Crossing The Brazos

“During dry spells, the whole river used to dry up into sandy bed, leaving only a faintly damp white trail. Years ago, on my walks I’d trace that trail upstream, searching for where the river had gone”
Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase

Crossing the Brazos River alongside Interstate 35, Waco, Texas

One of the cool things you can do with a folding bicycle is to keep it in the trunk or back of the car on long road trips.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

That way, if you feel like taking a break – check Googlemaps on the phone and see if there are any bike routes or trails in the area (there usually are) and you can park and go for a little ride. It’s a great break from driving.

Everything In Life Is Writable


“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Unicycle, Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge, Dallas, Texas



There are storm clouds all around, boiling and dark – but it looks like I have a few minutes and I want to get in a short bike ride. I’ve been trying to ride around the neighborhood every day – that seems to be the only way to build my fitness back. I’ve been riding my folder – it’s not the most efficient bike, but that means it is better for exercise (maybe?). It is comfortable and nimble – which makes it good for bombing around the ‘hood. I have this idea of wanting to have a destination – someplace to ride to… a purpose to the pedaling. I’m not sure why. Riding should be its own reward. If my goal is to integrate cycling in my day to day life as much as possible, these trips or errands run by bicycle make sense.

So today I rode to the ATM for the weekend’s cash, then to Taco Bell to get Candy something to eat. I decided on a bean burrito too and stayed there for a bit to read on my Kindle and to write.

I’ve got several portable digital writing methods to take on my bike. I thought about bringing my netbook (an old Toshiba netbook that I refreshed by installing Lubuntu Linux) but decided to go lighter. I have an adapter that lets me use a Penclic portable wireless keyboard with my Kindle Fire. I have a little folding plastic stand. Instead of a mouse (I do have a small one I could carry) I just use a stylus. I’m trying to decide on the best software – for now I’m using an android app called WPS Office/ Write.

My Kindle Fire, Penclic Wireless Keyboard, Stylus, and new wallet at Taco Bell

I’m using a new wallet when I ride my bike. A few weeks ago I went to a cycling event in Oak Cliff – which is too far for me to ride. I was feeling lazy, so I drove to the Arapaho Train Station and loaded my bike there – taking the the Red Line Downtown and then the Streetcar to Oak Cliff. After riding around all day some friends asked me if I wanted to eat some Mexican food at a familiar restaurant. I rode over there, locked my bike up and discovered, to my horror, that my wallet was gone.

I have a routine of packing my bike, places to carry my phone, my wallet, emergency supplies and such. My missing wallet was a bad thing. The only thing I could think of was that I forgot to pack it at the train station. Either it was in my car back there – or it was lost/stolen. I begged off of dinner and rode the streetcar/train back to my car.

That was a long hour. All I could think of was the sheer number of things in my wallet and how much of a hassle it was going to be to replace it. My work credit card was in there, for example and that was going to be bad. I resolved not to carry so much stuff, so many cards.

When I arrived back at the train station (it was dark by then) I desperately looked inside – in the console where I probably left it – with no luck. A heavy sign and I sat down and started the car and began mentally running down all the unpleasantness I was going to have to go through. I looked out the windshield and there it was.

My wallet was sitting right in the middle of my hood. It had been sitting there all day in the middle of a train station parking lot. I must have piled my stuff on the hood when I was loading my bike and missed my wallet. It was black leather on a black hood and hard to see. Still, I can’t believe nobody stole it.

So, I found a little zippered bag with a second zipper inside and decided it was a perfect way to carry my license and one credit card… along with some cash. I’d hate to lose it – but it wold minimize my exposure.

Actually, since then I’ve added my debit card and library card and carry it all the time. Minimization. The fat leather wallet stays in a drawer at home – I can get stuff out of it when I need it.

The Abyss Will Gaze Back

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Table of tiny monsters, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Question the heroic approach

Yesterday was a long and tiring day (though it was fun) and my head felt like it was full of cotton. I kept forgetting things all day – until late at night when I realized that we had left Candy’s car parked at the train station. I didn’t want to leave it there all night and didn’t want to have to deal with it in the morning. So there was nothing to do but to move my lights over onto my Xootr folding bike and ride to the train station. I made sure I had the right station and that I had Candy’s keys in my bag and set out.

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

I immediately realized that a front had blown through and, although it had been windy all day, the north wind had kicked up a notch, and it was cold. I had not dressed for it. But it is only three miles to the DART train station, so I just soldiered on.

