Monday, December 14, 2009

Thirty degrees of separation

Yesterday was such a wonderful day! Surprisingly warm for a late-Fall day, Sunday was incredibly warm -- 50 degrees here in Kansas City -- although it was closer to single-digits in mid-Kansas (as I found out from my parents in the evening). Sadly, we weren't able to take advantage of the warm temperatures because of the hustle-and-bustle of the holiday season -- and kids.

Sadly, because when we checked the weather late Sunday evening (as is the routine ever since failing to do so one night before an expected warm Winter ride) we discovered that although this morning was expected as a balmy 40 degree ride-to-work, the forecast also predicted that within minutes of my expected departure, the ride would get quickly cooldder...and so it did.

5:45 am A last check of the gauge before making off to the office (a mere 5.5 miles).

5:50 am Slowly working my way towards downtown Overland Park, and already the wind is whipping up. I didn't think it was supposed to do this until I was at *least* half-way to the office!

5:55 am At least downtown Overland Park provides a nice refuge from the winds. Traveling South along Santa Fe also provides some windward travel as the wind seemingly slows from its former strength.

6:00 am Mid-way along the path, the wind seems stronger and the traffic heavier; heavier than usual and very heavy for a Monday early-morning. Is everyone else trying also to beat the "flash-freeze" as the forecast so ominously stated?

6:05 am The full-wind hits. A north-by-northwest gust on a south-by-southwest trek, but still pushing strongly against forward movement. Thank goodness it's not nearly as cold, as quick, as they predicted.

6:10 am For the first time (or, at least, the first time this year), I realize the amount of energy expended by gasoline-engines while straining against the wind. The last-half of this ride is bound to be the most difficult. Hills still to mount; cars and traffic yet to address. Now, the wind is full face, even though from the side.

6:15 am Are we there yet? It feels now as if I were "trudging" along the way. The wind has now been full force (at 20+ mph for the last quarter mile) and the last hill has brought with it more traffic, more exertion than expected -- and still the most traffic lies ahead!

6:20 am Finally at the office, but the open field with bridges was more difficult than expected. Wheeww! And in that time, the wind increased from near nothing to gusts of over 20; the temperature reduced from 40 to near 35; but that's nothing compared with tonight, when the temperatures were already down to 10 and the wind from the North still insisted on pushing into my face.

But such a wonderful ride! And this is why Winter is so much more fun than summer: the challenge!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Daze

This has been a summer like no other for Kansas City. In fact, it's really been more like a Colorado vacation than anything else. But then, I rely on my memory for such things since I haven't been to Colorado in "near-August" since the late 90's.

The last few weeks of cycling have been incredibly great. Especially for cycling in Kansas City. It seems that nearly every day I walk out to start my morning commute and I'm "almost" cold! Even to the point of starting to watch for Autumnal-clothing and arm-warmers for those especially chilly mornings!

I've now passed my one-year mark for commuting and it now seems hard to imagine that I didn't do it before now! The distance certainly isn't that bad (although that driver-craziness-quotient is certainly higher the later in the morning I start my commute).

I've now worked into a standard path for the commute without the fear of careless drivers that I had early on (although there are just as many now as then). But then, I seem also to be one of the earlier bicycle commuters since I see only a couple at my regular time (5:30-6:15 am) while I see more when I have had to abandon the bike to go in later (read: flat or exhausted).

It seems strange now to imagine my cycling this past winter in near-zero degree temperatures (probably just as much as it seemed strange then to be cycling the previous-summer in over-one-hundred degree temperatures).

I've now also worked into a routine so that I can commute every day instead of the 2-4 days per-week that I had last year (which is probably because of my comfort with the routine, my comfort with the traffic, my figuring out that I could leave my car at work for those times I "really need" it, and realizing that if I get up and bike-to-work, it wakes me up and I get much better work-time in during the day than when I don't do it).

Now, if I can only make myself do what I've been planning ever since I first started re-biking after my multi-year hiatus: an "organized" century.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pouring Rain...

It's supposed to be summer. Certainly, the past few days have proven it. The first week of summer has come in full-blast-furnace with only hotter temperatures to come. Nineties the entire week with only this morning's mid-70s as a break. But, of course, that should have given some inking of what was to come: the rain; or, should I say, the monsoon.

The day was apparently pleasant throughout. The morning gave only a small hint of the wonderous temperatures to last throughout most of the day -- notwithstanding that one client said that it was up to 98 in Lawrence in the mid-afternoon. But come 6 pm, the skies became strangely dark. What? Dark in the mid-early-evening of near the longest day of the year? It should have given hint; or fright.

