Cyclist With Backpack on Royal

New Orleans – an Alternative

Pre-Katrina I biked around New Orleans many times. The city is pretty flat, which makes it easy on the knees. On one trip I discovered a bike path along the top of some of the earthen lebees. It was delightful; one could see the river on one side and the city spread out on the other.

Here there are few of the usual interstates that divide and wound cities. There’s mostly just I-10, on its massive concrete pilings, which snakes into the center of town, desperately trying to stay above most of the funk and humanity below. New Orleans was, and I suspect still is, one of a few large cities across the U.S.A. with character and personality, with its own food, culture, language, and music. It never fails to inspire, though it has clearly flourished despite much neglect and years of abuse that were revealed to the world when the hurricane struck.

I bike along Magazine Street and then on St. Charles where what at first glance appears to be Spanish moss in the trees turns out to be Mardi Gras beads, hanging from the weird branches, block after block – and it’s not even Mardi Gras season.
—- David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries

Royal Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

Bluetooth and Orange Chicken

It is the end of 1982, and I am 38 years old. One day, at noon, I notice that my bike is steering itself. Later, I am sitting on the bay, which is today occupied by the Memorial Garden, facing the Rio de la Plata. With me is Daniel Coifman, a psychotherapist friend who has spent a couple of seasons at the Esalen Institute of Big Sur, travelled several times to India and, to put it briefly, gone exploring the mysteries of consciousness. Our bicycles are leaning against each other.

I tell him that I can remember all the places that we have been: the Planetarium, the level crossing near the airport, the crossroads near the Fishermen’s Club. Also, the wind on my face, the water splashing the railings, the smell of food at the restaurants when he made a detour to avoid the two elderly people who were drinking maté… However, I do not remember the thoughts that I had. I was distracted. I didn’t know where I was. I only knew in that moment that “I am here”.

Daniel jumped up. “No, you were not distracted,” he says. “You were abstracted, but you were not absent. And believe it or not, it is exactly the opposite.”

—-The Bicycle Effect by Juan Carlos Kreimer

A couple of weeks ago, during the time I was doing nothing but work – including going in through the weekends – I took a couple hours off and met Candy at a big fund-raiser garage sale put on by a large, local church. We arrived at the very end (will have to make a note to go early next year – to get the good stuff) and, even though everything was picked-through, they still had a lot of interesting items.

I was looking at a big, old-fashioned overstuffed office chair when the announcement came out, “Only two hours to go, everything is half-off the marked price.” I bought the chair, and found a thin Bluetooth keyboard mounted in an IPad case for, well, almost nothing. I don’t own an IPad, but the keyboard popped out of the case. I pulled up my phone and confirmed that it worked with the keyboard. So I bought it.

I am always looking for an inexpensive, light, small keyboard device that I can carry with me, especially something I can carry on my bicycle. It has to be small and light… and inexpensive, so I don’t have to stress out about losing it, getting it stolen, or breaking it in a crash.

Over the years, I’ve used an Alphasmart Neo Keyboard, a cheap Android Tablet with a folding keyboard, and, most recently, a repurposed Toshiba Netbook running Lubuntu Linux.

My android tablet and portable keyboard, I stopped my bike ride on the Bridge Park over the Trinity River to get some writing done.

My Toshiba Netbook – rode my bike to a coffee shop.

The Netbook and the Tablet will still have their uses, but the Bluetooth keyboard is an extra lever of portable. I have to carry my phone anyway, so the keyboard only adds a few ounces. My big, old fingers don’t work very well hammering out a lot of text on a tiny phone screen. The keyboard makes it possible to write at least a few pages at a sitting.

The keyboard is perfect – light and small. It’s very well thought out. I am using it with the case removed from my phone so it can lean up on the slot that runs across the keyboard.

Bluetooth Keyboard and my phone.

I brought along a library book as well as my Kindle Paperwhite. The book is The Bicycle Effect – Cycling as Meditation by Juan Carlos Kreimer.