Once I get off my lazy ass and get going, I enjoy riding my bike at night. The traffic is so much less, the trails are mostly empty (of people… there are a surprising number of various critters that come out even in the city) and everything is so quiet and still. I understand that it is dangerous, but my lights are good, I keep my eyes out and my ears open… nothing is safe… nothing worthwhile, at least.

As I rode farther, my efforts warmed me up and I felt better. I fell into the Zen mode of bicycling. If I think of the distance that I have to ride, it feels daunting, like I might never make it to my destination. The key is to only think about the next few feet in front of your handlebars and look around and enjoy every second. The miles drop away.

Before I could really think about it I was at the station. I rode around until I found Candy’s car and popped the trunk. That’s one big advantage of a folding bike – yank a couple of quick releases, pull out the seat, fold the wheels together and the bike goes into the trunk. It’s really handy for going and fetching a car.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

My Xootr Swift folds differently than most. You undo two quick releases and pull the seat post up. Then the bike folds front to back (most fold side to side) until the two wheels are together. If you need more space, the seat can come out completely and another quick release lets the handlebars slide out. It doesn’t fold as compactly as, say a Brompton, but it has the advantage of being strong (a big rider like me needs the strong frame) and it uses standard bike parts – which is a great thing over the long term.

So I drove Candy’s car home and stowed everything away in the garage.

Tomorrow’s another day.

What I learned this week, August 5, 2017

Speaking of Bike Lanes…

Someone took the future into their own hands and installed a bandit bike lane on a street in Oak Cliff. Complete with barriers and paint – it was done for a couple hundred dollars and in a few hours – not over the years and tens of thousands of dollars the city requires.

Of course it was deemed “illegal” and immediately removed.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

Sometimes there are no words for the pernicious vastness of human stupidity.

Not a shot! Anti-vax movement prompts Brooklynites to withhold inoculations from their pets, vets say


A Clinton Hill–based veterinarian said she has heard clients suggest the inoculations could give their pups autism, however, echoing the argument of those who oppose vaccinating kids. But even if pooches were susceptible to the condition, their owners probably wouldn’t notice, according to the doctor.

“I had a client concerned about an autistic child who didn’t want to vaccinate the dog for the same reason,” said Dr. Stephanie Liff of Clinton Hill’s Pure Paws Veterinary Care. “We’ve never diagnosed autism in a dog. I don’t think you could.”

My son’s dog, Champ

On the Road with Cirque du Soleil: Brompton is the Star of the Show

I have always loved Cirque du Soleil – now I like it even a little more. Run away to the circus on a Folding Bike!

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I was surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

More New Yorkers Opting for Life in the Bike Lane

Biking has become part of New York’s commuting culture as the city expands bike routes and Citi Bikes become ubiquitous. There are more than 450,000 daily bike trips.

I found these articles on the word’s worst smelling stuff fascinating. Then again, it is what I do for a living.

Things I Won’t Work With: Thioacetone

But today’s compound makes no noise and leaves no wreckage. It merely stinks. But it does so relentlessly and unbearably. It makes innocent downwind pedestrians stagger, clutch their stomachs, and flee in terror. It reeks to a degree that makes people suspect evil supernatural forces. It is thioacetone.

The Dangerous Stink of the World’s Smelliest Chemical

“During early experiments, a stopper jumped from a bottle of residues, and, although replaced at once, resulted in an immediate complaint of nausea and sickness from colleagues working in a building two hundred yards away.”

The amazing ways the function keys F1 to F12 can save you a ton of time

When I Replaced Soviet Workers in the U.S. Embassy

If this seemed like overkill, I quickly learned that it wasn’t. Over the course of my time at the embassy, all kinds of strange episodes occurred. One Saturday, while I was on a sightseeing trip to Leningrad, a Russian stranger sidled up to me and murmured, “So, how’s everything at the embassy?” (A classic K.G.B. move, a diplomat later told me, to “let you know they’re watching.”) Another time, a new Russian friend — a pianist at the Moscow Conservatory, whom I’d met by chance in the Metro — referred to plans I had for the following weekend, although I hadn’t yet told him about them. Even more ominously, after I tipsily confessed to a fellow American that I’d had a girlfriend in college, a pretty Russian woman started showing up at embassy parties and chatting flirtatiously with me. Was she a K.G.B. agent, sent to seduce me just as Violetta Seina seduced Clayton Lonetree? Or was I just imagining things? It was impossible to know for sure.