A pleasant stream of sprinkles started just before I left the office for my way home; only to turn more ominous and less "pleasant" the further I made my way across the parking lot. The lightening in the north-northeast should also have given pause. Barely across the bridge near the office and I could barely see out of my sunglasses. Half way down the street and the wind was picking up, the lightening coming closer, the rain coming stronger and harder.

Luckily, I made it half way home (87th and Antioch) before the skies let go, the winds came full force, and the lightening came from overhead. A stop to catch my breath and to let my rain-soaked cycling shoes lose some of their massive drenching was in order. A full 10-minutes worth. But then it was up for another attempt to get as far as possible before the next deluge. But the winds persisted and lightening, though less frequent as before came nonetheless.

Another half -- this time a half-of-a-half (a quarter) of the way further home I went before it seemed again prudent to stop and wait for the gathering lightening to pass, the horizontal rain to subside (if only a bit) and the wind to lessen. Another 10-minutes talking to others who were also stranded at the QuickShop (though from their car, rather than bike) caught out trying to buy dogfood for their hapless canine who insisted on chowing while the weather rattled. A pleasant conversation, broken frequently by strong flashes and loud clashes.

The last quarter was not nearly as harrowing, but no less wet or windy. The stoplights gave little comfort in their insistence on keeping their regular evening timing; waiting for all the cars to come through. . . that did not. Stopping me, the lone cyclist, from getting home to safe, non-lighteninged home.

Brush Creek was higher than I've seen it all year; and, if fact, for some time prior to that. No pictures unfortunately, but that may come in a bit if my camera doesn't become waterlogged. But, at least I'm home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Deer One

This is a day old now, but it's still a great story!

It was a great bike ride yesterday morning at the break of dawn (or a little before) on Tax Day! I wasn't surprised when I came upon two joggers running towards me: it happens everyday it's nice. The difference was that only about a block later, I thought I saw another jogger out of my left-peripheral vision (although in my early-morning state, I imagined it was some stealthy person trying to hide him/herself since the person was alongside the roadway. I quickly realized, however, that it wasn't a jogger. It was a Doe running along-side me off the road. It then darted out into-and-across Tomahawk only about 10 feet in front of me. Crossing the street, it then ran through the front-yards of a few houses leading up to Nall. It then darted out onto the street, crossing Nall less than 20 feet in front of oncoming traffic -- maybe two or three cars, which at that time of the morning is quite a few. It then continued onto the east-side of Nall, running through the backyards to who knows where.

My question was: from where and to where? How could a Deer get that far into the middle of the city? Brush Creek? Well, it would have been further into the city to have come from a larger part of Brush Creek -- and Brush Creek only begins a few blocks from my house -- and the Deer wasn't coming from that direction. Where was it going? I know there are parks close to my house; but none that would provide enough daytime cover for a Deer to hide. Now I'm going to have to investigate!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Out like a Lion

For the past few years, it seems that the old saying about March no longer held true: instead of being a month of strong ups-and-downs, it seems that March has been a peaceful month, leading steadily into April with the strong weather waiting until April was full upon us. But not this year!

As I rode to work this morning, straining against a constant, strong, and gusting headwind, I put together in my mind that the last week of March has been anything but peaceable and pleasant, slowly leading into April. Usually, the ride to work isn't such a chore. It may be cold and it may be blustery, but it's never really that difficult and the wind (whether at my front or at my side) is usually never much of a concern. But the past couple of days (and especially today) have been different. Instead of merely heading into the wind, I've had to fight it -- with the resulting minutes added-0n to my trek to work because my ride is slowed to such an extent (a nearly 5 minute slow-down today!).

Add to the dumping of snow this past weekend, the strong winds the past few days, and this has definitely been March going out like a Lion!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Although it was snowy . . . well, slushy . . . Saturday was made for a bike ride. No right minded driver would be out in such horrible weather. After all, who wants to slide into a tree with a vehicle you can't control on an icy street, when you have no direct contact with the street and no "real" means of controlling where you go?

So, after we went to see "Monsters & Aliens" (which is a good kids' movie, but not such a great "adults-with-kids-movie," it was time to go out and see what the weather was really like! And, what it was "really like," was not bad! I wished I'd started out earlier so that I could have gone at least 10 miles -- instead of the puny two.

