a few more 15-milers this weekend, I'm thinking Wednesday or so might be a good day to do a bike commute to work, which I guesstimate to be between 15 and 20 miles each way. I may drive or bike the route this weekend to find out exact mileage (and if I bike it, to find out how long I should expect it to take).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

MS Laws Relating to Bicycles is a MS Dept. of Transporation page listing laws pertaining to bicycles in this state.

I'd only known of a couple of these prior to this evening, so this was an interesting find.

I've made a .pdf file with this information and printed it off for future reference. I'm thinking it may be handy to have a copy sealed up in a freezer bag to carry along when biking on the roads.

MDOT's site turned out to have a bunch of info not found on other sites I've found, including:

Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator
Sue Pitts
P.O. Box 1850
Jackson, MS 39215-1850
Phone (601)359-7883

MDOT's got a Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator? Cool. That info might come in handy.


There are lots of different reasons to get out of the house and get active.

I, for one, love a good thrill on occasion and a good bit of novelty on a regular basis. It just keeps things interesting.

Then, of course, are the obvious health factors. I like to feel better, look better, and have a sense that I'm doing OK for myself.

Competition can be a factor at times, particularly for people with particularly competitive mindsets. Who doesn't want to earn a little esteem from peers?

My brother-in-law wants to get in better shape so he can be around to watch my niece grow up. I'm stuck staring at computer screens, circuit boards, and (worst of all) dashboards for far too much of my working life, and work takes up most of my waking hours.

You don't have to think about your motivations to get out and have a good time. Or maybe in your case it'll help. Either way, get up off your butt and go! ;)

thwarted by weather

Today just wasn't my day to get out and ride, swim, etc. Weather intervened.

Was hot and swampy nearly all day, and just as we began to plot out our afternoon plans for some cycling and swimming, all hell broke loose. Torrents of water thrashed from the sky, punctuated by lighting and driven by winds so sharp my car was tossed around like a bean bag.

Days like this don't have to be a total wash, though. It's perfectly OK to take a day or two off to just rest and vegetate.

On other occasions, I'll do a few push-ups, piffle about with weights, some stretching, and/or whatever blows my skirt up. It's a good idea to do at least a little stretching even on the vegetation days, anyway. Stretching good. :)

If nothing else, knock back a shot of pure agave tequila or Hangar One. Lubrication in moderation is a great sensation and worthy of participation!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Technology and Bicycle Distance

How far did you bike today, Bob?

I, like many cyclists, like to have some idea of how far I'm biking. Reasons for this range from curiosity and pure vanity to more or less vague notions of physical fitness.

Although a cyclist can use a variety of tools to answer the question of distance biked, most boil down to variations on a few basic themes.

You can use maps and/or time spend biking to arrive at (usually crude) estimates of distance, or rely on technologies such as odometers and GPS receivers, which, when used properly, will tend to produce fairly accurate estimates.

Use of maps is limited by the fact that paths and the land beneath them change constantly. Maps are generally also two-dimensional, printed on paper, and therefore can not fully express contour details. Add in the curviness of paths biked and problems related to scale, and the challenges become even more pointed.

Estimating based on the amount of time spent riding the bike amounts to educated guesswork at best.

Quality GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers can yield quite accurate estimates by calculating position based on information received from military satellites orbiting the planet. However, a variety of compromising factors can throw everything off. They can be highly accurate, grossly inaccurate, or somewhere in between. The savvy cyclist can make some determination of accuracy by examining GPS receiver (GPSr for short, but that just doesn't look right to me) output and comparing it with known values. Anywhere near home, I can generally squeeze the needed info from them, but it can be hit & miss at times.

Odometers usually work by counting the number of times a bike tire rotates and calculating based on the diameter of the tire. Inaccuracy usually comes by way of tire diameter. Tire diameter isn't the same once a rider plops down on the bike. Also, tire diameter fluctuates along with the amount of air in the tube. There are ways to compensate for these problems, and quality odometers can be as accurate as one would reasonably hope under most normal circumstances.

My preferred approach is a combination of GPSr and odometer measurements. This reflects my geekery as much as anything else. When the new bike comes in, I have in mind to see just how much geeky stuff I can reasonably fit on it. And I'm prepared to budge a bit on the definition of reasonable.


first swim of the year

It's been tough to get a swim in this year (due in large part to the lake in which we swim being locked off and barbwired, which adds challenge points), but we finally made it out yesterday.