Here’s another short film for your enjoyment – this one also stars Natalie Dormer.

We Have Just Folded Space From Ix

We have just folded space from Ix
Many machines on Ix
New machines
Better than those on Richese
You are transparent

—-The Third-Stage Guild Navigator to the Emperor Shaddam IV, Dune (the movie)

My Xootr Swift folding bike, folded up against the wall of Four Corners Brewery, Dallas, Texas

My Xootr Swift folding bike, folded up against the wall of Four Corners Brewing Company, Dallas, Texas

Sometimes I fold my bike when I’m locking it up. I’m not sure why – it certainly doesn’t make it any harder to steal – you could simply pick it up and throw it into a trunk. Maybe I hope it makes it look less like a bicycle and more like a random pile of pipes and parts.

I was thinking about David Lynch’s surreal, preposterous, and insane version of Dune, the movie from 1984. I read some old reviews – everybody hated it. A lot of people walked out. Someone said, “It sure isn’t Star Wars.”

Now, after all this time, I realize that (although I can’t even say Dune is a good movie) I actually like Dune better than Star Wars. It has certainly had more of a lasting effect on how I look at the world, that’s for sure.


I mean, what other movie ends with a real WTF knife fight to the death between Sting and Agent Cooper with Captain Jean-Luc Picard watching.

Shade Structures

“since some people had told me that I was ugly, I always preferred shade to the sun, darkness to light”
― Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye

Shade structures on the Continental Avenue Bridge Park, Trinity River Bottoms
Dallas, Texas

Continental Bridge, Dallas, Texas

Continental Bridge,
Dallas, Texas

My Xootr folding bicycle, Trinity River Bottoms, Dallas, Texas

My Xootr folding bicycle, Trinity River Bottoms, Dallas, Texas

Bike Riding in the Big Easy

My Xootr Swift folding bike on the bike route over Interstate 10 in New Orleans. Downtown and the Superdome are in the background.

My Xootr Swift folding bike on the bike route over Interstate 10 in New Orleans. Downtown and the Superdome are in the background.

We had a trip to New Orleans planned for Tulane Graduation. Lee actually graduated in December, and didn’t plan on walking, but we wanted to go anyway… sort of a closure.

This was the first out of town trip that we had taken since I had bought my folding Xootr Swift bike. One of the reasons I wanted the folder was to be able to take it along, collapsed in the trunk, and pull it out for a ride whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Lee’s friends had arranged a party for the graduates and parents at Parkway Bakery and Tavern. A few years ago I had seen a television show that claimed Parkway had the best Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwiches in New Orleans. That’s a pretty salty claim – but I have eaten there before and can’t really argue (though Domilise’s is close). No way am I going to miss a meal at Parkway, and I wanted to ride my bike. As early as I could rustle my rusty bones out of our guesthouse in the Garden District I walked to the car, unfolded my Xootr from the trunk, and set out across the city.

I had no real idea of a where I was going, but used my phone and the Bicycle Route little green lines on Google Maps and was able to find my way. One good thing is the way the Crescent City is laid out, as confusing as it can be, all the roads seem to run to Parkway’s ‘hood.

I have been going to New Orleans for decades, and I think this was the first day of really, really nice weather I’ve ever seen. I had ridden my commuter bike around Tulane in December, but the wind was howling cold spitting rain.

New Orleans has been working hard on making its streets more bike friendly and they have succeeded. There are bike lanes and recommended streets. There aren’t a lot of dedicated trails, except in a few key choke points – like crossing Interstate 10.

There is no comparison to Dallas (which is well known as the worst city for cycling). First, let’s face it, the city of New Orleans itself isn’t really very big – it’s only four miles or so from the river to Lake Pontchartrain – as opposed to the hundred miles from Mesquite to Benbrook.

New Orleans is hell to drive in – which, ironically, makes it easy to ride a bike in. The streets are narrow and choked which slows and “calms” the traffic. I could ride across town as fast as I can drive. In Dallas it’s not unusual to come across cars going a mile a minute – which is rolling death if you aren’t wrapped in a steel carapace.

The one downside to riding there are the cracked pavement and the potholes. I had to keep my eyes open and those tiny wheels on the folder transmit every shock right to my spine. I learned quickly to stay off the side streets and use the lanes on the larger thoroughfares – the pavement had been better repaired.