But then, it was good latte ... and I was about the only person on the streets at this time of the day in the Slush Storm of 2009 . . . except for another cyclist whose tracks I followed as I was heading towards the Coffee Shop, and which I saw tethered at Blue Moose.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

After the snow

After predictions of nearly 10 inches of snow, with actual snow fall closer to 5 but the day of rain and sleet making it more like 5 inches of sleet, today was a wonderful, incredible, Spring Day!

This morning, we started out with a chilly (37), snow-filled, cloudy, day and ended up with an incredibly sunny, warm (52), dry-streets, nearly-all-snow-on-the-lawns, afternoon. Yesterday was more filled with worry about what the day would bring, or how deep the snow might be; today was filled with wonder at how fast it disappeared.

There were a few casualties of the ice-and-then-snow storm; but few and far between. One tree we came upon looked like a wooden version of the Peparcokkar belief that if you tap a Swedish Ginger Cookie just right, it should break into the Trinity (and there would then be good luck)

Others merely looked like broken trees.

All in all, it was a beautiful day. Wonderful ride, and wonderful sun. Ah, Kansas. You never know what's going to happen with the weather, but it will always be sunny after the storm...

Friday, March 27, 2009

A good challenging ride!

A great ride home today...well, home and to the Bike Shop to pick up a new special bike for my step-son -- which was closed much to everyone's dismay (although, while biking there, I realized that it closes at 6:00 pm on Fridays).

A great ride home; but challenging. My regular ride to and back from work is a nice, pleasurable few degrees up and down both ways. The trip I took this evening was much hillier and much more taxing (which is a good thing). On top of the ups-and-downs of the Nall Hills, I also had the North wind against me much of the way -- and at between 15 - 25 mph, that was quite a bit of additional energy (over the regular trek). I needed to make up for the miles I've lost sitting out the past couple of weekends -- not to mention that I seriously doubt I'll get any miles in tomorrow, what with picking up the bike that we tried to get today and the predicted "up to 9 inches" snow they were predicting for tomorrow afternoon at evening news time today!\

Maybe I'll get some miles in tomorrow anyway; if for nothing else than to get that every wonderful Roasterie Latte :)

Now that was a long respite!

Wow! I didn't realize it had been as long since I'd last posted! Two months (almost exactly)! But . . . there's been a lot going on in that time, much to do at the office, and a whirlwind of activities that have kept me from posting (not to mention that I keep forgetting my passkey and then don't have enough time to work with it). Be that as it may, it's amazing that as long a period as has passed, the immediate past post could have been the title to this posting: "Kansas Weather never means quite so much...."

The past week has been great cycling weather! (Especially considering what a cold Winter it has been!) But, being Kansas, there's always that, "gotcha" weather: Yesterday morning, nice, cool, dry; last night, chilly, rainy; this morning, damp, cold (with a hint of something floating in the air every once in a while); and tonight? Tomorrow? Wintery mix? Snow? The predicition is for up to eight inches of snow on the ground by tomorrow night, with rain and mixed-rain-and-snow-and-sleet leading up to it. But then, it might be 50 tomorrow. After all, the snow and rain and "wintery mix" was supposed to have started this morning at 3 oclock am -- but it didn't and, in fact, the ride in to work this morning was dry (well, damp, but only on the pavement and in the humidity -- not by actual precipitation).

And so it goes; it's Kansas after all!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Kansas Weather Never Means Quite So Much Until

you're commuting by bike.

This morning, wonderful weather. This morning (at 6am) it was fairly pleasant (as Januarys go); partly-cloudy, slight winds (5mph) with a nice 37 degrees (and 27 degrees wind-chill). A great morning for biking; a great morning for enjoying the trip (especially since it's Friday); and a great morning of no crazy drivers.

This evening, however, was quite another thing.

As I prepared to head out for home (very late as has been usual for this first full freedom week), I checked the weather (as usual) just to make sure that I wasn't under-or-over dressed. Chilly, with very light snow flurries starting, but nothing too bad. Well, other than that the note also mentioned that winds were out of the North at approximately 15 with gusts to 25! Nonetheless, a nice way to start the ride home.

About half-way home, however, (as it usually seems to happen), the winds picked up even more (to the point of blowing me periodically a foot to my side), and the snow started pelting harder-and-heavier-and-stronger. By the time I was a mile from home, I could see that the snows were starting to blow in their little-rivulets across the street when an oncoming vehicle approached.

