Friday, December 31, 2010

Staying up to meet the New Year

Too cold for the fluorescent lighting in the bike shop to fully ignite. That smile may be Cheeto induced.
After a prolonged mild Fall, Winter arrived in full force yesterday with snow and plunging temperatures. As of now, 11:10pm Standard Mountain Time, our girl is still going strong. This was the first year that we thought she might be able to stay up until midnight. We asked her if she wanted to give it a try, and of course she was game. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we as parents are allowing her to experience indulgence characteristic of New Year's Eve partying. We're enjoying some snacks and bubbly drinks of carbonated French lemonade and orange juice mimosas, simulated for the grade school crowd and spirit fortified for the Mommy and Daddy crew.

A lot of great bike events and advances occurred this year, and we had fun on two wheels in our family and with friends as frequently as possible. As in the past, some bikes entered our household and some left. The Big Dummy continued to be well ridden and transported us on many trips, both for utility and for fun. The year 2010 will always be remembered as the year our girl learned to ride a bike. There's no telling what she will be up to in 2011, but no doubt it'll be great. On behalf of all of us here, we look forward to seeing you on the trail or the street soon.
This is cold for us: flirting with 0F, or about -17C.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24th

Yes, those mittens are as fuzzy and warm as they look.
Four years ago Denver was in the midst of a string of blizzards that brought deep snow that stayed on the ground for several months before melting, which is a quite an uncommon phenomenon around here. Today was quite different, with temperatures around 52F and not a speck of snow anywhere. We all had the day off, so we enjoyed a ride through our neighborhood and around the park.
We're a happy family.
Checking out the ducks and geese on the lake.
Whenever we ride through the park, it's tradition for us to fit in a couple of rounds on our little stretch of single track. As traditionalists, we did not waver from our duty to lay down some tracks on the dirt. She parked her bike for a bit and hopped on the Big Dummy to do the circuit.
Zooming down our favorite hill.
After our ride, we had a few preparations to tackle before going over to Oma's house for the evening. There would be cousins to play with and a birthday for Uncle Chris. Our girl never shies away from an opportunity to dress up, and Julie had assembled a perfect holiday outfit including a green velvet dress with red and white snowflake stockings.
All gussied up in her holiday dress and topped off with Daddy's Soviet naval officer shopka, in front of the illuminated B-cycle.
A bit later, just before bedtime she and I prepared a snack for Santa. She thought that he would have mostly had enough of cookies by the time he reached our house, so we opted to serve Santa some genoa salami, cheese, crackers and a small cookie. She carefully counted out eight carrots for the reindeer. For a change, it didn't take much coaxing to get her to go to bed tonight, and she was asleep quickly. I'm hoping that we get to sleep in until at least sunrise tomorrow.
The snack, which was accompanied by a question for the ages...
Dear Santa I want to know if there is a real Rudolph?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celestial sightings on the winter solstice

I don't make it a habit of witnessing too many sunrises, but yesterday, the shortest day of the year, I tried to maximize my sun time. Well, that and I had an early morning meeting. The ride leaving home was brisk, hovering around 20F, with a small headwind. My eyes teared up a bit and my cheeks felt numb by the time I got to the train station. On this first day of winter there was a thin coating of frost on everything, and the colors of the landscape were muted and as slow to awaken as I was.

My bike for this part of the day was one that is ordinarily my stay-at-work office bike, but it ended up at home for some regular maintenance. It's a single-speed utility bike, hybridized from the frame of a vintage mountain bike of the lugged steel era and the components of a modern cruiser, coaxed into cooperation through the aid of a Surly Singleator.
Reconfigured 1988 Panasonic MC 4500, in nice and big 22" size.
The Panasonic in its current configuration is a swift and comfortable utility bike. I especially like the smooth and slightly bouncy ride of the Ritchey Moby-Bite 2.1 slicks. Surprisingly, these tires do fairly well on snow and patches of ice, although there isn't any of that around right now. I rode the Panasonic quite a few miles while going from meeting to meeting, eventually returning home.

