Asphalt Strikes Again

A few years ago, I was starting to get back into running and looking for a group in town to run with. I’ve often found it easier to find the motivation to go on a run if there are other people there who expect to see me. The first group I found was the Boise Hash House Harriers. They were a fun group and great for getting me back into running. After a few months, I decided I was more interested in running and less interested in drinking, hazing and singing so the Hash was probably not the place for me. This was not before I got my Hash Name.

When you run with the Hash, you rarely use your real name. After they’ve known you for a while you get a Hash Name which is the only name most of them know each other by and almost always offensive in some way. I got my name biking home from a run. As I was leaving the parking lot on my bike, I moved my hand from the top of the handlebars to the drop bar. At this exact moment, I hit a small pothole and the wheel twisted away from me. My hand missed the drop bar, throwing me further off balance and causing the wheel to twist to a full 90°. I was only going about 5 mph but it was enough to launch me over the handlebars and slam me onto the parking lot. Beaten and bloody, I eventually got up and biked home.

The following week, I attended the Hash again. Still moving slowly, but happy to get out on another run. When the closing ceremony started (the final and largest hazing session of the evening), it was announced that I had a new name. Henceforth, I would be know as “Asphalt”. It turns out this was not only because of what I landed on, but rather they felt my injury was my own “dumb-ass fault” (or perhaps “dumb ass-fault“).

This winter has been particularly snowy and icy in Boise. We’ve had more snow accumulation than ever before and the snow has stayed longer than I ever remember. As such, it’s been a tough time to bike. I had been fortunate enough to not crash my bike in any serious manor, despite very slick conditions. That was until Tuesday.

As I was riding home, I was happy to see how clear the roads were. We’d had some rain which had broken up most of the snow and ice that was still left on the major roads. I was riding up 11th approaching Myrtle and hadn’t seen any ice for over a block. The light was green and, thinking mainly of safety, I kept an eye on it to ensure it didn’t change as I approached. Once I was certain I’d make it through before it changed, I looked back down at the road. Directly ahead of me was an ice island several inches tall. As cars drive down the road, they move back and forth in their lane breaking up the large piles of ice. When they come to a stop light, they tend to line up in the same spot as the car ahead which leaves an island of ice between the two sets of tires.

I saw the looming ice just a few feet before I hit it. I turned to avoid the center of it and caught just the edge. It was enough to send the bike flying out from underneath me and me flying through the air like Superman. I slammed into the asphalt with enough speed to knock my wind out. Realizing that I was flat on the ground, in the middle of the road, at night with my bike lights several feet away, I jumped up as quickly as I could so any approaching car would see my silhouette before they hit me. Luckily there were no cars coming.

As I stood there, trying to catch my breath, a self-assessment told me the only injury I had was ribs on the left side. Eventually, I got back on the bike and continued to ride. Other than a tear in my jacket, there are no outward signs of the accident. Overall, I feel fortunate that it wasn’t any worse.

This morning, I tried going on a short run. It still hurts to breathe; coughing and sneezing are torturous. At coffee afterwards, I mentioned why I was running slowly today. One of the other runners commented, “Wilson Creek was yesterday. Didn’t you do the same thing two years ago?” Indeed I did. That was my first DNF all because of the same injured rib from a bike accident the week before the Wilson Creek 50k.

After the first rib injury, I thought I was unlucky. After the second, I thought I might be completely unfortunate. Now, after three… maybe I just need to accept that sometimes asphalt will win and sometimes Ass-Fault will lose.

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First flat

I’ve been riding the bike almost everyday since I got it and it’s been great. I noticed the front tire was loosing air faster than the back tire, but didn’t think much of it… Until the morning I tried to ride into work and it was completely flat. Luckily, it was the last day before we all took time off for Christmas and the schedule was going to be fairly relaxed.

I had only ridden about a block before noticing the flat (with an inch of snow on the roads, I thought that was the reason it was feeling a little squirrelly). I texted the office to let them know I would be late and went home to fix it. First thing I did was pull out my floor pump and found that it was broken as well. Next, I found my small, portable pumps, but it turns out they only work with Schrader valves and the new bike uses Presta. It was clearly not going to be my day.

