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Archive for the ‘Bicycling’ Category

Spring Cycling

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Viet and I took advantage of the fine spring weather last weekend to get out on the trails, cycling through George Wyth and Big Woods Lake. Didn’t make it to Black Hawk Park… next time. I noticed my odometer wasn’t recording miles property. Either the computer that clips to the handlebars is going wonky or the sensor strapped to the fork is going bad. I tried repositioning the sensor, and the spoke magnet, but that didn’t help, so I suspect the computer… which means the only way to accurately record my miles would be to buy a new odometer. Meh.

I’m not sure I care enough anymore about how many miles I log to invest in it. I cared in years past, like in 2010 when I put in over 1,700. Last year was a far cry from that… I probably logged 250 or 300. Hard to tell, as Viet used my bike on occasion when his was left at his apartment. Since he’s not much for long-distance riding, the only way I’ll get in many 20+ milers this summer would be get out the door on weekend mornings.

While decluttering bookmarks these past couple weeks I found some articles about cycling that struck a chord with me. Here’s a description of a situation I know all too well:

I continued across the intersection as the SUV bore down on me, giving the driver a hard stare; he responded by braking momentarily, then he simultaneously accelerated and swerved toward the curb, squeezing by me with a half-dozen inches to spare and nearly clipping me with his rear-view mirror. I got an up close and personal view of a middle-aged driver in a button-down shirt, his face contorted as he screamed for me to get out the hell out of his road. I hollered back with succinct instructions involving his junk and an adjacent orifice.

Most motorists in the Cedar Valley are polite enough to stop and allow cyclists and pedestrians the right of way, so this is more the exception to the rule. But when it does happen, it tends to nag at me for a while.

What bothers me is how cyclists are expected to either restrict themselves to only riding on trails, or if they must ride on roads, to hug the curb. This is dangerous, as Peter Walker of the Guardian details:

There are all sorts of reasons for taking the lane. Often, a cyclist might ride centrally to keep at least a car door’s width from parked vehicles. … It could be to pass the message to those behind: this is a narrow (or twisty) road, there’s no space to squeeze past, you’re going to have to overtake me as you would a car.

It’s pretty simple stuff, but it’s amazing how many drivers cannot grasp it. … I can just about forgive some drivers for not knowing the rules and reasons for cyclists taking the lane. … What I can’t forgive are the dangerous maneouvres that sometimes follow. Squeezing past a cyclist carries a clear message: not only do I believe you are in the wrong, but I believe my righteousness is justification for putting your physical wellbeing in danger. I believe my right to reach the next red traffic light about five seconds earlier than I would have otherwise trumps the rights of your loved ones to welcome you home tonight in one piece. It sounds dramatic, but that’s what it amounts to, and it appalls me.

I found that article on Jake Mohan’s blog, who has previously written with wit and eloquence about the frustrations cyclists face from the general population:

I might also point out, as a corollary, the complete absurdity of the hypothetical bargains that I’ve heard people (in newspaper comment sections, social media, and real life) express a magnanimous willingness to strike with us monolithic, uniformly miscreant and socially aberrant cyclists:

How about we stop using our tax dollars for cycling infrastructure like bike lanes until all bikers [always BIKERS] can follow the rules of the road and ride safely

I’ll start passing bikers with three feet to spare and giving them the right-of-way when they extend the same courtesy to me.

If bikers are going to get special treatment like bike paths, we should make them get licenses and pay user fees, just like motorists. 

To which I always reply, silently, in my head, my cerebral arteries threatening to occlude with impotent rage:

1. By that same logic, we should not spend another penny on motor-vehicle infrastructure until all MOTORISTS also follow all the rules of the road and ride safely.

2. You get to decide whether you put my life in danger because you have the advantage of weight, horsepower, infrastructural privilege, and state-of-the-art automotive safety technology. I don’t have any of those things. Even if I wanted to somehow hurt or kill you on my bike, I don’t see how I possibly could without the aid of heavy artillery.

3. Licensing programs and user fees don’t exist for cyclists in most cities because they flat-out don’t work. They don’t really work for motorists either, in practice: licensing is designed to keep dangerous and unlawful drivers off the road, but so pervasive is our belief that driving is a god-given right that a person has to do a hell of a lot of drunk-driving, maiming, and killing before they get their license permanently revoked. And again, bicyclists aren’t capable of doing that kind of damage.