It’s a short book – less than two hundred pages – about the Zen aspects of riding a bicycle. I copied some money quotes from the book into my phone.

The book talks about destinationless riding – a Zen state of pedaling the streets without care for speed, time, distance, or direction. I am rarely able to pull that off – though I understand and crave the state. Today, I was able to leave home on my folder without care for a route or time.

My folding bike, Stock Xootr Swift – I only added the seat bag and bottle cage
(click to enlarge)

After a few miles I did notice that I was hungry so I detoured to a favorite Americanized Chinese place in an old Dairy Queen not far from where I found myself. So now I can read a little, type a little, and eat a little.

Before long I’ll be bored and ready to pedal again. Where am I going to go?

Who knows?

Another Shot From the Bicycle Drag Races

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle

Taken Saturday at the AOT Just Ride Dallas Drag Race on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

Bicycle Drag Races Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
Dallas, Texas

Without Thought On Anything But the Ride You Are Taking

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle

Design District Dallas, Texas

Design District
Dallas, Texas

Bicycles lined up outside Community Beer Company, Dallas.

RIP Disco Ball

Friday, October 16, was a day I had been looking forward to for a long time. It was the night of Aurora – an every-two-year festival of visual arts held in Dallas. I had thoroughly enjoyed the Aurora two years ago and couldn’t wait for the next.

Again, I planned on a bicycle ride to the event in a group sponsored by Bike Friendly Cedars. The idea was to decorate our bikes with lights and such and therefore, present a visual spectacle – or something along that line. We would meet up at Main Street Garden Park in downtown, ride through the city center, down and up through Deep Ellum (for the derisive amusement of all the folks enjoying the nightlife there), then plunge into the dense crowds of the event.

I wanted to participate in the spirit, although I am not much in terms of decorating or mobile visual artistry. I bought some read and green LED tubes for my bike wheels, but was stymied in any additional ideas for luminous adornment.

In my mind there was an image of a disco ball on a bicycle, illuminated and spinning, casting tiny white spots on the buildings on the side of the road. This remained only in my mind, however, because I could not figure out how to pull this off, given my meager allotments of time, energy, and, especially, funds.

A couple days before Aurora, I left work in my car – I had some errands to run. As I sat down after walking across the vast parking lot I realized that I should have used the restroom before I left – I had to pee. No problem, there is a Wal-Mart across the highway from my work and I was heading in that direction. I’d simply stop there and run in to their bathroom.

And I did. On the way back out I walked by a Clearance section. This is a couple rows where all the returned or unsold merchandise is piled willy-nilly with bright markdown price stickers attached. It is a unavoidable attraction to look through this ignoble collection of unwanted stuff – items that can’t even make it on the regular shelves of Wal-Mart.

And there it was – right in the middle of this beastly mess. It was a tiny disco ball, mounted on a base, with three LED lights attached. The thing was called a “Locker Disco Ball” and was designed to be hung up in a high school girl’s locker. It had a little sticker on the front – extolling “Teens Against Bullying.” Best of all, it ran on three AA batteries, included. Even better, it was marked down to five dollars.

It would be a simple thing to mount this thing on the rack of my folding bike and then direct my two (surprisingly powerful) rechargeable bike headlights onto the thing. So I bought it and took it home. The included batteries were (not surprisingly) dead, but a fresh set set it spinning merrily around.

So I set to work with some scrap plastic, a few angle braces, and a pop rivet tool. A year ago, I had made a custom extension to the Crossrack on my bike to hold a rack trunk and I wanted to make something I could clamp to that. Before too long, I had a lighted disco ball (tiny, but serviceable) mounted to the rear rack of my Xootr folding bike.

The Disco Ball attached to the rack on my bike.

The Disco Ball attached to the rack on my bike.

The Disco Ball on my Xootr folding bike.

The Disco Ball on my Xootr folding bike.

It felt pretty delicate – but what the hell, I took the DART train downtown and waited for the ride to begin.

