Tag Archives: cycling

I could just get a ride with someone who’s driving, but I don’t… I *like* commuting by bike!

Each May we have Bike To Work Day. That’s weird. A Bike To Work “Day.” As if it needs a special day because otherwise we’ll take it for granted, because otherwise the benefits of riding to work don’t matter? Like we wouldn’t care about our Moms if there wasn’t a “Mother’s” day?

Confession. I wasn’t always a bike commuter. But today, even if a “ride” is available, I’d rather ride. Why?

Is this the alternative to cycling to work? Not so far-fetched when you think about Google self-driving cars. What’s scary is that many think a push-button existence is part of their view of an ideal world.

Because when I ride to work, I arrive feeling like I’ve already started to engage the world. Riding city streets is “active” when you’re on a bike, not just because you’re pedaling and working your heart & muscles, but most-important, you’re working your brain. You’re scanning the street ahead to make sure the roadway’s safe; you’re keeping an eye out for cars entering from the side, you’re watching the stop lights before you get to them, trying to time your arrival so it will be green when you get to it.

If you’re lucky, you experience the unmistakable smell of bacon on the way in, and sometimes coffee. Easier to rationalize a stop for coffee (and even donuts) when you’re riding. No problem finding parking spaces either!

Even the ritual of removing your helmet and dealing with its effect on whatever hair is left on a 59-year-old head is strangely positive (maybe because there’s still something left to comb). All sorts of little details that let you know you’re alive, you’re on a journey even, and work is just one stop on that journey. Compare that to being entombed in a car, windows rolled up because you don’t want anything out of your control, radio on, it could be 40 degrees outside or 85 and it wouldn’t matter because you’ve got climate control, one more aspect of technology to insulate you from the world outside.

We were given muscles to work. Noses to smell. Eyes to see. Ears to hear. “Sensors” on our hands, feet & tail end to feel with. Cycling uses all of them! And when you stop for coffee (and/or donuts), you can engage your sense of taste as well. We were designed to experience, to create, to struggle even. If you don’t like that, take it up with the two who got us thrown out of the garden. And if you’re thinking about some future state of being, where your body is no longer flesh & blood & bone but rather a connection between your mind and “the grid”, just think about where you’ll be next time your Comcast ‘net connection goes down, or some virus kills your computer.

There’s something to be said for the reliability of a person riding a bike. You push down on the pedal, and it goes. You lean and the bike turns. You apply the brakes and it slows down. It never runs out of gas. You can buy a pretty fancy bike for the cost of a transmission repair (this I know personally) (twice). You don’t have to drive around downtown Palo Alto 20 minutes looking for a parking space. But most of all, you’re part of the experience. You’re not deliberately walled-off from the world. Even your vulnerability reminds you how great it feels to be alive. Look at the faces on the motorists; many appear to be deal already.

All this to explain why I rode to work today, even though Becky was driving anyway.  –Mike–

Overdid it on the “dirt” idea today; crossed Towne Fire Road off the list of do-agains

The video above shows Kevin attempting to cross the creek at the base of Towne Fire Road.

Kevin’s been pushing to do another off-road ride for a few weeks, after mastering the first attempt on dirt Alpine and a few trails up off Skyline. That ride was only 30 miles or so, not enough to really qualify as a proper “Sunday” ride, but something to get our feet wet. Well, not quite literally; that we saved for today!

It was a bit of a struggle finding more “dirt” within a reasonable distance from home; it’s not much fun riding a cross bike with dirt tires very far on pavement. I thought maybe I had something figured out though. Up dirt Alpine again, some fooling around up on Skyline (Ridge Trail) and then drop into Portola State Park to reconnect with more dirt, this time Old Haul Road (which I’d previously done on my regular road bike with regular tires) followed by Towne Fire Road, which looked really promising on the map, yet I couldn’t find out much about it on-line.

Well there’s a reason you can’t find out about it. It’s because few are dumb enough to do it! The climb up from the creek at the bottom is, at times, brutal, and the “road” abysmal. Just one small section of it appears on Strava (“hidden” at that), with just 21 others ever having ridden it. Given that most of the times were substantially faster than ours, my guess is that they actually rode it during the early 1920s when it might have been paved. Yeah, that’s my excuse. Sure.

Towne Fire Road dumps you off across from Sam McDonald park, on the east side of Haskins, just before it gets steep. Much as this ride was all about dirt, it was a relief to be on smooth pavement again, and within a few minutes be in LaHonda for a coke and sandwich. Kevin was not doing terribly well by this point, while I was feeling stronger as we went. Makes me wonder just how fast Kevin might climb something like Tunitas if it came earlier in a ride, before wearing himself down a bit.

We’ll have more “find the dirt” rides on our cross bikes in the future, but none of them will find us on Towne Fire Road. –Mike–