4. For the billionth time, cyclists pay more than they should to maintain our transportation infrastructure, seeing as how a) many are also tax-paying home and car owners; b) they pay sales, state, and federal taxes, which heavily subsidize our roads; c) they aren’t even allowed to use interstates, which are among our nation’s most expensive and maintenance-intensive infrastructure, but they still pay for them; d) their vehicles inflict an infinitesimal amount of wear and tear on the roads compared to cars. How many of the potholes now emerging from the melting snow and ice on our streets do you think were caused by bikes? Whole thoroughfares are out of commission for months at a time so they can be upgraded; do you really think cyclists are the ones causing that inconvenience?

5. I strongly doubt that if, starting tomorrow, cyclists miraculously and monolithically started being perfect human beings and following all the rules of the road and riding perfectly safely, the people who hate us would begin showing us even one iota of respect. After all, they’ve amply demonstrated that they barely understand the “rules of the road” and have such a warped perception of reality already, why should we expect that to change?

Right on cue, my blood pressure has been successfully raised… time for a jog.


Written by camcarlson

April 27, 2014 at 3:40 PM

Posted in Bicycling

Autumn Tiger Lamentations

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It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but that I never find the ‘right’ time to sit down and write. Trust me when I say life is very good right now… but there’s always something to carp about. That’s what a blog is for, after all!

I lament the current state of movies, coupled with the current state of the corporate theater distribution model. Nothing good comes here. I haven’t seen anything I truly liked, as in wanted to see multiple times, since “Looper” and “Cloud Atlas” last fall. That’s sad. I liked the “Evil Dead’ remake just for its sheer disgusting-ness, and thought “Mud” and “The Way Way Back” were worth watching, but otherwise the best film I’ve seen so far this year has been “Amour”, the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film from *last* year. So in a nutshell, I’m still waiting for quality films to come to the Cedar Valley. What else is new?

1 year ago this week I was driving to Ames to see “Lawrence of Arabia” in 4K digital. Fantastic presentation.

9 years ago this week I saw “Lost in Translation” at the AMC Oakview in Omaha NE. The most personal, touching theater experience to date. I think I’ll try to watch it this week.


I also lament that I’ve done little exercising since Labor Day weekend, something I intend to correct this week.

I also have added a woeful number of miles to my bicycle this year, in part because Viet is the fan of long-haul treks that I am. A few times this summer we made it through George Wyth and up the river to Big Woods Lake, but then we would stop, rest, admire the scenery, he’d take a lot of pictures, and we’d head back to my apartment. I think I’ve put in maybe 300 miles on the Raleigh, tops. But, in a way, I’m okay with that. The bike is falling apart, and it was never a good fit for me anyway, so I don’t mind *not* getting sore from 1-2 hour excursions 3-4 times a week. If I can scrounge together enough funds next spring (which will depend on if we go anywhere for spring break next year) I may buy a new bicycle.

Speaking of buying, I’m inching closer to a new car purchase. The Intrepid has served me well these past 12 years. It’s approaching 205K miles. But the exterior is in rough shape and the last time I took it in for an oil change the mechanic told me he didn’t feel comfortable having it up on the lift with all the structural rust “crunching” noises he was hearing. It won’t see another winter, that’s for damn sure. So a new set of wheels are needed.

That’s all for now. It’s 11pm and I want 6 hours of sleep before getting up at 5:25am and putting in another marathon day at the office.


Written by camcarlson

October 1, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Slow summer update

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I’ve fallen into a nice summer routine: work, gym or running, the occasional outing with friends or bike jaunt (I’m ashamed by how few miles I’ve put in so far), and grinding away at my film list. I’ve installed the window A/C unit, I take random Mondays and Fridays off from work (I find I prefer three-day weekends to all-week furloughs) and I do what I can to keep the apartment tidy.

Regarding films: I’m down to 18 films remaining on Ebert’s Great Movies list, not counting the latest installment of the Up documentary series (“56 Up”, came out last year). I plowed through five films on that list that were available on Amazon instant streaming last weekend: “Pixote”, “The Dead”, “Cat People” (1942), “After Dark, My Sweet” and “Diva”. I think of the five I would most recommend “The Dead”, John Huston’s final film starring his daughter Angelica Huston, based on the short story “Dubliners” by James Joyce. A clip:

Written by camcarlson

June 11, 2013 at 9:21 PM

Posted in Bicycling, Cinema

6 Years @ the Mandalay, 4 Years @ Snap

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This week marks the sixth anniversary of living here at the Mandalay. The apartment was a nightmare when I looked it over in early February 2007 and it wasn’t much improved when I moved in later in the month. The carpet was soaked in cat urine, the replacement fridge sat outside the door in a pile of snow, there were no blinds or curtains on any of the windows, and everything (and I mean everything) had been painted beige that day, so a musky fresh paint smell lingered all night long while I slept on my bed mattress on the living room floor. The good thing about living situations starting out so poorly is that they can only get better with time. In a bit of a coincidence, a snow & ice storm delayed my move during the last week of February 2007, and this week we were hit with almost continuous snowfall over 36 hours that resulted in a foot of fresh snow on the ground.