But, other than that – it was a blast.

I became lost less often than I had predicted (only once) and arrived at Parkway an hour early. That gave me time for a quick ride around City Park and along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. City Park is beautiful and huge (though people tell me it is a shadow of its pre-Katrina glory) and Pontchartrain feels like an ocean shore.

My Xootr Swift along the shore Lake Pontchartrain, New Orlean, Louisiana. You can see the Pontchartrain causeway on the horizon.

My Xootr Swift along the shore Lake Pontchartrain, New Orlean, Louisiana. You can see the Pontchartrain causeway on the horizon.

I didn’t have time to waste so I kept pedaling and still made it to Parkway before the festivities. I locked the bike out front until Candy and Lee arrived in the car – then all I had to do was fold it back up into the trunk.

Another advantage of the ride – that Shrimp Po’-Boy sure tasted extra good.

Bikes locked up in front of Parkway, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bikes locked up in front of Parkway, New Orleans, Louisiana

The First One in Almost Thirty Years

My road bike - an ancient Raleigh Technium.

My road bike – an ancient Raleigh Technium.

It was nineteen eighty six (or so) when I bought my Raleigh Technium. That was the last new bicycle I’ve bought (I bought a used mountain bike in 1992 or so and another used one last year when that broke and I needed a commuter bike). For a long time I’ve been wanting to buy a new bicycle, but having two kids in private college has made me too broke for too long of a time.

My new Giant Rincon SE commuter bike.

My Giant Rincon SE commuter bike bought used off of Craigslist.

Now, I have only one still in school (Lee has graduated and is a financial analyst in New Orleans, if you can believe it) and the second is almost done so I tamped down my inner cheapness and bought the thing.

I have been thinking about what bike to get for years. At first, I wanted a modern, carbon, lightweight road bike. But that’s not the kind of riding I have been doing. I’m not in anywhere near good enough shape to do justice to a bike like that.

What I like to do is ride slowly, around the city. So, the second type of bike I thought about is an urban cruiser – maybe a throwback old-school steel bike, or a touring bike. That would have been a smart purchase and that’s what most of the folks I ride with use.

But what I’m really interested in is trying to fully integrate my bicycle riding with the rest of my life. Here in the vast sprawling DFW Metroplex that means using other transportation – the train or even a car – in conjunction with a bicycle.

Thinking about that aspect of riding – I kept coming back to the idea of a folding bicycle. Something that I could keep in the smallest of trunks, or on a train…. The versatility of a good folder would open up a lot of opportunities. Plus, I have my commuter bike already… and my Technium is an old-school road bike – there is no reason to give up on them. A folder would simply add to the possiblities.

It was two years ago (time flies) that I considered buying an inexpensive folding bike, but decided against it. I bought a fancy-smancy fountain pen (a Sheaffer Pen for Men) instead.

That was actually a good thing. A cheap folder would have been a mistake.

There are a number of folding bicycles out there. There is the Brompton – a beautiful complex design that has an intricate folding method that collapses into an incredibly tiny cube of metal. Then there is the Bike Friday – very well made but very expensive. And the huge line of Dahon bikes – there is one for every wallet and need.

As I did my web research, I came across an odd bike, called the Xootr Swift. It was made by a company better known for their kick scooters. As I looked at it, though, it seemed to make more and more sense.

It is known as the best riding of the folding bikes – it rides like a full-sized bike.

It uses standard bike parts and can be infinitely customized.

The Xootr Swift has a weight limit much higher than the others (unless you buy a special “heavy option” Bike Friday – which is very expensive) – the vertical fold of the Swift is stronger than the hinged designs of the others.

The big disadvantage of the Xootr Swift is that it doesn’t fold very small. For me, that wasn’t a concern. I wanted something that will fit in a trunk or take up a little less space on the train – I don’t plan of flying with it.

There was one final item that convinced me to get the Xootr Swift – and I’m a little ashamed of this. I looked all over town, at all the rides, for another Swift, and never saw one. Nobody I talked to, even folks that had other folding bikes, had even heard of a Xootr Swift. As far as I could tell, nobody in Dallas owns a Xootr Swift. I know that can’t be literally true – but for all practical purposes it is. It would be cool to own a unique bike.

The last negative thought was that I would look stupid and ridiculous on a folding bike – sort of like a bear riding a clown bike. But what the hell – losing your last bit of pride and self-respect is a very liberating thing…. So fuck it.

