Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Cranksgiving San Jose 2021: Two Wheels, New Ways to Help Our Neighbors

On a normal year, I'd sit with a big crew - Ocean's 11-style - and divvy up tasks for Cranksgiving San Jose.

But this isn't a normal year - last year wasn't, either. In fact, I'm pretty sure I haven't had a normal year since 2012. 

Thanks to misinformation, the plague is still very much a part of everyday life - so much so large events are still being cancelled, postponed, or virtual. The Habitat for Humanity Cycle of Hope ride was virtual this year but still great (the in-person version was cancelled due to rain) and the Appled Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot will once again be virtual. 

Cranksgiving San Jose this year is going to try to borrow the best of both worlds. 

From November 15th until November 24th ride a bike to Spartan Food Pantry at San Jose State University with some items needed by hungry students - check their donation guidelines for what you can bring.

I learned about the Spartan Food Pantry from an article by San Jose Spotlight. Run by SJSU Cares, it found in a recent survey 29% of students at SJSU are food insecure.

For those of you who live and work near downtown San Jose you can plan on an in-person donation Mondays and Fridays from 10am to 5pm or Tuesdays through Thursday from 10am to 6pm. Follow the map pasted above to find the Spartan Food Pantry, which looks like this when you reach it.

When you drop off your donation, be sure to tell the person behind the desk that "I am donating on behalf of Cranksgiving." and take an appropriate picture of yourself/yourselves using the hashtag #CranksgivingSanJose on social media. And tell your friends. Some will ignore, but others may spontaneously decide to help their fellows and make a donation too. You can also make a financial donation to Spartan Food Pantry here and just write the word 'Cranksgiving' in the Special Instructions textbox.  

Cranksgiving San Jose is also running a virtual food drive with Second Harvest Food Bank - which isn't engaging in in-person food drives this year. Whether you can manage a trip to Spartan Food Pantry or not you can join the Cranksgiving San Jose team and make a donation. 

I know all of us are tired and all of us are living some level of Personal Hell since the plague started, but just like we insist on hammering the pedals when every instinct you have tells you to dismount, now is the time to make a million little differences. Thanks for reading and thanks for giving. 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Urban Ore and a Tandem Tour of Berkeley

My favorite artist wanted to attend a sketching workshop at a place called Urban Ore in Berkeley. My research of the destination began with looking at Google Earth satellite photos of used toilets.

Really. It did. 

I know these are mostly sinks in the ground-level photo but this does hint at the scale of Urban Ore, which has the tagline "If you're not for Zero Waste, how much waste are you for?" Right there on its website. It's a big place. Parts of it make you think of where things go when people in the first ten minutes of every HGTV show you've ever seen use gentle touches in the 'demo' phase while other parts make you think of a fencing operation. Stacks of appliances. Thousands of doors. Car stereos in a precarious stack. 

And, a few bicycles.

This classic Dahon was in great shape - save for the tires - but I left it where it was so as not to introduce a new tire size into my life. 

What was supposed to happen is my favorite artist was going to sketch around Urban Ore while I'd bike around and do some recon. But instead I spent two full hours wandering about, admiring the items - and sometimes thinking about what I could turn into a new workbench for my shop. 

A little extra room in the car and I'd have parted with the few hundred needed to bring this old doctor's office table home. I had visions of replacing the cushions with a countertop and keeping the spool of paper in place to protect the surface rather than the bottoms of patients. 

The place is also outfitted with some of the most refreshingly honest and unintentionally hilarious labels I've seen on used goods. 

Who needs Las Vegas when you can bet $300 on whether or not you'll have clean clothes for work? 

For $59, I bought exactly three things: the first was a Samsonite suitcase for $10 that was formerly the travel pod of someone's Bike Friday. I know because it had familiar scars on the inside where certain bike parts are known to rub in transit and, even more telling, had three small holes drilled in it for the Bike Friday trailer kit - which as we all know is a great platform for building an original bike bike trailer. There's nothing wrong with the case that I use for my own Bike Friday New World Tourist, but as you know I also have a Bike Friday Tandem and I'm hatching a couple's travel plan once the plague goes away. 

And I bought these.

This is a classic lantern that I bought for $9. It will soon be found on a wall on the inside or outside of my house. 