Now that One Stone has our own building, work is just under 2 miles away and not a bad walk. I set the bike aside with plans to get to it that night. Then family came to town and the snow started falling. By the time I walked to the bike shop a few days later, there was ~6″ of snow on the ground and more falling. It was a slippery walk, but I got the pump and got home without incident.

With the high temperature not getting above freezing recently, I opted to change the tire in my living room. The bike is now fully functional again and I’m back to riding. If only the snow would lighten up a bit so I don’t get pushed around too much, things would be great…

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The Day I Didn’t Bike to Work

I’m a little over three months into my year of not driving and things are going well. As the weather continues to get colder and rain comes more regularly, I’m going to have to modify how I ride, possibly even taking Andy’s suggestion and get fenders. For now, I’m still enjoying the new bike.

A few weeks ago, the school I work at finally got the official go-ahead to move into our new building. When we did, several of the students decided we should have a Spirit Week. For anyone unfamiliar with this tradition, each day of the week (typically leading up to the Homecoming football game) gets a different theme and everyone is encouraged to dress to match the theme. We’re a small school with no football team (we only have 32 students) so moving into our building was as good a reason for Spirit Week as any. Our week was (in order) Crazy Sock day, Twin Day, Aloha Day, Plaid Day and finally PJ Day.

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As you can see, I rocked Plaid Day (I’m second from the left, in the kilt)

As part of Spirit Week, I wanted to do something a little different for my transportation as well. So for one day only, I decided to leave the bike at home and commute to work on my trusty unicycle. It’s been two years since I rode it for any distance farther than about 25m and it’s 2 miles into work. Rather than practice and train, I just decided to go for it. That morning, I pulled it out from the back of the bike barn, inflate the tire and head out. The first half mile went great: no falls, good speed, only a few strange looks from passersby. Unfortunately, I hit a bump and fell off right in the middle of Hyde Park, the spot with the most people to see me fall on the whole ride.

Quick clarification, falling on a bike is a big deal. Your legs are on opposite sides of a large piece of metal, the handlebars mean you can jump off the front and so far, lack of advanced coordination has prevented me from jumping off the back of a moving bike. Unicycles are different. There’s nothing to get in the way when you fall. The vast majority of times you fall off a unicycle, you land on your feet in a standing position. Just pick up the unicycle, hop back on and you’re good to go. Falling isn’t a big concern, but it is annoying to do it in front of your favorite coffee shop.

Anyhow, after three attempts to get back on, I finally got correctly seated again and rode off. Most of the rest of the ride was uneventful, although the people turning to get onto the highway seemed to think I was very off for riding such a strange contraption. The ride home also went well. This time, I was able to ride past the coffee shop without falling in front of it. Overall, it was a fun way to commute. Most importantly, I learned that my legs were able to get me to and from school just fine. I also learned that the saddle for a unicycle is very different and rubs in unusual place… Luckily that only took a few days to get over which means I’m ready for the next time we decided to have Spirit Week.

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Air-Repair Station To-Go

Since just before giving up my car, I’ve been working at a new, experimental high school call One Stone. This is the first year One Stone is offering classes as a replacement for high school. In years past, they’ve run after school programs focused on Design Thinking. With the new project, they also started looking for their own building and looking for ways to connect this new building with the surrounding community.

Several students in the after school program worked with a couple of school students and

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Photo by Daniel Oines.

the schools development director to apply for an Air/Repair Station grant through Whole Foods. Currently, there are about a dozen of these stations around Boise where anyone can stop by and do work on their bike for free. The students worked hard to make the case that our school, located in a neighborhood with a large immigrant population, would be a great place to add another bicycle repair station.

When we found out we won, the first thought was, “How will we pick it up?” The idea of driving over to pick up a bike repair station seemed wrong. Luckily, I’ve got a trailer that can handle the weight of the air pump and repair station, so that’s how we got it. We rode back along the Greenbelt for about a mile to get it to the school and got many odd looks along the way.  At one point, another biker rode up along side me and asked, “Is that one of the bike repair stations?”

“Yep.”

“Um… Why do you have it on a trailer?”

“You should always be prepared… This is my turn off. Have a good one.”

It felt good to be able to pick this up with a bike, rather than getting a truck to move it. I also think it showed the students what you can do with a bike other than get yourself from one place to another. I’m excited to see what impact my year of biking will have on them.

