Friday, January 28, 2011

Back in the saddle again

Our little cowgirl with Starlit, her newest horse, who was fabricated at school from one of Daddy's old Smartwool socks and a yardstick.
An astute reader may have noticed that this blog has fallen fallow for the past couple of weeks. Rest assured, there has been plenty of Big Dummy Daddying going on at the old bike ranch. However, time, an essential ingredient of blog posts, has been in short supply. Today a modest block of time became available, so here is a post to end the drought.
The before school photo. Matching boots, belt and hat set the stage for a western shirt with embedded silver thread. Bob Wills would have approved.
Today was cowgirl day at school. That's not its official designation, but for our purposes it will suffice. She is an enthusiastic cowgirl, owed in part to her parental roots in Wyoming, but more substantially to her enduring fondness of the song Rhinestone Cowboy and wearing cowgirl clothes, especially boots.

In snack mode on the Big Dummy. Daddy happened to be wearing an appropriate western shirt too.
We had a great ride home, taking a bit longer route than usual for enjoyment. When it's 65F and sunny on a day in late January, a person would have to try hard not to have fun being outside. We've had a very mild winter here with only a couple of snowstorms and minimal snowfall, but the heat of the sun on bare skin is still a welcomed luxury at this time of year.

After arriving home, we continued to capitalize on the weather with a long session on the swings. The evening light now lasts noticeably longer than a month ago, which helps tremendously in reducing the midwinter blues, and it certainly doesn't hurt that today is Friday. In all a good day living life the cowgirl (or cowboy) way.
Working up a full head of steam.
She always sings ragtime music to the cattle as she swings. With apologies to the author of Ragtime Cowboy Joe, who probably had some other type of swinging in mind.
I am aware of no brand of jeans other than Hello Kitty that features pink stitching. Little details like this truly pull the ensemble together. It is obvious to anyone who knows me that I can't claim to be the source of her sophisticated sense of style.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Slushy ride home

Ready to roll
 It was a beautiful day today, and a lot of the snow and ice on the roads was melting. By late afternoon many side street were slushy. It made for splashy, splattery riding. Lots of fun.
Muck flavored slushy served on a bed of asphalt. Bon appetit!

On Oregon House Bill 2228

I never thought riding one of these would make me an 'outlaw biker.'
Note: This is an expanded version of a comment I left on the Xtracycle Every Day Adventurers blog concerning proposed Oregon legislation.

I know that this is ostensibly a blog about biking in and around Denver, but any implied geographic boundaries are loosened when issues of import arise. As such, a state representative in Oregon has proposed an ill-informed bill that could have a chilling effect on carrying passengers under the age of six on a bicycle. The bill would restrict any child under six from being a passenger on a bicycle or in a bicycle trailer. If passed, this policy could spread to other states, so it should be of concern to all of us who value family bicycling and car-reduced transportation.

I have a few thoughts on the value of having children under the age of six as passengers on bicycles based on my own experience. To begin, I'll present some background. I live in car-centric suburban Denver with my wife and five-year old daughter. In part because I found the design to be so appealing, and in part to reduce our car use, I bought a Big Dummy cargo bike in 2008, soon after they first became available. The effect was immediately transformational. Riding together as a family for recreation, errands and commuting to work and school has made us healthier and happier.

My daughter loves to ride the Big Dummy, although she is able to ride her own bike. She started out in a Burly trailer, and was overjoyed in moving to riding on the rear seat of the Big Dummy, or "our bike" as she calls it. Wherever we go, she happily informs curious people about how we use the bike and what it can carry. She enjoys arriving at school on the Big Dummy, which is usually mobbed by kids telling us how cool they think the bike is and asking if their parents can get one too. In no small part because of her experience riding from an early age, I'm confident my daughter will be physically active and a lifetime bike rider, both valuable to counter health risks prevalent in our culture. She is also more engaged with our community and the world around her; highly useful building blocks for creating good citizens.

We are now a two cargo bike family. This past year, I built an Xtracycle for my wife. Because we ride our bikes frequently, we now know more about our neighbors and neighborhood and are more likely to visit local restaurants and businesses than in the past. In a car, we tend to stick to standard routes around town, spending money at a relatively few number of places. On bikes we are more free to explore, spending money not needed for gasoline throughout our community.

To be clear, I am not an anti-car advocate, but instead in favor of using the correct vehicle for the job. Our family owns two cars, but we use them much less frequently around town than before. Like others in this country who are pioneering life with reduced car dependence, a law to restrict carrying young children by bike would be detrimental to our health, economics and quality of life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Riding in the "off" season

Lighted hulks speeding past
Last Thursday was a very warm and pleasant early January day. In the evening I paused at Speer and Lawrence to capture the Titan during the last moments of twilight. Regardless of Denver's reputation, it's actually not consistently snowy here throughout the winter. We had an unprecedented streak of snow-less fall-like weather, all the way through to the beginning of January. However, that all changed by Sunday with our first real snow of winter.

Once the snow started the temperature stayed fairly cold, so the snow remained powdery. This morning was about as cold as it has been in quite a while here: -3F (-20C). I'm no snow expert but as far as bike riding and snow goes, I've spent a lot of time riding in snowy or icy conditions and have encountered several variants in snow conditions that affect the road surface. Most people from snowy climates are probably familiar with how differing road conditions affect car driving, but the affect on bikes is somewhat different. On my ride this morning, I encountered the following snow types.

Fresh powder makes for fun riding in depths of about 6 inches or less. The tires just seem to push the snow out of the way, as if riding through fluffy drifts of styrofoam particles. As long as there is no ice hidden under the powder it's no problem.

Ravenous snowflake eater running through the powder on the night of the snowfall
Packed powder is surprisingly good for traction, provided overconfidence doesn't get the best of you. Occasional soft spots can cause spin outs. As with this and any other surface that is potentially slick, it's important to attempt to keep close to vertical when making turns and plan ahead for braking.

Packed powder probably at least a couple of inches in thickness
Ice/compacted snow is what occurs on arterial streets with a sufficient combination of traffic and chemicals such as magnesium chloride. This condition of partially broken clumps and slick surfaces is generally less desirable for riding than side streets.
A bit slicker than it looks but not bad going
The Dummy has typical 2.0" knobbies, nothing special. They seem to work fine for most conditions.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

We made it. Happy 2011!

Late night juice is like liquid candy.
Non-alcoholic bubbly and a putting together a unicorn/fairy puzzle is actually much more excitement than we usually have on the last night of the year.
Reaping the whirlwind of hours of sugar and excitement.
A minute into the new year, synchronized with the atomic clock via GPS.