Monday, December 29, 2008

Sun Dogs


I took the dogs for a walk today over in the National Wildlife Refuge. It's somewhat of an unofficial off leash dog park for folks in the know who go in on the eastern side, far away from the Refuge proper. I've never met anybody over there other than fishermen or other people who have their dogs off leash.




The walk there, from front door to the lake and back, is probably about 2 1/2 miles. But we were gone for nearly two hours. Such is a walk where the dogs are in charge of the pace. We stop and sniff everything. And wander in the rushes. And perhaps eat some rushes. But we're not rushed.

Dogs are good for reminding you to stop and smell the roses. And the dead squirrels. It's all a tapestry.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

I just wanted to say Happy Holidays to everybody out there in the bicycling community. The VelociPete family is scheduled to begin a Festive Family Overload in T-minus 7 hours and 41 minutes. This will involve both hosting and traveling to visit others, and we won't have a rest until Sunday. I look forward to this time of year, and all the family togetherness. Even so, I imagine I'll be ready to crawl into my solitary cave by Sunday. I hope all your travels are safe and your celebrations, no matter what you're celebrating, are merry.

I'll leave you with a link to a collection of cocktail napkins from Shakespeare himself. Though probably not exactly what the Bard had in mind when he wrote these lines...

Thanks for reading, cheers!

Edit:
I just received a link to an MPR video about a local bike commuter who rides in the winter. Take a look:
MPR News: Winter Bike Commuting
Thanks Alana!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Slacker?

I haven't ridding for almost two weeks now, due to a combination of various post-work commitments and some brutal weather. Plus, I gave myself permission earlier in the fall to not ride when the bridge is covered in ice and snow and unrideable. Add that to the fact that I've already exceeded my mileage goal for the year, and I'm going to slack off. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. Though I did mess up and forgot to renew the tabs on the wagon. They expired at the end of November, and I got a not so friendly reminder left under my windshield yesterday when I parked at the Ft. Snelling park-n-ride. That plus temperatures without a negative sign, and the fact that I saw MN/Dot plowing the Mendota Bridge sidepath as I was driving home tonight might be enough to get me back on two wheels tomorrow.

In bloggy-type news, I changed the layout of ye olde blog from what I had before. It's much cleaner and simpler. You might want to pop outside your feedreader and take a look. I also added a new blogger gadget that shows who "followers" of the blog are. Interesting concept, but I'm not sure what purpose it serves. But, nothing ventured nothing gained. Feel free to follow me. Shouldn't be hard at this pace. ;-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bike plans

The last couple of posts I've made were quickly dashed off, but there's actually a more coherent theme I've wanted to put together. The first post was about my wanting to ride the Mississippi River Trail. And the other referred to the plowing of the Mendota Bridge. I think they may end up being connected, but I'm not sure how just yet. Most of it is speculation on my part.

A few weeks ago I saw a story on mpr.org about plans for the National Park Service to take over a little used section of land that is part of my current commute. The land in question is near Fort Snelling and was formerly home to Camp Coldwater. It's also home to half a dozen abandoned Bureau of Mines buildings. Many local cyclists are familiar with this area as it contains a trail that connects the southern end of Minnehaha Park to Fort Snelling. The mpr article was pretty light on the details, but said that "the land will be cleared of abandoned buildings and restored to its natural conditions." What of the bike trail, I wondered. Removing that could be a major thorn in my side and anybody else who wants to get from Minneapolis to points south without a motor vehicle. The article listed Paul Labovitz as the project supervisor, so I did a little sleuthing and found his email address. I sent him the following email:

Dear Mr. Labovitz,
I read of the National Park Service's plans to restore land near Ft. Snelling to its natural conditions. I was particularly interested in this project because I travel through this area nearly every day. I'm glad that the National Park Service is going to be doing something about the abandoned Bureau of Mines buildings, as I consider them to be an eyesore.

My main concern with the upcoming project surrounds the bike/walking path that runs adjacent to the Bureau of Mines buildings. This path is a critical link between Minneapolis and one of the few viable river crossings, the Mendota Bridge, that is available for non-motorized traffic in the area. The path is used by hundreds of cyclists on a daily basis and would leave many with no other options if it were closed for any length of time. Are there any details available about the upcoming project and its plans to continue to allow non-motorized traffic to pass through the area?