Since I'm used to starting swimming season weeks earlier, I went straight to swimming laps. Just one lap across the pond & back, plus some general back-and-forth swimming to keep up the pace.

It's a way-too-short bike trip to the lake, so when the new one comes in I imagine I'll work out a longer route to & from. But I've been cautioned about ragging out the borrowed bike before returning it, and I'm not keen on having to replace the drive train on it out of pocket. ;)

How do so many people stay sane without access to trees, ponds, and back roads? Or do they?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

What kind of bike...?

If you're thinking of doing some bicycling, you may not be sure what kind of bike would suit you. In fact, unless you already bike so much that you've simply already figured it out, you're almost certainly uncertain (or have already been sold on a vision of the perfect bike that may or may not be right for you). If you're drawing a complete blank, you may want to check out this helpful website.

I gave a lot of thought to what I'd want out of a bike when I started shopping for my next bike. But most of that thought had already taken place in the back of my mind over the last few years.

When biking to the lake for a swim, I've found that I really wish I had some way to carry along a few things, like a towel, some sandals, maybe dry clothes, etc. And when I bike around the neighborhood to a friend's house, I'd generally like to take a few things along (maybe just my house keys, but different situations call for different stuff). The list goes on, but the gist of it is that the perfect bike for me has to be able to carry some stuff around.

My neighborhood is also very hilly, with less than ideal surfacing in many areas. So I need a bike with a wide range of gears and high-end gearing system, powerful brakes, and tires for mixed conditions. If your neighborhood is flat and well-paved, you may not need such demanding specifications for casual riding.

When I'm riding in traffic or just doing some recreational sight-seeing, I need a more upright position than is typical on a racing bike and most street bikes. The simple reason for this is that I want to see where I'm going and what's happening around me, for both safety and enjoyment. But I don't need to be as upright as a 60-year-old with severe joint trouble (and yes, they make bikes with this in mind). So my handlebar and seat decisions have been narrowed down considerably just by keeping these factors in mind.

I need fenders to keep muddy groundwater from splashing back up on myself and any luggage I may be carrying. If you, like my best bud, seriously don't care to bike in sketchy conditions, you won't need 'em.

Not planning on ever, ever, ever cycling at or after dusk? You can skip the headlight and taillight options unless your local legal system requires them.

If you're thinking of a bike purchase, try to realistically consider what you want out of a bike. Plan to take it shopping or to the office? Just going to cruise around your flat, gated neighborhood for quick social excursions? Expecting to race, or to take long trips down the Natchez Trace, or to hop from rock to rock in the mountains?

If there are absolutely no mountains or mountain-like conditions within 200 miles of your home, your primary bike probably doesn't need to be a mountain bike. If racing, touring, or other specialized riding options are similarly unrealistic for you, consider whether a bike designed for such purposes is really the right choice.

You may not need the kind of high-end trekking bike that suits my circumstances. An inexpensive bike for scooting around town and picking up groceries might be a better fit. Or whatever suits you.

What I'm getting at here is that, even if you're just buying a bike to get some exercise, you'll get more exercise on the right bike for you. You should like it and have some idea of how you'd like to use it.

Only the disciplined mind consistently decides to just ride the bike for the sake of fitness. Where discipline leaves off, your desire to see some nice scenery, or to pick up some groceries, or spend some time with the grandkids, or whatever, can pick up.

And that's when you'll really go cycling!

Ragin' Golf forum

I host the Ragin' Golf forum, which is basically a free-flowing discussion about golf and whatever blows through our minds.

We have moments of civic-mindedness, such as sponsoring a hole in the Richland High School Community Golf Scramble, which rewards a worthy high school senior's efforts to go to college.

In general, we talk about playing golf, building golf clubs, improving scores, generally razzing one another vigorously, and maintaining a fun on-line community atmosphere.

Check us out!

some of what I like to do outside

I've been an outdoorsy guy most of my life, particularly since I live in a place that's darn near paradise, complete with lakes, hills, and a lot of geological & biological diversity in general.