Early in the morning on Dec. 21st I had seen the rusty glow of the lunar eclipse, but a subsequent appearance of the moon about 15 hours later was spectacular in its own right. In the evening on the way to the BikeDenver Winter Solstice Ride I observed the moonrise over the Denver Zoo. The photo below poorly portrays what I saw. In actuality, the subtlety of streaks of creamy gold clouds washing over the moon reminded me of the hues of the sublime Stranahan's Whiskey Brickle ice cream, my new and possibly permanent favorite flavor of all time.
This was the best the zoom on my camera could do.
During the day I had returned home to swap bikes for the solstice ride. I chose to bring my Titan 1/2 Trac out of hibernation, it being arguably my most festive bike. At the Zoo, approximately 100 or so bikes and riders readied themselves. The weather was much more cooperative than for past solstice rides, holding somewhere around freezing with no precipitation. For comparison, the temperature for the ride in 2008 was 2F, and the ride was mercifully truncated to the shortest route to the pub. This year, the route highlighted several scenic and decorated landmarks while showcasing some recently installed bicycle infrastructure along the way, such as the buffered bike lane on Champa.
Solstice riders taking a look-see at Union Station.
The ride rolled through 6 or 7 miles from the Zoo to LoDo to Civic Center Park and the State Capital before depositing us at The Irish Snug for hot food and drink. The Titan was as nimble and speedy as ever, and as usual, was lavished with attention for its fenders. The ride was just the right length and mostly avoided the construction-induced traffic jams along 14th Street. In all, it was a great time riding and enjoying libations with friends, and a pleasant way to usher in the seasonal marker for incrementally increasing daylight.
The flash shows the reflective effect of the license plate fenders on the Titan 1/2 Trac.
For comparison, this is the same shot without a flash. The illuminated City and County Building is visible in the background.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Decoratively toothsome

A new reason to love everyone's favorite oviod chainring.
I'm not much of a festive person, but I do enjoy constructing and repurposing. Sometimes there is an opportunity for these things to coincide. That's how the toothy tree topper pictured above came to be. In past years, I've installed a single 28-tooth chainring at the pinnacle with some zip ties. This year I decided to step up the quality of implementation a little, using a full set of circa 1986 Shimano Biopace chainrings from my parts bin, in 28, 38 and 48 tooth sizes. I cleaned the rings up and wired them together with the smallest ring positioned to encircle the top of the tree to support the other two. The results turned out pretty well, in my opinion.
My contribution is to put the tree in the stand and the decoration on top; everything else is due to the efforts of the talented ladies of the house.
In the mean time, the girls did a little fabrication of their own, in the form of sugar cookies. The creation of consumables meant to be decorated or decorations meant to be consumed is a festive tradition that I can truly get behind.
Another cookie is born.
Our colored sugar sprinkler takes her responsibility very seriously.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ekeing out a little more sol

The sun sinking low over the lake
I feel like a broken record to even mention it, but we just keep getting beautiful days, now all the way into mid December. I'm sure that the other shoe will drop sooner or later in the form of a big snowstorm, but I am am determined to appreciate as much of this great weather as possible.
Command center of the Big Dummy orbital module
We took an extended ride home, turning about a mile-long trip into five. During the ride, we seized to opportunity to ride through some of our favorite areas of town, including past a municipal flower garden that has been dug in for the winter and past Ketring Lake.
Over the top and down the hill
Our route was bordered by hundreds of foraging geese and splashing ducks, along with a coot or two. We covered a fair amount of ground as the shadows grew longer. Of course we carved out enough time to ride our tiny local piece of singletrack, which includes a short downhill section that never fails to elicit happiness from the back seat.
A grinning co-pilot