Thank you for your time.

Pete


Not expecting much, I went back to whatever I'd been doing before. But Mr. Labovitz surprised me with his quick response that same day:

Thanks for your note......

One of the primary reasons the National Park Service is stepping in to play
a more active role is to maintain the continuous open space along the river
between Minneapolis and St. Paul. An equally as significant reason for our
intervention is to maintain the existing recreational trail connections you
mentioned. One of this parks highest priorities is to see a class one bike
trail along both sides of the river and we play a role in promoting a
larger trail project called the Mississippi River Trail that will someday
connect the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks for your interest and
I hope when the public involvement process gears up you participate and
voice your opinion. I'll add your contact info to our growing interest
list.

Paul


Well, I'll be dipped. Not only will the trail continue to exist, it sounds as though it will become some sort of uber-trail. I hadn't heard about the Mississippi River Trail, but I did some googling and liked what I saw. I've had thoughts about following the Mississippi before, by bike and by canoe. With such a trail running literally within a mile of my house, it seems too good to pass by.

Here's how it ties in to the Mendota Bridge, at least in my mind. One would guess that if the park service plans to add "a class one bike trail along both sides of the river" this would have to be good news for plowing. Don't get me wrong, MN/Dot does a decent job of clearing the bridge. They are fairly predictable and will normally clear the side path 3 days after any snowfall greater than 3 inches. I would think that the National Park Service would have standards at least this high, if not higher. If nothing else having the Park Service involved could make it more difficult for MN/Dot to decide to stop plowing the path, in light of recent budget issues.

I'm looking forward to watching this project from a unique perspective of somebody who is going to be riding through the project site on a (nearly) daily basis. I may head over there and snap some before pictures of the area before anything begins.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Winter is here

I saw some poor schlub pushing his bike along the unplowed Mendota Bridge bikepath today. It's apparently unrideable, yet again. I was sure glad I decided to drive today. Apologies to you if you're the poor schlub in question.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The perfect cycling gift

I emailed my lovely wife yesterday with what I thought was the perfect christmas gift:  The WinePod.  In these troubling economic times, who wouldn't want to spend $8,999.00 on a stainless steel machine that will make your own wine?  It just makes good financial sense.
 
But then I found something from the good folks at Hammacher Schlemmer that is perfect for the cyclist on your list:  The Only Complete Swiss Army Knife.  
 
It has seven blades, three types of pliers, three golf tools (club face cleaner, shoe spike wrench, and divot repair tool), 25 flat- and Phillips-head screwdrivers and bits, saws, wrenches, and more. It also has a bicycle chain rivet setter, signal whistle, 12/20-gauge shotgun choke tube tool, combination fish scaler, hook disgorger, and line guide tool, cigar-cutting scissors, laser pointer, tire-tread gauge, toothpick, tweezers, and key ring.
 
That's 87 different functions for only $1400.  When you break it down, it's just over $16 per function.  They're practically giving this stuff away!  I'll probably need a custom built saddle bag to haul this thing. 
 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Long term goal

I would like to cycle the Mississippi River Trail.  Target:  10 years from now, give or take.

Monday, November 17, 2008

First fixie


It's been a few weeks, I know. What have I been doing? Enjoying the election results, sleeping in on Saturday mornings, and riding to work. What's that, a new bike? Say, it is a new bike! New to me, anyway.

The story is that back in July my brother sent me the following email:

The same guy that forwarded me the email about the naked biking says he's got a bike frame he doesn't want anymore. Any interest? This guy rides a regular weekend ride with his local bike shop, kind of like you do and he's in his late 50's or maybe 60 years old. He's giving this away if you're interested.

