Category Archives: bikes

Biking for Groceries

I rode the Electra Townie up to Sprouts grocery store today. We are lucky enough to have a Sprouts, Natural GrocersWhole Foods, and HEB Central Market nearby, was well as some more traditional grocery stores. Sprouts is the groovy store that is closest to us – an easy 1.75 mile ride through the neighborhood.

My mission tonight was simply to buy stuff to eat for lunch next week, plus a few other items. Stuff to make smoothies, etc. Sprouts has fairly good prices. The one thing about these stores that still kind of bothers me is that they still sell products that are way over-packaged. Like a small package of baby spinach — it was in a clear plastic container that was just too much for the product. So much waste. No – I didn’t buy that stuff. I’d just like to see retailers insist on packaging that provides less crap to potentially go to the landfill.

It is also very hard for me to buy lettuce and spinach now. Last year we had so much from our square foot gardens — it was great. This year, due to my dad’s illness in 2009, we didn’t have any time to do the gardens. So I’m used to getting really good leafy greens for nearly free. Hard to pay grocery store prices.

Anyway, even though it was a bit cold it was nice to ride the bike to the store.  It has been too long.

A good day of bike riding

This morning I went for a ride with my friend Matt. A typical ride for us — starting at his house in Dallas, about 2 miles to White Rock Lake, around the lake, and back. Great ride — always fun to ride with Matt. A good, leisurely pace, good conversation, good exercise. It was hot, and I had multiple layers of sunscreen on. As I write this, I still do.

Then about 7:45pm I went out for a ride around the neighborhood here in Richardson. It was really nice outside. I weaved through the neighborhood to the church I “grew up in” and was married in. It is now some kind of Buddhist facility or something — the church built a new building several years ago.

Then I rode across the street to Richardson Heights Shopping Center, former home of Sun Rexall Drug Store — they had the best news stand in town when I was growing up, and I purchased many comics and Skateboarder Magazines there. Lots of candy too. It was one of those stores that had nearly everything. It went out of business some years ago, and is now one of those party supply stores.

The rest of the shopping center is mostly various kinds of specialty ethic stores, eateries, and a grocery. There’s a donut shop and a check cashing place right next door to my old dentist’s office — which is the only business that is still there.

While I’m kind of nostalgic for the way it used to be, the fact is that a lot of those old businesses were probably dying. I’m sure there are those who don’t like seeing “foreign” places in the shopping center, but you know — those businesses appear to be thriving. I rode by them – all nice, clean, and the food looks great. I’m not crazy about the check cashing place being there, but everything else looks great. And they are local businesses — not massive chains — which I like a lot. The shopping center and I suppose the surrounding neighborhoods have reinvented themselves — fortunately in a very good way.

I really wonder in 30 years, will one of the kids who grew up in this area, of immigrant parents, ride a bicycle through that parking lot and think about the time he spent there, and will he or she be glad that the businesses and people here are still prospering. I hope so. I was once one of those immigrant kids. We came here from Louisiana.

From the shopping center I threaded my way through the residential streets. Being on a bike can create a compelling need to explore. There’s a connection to your surroundings that you don’t get in a car, but the increased speed of the bike makes exploration more feasible than when you’re walking. I found streets and neighborhoods right here, in my old stomping grounds, that I’d never seen before — really great little places.

After a while I zipped back over to Waterview, headed north, and after a few turns I was home. Lots of fun.

Richardson is coming back, people. Watch out.

Bike commuting miles for May 2008

This was my first month commuting by bike. 7.5 miles each way.

I rode to work 9 times — 157 miles total (including a few side trips to the store or bank on the way home).

I can probably ride twice that many times next month. I didn’t really get started until the second week in May.  It has been 2 weeks since I last filled up my car, and I still have half a tank.

My overall fitness level has increased. I’ve lost five pounds while eating lots of food. Today I went out for a 24 mile ride down to and around White Rock Lake — much easier than its even been.

That is all.

Bikes for the Rest of Us

One of my favorite blogs is Bikes for the Rest of Us. The site offers news and pics of bikes that are suitable for commuting and/or leisure riding. They typically look at bikes that are less than $1000 — some much less — that still provide a great urban commuting solution. As rising gas prices continue to break this country’s balls, I think these kinds of bikes are going to become more popular and more available. Now granted, they haven’t mentioned the Electra Townie yet, but it’s still a great site.

First Bike Commute

First — if any of the people from my Aikido dojo are reading this — I will be back at practice Monday night. Yes, at last. I think my knee is good enough to return.

This last week, on Thursday and Friday, I finally rode my bike to work. I’ve been trying to do it for the last month, but every day I didn’t need my car to get to drawing class or some other errand we had thunder storm.

Well, May is National Bike to Work Month, and finally I had a day that was all-systems-go.

With my bike all set up for commuting, I packed my work clothes and lunch in the panniers and set off. I’ve been reading advice for safe bike commuting for several months and I tried to put some of it into practice.

