Thursday, April 28, 2011

Driving cars drives us crazy

I drive to work over the same two lane route that I ride on my bicycle. It's a little slower to be sure, but it's also far less stressful than the highway.

On the bike, I see the same motorists day after day. They come to expect a cyclist somewhere along the road, and for the most part they treat me courteously and safely. Getting buzzed or honked at is a comparatively rare occurrence.

It seems worse when I drive and I can only speculate why. All those other motorists are essentially anonymous behind a few tons of steel and tinted glass. Given that we're all traveling at the same speed more or less, the chances of encountering the same motorists on the commute are relatively low. In other words, my speed matches the other driver's speed, so the number I see each day is smaller than it is when I'm on the bike.

The lower speed on the bike means I see a larger cross-section of drivers, and as I said, they come to expect a cyclist. Once they're acclimated to that idea, they're very accommodating on the road. Again, this is speculation, but I think that by seeing the same middle aged guy each day, they really do see a cyclist as another person, one on his way to work just as they are.

There is some anecdotal support for this idea. On those occasions when I've ridden outside my usual times, or when I've been on other routes, I've been subjected to more motorist abuse. Now, anecdotes are decidedly NOT evidence, so this is something that bears more study.

Despite seeing fewer other drivers when I'm driving, I think the number of instances of road rage, simple stupidity, and dangerous driving are actually greater. I've watched as multiple cars run a particular red light nearly every day. One guy was in such a hurry to get in the gate at work one whole car length ahead of me that he passed in a right turn lane. Others tailgate and speed on that narrow two lane road, oblivious to the numerous deer and skunks, seemingly in a rush to reach that red light just up ahead. I've concluded that there's something about the act of driving that makes ordinary people lose their senses.

Maybe riding a bike has altered my expectations on the road. I know that if I leave the convenience store with my newspaper by a certain time, I'll be at the time clock X minutes later, plus or minus a couple of minutes depending on the wind direction. When I drive, of course, I don't have to be concerned about the wind, but the same principle applies. There's no pressure to drive fast or risk an too-close encounter with a skunk.

And yes, I still try to lift my butt off the car seat when I'm crossing the railroad tracks. Old habits die hard.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The scourge of spandex bums

Here's the May column for Ask Dr. Wally from the Wheel Issues newsletter.

Dear Dr. Wally Every spring, hordes of bicyclists commandeer our local roads, delaying traffic, frightening livestock, and shocking innocent women and children with their outrageous attire. These bums in spandex are an affront to common decency with their skin-tight clothing and abhorrently loud colors. What can we do to get them to be more like normal people?

Peeved in Poteau

Bums in spandex? Peeved, you made a funny!

Actually, Peeved, I'm trying to get our local club to adopt more comfortable clothing for the summer months. The traditional Arab thobe, a loose, long sleeved garment that covers down to the ankles, would offer welcome respite from Oklahoma's summer heat. My girlfriend mistakenly calls it a "bernice." It think she means "bernoose" but she's overly fond of both floral patterns and copious amounts of red wine. And she's making dinner so I'm willing to overlook minor foibles.

I tried riding in baggy cargo shorts, but they tend to get hooked over the nose of the saddle. That wasn't really a big problem...until I stood up to climb a hill. Sure, I stood up but the shorts stayed down. It gave some elderly ladies the vapors and lead to a long chat with the local constabulary. I wore a big, ornamented sombrero that day, and it didn't help my case. The cops were certain I'd escaped from an asylum somewhere. Dunno why.

If I can figure a way to keep my thobe from getting caught in the spokes, it should work well for bicycling especially if there's a tailwind. It's like a sail! Then all I have to do is figure out how to keep rednecks, local cops, the highway patrol and Homeland Security from stopping me every half mile.

I'll let you know how this works out right after I find that sombrero.

Dr. Wally

Next month: Weight loss on the County Jail Diet Plan

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Left wing secret decoder ring

I'm going to let you in on a major secret - one that I'm sure you won't reveal to anyone else because there's only about a dozen readers for CycleDog anyway.

For years now, I've been part of the Left Wing Liberal Media, or LWLM for short. But I've never been a person who believes in secrecy and conspiracy as a means of pursuing our goals, so I've decided to come clean.

I'm going to tell you how the secret decoder ring works.

It's really quite simple, so simple that I'm surprised it hasn't come to light before now. The decoder ring uses a simple transposition code. A=A, B=B, C=C, etc. Yes, it really is that simple! So the coded phrase "Donald Trump has no chance of being elected to the presidency" translates as "Donald Trump has no chance of being elected to the presidency." "Sarah Palin is a gold-digging grifter" translates to "Sarah Palin is a gold-digging grifter."