This has been the longest period of time living in one place as an adult, and it equals the length of time spent living in that 2-story house on Royal Drive between the 5th and 11th grades. In the six years I’ve lived here I have lived without cable television. I have a television and DVD player hooked up in the corner of the living room but neither are used much these days. Given CFU’s current basic cable subscription rates, I’ve saved over $1,300 over six years, not to mention who knows how many thousands or tens of thousands of hours not spent watching television… earmarked instead for movies, books and (since 2009) afternoon workouts at the gym or on the trails.

I’ve also neglected to paint the rooms a different color. The beige is boring, and once in a while I think about buying some paint, but I never follow through. I usually tell myself that I’d end up moving shortly after painting and therefore it wouldn’t be worth the hassle. However, during the summer of 2011 I did scrape the beige paint off the tiles on the bathroom walls and applied two coats of primer to the upper drywall. It looks better than it did before. That’s the sum total of my home remodeling.


In 2010 I began a comprehensive decluttering project. I purged two huge boxes of paper files, donated more than 90% of my books, magazines and movies, along with unused clothing and excess dinnerware. Presently the apartment is rather spartan in appearance, and that’s how I like it. In fact, I still feel it’s a bit cluttered, in the sense that it’s merely untidy. But hey, it’s a work in progress. This past weekend I finally sorted through a decade’s worth of film negatives, stored in two checkbook boxes. More than half were culled from the collection. In a bit of unfortunate timing, Porter’s closed their doors for good last week after 100 years in business, so now I need to find another business that will professionally scan the remaining negatives for me.


So, in 2009 I joined a gym. I had been growing my hair out for a few years and the rest of my body was following suit. I was pushing 200 lbs and I knew I’d have to get moving if I wanted to shed the flab. A friend recommended Snap Fitness, a 24/7 gym near the corner of 18th & Main. I walked in on the 5th of January, one of many new years resolution types, though I was one of the few who managed to keep up with it when spring came and most newbies fall off the bandwagon. I lost 25 pounds during the first few months and I learned how to run more than a quarter mile without running out of breadth, a remarkable achievement for someone who was never athletic growing up.

To my surprise, I’ve kept up with exercising for the past four-plus years. My attendance is a bit cyclical in that I’m at the gym 5-6 times a week during the late fall, winter and early spring, then less so as the weather warms up and I can afford to bicycle or jog on the nature trails. But even in good weather I try to go to the gym 2-3 times a week to lift weights.

A couple weeks ago Snap moved out of the cramped confines of its strip mall location and into the first floor of the renovated Oddfellows building on the corner of 4th & Main, right in the Parkade. There’s twice as much space, separate rooms for cardio workouts and resistance training, plus larger bathrooms (with a shower) and a wider range of weightlifting equipment. Some machines still need to be fine-tuned and, like the old location, a few of the treadmills seem perpetually out of commission, but I wasn’t expecting world-class service from a small-town gym. It meets my needs and I’m happy. The hard part, until the snow melts, is going to be forcing myself to get out of bed on the weekends and work out before lunch, something I used to do with solid regularity up until last fall.

Written by camcarlson

March 1, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Blame it on Rio

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Ever since I signed up for Hulu Plus, my evenings have been largely spent watching all the movies on Ebert’s ‘Great Movies’ list that I haven’t seen. I’m three away from all the ones that are available to stream, with about 30 left to procure by other means. So I’m using that as my official excuse for not updating these past two weeks. But really, I’ve just been living life. Inundated with the coming of autumn. I don’t know.

So aside from watching dozens of movies, I’ve been running the same routine: work, gym, dinner & drinks w/ coworkers on Friday nights, trying to save more money than I spent, uncluttering my living quarters and not bicycling as much as I should be. But that’s okay. I’ve become rather sanguine about cycling this year. I’m stuck about about 700 miles or so and I doubt I’ll add much to that in the weeks to come. C’est la vie. But I do plan to accomplish two life-goals within the next month or so, so I keep plugging away.

It just occurred to me that I haven’t turned on my television since the Thursday before my weeklong vacation in September. That was August 30th — 33 days ago. The remotes for the television and the DVD player are sitting atop the television and… let me check… yup, they’re beginning to show signs of collecting dust. I think I can safely get rid of them at this point.