A nice surprise was encountering another biking commuter as I passed through downtown Overland Park, who was going the other way. Always a welcome sight in the cold, snowy, evenings. I suspect that he is who I've passed before, only when I'm on my way into work at the morning (although I haven't seen him whom I think it is for a few months now -- primarily due to my going into work an hour earlier than I did in the summer and early-Autumn.

I'll not be surprised if we wake tomorrow with an inch of snow on the ground. And, no doubt, it will be a sunny, warm day on Monday!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Snow...and ice

What a great ride! At least, it was this morning.

This morning was such a pleasant ride. I think I've finally found the right combination of clothing and gloves that works in Kansas cold and Kansas weather.

I ended up with an aborted trip to work yesterday. Not more than a mile away from home and I had to turn around because my goggles fogged and froze over. That was not adequate. I turned around and headed back for home. Not my plan. Not my hope. Not my desire. But, it ended up being the best thing in "life terms." Things happen for a reason...and this one did too.

Today, I headed out at my regular 6 am to the frosty tunes of snow. A great morning. Not much traffic, not any ice, not many problems, and not the incredibly bitter cold of yesterday morning (even though it was only 1 degree when I started out my journey this morning, it was -16 with windchill yesterday).

The gloves were right for the first time in cold (two layers, cheapo-PC-version mittens on the outside and Planet Bike Borealis on the inside. perfect.

My raincoat (Illiminite) on the outside (even those its been way too hot on most mornings, it wasn't these past couple)...and much better than the slightly lighter Vagabond II.

Tonight, a nice pleasant ride home with little traffic. A great nice. A great morning.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On to this morning...

The Monster Truck interrupted me. I was about to say how *incredibly cold* it was this morning. Oh. And about the wardrobe failure.

Wardrobe failure. It's gained a whole cult-meaning. But this time, it was just a pain.

Knowing that sooner-or-later I was going to encounter unbearably cold temperatures in my quest to ride through the year, I bought a pair of ski goggles. Not a great pair, mind you; but an adequate pair. A pair that was advertised as "no-fog," and certainly a pair that looked adequate for the job: seals around the eyes so that my hot breath wouldn't rise up through my Balaclava into my glasses and fog them over only to be frozen (as happened in mid-December).

But no. In fact, these goggles didn't even last as far as my regular glasses did in colder weather! A mere 2 miles into my ride and I had to stop because my goggles were not only fogged over, but the fog had frozen. Frozen to the point of not being able to see!

So I pulled over (in the middle of downtown Overland Park) to clean off the frost, the fog, and the ice. And I was fine...for almost another mile. But then, I was fogged-and-frozen-over yet again! In fact, I had to stop two more times between downtown Overland Park and my office to clean off my glasses (by taking of my gloves and spending some time making sure that not only the ice, but the moisture, was gone from my glasses). In fact, for the first time, I stopped on the 87th Street Quik Trip to take advantage of their heating and light. Not a good thing!

Note to self: buy better goggles. Note to self: well enough is not well enough.

Near miss...

Every cycling commuter has suffered at least one "near miss" if commuting has lasted more than a few months. I've had my "close near misses" in the past. Usually, it's an inattentive driver, someone who pulls out into the street ready to race off when the light changes, a "California stop," or some other such thing.

And, I suppose, you could classify many or most of the "close near misses" as that -- thoughtlessness, carelessness, hecticness.

At the risk of stereotyping or, worse yet, "profiling," many of those thoughtless, careless and hectic drivers are in trucks -- whether they are SUVs, Pickups, or Vans. By far the worst, however, seem to be what I'd classify as "The Monster Truck" -- the truck that seems to have the purpose of enhancing the manhood of the driver and (perhaps) intimidate all those around. They are the "half truck-half semi" manner of pickup. They are the vehicles that are often larger-than-life, with jacked-up suspension with the (usually) male driver behind the wheel who seems more often than not, prepared for a bit of road-rage no matter what the time of day or circumstances surrounding the scene.

Thus bringeth me to my conclusion. This evening on my travail home, I encountered such a being; such a monster, such a thing. A Monster Truck driven by one who really seemed to care not what was in his way, because he wanted to get where he was going, no matter the cost, the price, the result, or the way in which it happened. Luckily, my brakes were strong enough, my reactions fast enough, and my suspicion high enough that I was able to avoid the inevitable without problem -- only to then hear the Monster rev his engine and speed along on his happy way.