This is diabolically clever! The right cannot believe that these simple phrases actually mean no more than they say, so they look for deeper, hidden meanings within them. And like an ink blot, they find what they most want to find, things like: "Liberals hate America!" "Liberals are in league with terrorists!" or - my personal favorite - "Liberals are afraid of Glenn Beck!"

So as an example of the tremendous power in the secret decoder ring, let's translate this phrase: "A serious commitment to deficit reduction requires a serious commitment to both sides of the issue -spending cuts and tax increases." It may be a good idea to stand well away from any conservatives you know when this phrase is decoded as their heads may explode.

The survivors, of course, will accuse you of being a bomb-throwing gay socialist radical from Kenya.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday musette

I wandered through the Tulsa Flea Market on Saturday and came across this lovely bit of Americana. Somehow, I'm thinking those guys aren't actually zombies. For one thing, they seem to have all their body parts and there isn't a single mention of "braaaaains!" to be found.

Imposters, I'm sure. And no, I didn't buy it.

This was taken on my way home from work today. It's the pecan grove just south of 76th Street. Right now, it's a wonderful riot of bright green. The overcast sky reduced contrast due to the flat lighting. I like the look. But I like this when the sun is setting and it's all back lit, too. Bright green with gold light from the setting sun. What's not to love?

This view is south along Mingo Road toward Tulsa. See how the ditch is full of water? We're expecting more rain, so there's a chance the road will be flooded. I rode my bike through here once when the water covered the road, tilting my headlight down so I could see the double yellow line under the water as a gauge to its depth. It's an experience I probably won't repeat (probably).

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

A funny

My dad used to sing Tura-Lura-Lural, an Irish lullaby, to us kids when we were small. He said he'd learned it from his mother. When his grandchildren visited, he sang it to them, too.

Earlier today, Mary and I were talking about war movies when she suddenly asked, "Why did your dad sing Tora Tora Tora to the kids?"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sapulpa Sunday

Sapulpa (pronounced sah-pa-LOOP-ah according to She Who Must Be Obeyed, but in reality it's sah-PULP-ah) is just southwest of Tulsa, a short drive or an easy bike ride along old Route 66. The downtown area consists of nicely preserved and restored brick buildings constructed just prior to World War One. Not all are restored, of course, but the town is making an effort to preserve its history.

There's a big regional car show coming up in Sapulpa in June. I asked Mary if she'd like to go, but it's a bit far for her and it would require a lot of walking. Lyndsay likes car shows, however, and it's possible she'll go along.

I use "Oklahoma Route 66" by Jim Ross for scouting out old routes and photographic opportunities. He detailed one of the old alignments west of Sapulpa that lead me to this dilapidated old drive in theater and this railroad trestle. The road winds up and down hills. It has a wealth of blind curves. At one time much earlier in life, I would have regarded it as a challenge, but these days I drive far more cautiously.

Sapulpa is a fascinating town. I spent about 4 hours there on Sunday. Chances are, I'll make more trips out there soon.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Guns & Gardens

LinkYes, it's cheesy, low-budget video of the zombie apocalypse, but it has wonderful stuff like this:

"They're putting heads on sticks in the parking lot! Lord of the Flies ain't got nothing on Wal-Mart."

YouTube: Guns & Gardens

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I love this quote

“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.”...Moliere

Ain't that the truth? I began writing CycleDog as a laboratory for columns intended for the Red Dirt Pedalers newsletter, but it just kind of mutated into something more. Things have changed over the years. I've written plenty of comedy, some screeds and rants, and even some thoughtful pieces that - to my great surprise - have influenced others in the bicycling advocacy field.

But as I rode my bike less due to injuries, the bicycling content here dwindled. I stay busy, however, so there's been more on cameras and photography, history, and other personal subjects. Trust me, bicycling is not going away. It's still a big piece of my life. And since my knee seems to be getting stable again, I plan to be back on the bike soon.

Still, why that quote up above? Most of you know I write for the Examiner too. It pays more than blogging and it's not too demanding, although to be honest, it doesn't pay much. In a good month, it was enough to take the family out to dinner once or twice. In a bad month, it was more on the order of frozen pizza.

On the subject of writing and money, let's just say that when it's a choice between spending an hour writing here, or an hour writing something for pay, the money often wins. That's been thrown into sharp relief recently, when I found a venue that pays better than the Examiner. It's not about bicycling, so I won't go into it other than to say it's more in the area of my technical expertise with electronics. Dry, yes. And humorless.

So, like a prostitute, I'm doing it for the money.

Last summer, I took a shot at a long magazine piece for a local publication. For several reasons, it went wildly wrong. I still think the editor wanted a hatchet piece, one that did not show his own fingerprints. When I didn't deliver that, communications became distinctly chilly. Though I received a kill fee - a partial payment for the column - I ended up working for considerably less than minimum wage. It was instructive, nonetheless.