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A day of music downtown

Listening to the mellow sounds of a few hundred large brass instruments with Oma.
My brothers are players of large brass instruments, so naturally our family has been to many past performances of Tuba Christmas in Denver for nearly three decades. I seem to recall that most years we've attended have been snowy with temperatures hovering in the teens or even the single digits, but this year the weather was terrific. It had been quite a few years since we were last present, in fact well before she was born. However my brother Jake was performing in this year's group, so we had a good reason to introduce her to her first assembly of heavy brass. She enjoyed the music and sang along to many of the songs. Rudolph and Jingle Bells were her favorites, of course.
The best vantage point was above the crowd on the Big Daddy, in lieu of the Big Dummy.
As it turns out, tubas were not the only public music of the day. Nearby we saw a band playing jazz while riding pedicabs down the 16th Street Mall. Take note, as this comprises the pedal-powered element of this post. The band was quite good, apparently somehow connected to the Telluride Blues Festival. I'd like to see more bands being pedaled around the city while they play. That sort of thing can be nothing but beneficial for Denver in any number of ways.
Laissez le bon temps rouler et rouler, right on down the street.
But wait, there's more. Last summer, the 16th Street Mall had public pianos set up at several locations, and although most have been removed for the winter at least one remained. She discovered it and photogenically tickled the keys for a little while, attracting the attention of more photographers than just me. After all, what could depict the festivities of the day more perfectly than a little girl in an elf hat?
Note the partially visible octopus on skates painted just below the keyboard.
In all, the day was a lot of fun. A little snow might have contributed to the aura of seasonality, but I'll have to admit that I didn't miss it. Snow will inevitably be along shortly, but until then I'll continue to relish the days without it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A little art and science from the saddle

Just like a cowboy riding into the sunset
Art presents itself in everyday life all the time; often it is just a matter of looking for it. However, some days art unmistakably engulfs you. Today was such a day as we ventured to pick up the last of our CSA fruit. While on this errand, our girl and I took a detour to make the most of the light of this seasonally shortened day. We have ridden this particular route many times in varying weather, but there is always something new to see. As a reward for taking the long road home, the few minutes preceding the sunset intensified the visual distinction of the features of trees and plants, and the colors of every pebble and fallen leaf were much more rich and vibrant.
Mastering the windswept look
Science is the inseparable companion of art, but instead of discussing how polarized light might have contributed to the phenomena of the sunset we experienced, I'm thinking of a more applied subject. During the ride, I took the opportunity to further test the route tracking ability of my Garmin FR210 GPS watch.

The well-calibrated Cateye cyclecomputer on the Big Dummy and the FR210 registered nearly the exact same distance, with the Cateye logging 4.50 miles to the FR210's 4.49 miles, a difference of about 0.2%. Quite excellent agreement, considering the difference in measurement techniques between a rolling mechanical wheel and consumer-type GPS, rated to be accurate to within about 10 meters. The instant speed feature of the FR210 also seemed to agree with the speed displayed on the Cateye, although there was apparently about a second or so of lag time with the GPS when pedaled speed changed. Not a big deal for me.
Garmin FR210 faithfully interpreting satellite signals to register a blazing 8.24mph
I also used the heart rate monitor to gather data, although I'm not yet sure what to do with HRM data that are not generated as a result of a workout. Any physical activity, not just that which is structured can be beneficial, so it will be interesting to see in which zone this flavor of transportation-related physical activity falls. However, as this blog is ostensibly about the art and science of Daddying from the saddle of a Big Dummy, and not so much about data dissection, I digress. Without further ado, I present the following image evocative of the former.
Glowing in the fading light of day

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tour de B-cycle: closing day 2010 edition

The B-cycle Bombers ready to embark. Left to right: David B., Eric F., Mary M., Andy D.
I've been a regular Denver B-cycle user since the system opened in April of this year. Since then, I've been to all the stations multiple times (with the exception of a few added in the past couple of weeks) so I am probably as familiar with the system as anyone can be. However, I had not done the Tour de B-cycle, a challenge to ride to each station in the Denver B-cycle system, returning to your starting station, within 24 hours.

Today was the last opportunity to take on the Tour de B-cycle in 2010, because the system shuts down for the winter tomorrow. With a temperature hovering in the mid 20s F, a group of four of us began the quest at the Denver Botanic Gardens station at 8:00am. Along for the ride with me were Eric France and David Brand (who hold the distinction of being the originators of the Tour de B-cycle on opening day) and Mary Mlot. Mary was perhaps the most adventurous of the lot, having only found out about the Tour the previous day.
On a chilly quest to reach all 50 stations, with cheeks reddened by the cold and wind.
Being fairly familiar with the ins and outs of the Denver B-cycle, as well as the bicycle infrastructure of the city, I planned a route using Google maps designed to wind through all 50 stations smoothly and efficiently. The route took into account Denver's network of bike routes, lanes and paths, traffic laws, the bike policy of the 16th St. Mall, and the directionality of downtown streets. The planned route for our Tour is viewable here for reference, for those who may be interested in developing of a Tour de B-cycle of their own. Keep in mind that your next chance at an attempt is on March 1, 2011 when Denver B-cycle re-opens.
My trusty clipboard with customized maps and a checklist of stations. I shamelessly own my bike nerd-dom, however...
...just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, this device easily tops the nerd score of a mere clipboard. This is my Garmin FR210 hooked to its charger pre-ride, only because I didn't think to get a shot of it in action.
As an added level of data collection, I was accompanied on the ride by my new Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS-enabled heart rate monitor/watch. It's a geographic/health/fitness information enthusiast's dream tool. In an instrument the size of an ordinary watch, the FR210 is packed with a miniature GPS unit able to record and store routes, speed, elevation, heart rate and a whole lot more. The unit is ostensibly designed for athletic training, but definitely makes active transportation more fun and the results more informative.