At least I was able to do the same -- only on a smaller and slower vehicle equally entitled to the road.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another Wierd Kansas Day

This year has already been one of the strangest in terms of weather that I remember.

Today was beautiful...or so it seemed.

I was about to take off from the office on my trek home, when I decided to quickly check the weather. I popped up to make sure I was dressed properly. Ah...a nice 47, with moderate winds and gusts to 15. Being as how it was about 15 minutes since I'd last checked, I decided to refresh. . . . A drop of 4 degrees!

But then, suddenly, I look out the window and there is something falling from the sky. Not quite rain, but not No. Couldn't be. White pedals falling? Never!

Wait. . . . I raise from my chair to get a closer look to find out what is falling in front of my window.

Unmistakeable. Snow! Snow? But it's 43!

So hurriedly, I again check the weather. Arghh! It's dropped another 5 degrees in little more than 10 seconds!

But again, I try...and it's back to 43...then again, and it's at 38...Again! It's 43...all the while, snowing.

This is definitely weird. Even for Kansas!

Now. I know there has to be a rational explanation. But I don't know what it is. Perhaps changing weather stations (from moment to moment?); perhaps refresh from my own computer's memory (nah). But whatever it is, it still fits into weird.

So, I start on my way home (unable to get any good pictures of the snow falling), but I did get one of traffic.

So goes another day of Kansas cycling.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Singing birds

The only problem with having an alarm-clock that has a pleasant "ring" (actually, wonderful birds singing or wind chimes tingling) is that it doesn't "clang" me awake. I had that experience this morning. I woke up at 4:45 realizing that I could actually get a few more minutes of shut-eye before my regular rousing-time of 5:30. I laid back to get my well-deserved rest and woke and a half hours later! Ooops. Egad! How could I do such a thing? How could I have missed my wake-up call when all I had was 45 minutes to lazily rest before getting ready for the nice chill of this morning's ride?

It has to be the birds! So pleasant, so wonderful, so "not annoying" (unlike every other alarm I've ever had) that I think I actually woke up at one point and fell right back to sleep (not that I completely remember, but a vague blur in my mind tells me that's what happened!).

Knowing that I'd seriously missed my target and that the morning rush-hour drivers were getting ready to go out on the roads bearing upon their hapless victims, I knew my time was short. So, I quickly got ready without checking the weather and streaked out the door (well, ok; not "streaked"). I quickly dressed in my C-9 and short-sleeve with Vagabond jacket and Illuminite tights for a wonderful ride to work. For some reason, not checking the weather this morning (and-or trying to catch-up on time missed sleeping) made my ride this morning faster than usual. Even though it seemed I was stopped (or nearly stopped) by every light between home and work, I ended up making relatively good time at 23 minutes. Not bad -- but a long way from my target 20 minutes.

In my haste, I found out later in the morning that I'd put on the wrong Vagabond jacket, throwing on my wife's jacket instead of my own (having put mine away in the closet for once, instead of leaving it ready-and-waiting, which is where I found her's)! Ah well. It worked; if it was a bit tighter than usual -- once I realized I had the wrong jacket-and-size!

This evening was as always a bit more trying with the rush hour evening traffic. Too many stop lights lasting too long changing red at just the wrong time! I wasn't close to the time I wanted and...come to think of it...I even forgot to check the time -- or turn-off the timer!

Friday, January 2, 2009

What a wonderful day!

Another day in the 50s and a Great Day for cycling!

The second day of the year; but it seems nearly Spring. I'm sure any thoughts of the temperatures lingering will soon be dashed. For today, however, it was great.

I woke a bit later than usual, and the temperatures were a little cooler than yesterday -- 27 degrees with little wind at the beginning and about the same when I arrived at work. It's amazing how cycling through the days makes every subsequent day a little easier. This morning was easier than yesterday's ride; and yesterday's ride was easier than the day before. But then, the holidays probably have something to do with the slacking off and hard gearing up for the next ride. Oh. And the cold temperatures. The cold temperatures are definitely one of those things that seems to make every trip a bit more difficult -- although very fun.

The ride home this afternoon was a bit of Spring in the middle of Winter -- and, as always, a temperature that would be nice to harness for those very cold days that will inevitably happen later this month. Of course, I forgot my lighter gloves this morning, so I ended up having to wear my "crab-claws" home in 50 degree weather. Such a bummer.

I realize also that I need to get a new tire for my Roubaix. I found a slice in the rear tire and a slight balloon in the tube.