Here's a quick list of some of the outdoor pass-times I've taken up over the years:
  • Golf is a newer passion of mine. I started playing late in 2004 and like to get out when I can. I'm a terrible, but enthusiastic, player.
  • Walking is an activity I enjoy less than biking, but quite a bit when the mood strikes me. I've walked all through many towns in Mississippi, exploring nooks & crannies that most people probably never discover.
  • Swimming is something I learned a bit about when I was probably 5 years old in Dallas, Texas. But I never really mastered it until around the age of 12, when I found myself living with a lake in the back yard. Once I get the hang of things during swimming season, I like to swim laps across a nearby pond. We also play a game we call Suicide Frisbee, which is an endurance game of frisbee played in deep water. More on that in future posts, probably within the next several weeks.
  • Long before I took up golf, we used to play with slingshots and home-made slings. It's really fun to hurl projectiles out here.
  • I love to canoe down the Okatoma, on lakes, and pretty much wherever I can. I'm long overdue for another canoe trip.
  • Camping is just plain cool. I seldom get to do it but am hoping the new bike will help address some of the reasons I don't do it as often as I'd like. I have always enjoyed just getting out, simplifying things, and waking up outside instead of in one of the manufactured caves we tend to call home.
  • Geocaching is something I discovered a little over a year ago, leading to my purchase of a GPS receiver. In a nutshell, someone stashes a "treasure" somewhere, and posts the GPS coordinates on the web. Then you use your GPS receiver to find the location and search for it. It can be lots of fun, and a great way to find some neat places.
I'm sure I could continue adding to the list, but just working on the list makes me want to get up out of the chair and get moving! ;)

the new bike: 2005 Trek X500

I've ordered a new Trek X500 bike for general use. It should arrive within the next several weeks, which gives me a little time to sock away the money for it.

It'll be the first high-end bike I've actually owned, and I've taken some care to choose a bike suited to my own tastes and goals.

I want to be able to ride the bike to work (15 miles or more), grocery shopping (around 5 miles), camping, touring some of the many cool places Mississippi has to offer (and there are many cool places to visit in Mississippi), etc.

It needs to be able to carry a big rider with lots of gear over considerable distances over bad roads comfortably. That's a tall order, but this bike should do the job just fine.

It features 27 speeds, pannier racks for carrying gear, fenders to counter muddy splash-back on soggy roads, a headlight, bell (for warning pedestrians, who might not hear or see me coming), built-in tire pump, and disc brakes (far superior to traditional brakes in traffic and quick-decision situations).

I can hardly wait for this puppy to arrive. I shouldn't have to make too many modifications to it, although I'm definitely planning on adding flashing LED lights and such, to make it easier for others on & near the road to see me.

And I may switch from mechanical disc brakes to hydraulic disc brakes. I was considering having this done at the time of bike assembly, but unless it costs considerably less to do so at that time, I'm now thinking I'll stick with the mechanicals for a while, which will free up that money for other purposes, such as the pannier bags.

the current bike

This is my current bike, a Trek 8000 on more or less indefinite loan from my best friend. From what I've been able to determine, it was a high-end mountain bike at the time of its purchase, back in the early- or mid-1990's.

It's still a very good bike, with Shimano Deore components, internal cable routing, etc.

However, it's a bit small for me, as the picture shows.

I've got a Magellan SporTrak GPS receiver mounted on the handlebar, which I find handy in a variety of ways.

This bike is great for off-road, and even on-road it holds its own nicely.

hitting the road

I learned to ride a bike when I was 4 or 5 years old, on what I dimly recall to have been a banana yellow bike with training wheels (which didn't last long).

Aside from a fairly sedentary period that snuck up during my twenties, I've always been something of a biker. But only in the last few years have I been riding on really high-quality bikes.

No clue how or when it happened, but at some point I fell in love with Trek bikes in particular. I've been riding one borrowed from a friend for the last few years. (A friend who loans you a $3K bike to destroy for a few years is a friend indeed!)

We like to ride after work when weather permits even a modest degree of comfort, and bike to the lake for swimming. Our current rides tend to range between 4.5 and just over 6 miles, although last Sunday I rode twice for a total of just over 16 miles.

Yesterday I rode (mostly with my companion rider) about 5 miles.

I've recently ordered a nice Trekking bike, to be described in a subsequent post and plan to use it for longer rides, commuting, tourism, etc.

In this blog, I'll be recording notes on my travels, bikes, etc.