This is also a small kid's mountain bike with six speeds, rotten tires, a kickstand that snapped off, bad brakes, a shifter you need a pipe wrench to turn and a derailleur that dates back to the Cretaceous Period. And I had to have it, since I've been interested in building a small mountain bike for my favorite artist, who nearly bounced out of her bike seat while pedaling her hybrid Trek at Wilder Ranch State Park.

This was taken on a smoother part of the trail - the very bend up ahead was the start of more difficult terrain, so I floated the idea of getting a little mountain bike to see if she'd like it. 

When the sketching thing was done, my favorite artist saw and approved of my purchases before we followed the tried-and-true practice of taking our Bike Friday tandem out of the car and rode to nearby Emoryville to Los Moles, where we locked up and fueled up on some great Mexican food. 

Afterwards, we did about nine miles hitting a few shops and a flea market. I also bought some Bicycle Coffee beans. 

I even noticed a place called BORP Adaptive Sports and Recreation and stopped by to learn about it. They make specialized bikes and other equipment for people with disabilities. It's very cool and, as of about thirty seconds ago, are one of #MyNonprofits. You can donate to BORP Adaptive Cycling here.

By the time we packed up and drove home, it was about dinnertime, but I still managed to get in the shop and start working on the small mountain bike. 

I hit a snag early on when I discovered I didn't have the right size seatpost in my parts inventory. I needed a 34.5 and most of what I own is 27.2. Rummaging brought out every size but 34.5. It's like the Alanis Morrisette song: '10,000 spoons and all you need is...a slightly larger spoon' or something along those lines. 

I will keep you posted on this and other builds. In the meantime, remember the following:

  • VivaCalleSJ is on September 19th. The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition - one of #MyNonprofits - is sponsoring their very first Silicon Valley Bikes ride that is 10, 20, or 40 miles. Learn more about it and sign up here
  • Cycle of Hope, Habitat for Humanity East Bay Silicon Valley's ride, is taking place in late October. There's an option to ride in-person or virtual - and the in-person event is on the 24th. Learn more and register here.
  • Cellista's new album, Pariah, drops on Oct. 1. You can buy it on Bandcamp at Cellista.Bandcamp.com
  • For my California readers: please vote no on the recall by September 14th. Just like the mean-spirited and stupid plan to repeal the gas tax it is an awful idea with awful consequences. CalBike had a good post about the recall the other day and I'm too angry and annoyed I'm spending time, money (donate to the Stop the Recall campaign here), and space about the recall. I'm tired of being made to vote for things we should already have in place. Just vote no - and bike to deliver your ballot if you can ride a bike safely. 
Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

As Merry as it Gets


This is it. This is the Apollo 13 of Holiday Seasons in the Apollo 13 of years. We're not landing on the moon - or, in my case, JFK International Airport in New York - so let's break out the duct tape and keep the life support going until we get back to Earth-That-Was.

If you still have a job and a place to live, you're like me and one of the lucky ones - and if you don't get to fly where you want to this Christmas that means you have a little money to spend donating to a few nonprofits. 

This is my third round of making donations: the first was in the wake of a cancelled Spring trip to Italy, the second was when my parent's 50th anniversary bash in New England was cancelled in August, and with December officially flight-free, it's time for a third since I'm not flying to New York and taking a train to Connecticut.

This one's especially tough. It's not just the tradition of not going to Connecticut but also the microtraditions that are associated with it, like bowling with my sister on Christmas Eve and renting a CitiBike in Manhattan after a red-eye flight.

Riding in New York City, December 21, 2019. 

Here's the list of (most) of #MyNonprofits, and I'd be grateful if you made a donation to any or all of them with money you were supposed to spend on a plane ticket AND if you'd go on your own social media platform and introduce your followers to nonprofits that matter to you. 