From what I remember:

-trek steel frame - 60" (this guy is about 6'2")
-has some components on it, but not all of them. I think he mentioned Campio(?) components for some things, but I can't remember for sure.
-He's keeping the wheels he had on it, but he thinks he still has the factory 26" wheels that he would give with it
-he said the saddle is pretty nice
-brakes are included
-no rust on the frame

Don't know if you have room for more bike stuff at your place or not, but I thought I'd run it by you anyway.
Matt


Of course, I said yes immediately. I picked the frame up from my brother sometime in August and hauled it home. After taking stock, I found the following:

-trek steel frame - 60". Nice, something in the 83-84 vintage. I tried looking up the serial number on vintage trek, but there was some light corrosion and the numbers I wrote down don't quite match what the site says.
-Campy cranks, chainrings and most likely bottom bracket. Campy front derailleur, no rear. Seatpost, bars, stem.
-The factory wheels were actually 27", and to be honest I have no idea if I got them or not
-Ditto the saddle, no recollection of what was on there.
-brakes are included. Dia-compe with fairly new pads.
-a couple of minor rust spots on the frame, nothing serious
-a nice Zefal frame pump
-a bag full of odds and ends

Around the same time I found a killer deal on a wheelset from a Redline 925 on craigslist. I'm telling you, good bike karma all around.

I pulled the front derailleur, downtube cable stops, and all the shifter cables from the bike. I replaced the front brake cable, swapped out the drop bars for a set of moustache bars I had in the parts bin. I also switched to my old Specialized Body Geometry saddle, but after one Hiawatha ride my nethers were killing me and I mounted the Brooks from my sadly neglected Jamis.

I rode the bike a few times as a single speed, and then a few weeks ago I took the plunge and got a 17 tooth fixed cog from Hiawatha. I flopped the hub and have been cleverly disguised as a fixie punk ever since. I'm starting to see the allure.





Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Politics

I don't get too political on this here blog, but I'll make an exception in this year's election cycle. Plus, it's got something to do with cycling.



Don't let up!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Belt Tightening

For you south of the river workers and dwellers:
 
The City of Eagan's going to be cutting back. According to their Nov/Dec newsletter, funds aren't available to hire contractors to clear the Eagan trails, so they're going to make the City crews do it. Street clearing will remain top priority; winter trail and sidewalk clearing will be done between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Mon - Friday. The new service delivery time will likely be 2-5 days after snowfall. During significant storm events or back-to-back storms, winter trail and sidewalk maintenance may not occur until conditions and operations return to normal.
 
It won't effect me much since I roll straight to Highway 13 and normally take the shoulder all the way to the Mendota Bridge, but I know several locals who commute into and out of Eagan year round and this could throw a potential wrench into their lives.  Except perhaps Karl, whose Pugsley can conquer all.
 
I would anticipate that my biggest obstacle will remain the Mendota Bridge.  And the plowing scheduled that Eagan is proposing sounds extremely similar to my experience on the bridge over the last few years.  As I look back and look forward (neat trick!) I'm thinking I will concede and allow the bridge to win this year.  Meaning that my plan going in to this winter is that I won't be cycling when the bridge isn't plowed.  I may make exceptions to this if it's a light snowfall, or I may take a risk of getting caught at work and having to make my way home over an unplowed sidepath, but once I know that the bridge is more snowy than I consider passable I'll be avoiding the bridge.  Which, by nature of it being the only reasonable river crossing between me and work, means avoiding the bike.  But the risk/reward ratio has been getting skewed further and further away from reward the last few years and I'm just not that interested in fighting that battle any more.  Perhaps I'm getting soft in my old age.  So what.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall has fallen






Riding to and from work today was like a slap upside the head from Old Man Winter. "I'm coming for you, boy." It was as if all the trees had made a suicide pact and decided to start dropping their leaves all at the same time. Sunday, it was beautiful and 70 degrees. This morning when I left home it was still almost 70. I was too warm in a short sleeve shirt and shpants. On the way home I was pulling on my long sleeved shirt, vest and gloves. Slap. Supposed to get down to the mid-30s tonight. Fortunately I have parent/teacher conferences to attend at the elementary Tuesday night and have an excuse not to brave these kind of temps just yet.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mmmmm, free burrito

In honor of the reopening of the West River Parkway, Longfellow Grill will give away free breakfast burritos to travelers commuting along the important Twin Cities route Thursday morning, October 9th, 2008. Twin Cities' residents can show their support for the reopening of West River Parkway and fuel up with a breakfast burrito at the same time. The Longfellow Grill booth will be positioned near the exit to East Lake Street off West River Parkway.
Burritos will be distributed between 6-9am.  Found via Roadguy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

S24O

Last Saturday I did my first attempt at bike camping, using Grant Petersen's S24O format. Being my first attempt at hauling any camping crap anywhere on my bike, my total time invested was way more than 24 hours, but I can see how it would get easier and easier the more one does it. The part I really liked is how different it is from my normal car camping weekend trips. These take a lot of planning and effort, and it made me realize that most of that effort involves bringing stuff that isn't strictly necessary. Although to be fair, it is a bit of an apples vs. oranges debate as most of these trips are with the whole family so the amount of gear is dictated by the number of campers and the age of two of them.