You can view the route log as recorded by my FR210 is here: Tour de B-cycle: Dec. 5, 2010. With a reasonable degree of accuracy I know that I rode 31.62 miles with 2,024 feet of elevation gain, and burned 2,895 calories at an average heart rate of 133 bpm, all during the 6 hours 24 minutes and 15 seconds it took to complete the Tour.

Update: Here's an interactive version of the route recorded by my GPS:

The path is easy to follow along streets and paths, but the logged route looks a little ragged when skyscrapers and other structures interfere a bit with the GPS signal. Overall, it's pretty close to the planned route.

There were no shortage of things to see along the way, including historic landmarks and a selection of Denver's varied and impressive architecture. There were a lot of unique and random bits along the street, desperately in need of a new owner. For many of these items that new owner ended up being Eric, who found several very special things for a lucky young lady in his household. I happened upon a grouping of nice things for a young lady at my home too.

Eric about to retrieve a particularly lovely prize, found near the 11th and Broadway station. 
A set of building blocks on a bus bench for future construction projects at my house.
We managed to mostly stay warm throughout the morning, apart from some cold toes and drippy noses, but our spirits remained high despite the continued chill throughout the day. We checked off the stations in the Cherry Creek area first, then followed with the stations in the DU/South Pearl area. Next, we headed to Capital Hill, Denver Health and the area around the Denver Public Library. A photo log of our Tour is viewable here.

Riding down 16th St. Mall; at other times a no-no, but definitely in the affirmative on Sundays. Note the well-utilized cargo baskets.
We then moved on to the downtown stations, then the outskirt stations such as Pepsi Center, 4th and Walnut and toward the Highlands. Uptown and Five Points were next, followed by West City Park, Queen Soopers and finally the return to Denver Botanic Gardens.
We happened upon another group of Tour de B-cyclists led by Parry while at Five Points. Eric organized an impromptu B-cycle kazoo serenade with vocal accompaniment by all riders present, in honor of her birthday. Happy Birthday, Parry!
All in all, things went quite well, with only a couple of checkout issues among my riding partners. We encountered one full station where we couldn't check in, and a few inoperable stations, which we shot with a camera and logged via GPS to prove our presence. I personally enjoyed a flawless checkout record using my B-card with no technical difficulties.
Near the end I met up with Denver B-cycle number 420, an old friend from opening day that I had ridden a few times in the past seven months. It was now outfitted with a single leg kickstand for field testing.
Even with the cold weather, Tour de B-cycle was a great time. Already, I can't wait until Denver B-cycle reopens next year. Here's to sending Denver B-cycle's first operating season off with a victory lap around the city, and may there be many more to come. Thanks to everyone – proponents, riders, staff and volunteers – who worked to make Denver B-cycle a success, as well as all those who strive to make the city of Denver a better place for bicycling.
Triumphant, the intrepid adventurers returned to Denver Botanic Gardens after the conquest of all 50 stations.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday ride home

A sandwich cookie smile
Today was an unseasonably warm, albeit windy day. We took advantage of the warmth with a slightly extended ride home from school and a stop at the park.
The exit of the swirly slide
One boot Johnson County style, the other regular
We had a good ride and it was a vivid reminder of how varied the weather can be in our region during this time of year.

Our piece of the Highline Canal Trail today...
... and Grandma & Grandpa's house in sub-freezing Wyoming about a week and a half ago.