I’m not sure what the whole thing looked like – it was behind me after all. Probably, pretty stupid. Still, people riding around kept asking about it – it was unique at least.

We rode down through a very crowded downtown (there was a lot going on – Aurora, The State Fair, some concerts, a Mavericks Preseason Game, and a large crowd on Main Street enjoying the cooler fall Texas Air). We turned on Houston Street and again on Young to head into Deep Ellum.

As we were climbing the hill between Pioneer Plaza and City Hall I hit a particularly steep pothole. I had been riding carefully and avoiding obstacles, but at night and especially on bad downtown roads there is only so much you can do.

I felt the back of my bike kick up as it came out of the whole. Of course, I couldn’t see anything but I swear I felt a slight lightening of my bike as the mirrored ball popped out of the motor housing. I heard a collective sigh of the folks riding behind me as the disco ball smashed into the street. There was a final crush of broken glass as someone inadvertently struck it with their wheels.

At the next stoplight I turned and took a look. The ball had come completely out of the base, which was still attached to the rack. At least it wasn’t a failure of some of my own construction. I shut the two lights off and pedaled on.

So that was that. Five dollars down the drain.

I wasn’t sad, of course. The important thing is that I had given it a try and had at least figured out a way (mostly by pure luck and having to take a pee at the right time) to mount a lighted disco ball on a bicycle.

One off the bucket list.

Oak Cliff Bicycle Tour de Taqueria – Fall Edition

In North Texas there are two slivers of time each year – one in the spring and one in the fall – where the weather is passable for outdoor activities. The rest of the time the air is cold and wet or – especially – deadly hot. Right now, in mid-October, is one of those salad times.

Last spring – April – Bike Friendly Oak Cliff sponsored a bicycle tour of taquerias in their part of the city. I went, wrote about it, and had a good time. Now, as part of their Cyclesomatic October, a celebration of the nice weather, they were sponsoring a second helping of tour de taqueria.

On Saturday I rode in a bike ride where we toured a number of breweries. Luckily, I was careful to not imbibe too much, yet stay hydrated, so I felt good enough to venture forth on two wheels and pedals for a second day in a row.

I had been having trouble riding lately and thought it was due to bad hay fever or the ravages of age, but this morning I did some routine maintenance on my road bike and discovered a simple fault I should have noticed (the front tire off-center and rubbing on the fork) and didn’t. I fixed it, adjusted and lubricated everything and was set to go. It made all the difference.

However, the maintenance work took up a couple hours and set me, as usual, behind schedule, so instead of taking the train to Oak Cliff I loaded up my car and drove down. One nice thing about driving with a bike is that you don’t have to park close – which helped out in Bishop Arts on a nice Sunday Afternoon.

The tour started out at The Wild Detectives – one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a combination bookstore, coffee house, and craft beer dispensary – what can be better than that? An establishment dedicated to reading material, roasted Arabica beans, and fresh suds on tap… I’m glad it’s a long way from where I live or I would be there all the time.

The Taco ride starts at The Wild Detectives in the Bishop Arts District.

The Taco ride starts at The Wild Detectives in the Bishop Arts District.

Last time, the taco tour had five stops and a huge crowd. This go-round we only had three taquerias scheduled and a more manageable group – and I was happy for this.

Our first stop was El Taxqueño Taqueria at 207 W. Suffolk Ave – a nice restaurant with indoor seating and a patio. It’s right off Interstate 35 going south of the city – pretty handy. The owners were very welcoming and bike-friendly – I’ll definitely be back.

First Stop - El Taxqueño Taqueria

First Stop – El Taxqueño Taqueria

Then we headed west to Los Torres Taqueria at Clarandon and Edgefield. It’s a popular spot that has won best Taco Joint from D Magazine the last two years. It’s reputation is well deserved.

Los Torres Taqueria

Los Torres Taqueria

After Los Torres we headed north on a long downhill run on Edgefield until we crossed Interstate 30, then turned East to the rapidly developing West Dallas neighborhood off the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

We stopped at La Gaviota Taqueria off the Interstate next to the huge postal service station there. I had never seen this place or known it was there, but it too was worth the effort to find and ride there.