Bike New York

Community Cycles of California

Good Karma Bikes

Habitat for Humanity East Bay Silicon Valley 

Highways Performing Arts Center

Institute for Local Self Reliance

Lick Observatory

Project Explorer (the founder of Project Explorer, Jenny Buccos, created Crash Test World - a show starring Kari Byron that premiers on Science Channel January 8th - be sure to watch - I want smart things to succeed in 2021) 

San Jose Spotlight (an easy way to do this is to become members/buy tickets for their 2 year anniversary celebration in January

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley 

Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition 

Valley Verde


YWCA Silicon Valley 

As I type this I'm looking at the Christmas tree in my living room that was brought home on a Burley bike trailer I modified for the purpose of carrying a tree. It didn't take much: some bolted aluminum bent with a pipe bender. Here's a better photo:

We rode five miles in South San Jose to a lot and picked out a 7' noble fir (they look good and don't have the porcupine quill effect when you touch them, but they don't smell like a pine tree). This is the first real tree in my house in 17 years. 

I almost couldn't believe how well it worked: the tree was carried at a 45 degree angle and the trunk was lashed with a solitary strap. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to transport your tree by bike (if you haven't gotten one yet) let me know and you can borrow this in exchange for making a donation to one of #MyNonprofits. 

That's it. Settle in. This is as merry as it gets and it's up to us all to add whatever humanity, perspective, support and community we can this year. I'm counting on you. Also be sure to shop local: I recommend coffee from Nirvana Soul in the Sofa District and books - for yourself or books for others - from Hicklebee's in Willow Glen. And if you're local is Stamford, Connecticut, visit Lorca on Bedford Street and get merch from the creative force that is the Danger GalleryThanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Cycle of Hope 2020: Biking for Affordable Housing with Habitat for Humanity EBSV


There's still time to register for the Cycle of Hope or you can donate to my page! Whoever raises the most in the 24 hour period of Saturday, October 17th will win a six-pack of beer from Lagunitas Brewing Company I don't drink but I'm excited Habitat for Humanity is closing in on their fundraising goal anyway :) 

Today I went on the Habitat for Humanity East Bay Silicon Valley Cycle of Hope ride. You can do it too, but you don't have to wait for 2021 - you can do it anytime between now and October 25th. 

That's because this event - just like most others these coronavirus days - is virtual. To Habitat for Humanity's credit, they leaned into the advantages of a virtual event.

You can do it anytime, you can choose your own route if you want, and the cause - the building of affordable housing - did not lose its importance during shelter in place.

Unlike last year, when I found myself in a lousy mood and decided to do the ride anyway (on my then-just built Back to the Future theme bike), this year I really wanted to do it and signed up. The problem I had was I didn't commit to the date and decided, literally this past Friday, that Indigenous People's Day would be the day that I'd ride. 

Since I picked a 62 mile ride, I chose a route that would fill that distance. Going to Lick Observatory was an obvious choice but unsure the main building - and the room where the coveted vending machine and water fountain are kept - would be accessible since it had been closed due to the fires. 

So I picked Mt. Madonna County Park as my destination. It is about 30 miles to get there - about the same as getting to Lick Observatory - but would involve about half of the climbing. That meant I could probably pack a 2 liter Camelbak and have enough water to do the whole distance.

Last night I gathered my cycling kit, several protein bars that were not expired - which is a big change for me - and a few other items. Then I sat down and checked my email, and found one from Cycle of Hope reminding me to download an app called RaceJoy, which would be used to track the ride. With an old iPhone busting at the seems with photos, I downloaded the app reluctantly, but after following several prompts I had everything all set in a few minutes.

With the Back to the Future bike all shiny and tuned (since the 2019 Cycle of Hope ride I added a larger rear cassette for easier climbing, a Cane Creek Thudbuster seatpost for comfort, and a Flux Capacitor just Because) I headed off to my personal start line.

I switched on Strava, and then I opened up the RaceJoy app, selected my ride, and much to my surprise (and any nearby household that may have had the windows open) a recorded message played that welcomed me to the ride. Assured I had started the app properly, I set off - first heading to the Coyote Creek Trail.

Over the past several weeks, I've used my old recumbent and my Box Bike Collective/Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM cargo bike for riding, so the Back to the Future bike felt like a rocket as I headed into the 57 degree morning (thanks for the weather, Kari Hall of NBC Bay Area).

A few miles in, while I was still on roads, I heard voices coming from somewhere and I thought someone was blasting NPR from one of the cars ahead of me...but it was actually the RaceJoy app. Every five miles, a woman's voice would tell me about my pace and average speed, followed by words from a sponsor of the event (and one was even a story from someone who has gotten a home because of Habitat's work - I slowed down so I could better hear that one). If you have a handlebar phone mount I recommend you use it since I felt like I had tiny people talking to me occassionally from my waistpack.

Vineyards always make me think of a friend of mine in Napa - and there are quite a few to see on Watsonville Road. The bike was working perfectly and I was feeling good about my time.

I pedaled up Hecker Pass Highway - a road that has so much potential. As you can see it has recently been paved, so the asphalt is very smooth. It also has a rumble strip in the middle of the road, which creates a disincentive for people to pull into the middle to pass a cyclist. With only a luxurious inch-and-a-half shoulder most of the way up, it was a white-knuckle stretch when cars would pass closely. But the larger cassette on the back paid off even though I didn't even go into the tiny front chainring for this part (I wanted to pass through this part as fast as possible).

When I did reach the top, I did a lean against the Hecker Pass sign, and read the stone plaque just behind. Hecker Pass was named after Henry Hecker, who was behind this road and was apparently not a cyclist back in his day or he would have designed it differently.

A few hundred yards beyond is the long shuttered Mt. Madonna Inn. I rode up there to catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean before heading into Mt. Madonna Park, where I did use the tiny chainring to climb the first hill. Without any rangers around, I had little idea of what to do or where to go when I arrived, but I thoroughly enjoyed riding in the tall, Endor-like trees.

The RaceJoy app again broke the silence by congratulating me for hitting the halfway mark. It even suggested I drink some water, so I did as I listened to the message from the lead sponsor, Patelco Credit Union. I was even within sight of the bench overlooking the valley you can see in the first photo when I hit 31 miles.

I tore open a couple of protein bars and ate in silence, trying to think about what to do next. I didn't feel like riding down Hecker Pass Highway, but I saw on a map Mt. Madonna Road, which looked like it led to Watsonville Road. When I arrived at the intersection for Mt. Madonna Road, I saw what I first thought was a crude, gravel driveway. But no: it was Mt. Madonna Road.

Then I remembered something a friend told me the day before. She was recommending Mt. Madonna as a destination and said she had been there herself and "the last mile and a half you're gonna want gravel tires."

I headed down the road that she must have been referring to not with gravel tires, but with the 120 psi Continental road tires the Back to the Future bike has had for over a year. 

I had just enough confidence in my handiwork to be convinced the bike would stay together. Me personally, less so. Fillings were relocated from my teeth and eyeballs rattled in their sockets as I descended. I kept thinking of the trip I did on the Bike Friday years ago in the hills outside of Paraty, Brazil, where I biked on a similar mountain road on similar tires and the only flat I got on that trip was in the hotel room. 

Thankfully, the rough gravel eventually turned into asphalt, so I was able to open up the throttle a little - but not before being reminded of my comparatively less-than-stellar time from the RaceJoy app.

After passing several ranches I arrived at Watsonville Road, and was presented with a chance to head back on Uvas Road. I decided to do it and was once again presented with newly painted asphalt. But at that hour and on that road, there were few cars as I passed Uvas Reservoir. I stopped to prop my bike up on a conveniently-located stick and wondered if another rider had used the same stick for a similar photo earlier - or would later. 

After several more miles, I knew I was closing in on the finish - just in time for lunch! - so I took a cool down lap in a residential neighborhood for about a mile as the congratulations message played over the RaceJoy app. I had completed the Cycle of Hope 2020 ride. There were no RouteArrows, no bumping into the publisher of Cycle California Magazine or the owner of the women's cycling apparel company Tonik Cycling at the end of this one, but it was still a great ride worth taking, and an adventure I wouldn't have otherwise. 

At my house, I leaned the Back to the Future bike against the door and updated my miles on analog. I also taped the wrappers of all of the things I ate on the ride as a general reminder to others not to litter. I went in the house and ate lunch. 

Right now I'm sitting in my living room. I showered, changed, and have a Gemellos Murals coffee mug nearby that has her drawing of the San Jose skyline on it. It's quiet and it's peaceful, and everyone should have one of these things called homes. 

Please make a donation to one of #MyNonprofits, Habitat for Humanity East Bay Silicon Valley, and/or register for the Cycle of Hope ride. Thanks for reading and thanks for making a difference where and how you can.

Friday, September 18, 2020

#MyNonprofits - This is Bike New York


If you're healthy, employed, and traveled less than you wanted this summer, please make a donation to a nonprofit organization(s) that matters to you and share the donation link on social media with the hashtag #MyNonprofits - encouraging others to do the same. I hope you take part - thank you.

If I'm in New York City - like I usually am in late December - I have to bike there. Mittens, a winter coat, a helmet I packed in my carry-on bag, I will ride. A CitiBike bikeshare bike does the trick because I usually just have an hour or two. It's a great city to ride a bike in and the city is headed for a future with a lot more biking. 

If your name is Bill DeBlasio, read that line again. Tattoo it backwards on your forehead so you have to read it in the bathroom mirror every morning if you must. Keep challenging him, my New York friends, and make sure no politician can even take a half-glance at public office, much less Gracie Mansion, without speaking to how they will improve cycling.

Bike New York is a big reason New York in the place to ride in that it is, and they are a major reason why I still enjoy riding there. Their Five Boro Bike Tour - a car-free ride through 42 miles of New York City with 30,000 other cyclists - I did ten years in a row.  I still have a couple of my T-shirts. 

The pandemic put a stop it it this year, but they're adapting as they can: they have a Spoketober Challenge next month and they're making some of their education programs virtual. Also they now have Recycle-A-Bicycle as part of their offerings, so you can shop for a used bike or donate one yourself. 

Donate to Bike New York here 

And that's a wrap on this edition of #MyNonprofits: I took the amount of money that would have been spent on a plane ticket to (sigh) New York to visit family in Connecticut and over the past week and a half divided it up among some nonprofits that make a difference and matter. Everything about this pandemic tells me there are more hard times to come so if you are healthy, employed, and had your summer plans ruined too, make a donation to any nonprofits that touched you in some way. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

#MyNonprofits: Good Karma Bikes in San Jose


If you're healthy, employed, and traveled less than you wanted this summer, please make a donation to a nonprofit organization(s) that matters to you and share the donation link on social media with the hashtag #MyNonprofits - encouraging others to do the same. I hope you take part - thank you.

Good Karma Bikes has had a tough go lately - in the Arts Mercantile building on 460 Lincoln Avenue, they had another bad break in in June - not a year after another significant one (both of the burglaries were covered by another one of #MyNonprofits, news organization San Jose Spotlight). 

Like another nonprofit, Community Cycles of California, they've had to scale back too. Their hours are reduced these days to 12 - 4 Tuesday through Saturday - less if there is a fire. Just my morale is affected by the wildfire smoke - they close the shop when the AQI is 150 or higher. When you have to rent a large industrial space for your work, the only air conditioning you sometimes get is when the windows are open. 

It's only $50 to sponsor a bicycle for a stranger who needs one, so please Donate to Good Karma Bikes here so they can come out of all this stronger. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

#MyNonprofits: Highways Performance Space


If you're healthy, employed, and traveled less than you wanted this summer, please make a donation to a nonprofit organization(s) that matters to you and share the donation link on social media with the hashtag #MyNonprofits - encouraging others to do the same. I hope you take part - thank you.

I've decided that I'll eventually compile all of the painted river rocks I've found on my walks in Santa Teresa County Park. I saw this one not too long ago and I read it as 'Live' as in 'live performances, live music'  but it probably meant 'Live' as in...'Live Free or Die' or 'Live Through This'...the album by Courtney Love's band, Hole, back in the early nineties.


Anyway, I probably read it that way because of a friend who commented that she misses museums, misses going to live shows, just...misses a physical interaction with people and culture. We all do, and we have to make sure these places are still there after COVID is gone.

Just as another one of #MyNonprofits is doing, City Lights in San Jose, Highways Performance Space is holding virtual events. Cellista was to perform there on March 27 and she eventually did a virtual show with Highways but I missed it since I didn't follow Highways Performance Space on Twitter at the time, but I do now. 

Donate to Highways Performance Space here.

Closing in on the bottom of #MyNonprofits list - hope you start at the top of yours, help some places out, and turn up some music.  Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.