Monday, May 2, 2016

For Uncle Wayne (1955-2016)


My Uncle Wayne - the stepdad to the Mountain Bike Jedi Master and grandfather to Mountain Bike Jedi Master’s son (pictured) - died in Connecticut on Thursday. I live in San Jose, California now - I began the cross-country trip from Connecticut to Silicon Valley a year ago yesterday - and can’t attend calling hours today. 

Some of you know I traveled back to Connecticut the last week of March to go to my grandmother’s funeral. Uncle Wayne couldn’t be there since he was admitted to the hospital unexpectedly. Twice-weekly phone calls with my parents turned into regular updates on his condition. When things appeared to be looking up a couple of weeks ago, I reasoned we should rent the man a convertible for a month as soon as he got out. 

But then, four days ago, I got the dreaded Phone Call From Mother On Your Cell Phone In The Middle of the Day. I don’t remember most of what she said but I remember feeling feeling more sad than I could remember feeling in a long time. He should have lived a lot longer and had a much more fitting end. 

Uncle Wayne, as far as I could tell, stopped aging in or around the mid 1990s. When my cousin and I would go to Bluff Point State Park during family reunions in Mystic, he’d often come with us. I was always glad when he did just in case my cousin would need help carrying me out of the park.

A police officer for decades in Connecticut, he was always an entertaining storyteller - especially when it came to his job. After he retired, the stories grew even more entertaining but the subjects noticeably shifted from law enforcement to whatever it was he and his grandchildren had done or were going to do. 

I took the picture above during Thanksgiving a few years ago holding his first grandchild without him knowing and meant to give him a framed print for Christmas. I never got around to it. 

I can’t give him this picture and I can’t ever go mountain biking with him again, but I can ask you to do what I just did: make a donation to the Colchester Land Trust - a nature conservation group he was a big part of in the town he’s called home for a long time. Also, that thing you were planning to do for someone special but haven’t gotten around to it yet? Get around to it now. 

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

A New Perspective on Bike to Work Day


I saw a piece today in the San Jose Mercury News - it had a collection of statistics about how people felt about traffic in the Bay Area. 

The piece included stats about solo drivers and what they thought of traffic. 

It's a good piece but it made me think that we need to spend less time asking how people feel about traffic when we should remind them that they ARE traffic. 

Also the person quoted in the story is wrong: traffic IS detrimental to economic growth and in a land where rent rises by double digits and houses are almost impossible to afford, people can't and don't move from 'A' to 'B'.

Traffic is your boss: you can't go where you want and when you want. If you are like me you use your car for only two reasons: when you think you can beat traffic or when you think you can find parking.

Unless you bike.

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.




Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Explaining Car Maintenance to Millennials

This isn’t the post I was expecting to write today - all I wanted to do was make a quick reminder that Silicon Valley Gives Day is coming up May 3 and you should make a donation to Good Karma Bikes using this link. 

But instead, I just spent more money fixing my motor vehicle in a day and a half than I spent on bikes in the last four years. 

This may seem like an odd thing - especially if you are a millennial who has the good sense to not own a car. So let me explain to millennials, space aliens and others who have not purchased a car what will typically happen when your car needs to be fixed. 

First, you come to a moment when your car needs repair and you either can’t drive it, it becomes unsafe to drive, or, simply the vehicle is making A Noise it shouldn’t be making. 


You’ll bring it to a car repair place - often a dealership with a big, complex building. You’ll talk to a person behind a counter with a nametag. You’ll ask about how much it will cost and you will get an answer we’ll call ‘A’. You are skeptical, but the person with the nametag assures you they can do it and the car will be fixed by the end of the day. 


You will then spend money to arrange other transportation home. There may be a shuttle van driven by someone who smells like Otto's jacket from The Simpsons, but you will spend money to arrange other transportation home. 


Partway through the day, you will get a phone call from the repair place. They will tell you they found A Problem -  that means the repairs will no longer cost ‘A’ but cost ‘B’ - and ‘B’ is more money than ‘A’.


You’ll be tempted to argue. Argue, don’t argue, it is entirely up to you. But because your motor vehicle is in pieces on a workshop floor and you need the car back...there is almost no value in your side of the argument. You will say ‘yes’ and go back to your life - secure in the knowledge that you’ll get your car back at the end of the day even though it cost you more money. 


Then if you’re really lucky, you’ll get another call in the afternoon that you think is the person you talked to at the dealer telling you your car is ready. Instead, you’ll find out that there is A New Problem - and they have to keep your car overnight. That means even more inconvenience. 

Then, the next day, you get a call to pick up your car. You take a cab, Uber or even a folding bike there and want to speak with the person you spoke to the day before. But that person is nowhere to be found. 


You wait for five or ten minutes. You may be sent to another desk who may send you back to the desk at which you were waiting (as what happened to me this morning) and wait for the person you spoke with yesterday. You want to talk to the person with the nametag about the promise made to you the day before about getting your car back the same day. Instead, someone else shows up.


You will explain calmly that you are disappointed that you were told twice the day before that the car wouldn’t be held overnight and you were inconvenienced. The person will not respond and simply give you the paperwork.


At this point, you may be tempted to speak to the manager. But at this point, you do not have anyone to back up the conversation you had the day before: you signed off on the ‘estimate’ agreement. So, you go back and forth fruitlessly with a hapless but pleasant manager who, by the way (and this is for all of you fellow freelancers out there) is making money standing there while you are not. So you will get back on the road. 


Because you are agitated at this point, you will start to see how absurd the business of owning a car and driving actually is. You may begin to wish to have all the time you have spent looking for a parking spot or stuck in traffic. 


You will also start to think about alternatives to your present situation. You will also realize that every day you ride your bike is another day between you and the next time you have to bring your car to a service station. You realize that a bike that costs a few hundred dollars from an independent shop will save you a lot of money that just can’t be found in a spreadsheet.

You’ll also realize Bike to Work Day is around the corner, and, come hell, high water, or both, you are going to take part. The Bay Area Bike to Work Day is May 12




If you’re a Bay Area resident do yourself and you car a favor: take the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition’s Bike to Work Day pledge. If you don’t have a bike, visit a bike shop and get one - because it is cheaper and easier than 'ash in your brake fluid' rear shocks or any other one of hundreds of possibly made-up problems a car service place may charge you money for. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

1,000 Words for Sunday (What's Wrong With This Picture?)


Alright I know I usually just post a random picture and leave it at that but today I just couldn't let something go.

Yes, I was biking on a road in San Jose and I whipped out my phone to take a picture because I thought it was cute.

Then I got home, looked at the photo, and got annoyed.

The sidewalk gets narrower for no reason and the car lanes are doubled up and 12' wide for no reason.

This is the kind of nonsense that needs to change. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Friday, April 22, 2016

I'll Allow This/Earth Day 2016


It's always a pleasure to bring a bike on a train but for Earth Day 2016 any traveler can ride for free.

It is a great gesture. A greater one of course would be raising the gas tax and using the money to boost the Caltrain and VTA budget but that is a longer conversation with many different people.

Will post a more thorough 'sorry I haven't written' feature later. In the meantime thanks for reading and thanks for riding