La Gaviota Taqueria

La Gaviota Taqueria

Now it was time to head back to The Wild Detectives and we had to earn back the downhill coasting. There are some steep heart-wrenching hills in Kessler Park, and we earned our daily tacos fighting up them.

A great time. Next week is another bike ride in in Oak Cliff – the Stevie Ray Vaughn Memorial Ride. Be there or be square.

Adios Technium

My road bike - an ancient Raleigh Technium.

My road bike – an ancient Raleigh Technium.

As I’ve said before, I’m not sure I can remember every car I’ve owned – but I can sure remember every bicycle.

My first really good bike was a 1974 Raleigh Super Course – Reynolds 531 steel and stock leather Brooks saddle – that I bought my freshman year in college. It was my major form of transportation for years. I lost it in Dallas in 1982 or so when it was stolen off my second story balcony one winter. I bought a replacement road bike from a pawn shop and rode that thing hard for a couple years until I literally tore the big chainring off.

I was living near White Rock Lake and was riding around the thing almost every day (back then there would be no more than a handful of cyclists on most days – hard to believe now) so I decided to spring for a nice new bike. I’m not sure exactly which year – either 1986 or 1987. I went down to the local bike shop and, remembering my fondness for that old Super Course, bought another Raleigh, a Technium 460.

These were very popular bikes at the time, among the first mass market aluminum bikes. The three main tubes were aluminum, while the rear triangle was steel. What set it apart is that the main tubes were glued together, not welded or brazed. That made some folks nervous – but my glue joints held.

I rode the heck out of that bike. I was young, thin, and pretty fast.

Until my sons were born and I spent a quarter century going to soccer practice and eating at McDonalds.

Then, three years ago, July 2012, I dug my old Technium out and cleaned it up. A few replacement parts and it was as good as new. I still mostly rode my commuter or, later, my folding bike – but I enjoyed having the high efficiency option of the road bike if I wanted to have some fun or try a longer distance.

Then, recently my older son Nick had been riding the Technium, both for fun and transportation. He is young, strong, and fast and was pretty hard on the old bike. He wore out the cranks, chainrings, and wheels. So he took it down to the local bike shop and had it all redone.

But then, only a few days later, he was coming home from work when the drive-side rear dropout broke off. That side of the frame takes the stress of pedaling and after thirty years… that’s a lot of metal fatigue on the thin steel of the dropout.

Broken drive-side dropout on my Raleigh Technium 460.

Broken drive-side dropout on my Raleigh Technium 460.

So it’s adios to my old Raleigh Technium 460. Nick rides a lot and is getting fast, so he picked up a modern entry level road bike (a Specialized Allez) off of Craigslist. He loves it. It is an amazing machine – so much lighter than the old school road bike.

But now I feel there is something missing. I thought about having the frame welded back together – but I’m worried the heat will affect the bonded joints – another frame failure could be a catastrophe. It’s a shame, there are two brand new wheels (27 inch – so they won’t fit on a modern 700c frame) and a lot of good parts there…. I’ve been scanning Craigslist for a vintage frame – maybe I can build something new/old back up.

In the meantime, here’s some pictures of my old Technium.

Adios….

Cross Timbers Bike Ride

Candy and I at the finish if the Cross Timbers Bike Ride in 1988

Les Ondines, by Henri Laurens, and my Raleigh Technium

Les Ondines, by Henri Laurens, and my Raleigh Technium

harmonic_vivarium2

My bicycle locked up to the TRex in Exposition Park, Dallas, Texas

My bicycle locked up to the TRex in Exposition Park, Dallas, Texas

My Technium on Winfrey Point, White Rock Lake. Dallas, Texas. Look carefully and you can see a guy on a unicycle. (click to enlarge)

My Technium on Winfrey Point, White Rock Lake. Dallas, Texas. Look carefully and you can see a guy on a unicycle.
(click to enlarge)