Written by camcarlson

October 2, 2012 at 10:38 PM

Transition Vacation

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On the last Friday of August I drafted a long list of things I could keep myself busy with during the first week of September, my third and final week-long vacation from work for 2012. Random chores and to-dos that I had either been putting off for a while or had just recently reminded myself needed to be done.

As expected, I took a vacation from such tasks. My priorities for the week, in order: sleeping, watching movies, bicycling, eating out at least once each day, napping, reading, and more napping. I did take care of a few of the errands I had committed to the list, namely a visit to Hancock Fabrics for a button to fix my shorts and a zipper tab to fix my winter coat, and I donated a box of books to the Book Nook.

I like taking the first week of September off as I only need to use four days of PTO (as I automatically get Labor Day off) and the weather is usually going through a transition between summer and autumn. I intended to get in at least 100 miles of bicycling, but on a few days I found myself more in the mood to go jogging in the morning. I still managed about 73 miles, which isn’t too shabby.

I finished reading Film Magic by David Hutchison and read The Kon-Tiki Expidition, Thor Heyerdahl’s account of his South Pacific voyage in 1947 from Peru to the Tuamotu Islands via a balsa log raft of vintage Polynesian design. Both were good reads. I recommend the former to anyone interested in pre-CGI special effects and various film formats, and the latter to lovers of travel/adventure stories.

Though confined to the Cedar Valley, I managed to satisfy my various cravings with a mix of cheap in-&-out meals (Jimmy Johns, Pita Pit, Hy-Vee Chinese) and quality please-be-seated meals. Tuesday I feasted at Steamboat Gardens, enjoying two 99¢ Tugboats and a cool draw of PBR (!!!), all for $3.72. Can’t beat that!

Tuesday felt like summer: hot and windy. I nearly fried myself reading out on the beach at George Wyth. I considered finishing Film Magic with a couple pours of Millstream on the deck at the Cypress but when I bicycled by there was a sign on the door stating they were closed for that day only for renovations. I resigned to the old stand-by, the Panther Lounge, for the rest of that evening.

Wednesday I joined Sharina at Wasabi, the 1st St Hibachi restaurant, where we enjoyed scrumptious crunchy roles, red snapper and (types of sushi) for the criminally low price of $13. Thursday I dined at Rudy’s Tacos and kicked back with a couple cocktails in the Lava Lounge. Friday felt like autumn; nice and cool thanks to an overnight storm.

I finally subscribed to an online movie site – Hulu Plus, which offered a free one-month trial service. I went with Hulu over Netflix (for now) as Hulu has a bevy of Criterion films in their catalog, many of which I have wanted to see for years. Over my nine days off I watched Picnic at Hanging Rock, L’Atalante, Pandora’s Box, The Match Factory Girl, The Earrings of Madam de…, An Autumn Afternoon, Floating Weeds and The Only Son. All are great movies! The last three were made by Yasujiro Ozu, who also made Tokyo Story and Late Spring, which I’ve already seen and love both.

Saturday I joined Swestka at Highland Park for a revival of the old-time block parties they used to have each year. Joyce organized it and Dan manned the grills. Checker and the Bluetones provided quality live music. Joyce had asked Ben and I to man the beer kegs from 8:30-9:30pm but they had both been tapped out before our shift began. We helped tear down and spent the rest of the evening at the Ankrum’s, polishing off the remaining beer and burger patties and wrestling with their dogs.

Sleepy weekend

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I forsake this weekend’s unseasonably cool weather to catch up on my sleep. During the week I tend to wake up around 5 am. Saturday I slept in until 8:30am (after getting home around 2) and today, after getting to bed around midnight, I first woke up around 9 or 10 but rolled over and fell back asleep, several times, until finally dragging myself out around 2:30pm! I believe, I *hope*, I am sufficiently caught up on my sleep now.

So yes, I did nothing with my weekend, despite my well intended plans crafted on Thursday and Friday to tackle a number of small but persistently unfulfilled chores. Nothing that can’t be taken care of during the off hours this week. I like having no set plans on the weekend. It leaves me free to follow whatever whim comes my way, like meeting Cory and Ben for a drink on Saturday afternoon, then driving them plus Cara to the O.P. on the Hill for a late dinner, followed by drinks at the Octopus, the new bar next door to Mohair Pear (with the same owners). Nothing caps a good night like a draw of PBR at a hipster bar!

My only regret is that I didn’t get in any bicycling this weekend. I actually haven’t done much biking since before Chicago. Something I’ll have to focus on over the next few weeks…..

Written by camcarlson

August 19, 2012 at 8:51 PM

Posted in Bicycling, Cedar Valley

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