Saturday, August 30, 2014


      Just when you think you've seen (or heard) it all, I had another first while on a club ride.  I don't usually ride Parmer Lane, and especially not on Saturday morning.  However, the Bicycle Sport Shop has their Saturday ride up and down Parmer, and my schedule called for an easy one-hour ride.  Well, I figured the 25-mile beginner ride would be easy enough.  BTW, I had two hard interval sessions the two previous days, which is why I was due for an easy ride.
     So, I determined I'd be an unofficial sweep for the beginners.  As we tooled along, three folks dropped back, as did I.  At a red light, where the wide shoulder turned into a right-turn lane, the three folks stopped.  Experienced riders will usually, if there is room and only a couple, line up behind each other on the lane divider, thus allowing cars wanting to turn right free access.  Our beginners did not.
     A mini-van was between me and the other three and the driver got out and addressed me (who was actually on the line in straight lane), saying that the three should have stopped out of his way (or words to that effect, I take my hearing aid out when riding, but I got the gist of it).  I smiled and shook my head in agreement; no sweat off my nose.  But then, some lady in a pick-up in the left lane rolled down her window and yelled at him to get back in his car, that the cyclists had every right to do what they were doing.  I looked over and gave her a thumbs-up, and noticed she probably hadn't been on a bike in years (but who am I to judge a book by it's cover).
     Fortunately, the light turned green and we all went on our respective ways.  I'm sure the driver was just using the situation as a teachable-moment, he wasn't belligerent or unpleasant; and I'm sure the pick-up lady also saw a teachable-moment in that drivers really shouldn't be jumping out of their cars to address cyclists.  I hope the bike shop doesn't receive a complaint call (I did have on my BSS jersey), but if they do and read my post, they can properly address the problem.  
     Yes, I bailed on giving my own teachable moment, mainly because the three were perfectly within their rights and it really is a personal preference; besides, some situations call for just the opposite.  It was neither the time nor place to instruct them on some of the niceties of mingling with vehicles.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


     Eventually we will get to cycling, but let's start with vehicles and pet peeves.  It irks me no end when other drivers fail to use their turn signals.  There is really no valid excuse not to, 99+% of cars on the road have them.  Of course, if you have your cell phone (or your beer, or your teensy dog, or your lip stick) in your left hand and are using your right to turn the steering wheel, then it becomes cumbersome (but not impossible) to flick the turn-signal lever.   I'm of the opinion that in many cases it is a power-play, a form of domination.  The driver refuses to use the turn signal because everybody should just look out for him.  It is the same mind-set of those who refuse to wear seat belts because "the government can't tell me what to do."
     Well Luke, what we have here is a Failure to Communicate.  Most of the time, nothing untoward happens.  Occasionally there is an accident.  Why am I harping on this now?  Because I had to go to south Austin (from north of Austin) in rush hour traffic this morning.  I allowed myself plenty of time so I was apparently the only one on the road not trying to gain a couple of car lengths.  I lost track of the number of lane changes made without signalling their intention.  Then again, if you signal your intention, the guy in the other lane might just accelerate just to close you out.  Then you tempt road rage.
     As for cycling: I've had drivers yell and/or make obscene gestures at me because I didn't read their mind as to what they were doing, and thus found myself inconveniencing them by making them slow down or stop to avoid me.  I really appreciate not being hit, but had they just used their X&#$! turn signal, I would have gladly given them the right-of-way.  My philosophy is the car is always right, my fragile bike and body have no ego in this regard.  I have no desire to be dead right; my plan is to ride the next day and the next.
     When by myself, and cars are visible, I always signal my intention.  When riding in a group, it is always protocol to call out road hazards and slowing/stopping, cars left, right, ahead or behind, and anything else your buddy might need to know in order to stay safe, including left turn and right turn.  I know, that was in a recent post.
     I just shared a Google+ post about a cyclist who died in New Jersey.  Facts are sketchy/unknown, but I suspect somewhere in the mix was a failure to communicate.  Save a life, yell out or gesture, or if driving, use your turn signals.

Monday, August 25, 2014


     Those of us who can handle our bikes with some degree of proficiency are sometimes annoyed by motorists who are overly cautious, to the extent they lurk behind and refuse to pass us on a road, even if there is no opposing traffic.  On several occasions I have had to stop, dismount, and move off the asphalt before they would go by.  I used to wish they would just drive their car and not worry about me.  But as I've gotten older (don't like the word "mature"), I refuse to let these folks get to me.  After all, I haven't been in their shoes, plus there are many cyclists who are unable to hold a straight line and wobble in the road and the driver may not have evaluated my abilities.  I'm all for drivers being as cautious as they feel necessary.  This is juxtaposed to those drivers who are so confident that they don't mind seeing how close they can get their mirrors to my ear.  Those folks still annoy (actually, incense) me.
     This subject comes to mind because of an incident yesterday, which I will relate as told to me, because I was a little bit down the road and not an actual witness.  It seems our group was at the side of a busy highway (65 mph speed limit), waiting for traffic to clear so they could safely cross to the other side and continue our 40 mile ride.  Two cars topped the rise and approached the place where our group gathered.  The first car apparently reduced speed (I assume did not brake thus turning on the brake lights) but the second car did not.  The result was a horrific rear-end collision, with parts flying everywhere.  The fire department was a block away and an ambulance was immediately on the scene; I was told there were no serious injuries, the air bags worked.
     Those who hate cyclists will irrationally blame us just for being there.  And, truthfully, we all feel badly about what happened.  But had the first driver not worried about us and continued on, the accident probably wouldn't have happened.  And, of course, the second driver bears all the responsibility because he/she wasn't paying enough attention to what was going on in front of him.
     Anytime we cycle with vehicles, it is incumbent upon us to not give ANY indication that we don't know what we are doing.  Hold your line steady; make no sudden, unexpected moves; be respectful of vehicles and drivers (even if they sometimes don't deserve it).  Don't YOU be the excuse somebody uses as the cause of an accident.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