My commute is really nice. About 50% is on dedicated bike trails. Getting to the bike trail is all neighborhood streets. There is one short stretch where I do, in fact, ride on the sidewalk. It’s on a busy street, and really, as alert as you have to be on the sidewalk, it is just necessary.

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I’ve found that at intersections, the best strategy seems to be to take the lane. If you are over on the right, drivers will not give you a break. They may not even see you. So I arrange things so at a red light I can patiently get in the lane behind the first or second car. At all of my intersections, once I’m through I’m either back on bike path, neighborhood street, or the parking lot of a mall.

The secrets seem to be patience, vigilance, and knowing when to assert your traffic rights without putting yourself in danger. It seems funny to put so much thought into it, since as teenagers my friends and I used to ride bikes all over the place and it was pretty easy.

The truth is, it is still easy. The ride to work is really pleasant. It takes 37 minutes, and when I get to work I’m awake, alert, and ready to work. A few minutes to cool down, a quick freshen-up and change of clothes, and I’m ready to go.

I was really inspired to start this by several factors. First, my friends Sean and Chrissy commute by bike a lot. If they can do it, so can I.  Also, the need for exercise. Every day I ride, I get over an hour of exercise and 15 miles of riding. I actually got back on my bike in the first place to strengthen my hurt knee, and it has helped a lot. Gas prices — going to keep going up. It is cheaper to ride. It is better for you. And finally, as part of the Sustainability Committee at work, I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. Put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

I realize there will be days when I do, in fact, need my car. But I think that at least 3 days a week I can ride.

Anyway, if you can, give bike commuting a try.

The Tour of Dallas

Yesterday I rode in my first bike event — the Tour of Dallas — with my friend Matt and his daughter Zoe. We rode the short route, which was originally planned to be 8 miles, but after a no-show by the company contracted to cone-off the bike route, it was changed to a little over nine miles. Not big deal for us, but for a young girl on a single speed bike, it was a great challenge, and Zoe did a fantastic job.

The ride benefitted the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I’m not sure how many people rode in this event, but it was several thousand at least. My number was in the 3000s.

It was great to get out with lots of other riders and take over the streets. The Dallas Police were there to stop traffic and even ride along. It should be like this all the time. Cars suck.

Anyway, here I am after the ride.

Book Review: the Immortal Class

Probably because I read all day at work, when I get home I don’t feel like reading. Thus, I rarely seem to finish a book anymore. I’m not a big fiction fan, and lately I’ve found a lot of non-fiction to also be non-interesting.

Such was not the case with Travis Hugh Culley’s 2001 book The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power.

A few weeks ago I became interested in the world of bike messengers. After watching a few videos on youtube, and checking out some related websites, the whole thing just became kind of fascinating. If you’ve ever seen what these guys do in city traffic you’ll understand. I did some searching, and discovered Culley’s book. A quick library request, and it was mine to read.

This book is many things. It is a record of Culley’s early days as a messenger — a record of his progress as he scratched out a living in Chicago. It describes the many hardships that these working-people endure as they play their part in the city’s commercial system. Culley reviews the history of urban planning of Chicago, the role of the bicycle in that plan, and the effects of car culture upon the city. We learn of Culley’s introduction to bike activism and Critical Mass. Culley describes his boyhood friendship with a neighborhood outsider, and the lessons he learned from this unlikely mentor.

…all good stuff…all interesting and well-written…

…but I found learning about the culture of bike messengers to be the most interesting part of this work. The reader learns the culture as Culley does — from beginner to seasoned vet — from the day Travis answers a want-ad while on his last financial legs to his eventual (but not permanent) exit from the business. We learn about the close-knit culture of messengers, the support system they employ, the frantic pace at which they work, the physical danger they face, the “alley cat” races they participate in,  and the diversity of people employed in the industry (from struggling artists working to support their art to people with no goal but to keep riding).

I should also mention that the book is exciting. Culley’s descriptions of flying around Chicago are quite vivid, and really convey the rush of being constantly “in the moment”  in order to avoid disaster while doing his work.

I’ll be purchasing a copy of this for my own little collection at home. Great read.

Fitness level

After moving into our house, I have spent a couple of weeks just doing odds and ends after work, trying to get everything settled. So I missed about two weeks of Aikido practice. I went back to practice Monday night, and was very pissed that my fitness level had just crumbled after two weeks of inactivity. My Aikido wasn’t really any worse, but the first two techniques just wore my ass out. So I resolved to really start working on my cardio. Aikido is an amazing workout, and skateboarding is good for balance, but neither is good for cardio.

 So I’ve got my bike out and been riding. I have a 1995 Giant ATX 750 mountain bike. Got some “city” tires put on it last year. The bike still works like a charm. Went out to the bike path that goes down to White Rock Lake. Didn’t ride the the loop around the lake, but the path down there is about 6 or 7 miles long. Went yesterday too. So that’s two 13 mile rides. Not bad. Gonna keep working on that on non-Aikido days.