I decided to go to Afton State Park for my trip. Afton is a nice park and I estimated it was about 30 miles from my place, which was about what I was looking for. Afton is also unique in that it only has hike in sites, no car camping or RV camping. Living in a river town has it's disadvantages. Specifically in this case, I needed to figure out how to get over the Mississippi River by bike. There are a limited number of river crossings, and not all of them are bikeable. I ended up deciding to take the counterintuitive route of heading into downtown St. Paul to get out of town. It worked very well. Here's the route I took to get out of town. I found a nice surprise in a trail through South Saint Paul that runs along the river and took me directly to the 494 river crossing I was planning for.

Fully loaded bike along the Big Rivers Regional Trail.


Barges on the Mississippi in South Saint Paul.


Train yard.


Trail closed.


The trail closure wasn't a big issue, it was really just the underpass portion of 494. I crossed the river and started heading away from civilization.

Bike on the 494 river bridge.


Once over the river, the route to Afton is extremely simple. Follow Military Road. It's a very pleasant ride with wide shoulders and low traffic. It's a good representation of life on the prairie.

Military road.



The most puzzling thing I saw all weekend.



Nearly there.


Rollers.


The colors were just starting to change, but it's a beautiful park even without full colors.



I stopped and registered for my campsite at the main office. The ranger astutely noticed that I had biked there (I was still wearing my helmet) and told me that bikes were not allowed in the campsite, but I could lock my bike up to anything in the park, "as long as it's not a tree." I figured it wouldn't be that big of a deal to lock my bike up below and haul my things up to the site. I pedaled in to the foot of the campsite area and started to look for a potential lock up. My choices were pretty much limited to picnic tables and trees.

Trail to the campsite.



Crossing a stream.



Stream from the bridge.


I knew trees weren't an option, and the only way I could have locked it to a picnic table would be to crawl underneath with the bike. Not terribly convenient, and I wasn't super excited about leaving the bike to begin with. So I did some hike-a-bike action and took the bike along with me to the campsite. The first couple hundred feet of the climb was brutal. But after that the trail flattened out and pushing the bike was pretty simple.

Campsite #9.








One of the cool things about Afton is you pay $4 for all the firewood you choose to burn. The catch is that you need to cut your own wood and haul it back to the campsite. It's sort of a self-limiting arrangement. Water is also available at the firewood site from a solar powered pump. But again, take as much as you can carry.



Dinner was simple, a can of beef stew heated over the open fire. The pan you see here and a spoon was all the cooking utensils I brought. The next morning, I made oatmeal. Everything else was fruit (fresh and dried), trail mix or nuts.


video

After dinner I stared at the fire until it was time for bed.



I slept great. I didn't have a watch, but I would guess I got up around 8 or so. There was a slight drizzle in the air, but not enough to get my rain gear out. After breakfast I packed up and headed back home.


The one small issue I ran into was my tent pole broke. I heard something snap when I was setting up the tent, but it didn't seem to cause any issues with the tent and I didn't think much of it. When I was tearing down I noticed the broken pole. It's not a huge deal, and with a little tape it should hold up fine for future trips. But it's a little disappointing considering I've only used this tent about 5 times. But the tent was super cheap, so I guess you get what you pay for.


Fun with the self timer.




After packing up and leaving the campsite I did some exploring in the campsite.







I decided to try an alternate route on the way home to see if there was a more southerly route to my place. I took a few twists and turns that I didn't need to because the roads were marked inconsistently. Here's a hint, municipalities: If you put a sign that says "To County Road 26", then you should mark the arrival of County Road 26 as such, and not as 70th Street. I also had to detour due to a road closure, but subtracting these out I think the southern route is about 3 miles shorter. I left home on Saturday at about 2pm and arrived back around 1pm on Sunday. Everything went without a hitch, and I'm anxious to give this bike camping thing another try.