This is not how Cotswolds walk!  Cotswold Way is a one hundred mile (or so) National Trail in England, from the lovely town of Chipping Campden at the northern terminus to Bath in the south.  And we didn’t hike a hundred miles, more like six.  We only had a half day to devote to an adventure (this trip), so we made the best of it.
The plan called for Kurt and me to hike and Marilane and Nic to tour a stately mansion after dropping the guys off.  The fact that it was raining did not deter our plans, only altered the attire.  What threw the girls off track was the mansion being closed this day, so they were forced to shop! 
Readers of my book already know my proclivity for mis-direction.  Apparently this is an inherited trait.  We were dropped off in Chipping Campden close to the information center, in the drizzle that threatened to be with us all day.  Kurt had the backpack with a couple bottles of water and some snacks and we walked the block to our starting point, the information center.
Turning around thrice to get his bearings, we strode off up the street, looking for the Cotswold Way signage.  We cleared the city limits without spotting the sign, so back-tracked and this time, Kurt went into the information center to ask for directions, while I found the loo (bathroom) and struck up a conversation with a cyclist.  He and his friend had planned a ride and the rain merely meant they got wet and had to be more careful.  Of course, in England, like Oregon, you could lose half your riding days if you didn’t ride wet.  Sorry, I really don’t like water splashing in my face.
Not the least bit cowed by this unmanly asking-for-direction action, Kurt led off in the opposite direction from the first foray, and within two blocks the sign was sighted.  Okay, we had our laugh and now a reasonable explanation: the information center moved from one side of the street to the other, so dead-reckoning going left from there obviously put us on the wrong track.
The Cotswolds could be called hills or small mountains, but I believe geologically they are listed as an escarpment.  In any case, they are higher than the surrounding countryside, so you have excellent photo ops.  Or you would if it weren’t raining.  I had a camera that hardly left the protection of the pocket.  Being high, in order to arrive at the actual trail, the road led UP.  That got the heart rate moving and the sweat began to bead up on my forehead. 
Unlike rail-trails at home, the Cotswold Way includes occasional highway walking, which this day was a welcome relief when the trail turned muddy.  But these secondary roads are narrow and have no shoulder so when traffic came from both directions we would hop into the grass.  My Vasque hiking shoes are Gore-Tex and do an excellent job of water repellency. 
Soon after our sojourn into the fields, the rain stopped and allowed us (forced us, actually) to remove our rain jackets.  The moderate temperature plus our exertions kept a slight film of sweat that threatened to increase if we kept our bodies enclosed.  The lifting of the clouds allowed us to enjoy the picturesque countryside below us, and I released the camera from its hiding place.  In truth, the picture only proved that I had been here.  A few rays of sun to highlight the fields would have made a dramatic vista, but it remained overcast.
Part of the hike went through farmers’ fields.  Still clueless as to the nature of the crop (almost any crop, see previous writings), I could only appreciate their dedication to the land.  My appreciation turned a tad sour when we arrived at one freshly ploughed and planted field that had received copious rain earlier and became extremely muddy.  The red mud clung to the shoes and left a sucking sound with each footstep.  One muddy field became two and the foot coverings and lower rain pants were plastered in mud.  Puddles in the next road became shoe baths and we were able to wash off most of what had accompanied us from the fields.

The signage for the Cotswold Way is quite good, but still, an ordnance map should be part of your repertoire.  We came to Broadway tower, overlooking Broadway and began our long descent.  Broadway tower gives an excellent view of a lot of countryside.  It was as if all of the surrounding land had dropped several hundred feet.  Travel literature indicates on a clear day you can see Wales, or thirteen counties.  I guess we saw one or two.  In the field, some distance away, we spotted the famous red deer.  As soon as we pulled out our cameras, they flopped down, so the picture looks like an empty field.  Ah, well.  We still had about two miles to go, as the trail dropped down on one side of town and our pub meeting place was on the other.
The trail came out between two houses whose owners took great pride in presenting a profusion of flowers for passersby.  Perhaps they just liked flowers and didn’t care a whit about the hikers, but in any case, what a great way to complete the trail.
We ended our adventure at the pub, joining the spouses who had taken a table with a nice view of the sidewalk, with a pint of something and lunch, followed by a trip to the candy store.  Ah, the candy store.  This was not a new adventure, we had been here before.  They have hundreds of large candy jars from which to choose.  I think we must have purchased half dozen different candies.  I found some caramelized ginger, which had been recommended by my acupuncturist for soothing the stomach when traveling.
What a great hike!  Kurt promises a different section on our next trip. 

Post-Script: Kurt's next  production is the 100+ mile ultra-trail running of the Cotswold Way, the end of September (See