My final decision was what accessories to get. I struggle up steep (and not so steep) hills. I want this bike to be as useful and as versatile as possible, so I ordered a front derailleur (the stock setup is 1×8), shifter, and a smaller second front gear to use on those steep inclines (and to get home when I’m really tired).

Then I had to decide on getting a rack. If left to my own devices I’d fill a bike up with all sorts of crap, and I already have my commuter bike for that (front and rear racks, fenders, a plastic ammo box bolted to the front – that sort of shit) so I thought about keeping the Swift clean.

But, again, I want this bike to be versatile – and that means I will want to carry cargo sometimes. Xootr sells a special rack for their folder called a Crossrack. Looking at the design, I realized the homemade panniers I just made would fit like a glove – so I broke down and ordered a Crossrack.

Five days ago I logged onto the Xootr website and placed my order. Standard shipping was free. Today, about an hour after I came home from work the doorbell rang and when I opened the door, there was a brown truck speeding away and a cardboard box on the front porch.

The box was surprisingly small and light. I guess that’s what you get with a folding bike.

The box. Pretty small for a bicycle.

The box. Pretty small for a bicycle.

A lot of packing material.

A lot of packing material.

So now I have to start putting the thing together. I should have enough time to get a quick test ride in before it’s too dark. That will have to wait for another entry – so for today, if you are interested in the bike, you’ll have to be satisfied with some of the links I found while researching the bike.

Ride report tomorrow.

Bicycle Times Review

My Xootr Swift Folding bicycle – big photos.

bikes@vienna: Customer feedback on the Xootr Swift folding bike

Review: My Xootr and Me! Xootr Swift

Review of a Xootr Swift

Xootr Swift on Amazon (I didn’t buy it from there, but the reviews were useful)

An Associate Professor at MIT that commutes on a Xootr Swift
How he modified and customized his Swift as a commuting bike
A newspaper article about him and his bike commuting.

A massive message board collection of posts on the Xootr Swift

Photo collection of a customized Xootr Swift

Flickr hive of Xootr Scooters and Bikes

This guy Obsessed over the Xootr Swift like me
and here he gets his box like me

Another Swift Single Speed conversion (it has horizontal dropouts, perfect for a single-speed)

The Folding Society – a comprehensive web site with tons of information on folding bicycles

Gallery of Xootr Swift Photos from the Xootr site

Gallery of Crossrack photos from the Xootr site

Folding Bike Buyer’s Guide – UK specific, does not include the Xootr Swift – but still an interesting read for general information on folders. I enjoy the negative reviews.

Vintage Bicycle Swap Meet

There was a lot going on Saturday, so I pulled myself out of bed and headed out for the first stop – Don Johle’s Bike world in Garland for a Vintage Bicycle Swap Meet.

I confess I had no plans to buy anything (which is not surprising, I have no money) and was simply going over there to gawk. And gawk I did.

Rows of vintage bicycles. Vintage means many things. It can mean classic and valuable…. But mostly it means old, useless, rusty and overpriced… which is how I feel… so I suppose that gave me something in common with these bikes.

There were a few that had been restored, but mostly we were looking at raw materials here. There were some oddities too, and that was way cool.

Here’s an old moped-style that you don’t see every day. Beautifully restored.

I’ve been looking at folding bikes recently. Maybe a Bike Friday, or a Brompton... but probably a Dahon. There was a folder at the swap meet – it was an old Fuji mountain bike that was a give away prize to folks that smoked enough Marlboro cigarettes.

A cool looking old thing… not sure if it was worth the smoke.

The bike looks broken, but it isn’t… well not as much as it looks. It is a folding bicycle, the seat tube holds it straight when it is working.

A heavy, crude, but still pretty cool mechanism.

Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette. Enough wrappers and you can get a folding bike, courtesy of Marlboro.

Here’s a drivetrain you don’t see every day – a shaft-driven bicycle. I guess it would be good in the mud. I did spent a good part of a day cleaning my chain – this would get around that.

A 1970 or so Raleigh Record. I may be an old fart, but I think that bicycles of this era are among the most beautiful things on earth.
I need to get out more.

The classic old bikes made me think of the Raleigh Technium I have hanging in the garage. It needs new tires, handlebar tape, and a good going over… but maybe I should give it a try. The engine is still old and worn out though, I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble.