Friday, September 27, 2013

"In A World..." Making a Trailer (not that kind)

I made two things this week. One of them is seen in the photo above (I'm getting my Breaking Bad series finale party favors together early). 

The second thing I made came about because I looked into getting a trailer kit for my Bike Friday New World Tourist. You can order it from their web store. Here's what it looks like unassembled.

You already know from this blog that I pack my Bike Friday in a large Samsonite suitcase and take it with me on the plane and unpack it in my hotel room - like I did recently for the California trip. The brilliant creators of this folding bike also created the trailer kit: you put the two black wheels in your carry-on bag and the rest of the gear goes in the suitcase with the bike as checked luggage. When you land, you collect the suitcase reassemble the bike at the airport exit, build the trailer, attach the suitcase - which now contains your carry-on bag - to the bike, and you pedal off away from the stunned onlookers who are paying $16 a head for the SuperShuttle

I am counting on at least one chance for me to try this before Folding Bike Week 2014 and I will write about that experience then. But I really wanted to check out this genius piece of engineering before winter, so I put it together this week and thought: there has to be some other use for it other than carrying the suitcase. 

Sure enough, everything went together the way it should. Light, stiff, strong and the wheels rolled easily. In keeping with the whole brilliance of this thing, the trailer hitch mechanism is made from the same connectors that I've seen before on air hoses (in fact, here it is next to one)

Thread it through the rear axle and you've got a trailer hitch.

A Bike Friday representative assured me I'd be able to drill holes in the suitcase to accommodate all three bolts that would fasten the suitcase. I decided to do a dry run with a plastic tub from IKEA…and I ended up with a nice little grocery/light duty bike trailer. 

The Bike Friday people are really onto something here, I thought.

I then thought about the last time I had used a bike trailer: it was just a few weeks ago to bring my office bike to the Bedford Street Diner so I could take a Cycling With Candidates-related ride with News 12's Kathryn Hauser. It did its job, but as you recall from that post, the trailer is a bit cumbersome and makes quite a din. 

I then went into my welding room and picked out several pieces of aluminum for the Bike Friday Trailer Accessory I wanted to build next.

Now I should preface the remainder of this post by making an open comment to Thule and to Bike Friday: The two of you should get together, and when you do, please write me a check as sort of a 'finder's fee.'

As it turns out, I have a couple of rooftop Thule racks that I never use. After all, I have my custom interior bike rack that I made. But if I see these things at yard sales and they are priced at $15 or less, I'll tend to pick one up. 

This build didn't take too long since all I really had to do was drill holes in some very specific places, and then adjust things so that the bike would be balanced. This is what I ended up with. 

Moving it around the shop with my hand, it rolled easily and silently. Also, unlike my other bike mover, no need to take the front wheel off. 

When I hitched it up to the Bike Friday, it sagged down in the back since the hitch was high. But since, as you know, the trailer coupler is the same thing used on air hoses, I was able to build something to deal with the problem.

It's a little on the heavy side (this is steel) but this way I can put it on almost any bike. It's not perfect, but it is a respectable prototype. So respectable, in fact, I anticipate a Bike Friday representative putting a little smiley face on the memo part of the royalty check. 


The coupler worked, and I couldn't wait to try it out. As you know, this week Pope Francis, Bryan Cranston, Lady Gaga and Speaker of the House John Boehner arrived at the Stamford train station at the exact same time. 

Or, perhaps maybe, our beloved train set is broken.

Yes, the Metro North outage is awful, but I think this helping of Inconvenience Porn - particularly on Thursday morning - was a little too graphic for my taste. Not to go all Aaron Sorkin, but can we have the same swarm of satellite trucks in a couple of months when a local food bank announces it's running short on donations before Christmas?


Since I follow Kathryn Hauser on Facebook, I knew the Wednesday morning I had pedaled to work why there was a helicopter hovering over the Greenwich border. Today, there are still people who have long wait times at the station and, even worse, are using their cars to get around even more. That meant DIYBIKING.COM needed to swing into action as only DIYBIKING.COM can.

This morning, I hitched up and pedaled the Bike Friday down toward the Stamford train station. Once again, I have to give thanks to the folks at Bike Friday: the trailer was quiet - almost unnervingly so. It tracked well and didn't make a peep. The Thule rack also held the bike securely - so I must give thanks to those good people as well. 

I pedaled tentatively since this was still a maiden voyage for the trailer, but I ended up arriving at the Stamford station rather quickly. Three things I noticed: a several people waiting for a train, not as many news vehicles, and a Brompton that was locked to the bike rack. I was appalled. Who locks up a Brompton? Honestly? 

I had a couple of cabbies express interest in what I was towing behind me and some curious looks, but I ended up pedaling back to my house with the Schwinn still onboard- first stopping by Fairway and West Beach - finishing the little excursion with about five miles under my belt. At home I unhitched the trailer and went another 24. Didn't even know the coupler was still there. 

So, Thule, meet Bike Friday. Bike Friday, meet Thule. Agree to this joint venture, settle on a generous finders fee for DIYBIKING.COM, and enjoy a long a fruitful partnership. As for everyone who is waiting for Metro North to work again: please be patient, support new rail infrastructure, and try to choose to ride a bike in the meantime. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ride from Wassaic to Millerton (& Ease Your Way Into Autumn)

If you spent any part of this day waiting in line to buy the latest Apple product - like the iPad 4 pictured above* -  this post may not be for you. This post is for those of you who crammed their scratched up communications devices into their packs to head out and enjoy the world before the icy hand of autumn death finally arrives. 

It's not that I've soured on autumn, it's just that this was a beautiful and memorable summer: a trip to Cleveland to give a bike away, my first trip to Barcelona, my first ride with a Stamford mayoral candidate, a California adventure and, of course, Bluff Point State Park. I don't know how I'm going to make this next season top that. 

But anyway, we have 48 hours until we turn to pumpkins.48 hours until your lemonade changes to cider, your beach umbrella changes to a plastic rake and your thin, comfortable jersey turns into an ill-fitting, I-can't-tell-whether-I'm-hot-or-cold cycling jacket. 

Now you can't do the equivalent of pouring boiling water into a cold glass. Ease into the fall and follow the rules of summer along the way, like Rule #22: local ice cream shops.

Since we are days away from a lot of places putting the dreaded 'closed for the season' signs on their outside of shuttered doors, be certain to take advantage of the places that have the outside lines (so you don't have to leave your bike when ordering the treat). 

Also: take a relaxing ride like the one my wife and I took this past Sunday: If you're in reasonable driving distance, I suggest the Harlem Valley Rail Trail.

The way I do the trail is driving the car up to the Wassaic, New York Metro North station, parking in the lot, and riding the trail the 10+ miles to Millerton. 

It's paved all the way and mostly smooth, so if you bring a skinny-tired bike you shouldn't have any problems. I always bring the recumbent since it fits in with the relaxed setting. 

Now according to the bike GPS, one climbs about 200 feet over the course of the ten miles. Very gradual. After all, this used to be a rail bed, and unlike some other rail trails, there are things to see along the way, not that many road crossings and very little traffic noise. 

The trees are changing and the tires will crunch on the dead organic matter (I'm sorry: pretty autumn leaves) covering parts of the trail. 

As you come into Millerton, you can lock your bikes up to the rack found on your right - the one that is across from the Rail Trail Supply Company, where you can rent a bike, get one serviced or pick up supplies.

Just across the street you'll find Harney & Sons. If you like tea and you haven't been there…you're going to want to go. They have tea and serve lunch, so it's a good idea to ride in the morning to Millerton to eat.

I'm not a tea person, but my wife is, so while she was sampling tea I was buying a pound of coffee beans from Irving Farm Coffee Roasters.

Now a nice part of this rail trail is that the town of Millerton has a great bookshop - the outstanding Oblong Books & Music - and other interesting places to wander. So if you go with someone who doesn't ride as much as you - and browses more - you can ride back to get the car and drive back to Millerton before finishing the day. 

So that's what we did. Going back alone, I still enjoyed the trail and went much faster even though I still slowed down to say 'on your left' before riding by the other people who were out enjoying the trail. Other than a stop to try to photograph a hawk, this was the only picture I took on the way back: it's my watch and my GPS: only 38 minutes to go the 10.7 miles from Millerton to my car. I think the socks I was wearing made me feel like I could go fast.

And that was a good ride to help ease myself into autumn - which is already dumping a huge number of dead organ…pretty yellow leaves everywhere. Look what I saw on my way up Rt. 106 to New Canaan this morning.

I'll be sure to get more rides in between now and Sunday, and will try to make this a great autumn. I may even hire a guy to rake my leaves this year and go for a bike ride instead, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm going to put this post up and go outside and play. Hope you do too. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

*made you look - it's really an iPad 2 I found on - where else - a bike ride earlier this year on High Ridge Road in Stamford. Too smashed up to try to find the owner, I peeled off some letters from the keyboard and went nuts with the crazy glue. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cycling With Candidates, My Cousin, & News 12's Kathryn Hauser (but not all at once)

Now that I had ridden with Michael Fedele, David Martin and William Tong before the Stamford primary, I was ready for a little break and got down to the wire following Summer Rule #13: Bluff Point State Park. As it happened, I was able to make it to Mystic last weekend, where, after a family trip to A Taste of Mystic, my cousin and I raced off in separate cars - he was hitting the park on his way home - to the place we know and love. 

In addition to the mountain bike I built, I brought my GoPro HD Hero 2. If you've got a minute and twenty-two seconds to spare, check out the uncut footage of me following my cousin through singletrack heaven in Bluff Point State Park.

I apologize for the Blair Witch Project-like ending. When I reviewed the footage, I realized I was flung from the bike towards the right when the camera violently panned to the left. The video - which my mother didn't like - would be of no use to the NTSB to determine the cause of the crash.

Four days and several bandage-changes later, I was heading to the Bedford Street Diner once again on a Cycling With Candidates related mission. For each of the rides one or two journalists covered it (and I thank the Stamford Advocate staff and especially). 

But in the middle of my cycling vacation in California, I was able to connect with Kathryn Hauser, a reporter from News 12 Connecticut. As it turned out, she'd be on vacation once I had returned back from my vacation and wouldn't be able to join me for David Martin's ride, but she wanted to know if I would do an interview. 

Naturally, I agreed. Cyclists are very effective at talking about the benefits of cycling with other cyclists, so anything I could do to talk about a mode of transport I adore that might be heard by the non-spandex wearing crowd seemed like a good idea. 

I suggested to Kathryn that she take a ride with me as part of the story - and I told her I'd be able to lend her a bike if she needed. She agreed, and I excitedly emailed her back asking her to tell me her height. 

Now if you're loaning a bike to someone you've never seen it's an important question. People on TV are either a lot taller or a lot shorter than you expect, and since I thought they wouldn't have a lot of time to do their story I thought it would be best if I brought a bike that was adjusted properly. 

She gave me her height in a follow-up email. Discovering she was just a few inches shorter than me meant she could easily fit on my Dahon Matrix, the Office Bike or almost any other bike I have. 

Thankfully, she indicated she could bring her own helmet, which spared me from having to ask something along the lines of: "How big is your head? Is it the size of a volleyball or do you need a spotter to help lift it from the pillow every morning?"

It later occurred to me that even if I had engaged in that kind of questioning, I had already destroyed one of my spare helmets in the DIYBIKING.COM Presents: Protect Your Melon post and wouldn't have much I could offer her anyway. 

The morning of the ride, I realized that I could drive my car to work with the Dahon in the back, retrieve the Office Bike, and drive both to the Bedford Street Diner. Then I remembered the trailer I built for the Domus bike drive - and of course my Sandy Hook/-20- post - and figured it would be a good time to give myself another chance to do what millions should do every day: choose the bike. Yes, you can ride to work if it is safe and you are not too far. Yes, you can ride to the grocery store to buy eggs and bring them all back unbroken. Yes, you can even transport an entire Thanksgiving dinner or move grocery trolleys back to their origin supermarkets. Even though Stamford isn't (yet) the ideal place to ride, you can help make it so by choosing the bike instead of the car, and that's what I decided to do. 

"That's what this is all about, right?" I asked myself - before responding with a smile. 

The morning of the Democratic primary, I rode the Dahon to work early with the empty trailer rattling behind me. Unwilling to take the whole apparatus up in the elevator, I locked everything to a railing in the parking garage and headed into the building to get the office bike.

Soon after, at a slow and careful pace, I pedaled down Summer Street and took a left onto Hoyt before making another left onto Bedford…coming in to park a good ten minutes before News 12's arrival time.

I got the office bike off the trailer and reattached the front wheel before I locked everything up in a place where it would all be out of the way. 

I sat at the counter where I resisted the temptation of donuts while talking about the bike trailer with the waitress, who was curious about it. A few minutes later, Kathryn entered the diner and introduced herself. We talked about the traffic and the primary before I suggested she head to the back of the diner with me to check out her ride. 

We quickly determined she'd fit better on the office bike, but she said she wanted to do the interview before riding. Standing on the side of the diner, she had the camera operator attach a cordless microphone, which attached to my belt. I stifled a laugh as I couldn't help thinking about the wireless microphone gag from the first Naked Gun movie. Thankfully, I had already used the bathroom. 

Next, she let the enormous camera roll while Kathryn asked me a series of questions about Cycling with Candidates and my own history with biking. I hoped my answers would be coherent enough to air. She assured me to just talk, which I am actually pretty good at doing.

Then the camera operator did something I wasn't expecting: she attached a GoPro HD Hero to my handlebars.

The idea was to get footage of me on the bike from the point of view of the bike. I went along with it, but for the sake of their ratings I hoped they would use as little footage of me as possible. Also, I was a little worried I'd forget the camera was there and go nose spelunking or something. 

Kathryn and I did two rides together; one with the camera pointed up at me and the other with the camera facing forward so we could capture some of the ride. Two things really made me smile: the first was Kathryn - an experienced cyclist - said she was happy with the quality of the bike I had lent her. The second was that before the trip to Bluff Point I hadn't used my own GoPro in nearly a year, and for the second time in four days, I was riding with one on my handlebars.

After we returned to the diner, Kathryn filmed a short teaser for the segment by standing with the office bike and a News 12 microphone in front of Bedford Street while, cued by the camera operator, I rode behind her. 

"Local blogger and mediocre DIYer wants to make Stamford more bicycle friendly. What that means for your weekend - at five!"

She said something like that. I couldn't hear her exact words.

Next, I was to ride by myself so Kathryn and the camera operator could get ahead of me in their car and film. The microphone would remain on my waist and the GoPro remained on my handlebars throughout this. The camera operator encouraged me to talk if I thought I was close enough to the car and simply wanted to point out quirks about riding in Stamford. 

For the most part, since I had trouble finding out where the News 12 car was, I was sure I was mostly talking to myself - or someone with a nearby baby monitor may have picked up some of my chatter as I was riding down Summer Street.

Sitting at a red light, I noticed something in my helmet rearview mirror, let out an exasperated sigh, and said the following:

"I don't know if anyone can hear me, but this is not only against the law but a pet-peeve. I am at a red light and the woman in the white car behind me has a cell phone pressed to her ear." 

At the time, it didn't occur to me to get off the bike, turn it around (the GoPro was facing forward) and bust the cell phone-using woman while reciting her license plate number for the cable television audience: "Caught you on tape! How does it feel to be as local as local news gets?!" 

But I did no such thing, and when light changed the woman's car passed me without incident. She was still on her call. I hope anyone, of any gender, in any car, refrains from using their cell phones for any reason while driving.

Minutes later, I met back up with Kathryn and the operator at the diner, and I thanked them both profusely. Realizing I had another chance to get a picture of a professional person on my site wearing a bike helmet, I here present News 12 reporter/anchor Kathryn Hauser.

We parted ways so I could reattach the office bike to the trailer and I could ride back to work. Returning that bike to its spot behind my office door, I was once again left with pedaling with the rattling, empty bike trailer all the way home at the end of the day. These things do make a lot of noise when there is nothing in them. Not far from home, I came across someone I could identify with and gave him a friendly nod of solidarity. 

I arrived home and put the trailer away. A few hours later the fully produced segment hit the air, and you can see it here:

My mother did like this video - partly because I think it helped her forget the one I had made. 

Please share the News 12 link with your cycling friends - and better still, your non-cycling friends. And for those of you who have access to a GoPro: it isn't easy to get good footage, but it obviously does help if you are good at editing like Kathryn Hauser and the News 12 team. Once again, I thank Kathryn and News 12: they did inspire me to learn about shooting better footage of my own and I hope the segment they made inspires more people at home to choose the bike and get more involved in making their cities and towns more bike friendly.  As always, thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thanks, News 12 Connecticut

I took this picture yesterday morning. It is News 12 Connecticut reporter/anchor Kathryn Hauser. She and the News 12 team took the time to do a feature yesterday on 'Cycling with Candidates' and aired some of my thoughts on how cities, particularly Stamford, can improve themselves with cycling infrastructure. I am using this space to thank Kathryn for her interest in this and for taking so much time with me yesterday morning to put together such a quality feature.

This photograph, which shows the bike mover I built for the Domus/Trafigura Work & Learn center's bike drive, was also taken yesterday morning. I promise to explain more about both photographs a little later this week. In the meantime, please share the News 12 link - and as always, thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cycling With Candidates: Part III

So, as you know, I asked the two Democrats and the one Republican running for mayor of Stamford if they would take a one-mile bike ride with me through downtown. Even though the purpose of the ride is the ride, I mainly just wanted to make sure that the next mayor of the city I call home would have the perspective of a cyclist and hopefully see how just a little investment in bike infrastructure would make the entire city function better for all travelers. 

Plus, a great way to promote casual and commuter cycling is for as many people as possible to see good looking people riding bikes, and when I think of good looking people, I immediately think about Stamford's slate of mayoral candidates. So if you are good looking or know someone who is, please take a picture of yourself (or him/her) on a bike and post it somewhere. Use the hashtag '#takeabikeride'.

I did a ride with Republican Michael Fedele and I thanked him very much. Later, the day before my vacation in California, I rode with Democrat William Tong and I thanked him very much. 

Today, completely over the jet lag, fully caught up on 'Breaking Bad' and with less than a week to go before the primary, I rode with Democrat David Martin. And I thanked him very much. 

In other words: I asked three candidates to take a one-mile bike ride with me and all three said yes. I did not have anywhere near this kind of success rate when I was asking girls out back in high school.

We had arranged to do the ride at 9:00 in the morning today (Thursday) and meeting, as usual, at the Bedford Street Diner.

Now Fedele's ride, if you recall, was earlier on a morning while Tong's ride was done in the afternoon rush hour. Once again I had the chance to wonder what kind of city would greet the two of us on the ride from the diner to the government center. Would he prefer a large number of motorists who have already drank their coffee, or, (as I usually find early in the mornings) a smaller number of motorists who are cranky and inattentive because the coffee hasn't kicked in yet?

Both hard questions. 

But this morning I had my answer to an easy question: I was at the Bedford Street Diner well within the 'donut window' and decided to indulge. 

I'll stay in the big chainring and take the extra long way back after the ride is over, I thought. 

David was at the diner when I arrived, and standing near one of the booths we introduced ourselves and talked for a few minutes. I found out quickly that like William Tong and Michael Fedele, he was mostly a recreational rider. David told me that when he was growing up in south Kansas City, he recalled that would often ride through a cornfield not far from his home, and after using bikes a lot in and after college and immediately following graduate school, he's mostly cycled on vacations - and, like the others, not so much in Stamford. 

While David pulled his bike out of his car and prepared it, I chatted with Lindsay, a photographer from the Stamford Advocate and Christina from At one point I mentioned how nice it would be if I could take this concept to the presidential race in 2016 (someday you may in fact visit DIYBIKING.COM and see a picture of New Jersey governor Chris Christie smiling and wearing a bike helmet).

Speaking of which: as you know, this project has the time-honored tradition (if you can call four weeks 'time' and two earlier rides 'tradition') of showing the mayoral candidate wearing a bike helmet, so here I present Democrat David Martin. 

Lindsay left in her car so she could get ahead of us to take photos of the ride, so moments after her car was out of sight David and I set off. The right turn onto Bedford Street and the left turn onto Oak were both uneventful, but we did have to wait for traffic on that rather sinister left onto Summer Street, so I took a moment to tell him of my mixed feelings about the 'bump-outs' which, according to the paint marks on the concrete, were probably going to be added to that intersection at a later date (for those of you who don't know, bump-outs are when sections of sidewalk are 'bumped out' into the road to make the road narrower. Done right, it forces cars to turn less aggressively. Done wrong, and you've got a sidewalk that looks as though it is digesting a large animal and less room on the newly narrowed road for a bike lane). 

We headed down Summer Street, and the din from the cars and the fact we were almost always single file made conversation difficult. Like the other two candidates, I watched David as closely as I could through my helmet rearview mirror. I asked myself the usual questions: is this person getting it? Seeing how just a little bit of investment in bike lanes, downtown racks and other things could make this experience better? Notice how we're going faster than a lot of cars out there? 

One question I did ask aloud while passing a Greek restaurant I love was "That's a great place - have you been to Eos?" but I didn't hear his answer over the traffic noise.  

We then approached the red light on the corner of Summer and Broad - I pointed out it would have been easier if the car lanes were narrower and if there was a bike lane in the mix - and turned right to ride with traffic until we stopped at the red, where I promptly took a photo that will wind up with a Pulitzer someday…or I accidentally pushed the shutter button while taking the camera out.

Now seasoned with this turn (which I rarely made before I started 'Cycling with Candidates) I told David we had to move fast as soon as the light went green, and we did.

A red light on a stretch of Washington Boulevard gave us another chance to talk briefly, and he mentioned the importance of us not getting 'doored' by any of the cars along the street (important for any cyclist), explaining one of his daughters who lives in New York City experienced that while riding a Citibike from the city's new bike share program, but unlike most Citibike riders, she was wearing a helmet (also important for any cyclist). 

Nearly on cue, a creaky door of a brown car opened up into traffic as a man got out, but we both avoided the danger easily while pointing and saying things like "there's one!" and "perfect example!" which probably baffled the driver.

A few moments later, we had arrived at the government center. I immediately breathed a sigh of relief: three candidates, one mile through rush hour each, not one fatality. Cycling progress in the city would not be set back on my watch. 

I thanked David and also his campaign volunteer, who had followed in his car. I thought she was going to pick him up, but he said he was going to ride around the corner to his campaign office to plan for the next event. After all, there is a primary coming up in five days, after which either himself or Tong will give a concession speech. Win or lose, there's a lot to be done by both camps by then - and even more to be done afterward. 

David turned right on his bike and headed off. Soon after, I got back on my own bike to return to my workplace, once again riding on Bedford Street and imagining how it might look different and possibly more bike friendly someday. 

I appreciate the time of all three candidates for engaging in this - as I've said before I'm not judging any of them on their attire, choice of equipment, or how they feel about certain projects. In fact, I am hoping that as we get closer to the general election, we see some published policy statements and positions about city streets and their thoughts on cycling. Yes, all three of these candidates, to some degree, talked of what they might do as mayor but I want you to hear it from them, not me. No matter what there will be more 'Cycling With Candidates' updates to come. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding - especially if you live and work in Stamford. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

DIYBIKING.COM's California Adventure (in California)

Less than 24 hours after cycling one mile with Stamford Democratic mayoral candidate William Tong (the second of what will hopefully be three rides with each of the major candidates for mayor - more on that origin story here) I was sitting on a plane turning my watch back three hours. My Bike Friday New World Tourist, packed in a Samsonite suitcase, was somewhere in the cargo hold underneath my feet. 

You see, for several months my wife and I had planned a final summer trip that would come on the tail end of a conference she was attending in Anaheim, California. I'd have two days of solid cycling while she was at the conference, and I wasn't going to waste them. 

For this trip, we stayed at the Disney Grand Californian Hotel, a short walk from Disneyland and 'Downtown Disney.' I liked the hotel a lot - the staff was always pleasant and never objected to my wheeling my bike in and out - but honestly I had an easier time navigating through the highway-like streets of Orange County than I did walking through the vast hotel. Going for coffee the first morning I got lost twice. 

But when I took the Bike Friday out later that same morning, I was easily able to find my way past various hotel guests wearing Mickey Mouse ears and the like to head out the front door. The day before, I had gotten a tip that if I were to pedal just a few miles down Katella Avenue I'd find the Santa Ana River Trail & Parkway that led all the way to Huntington Beach - where I could go to sit on the beach and watch people surfing. 

After turning on the Garmin, I mounted the bike and left the hotel, heading south on Disneyland Drive. My original instincts about Anaheim felt correct at first: Narrow concrete shoulders, annoying raised reflective thingies in the road, and three lanes. Some of the intersections themselves seemed bigger than entire Stamford city blocks - and I was thankful I was out there early on a Sunday morning when there weren't many cars. 

However, not fifteen minutes after beginning my less than stellar experience cycling on Katella Avenue, I had arrived at the Santa Ana River Trail and Parkway.

Eventually, they want this trail to run 110 miles - from Big Bear Lake to the Pacific Ocean. The 14 miles or so I did from Anaheim to Huntington Beach was…I believe the technical term for it is…a blast. 

Now there aren't a lot of truly interesting things to see along this stretch, but aside from the crossings it doesn't run alongside any roads: just one golf course but mostly flood control canals, so it is surprisingly quiet most of the time. 

Because it was flat I could build up a lot of speed, and because the trail looped under bridges there were no road crossings to have to contend with. I'd often see homeless people living under some of the bridges, but seeing them made me realize there were people out there who had far greater problems than seeing homelessness on a bike ride while staying in a nice hotel. 

I had definitely brought the right bike: fresh off its trip to Barcelona and with a new front tire, the Bike Friday worked perfectly as I covered the miles from Anaheim to Huntington Beach. From time to time I stopped to actually venture up to the roads and take different pictures - including one shot I've been wanting to get for years.

As I got closer to Huntington Beach, the flood control canal eventually turned into the river mouth. I also noticed that there was a lot more fog down by the ocean. 

The trail ended at the Pacific Coast Highway, which I pedaled down a short ways to get to a public beach. By now the fog was quite thick. But undaunted, I walked down the beach, lay the bike gently on its side, and watched the surfers.

And in the sand I saw…the footsteps of a gigantic hound; possibly the same one I had heard braying on the moor. 

Wishing to leave the soothing but rather Baskerville-like setting, I returned to the path the ran alongside the beach and realized there were more V.W.M.P.S.M. in this part of the country than in any other place in the U.S. I have ever been (that's VW Microbus' Per Square Mile).

Before long, I came upon a large group of cyclists on the beach. Naturally attracted, I headed up and asked one what was going on. As it turned out, it was a gathering for a memorial ride in honor of Michael Ray Vega, an artist and cyclist who was killed by a hit-and-run driver a year before. Talking for just a a few minutes with a couple of the participants made me wish I had known him or had planned ahead to participate in the ride. 

I continued up the path, through additional fog and steadily thickening crowds. Soon I was able to get a glimpse of a cycling innovation I never see in Stamford.  

Not long after, I stopped for lunch and decided to head back the way I came and go to Costa Mesa, where I had to buy some accessory for my wife at the Apple Store.  Yes, just like with our trip to Orlando, Florida where I had to retrieve something from Penzey's Spices, she had talked me into using my ride for her own purposes. 

But instead of doing a U-Turn, I decided to ride back along the Pacific Coast Highway. This is a lot easier than it sounds. It's obviously quite noisy as you've got three lanes of traffic on your immediate left, but on the other hand it had a good wide shoulder most of the way.

The miles tumbled right out, and after passing the Santa Ana trail and making a left on Newport Boulevard, I found something in the road: an iPhone.

It seemed I was about to cap off yet another summer with finding an iPhone in the road. Just like the last one, it was locked and had less than 20% power. But I was able to see who had called in to the phone last, so after asking the dodgy, pre-Siri voice recognition system to dial, I was able to leave what I was sure a rather odd message. I put the phone away and continued on.

Miles away, at the Apple Store, I picked up the accessory my wife wanted. I also asked the two Apple Store employes who were helping me what to do if one were to find an iPhone that didn't belong to them. Their answers didn't give me hope: Beavis and Butt-head did a better job deducing what had happened to their missing television than they did articulating what to do with a lost iPhone (Tim Cook: please see to this).  But I had them email the receipt to my wife - I found out later it had tickled her that I was using a receipt as a form of telling her I had made it to Costa Mesa safely -  and left the store minutes later. 

Now I was able to visit 'my' stores on this day, such as the Let It Roll Bike Shop. The inside of the store is nice but it was their van that got my attention.

The guy working there that day apologized to me for being so shorthanded; explaining that some of his employees were at Burning Man. I nodded to keep from laughing, as I knew that was an excuse that just doesn't see much use on the East Coast.

Speaking of such:

This is Newport Velo; a shop I ran into later on the PCH. Now I am usually annoyed when stores are not open during the times that are printed in vinyl lettering right there on the door, but I was too much in delighted awe to care. I hope the waves are good, I thought, as I climbed back on the Bike Friday. 

Instead of heading straight back to Anaheim, I backtracked onto the Santa Ana trail, and noticed a couple of cyclists in the canal itself, which I believe is a no-no. Still, none of them were being chased by an indestructible android from the future driving a Peterbilt, so there's that.

Around the time I took this picture, I got a phone call…on the found iPhone. In spite of the confusion, I managed to get the name of the phone's owner and the phone number of the owner's mother, which I jotted down. 

After pushing my way back into Anaheim, I found my way back to the hotel - having pedaled 69 miles since that morning.  I set up the found iPhone to charge with my iPod cable and left a message with the iPhone owner's mother.

When I woke up the next morning, I discovered a rather happy text message on my own phone. Realizing the iPhone owner was quite a few miles away - and not in a direction I had much interest in riding - I texted the woman back and said I'd leave the phone for her at the courtesy desk at the hotel, which I did. 

This wouldn't be a true away-from-home adventure without some tire issues, and that morning I got one: after topping off the front tire with air, the valve snapped off (a problem I never get with a non-Presta valve, I must add).

The tire was full, but this meant that I couldn't put more air in, so I resigned myself to have to change the tire at some point during the day. 

After checking to make sure I had no fewer than three spare tubes in my pack, I headed north through Fullerton. I figured I had already done the coast and what I wanted to do now was head into San Bernardino County, which is quite a contrast to the motor-vehicle filled streets of Anaheim.

It was during this period I realized just how odd the temperature changes could be: just like I was surprised at the amount of fog by the coast, I was astonished that riding just a few miles inland seemed to make the temperature rise ten degrees. The Camelbak I brought got lighter and lighter each mile. 

Luckily, in Chino Hills, I found a Circle K - the West Coast 7-11 -  and drank a Frostee - the West Coast equivalent of a Slurpee. 

Since I was a little tired from the day before, I only intended to go 30 or 40 miles tops, but even though the terrain was hillier, I kept going.

When the hill crested, I began to descend, but I stopped when I looked off to the horizon and realized what I'd be descending into. I have no idea what town or city this is, but I realized that riding down into it would mean riding up out of it - and I wasn't confident I'd have the strength for that. 

So I turned back. 

Forty miles would be good for a vacation ride; and it would still put me at over 100 for the two days, I thought.

However, I realized just how much climbing I had already done, because this descent was rapid and blissful. For some of the stretches the bike was simply rocketlike. 

I felt as though I had a second wind as I headed down Carbon Canyon Road through President Nixon's hometown of Yorba Linda and arrived at Imperial Highway. 

I knew this road from the Randy Newman song 'I Love LA' (played in 'The Naked Gun' montage when Leslie Nielsen's character was searching all the baseball players). For those of you who are familiar, this song has a very different tone from the rather mournful tune he sings about Cleveland, 'Burn On.'  However, I would appeal to Mr. Newman to write a happier song about Cleveland another day. For now, I wanted to thank him, because if his lyrics were accurate, I knew that if I were to follow Imperial Highway, I'd make it to Los Angeles.

I did Orange County and several miles of San Bernardino County. Why not add Los Angeles County to this ride? Before I could  respond: 'Because I'm tired and my legs are sunburned' I began mashing the pedals. 

I passed where I would have turned left (Harbor Boulevard) to begin the journey back to the hotel and just headed down Imperial Highway, where I passed chain store after chain store after chain store. 

After piling on a few more miles, I searched for signs that I was in Los Angeles County, and before long I really was tired enough to wonder if this was a silly and/or stupid exercise. But I had plenty of water, plenty of places around me to buy food, and I spoke the language. My journey off the map in the Dominican Republic this was not. 

Not only that, but I had another bike shop which did not seem to be understaffed and wasn't closed due to surfing: The Cyclery.

Sweating profusely, I pushed the bike inside. Good, how are you? No thanks, I'm just looking. Am I in Los Angeles County? Great. 

After explaining to the employee what I was doing, he suggested that I buy a store T-shirt to prove to others I had actually visited Los Angeles County. 

My word is my word. But I bought a T-shirt anyway.

After thanking them and stuffing the shirt (black with green letters) into my pack, I began the journey back to Anaheim.

Close to the hotel, and running on caloric fumes, I caught this fellow with my camera. If I cared enough about my Twitter account, I'd post this and give it the hashtag: 'only in California'.

Upon arriving at the hotel, I looked at my Garmin: 54.24 miles, which meant I had ridden about 123 miles in two days in Southern California. It was more miles in less time than I had done in Barcelona, and I quickly realized why: not only did I not confine myself in one city, but the roads and flat landscape in Orange Country (and the excellent Santa Ana trail) meant I could ride for miles. And, for better or for worse, I didn't stop to take my camera out very frequently. 

I also took out my phone and saw a text message: the mother and daughter were reunited with the latter's cell phone as they had picked it up from the hotel - and I was thanked for leaving it there.

And the tire with the broken valve didn't fail, so I changed it in the comfort of the hotel room before packing the Bike Friday away. We flew back home on a red-eye that arrived Friday morning. Over this past weekend we discovered that catching up on 'Breaking Bad' doesn't make up for the three hour time difference. 

However, on this, the unofficial last day of summer, I am posting about a truly unforgettable California bike ride I was very lucky to take and would't hesitate to take again or recommend. I will hopefully have more news about Cycling With Candidates in the coming days, and I hope you spend the final days and hours of summer with your loved ones on a good ride. And if you want to learn about the second leg of this California trip, which involved seeing a lot of sights from the seats of a rental car, check out my wife's latest blog post

Enjoy the rest of your summer. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.