That's the long way around. What I'm saying is that I won't spend an inordinate amount of time chasing after an editor's wants and needs. I'm trying to find that balance between time/income/effort and the whole concept of balance is one that any cyclist can appreciate.

I like writing. Sometimes I love it. Other times I hate it when I sit at this keyboard and the screen remains stubbornly blank. One thing is clear, though, and that's the simple truth that I can't stop.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Close to home

First, an apology because I missed 5 comments on some recent posts. Dunno why, but mea culpa.

On Saturday, I visited the Owasso Historical Society museum down on Main Street. I've lived here more than twenty years, and I'd only been in there once for a brief visit. The town had less than a thousand residents for most of the last century, but in the 1980s the population boomed. It's now about thirty thousand.

The museum is in a former grocery store. Actually, the grocery was on one side and the other was a rental property. There's a photo showing it as a small lunch counter.

This is Orval. His area of expertise is the pre-statehood period. He showed me old maps and photographs, as well as the bond document for the school constructed in 1909. The bond was for $15,000.

Owasso was the end of the line for a railroad line from Caney, Kansas, for about 5 years. Back then, the town had over 30 dairies. They were probably shipping a lot of milk. Not one remains today.

But the mention of dairies made me think of this abandoned one just east of town. I'll have to go back down to the museum and find out who owned it.

Earlier this week, the fire department conducted training exercises on some wrecked cars. Mary and I drove by as they were cutting a door off and I really wanted to get some photos. It was not to be. There's an aura of sadness about them because the damage included some people, not just sheet metal. George likes some rusty old cars. These are neither old nor rusty, but they certainly have some unfortunate history behind them.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The fire down below

She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed decided we would have chili tonight. Now, I love chili, but I can't have beef. The proteins clog up my joints and the resulting intense pain is highly effective at changing my behavior. So She didn't put beef in my chili.

She used chorrizo, instead.

"Taste this and see if it needs more spices," she said. The chili bubbled at the bottom of a pot, looking exactly like molten lava only hotter.

If you're unfamiliar with chorrizo, it's a Mexican sausage made with beef or pork, scads of pepper, radioactive byproducts, and even more pepper. This is like Italian sausage on steroids as envisaged by masked, cackling maniacs from the Spanish Inquisition.

And I love it.

I took a spoon and tasted the chili. My tongue blistered and my nose hairs burned off. It was perfect!

Life is good.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Good find at Goodwill

There's a well-worn path that I follow to the local Goodwill store a few times each week. Most days I don't find anything useful or significant. Occasionally, I come across a real gem like that Rollei 35 that didn't work, but for two bucks, who cares? I bought the Olympus OM1 and the XA2 there as well.

But yesterday, I found this:

Yep, a Canon 75-300mm lens for $50. The price is in the upper left corner. I took it out of the box and looked it over carefully, finding nothing wrong. But I don't have a Canon DSLR. The only Canons I have are an ancient rangefinder and that A590IS. But a friend has a Canon DSLR, so I sent him a text message about the lens.

He was only a few blocks away and he was definitely interested. He stopped by the house to pick up a camera body, then drove to the Goodwill where we tested the lens. Minutes later, he walked out with it.

A Google search said the lens is a "mediocre" performer. Remember, though, that this comes from people who probably don't have to pay for the lenses they use and test. So what may be a mid-level unit to them can be perfectly usable for us mere plebeians. Sure, it's not an f2.8 zoom, but then again, it's compact and lightweight.

Goodwill offers a seven day return policy, so I recommended running it through its paces for the next couple of days.

And if I get the chance, I'll borrow the camera for a few days to tinker with it myself!

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Saturday in Sperry

There was a thread on a local forum about old-fashioned ice cream parlors. It made me think of this. Inexplicably, the power is still on this neon sign. The building looks to be filled with antiques. Here's a shot of the store front.

Across the street are several old cars and trucks. This is the old town center of Sperry and the Osage Prairie Trail bisects the town. There was considerable bicycle traffic.

The Bike Riding Donut Guy likes him some old, rusty cars and trucks. We seem to have them in abundance here. The photo is a bit over exposed as I wanted the detail in the radiator, so the highlights blew out. Sure, I could do it in HDR (if I knew how and bothered to carry a tripod) but I'm essentially lazy.

Finally, this Cadillac Coupe de Ville is on a car lot in Owasso. I noticed it after breakfast yesterday. Mary says it's a gangster-mobile, but I'm just enthralled by them Cadillac bumper bullets.

As always, there are more photos on Picasa. And of course, I used a film camera too, so those photos will be available in a few days.

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