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2 Months, first rain

I’m now two months into my car-free year and it’s still going well.

Last week was the first real rain of the season in Boise. It also happened to be the week that worked moved from being 2-3 miles each way of the commute to 5 miles each way. This made for some interesting rides.

The rain started on Thursday afternoon. I had expected this and brought a coat for the ride home. Unfortunately, it was raining harder than I expected, and although my shirt stayed dry, my jeans were soaked through. That night, the wind picked up and more rain fell. In the morning, the clouds we dark, angry and covered the entire sky. I assumed a cold front had moved in so I bundled up to stay warm and dry. No cold front had arrived. In fact, the weather was warmer than the day before. When I arrived at work, I was not dry, but it hadn’t rained one drop during the ride in.

Rain was promised all weekend and by Monday, I was ready for another rainy ride. This time, I checked the temperature before leaving the house and dressed appropriately for the weather. This time, it rained. This time, I arrived at work dripping with rain. In Boise, rain falling like a tropical storm so rarely happens that my supply of rain gear is light. Happily, it was enough to get me through the stormy ride and, after changing into dry clothes, only my shoes remained wet. I guess I still need to find a solution to that.

The first big storm of the season has blown through and it’s sunny again in Boise. As the year progresses, more rain, snow, hail and graupel are sure to hit me on my commute. Luckily, I’ve only got about one more week until our new building is finished and my commute gets cut in half.

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Co-op, Co-Hop

21616_10153238806878038_2735676887678995300_nBoise Brew Minute (episode 94) – Matt at the Boise Co-op talks with us about their collaboration with Boise Brewing. They created a fresh hop ale called Co-Hop. We also discuss what makes a beer qualify as “fresh hop” and what’s the difference between a bine and a vine.

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Goodbye, Bullseye

About 15 years, when I thought shopping at Goodwill was too fancy for me, I found myself at the Goodwill outlet. This is where everything goes that hasn’t sold at Goodwill, just before it goes to the dump. All the clothes are sold by the pound and other goods are sold for pennies on the dollar rather than having to pay the trash company to take them away. Having found no jeans in my size, I started looking at what else was there. That’s when I found Bullseye.

Bullseye was a blue, 1980’s style Takara 10 speed road bike. His tires were flat and, I would later find out, the seat post was corroded in place. Otherwise, he was in remarkable good shape considering he was days away from the landfill. I decided a “new” bike was just what I needed, so I forked over $10 and carted the bike home. After inflating the tires and trying to lower the seat, I took Bullseye out for my first ride. Recently, I had only been riding mountain bikes so getting back on skinny tires felt so fast. There was a small voice in the back of my head that kept repeating any bike worth only $10 is bound to fall apart when you ride it. Over time, as we covered more miles together, my confidence in Bullseye grew.

When we moved to Boise, I decided to try bike commuting rather than getting another car and Bullseye was right there with me. I assumed I’d get a new bike once this one finally gave up on me. When something on Bullseye would break, I always feared it was the beginning of the end. So, rather than fixing it properly, I would bodge it back into working order with zip ties, coat hanger or occasionally random pieces of Erector Set I had from my childhood.

After several years, I realized I was spending more time researching, cleaning and adjusting my derailleurs than I was using them. So, I took them off and Bullseye went from 10-speed to one. Later, I noticed that my rim brakes were not providing the stopping power I wanted when it rained. Now, I assumed that new brake pads would probably have fixed the problem, but it was cheaper (and way more fun as a maker) to weld the back hub, turning the free wheel into a fixie. This allowed me to stop without using the brakes at all and worked for nine months. Then the welds broke and once again, Bullseye went back to being a non-hipster style of bike.

Eventually, the parts that needed to be fixed or replaced far outnumbered those still working well. I had decided it was time to replace Bullseye. That’s when I saw the notice about the car for bike swap. Once I won, I agreed to trade-in Bullseye as soon as the new bike arrived. That happened last weekend, so I said goodbye to Bullseye. Now, I’ve got my new bike, but I have no idea what to name it. I mean everyone who’s ever seen Toy Story knows that Woody rides Bullseye, but that name was already taken.

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