Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"It's not too cold . . ." Part I

". . . you're just wearing the wrong clothes"  is the rest of that line.  I'm not sure if my bike buddy Scott coined that phrase or if he was quoting someone else, so I pass it along uncredited all the time.  (Sorry, Scott.)

I believe the phrase.  It's not too cold, too hot, too windy, too wet, or too snowy to ride.  I have the ability to adapt with clothing, bike, and other gear.  Now if I don't WANT to ride because I find the day's weather unpleasant, well, then, that's on me.  Scott jokes that I prefer the crappiest weather days for riding and maybe that's so.  Who doesn't mind a reputation as a badass?

I'd like to tell you why and how you can ride in almost anything. 

1 - attitude is everything.  I psych myself out of the morning commute all the time, even if it's not that bad out.  I'm a writer; I have more avoidance excuses than you do, I promise.  Action:  don't go to bed until all of your clothing and gear is laid out and ready for the next ride.

2 - distance is everything.  Yup, it really is.  How "far" you'll be riding is a relative term based on the actual distance, ride difficulty, the time it takes, accomodations at destination, emergency intervention options, the weather, your bike, your gear, & your clothing, your physical ability, and most importantly, see #1. 

That's it:  attitude and distance.  Let's assume (since it's still the first week of January) that you have the attitude of ONE BADASS MOFO who is going to RIDE EVERY DAMN DAY or at least you want to maybe try out that crazy winter riding just one time, possibly, perhaps, but okay.  OKAY.  Okay?  So we're assuming #1 = CHECK.

Actual distance & difficulty.  Sure it's a factor.  A 10-mile ride can take an hour in bad weather, and that's a long time if you are wearing those knit Hello Kitty mittens that looked so cute when you got dressed this morning.  So for our first ride, let's assume a 3-4 mile morning commute of relatively flat route in very light traffic, maybe one or two hills of 500 feet or so of gain.  We'll assume you're in decent physical shape with a recently-tuned up bike, so ride time 30 minutes because you're a law-abiding rider who stops for all the lights.

Weather conditions.  Let's say for this first ride it's 25 degrees with north winds at 5-10 mph but 0 precipitation.  That's pretty chilly, but dry, so your primary goal is going to be covering exposed skin and layering to keep your core warm -- but not too warm.  Sweat is your enemy!  Keep in mind, of course, that whatever the weather is in the morning, it could change completely by your ride home.  Carry your windcheater/ waterproof jacket.

Bike / gear / clothing.  I have different interchangeable pieces that I wear and/or carry depending on the current and expected weather.  The pieces I would not go through a winter without include . . .

Knee-high wool Surly socks.  I have two pairs and I wear them every damn day, usually one pair 2 or 3 days in a row while the other pair is in the wash.  I don't wear them throughout the day at work, just on the AM/PM ride.  Oh alright, I sleep in them too.  For our scenario, just these socks will be fine.  Much colder and I'll add a pair of very thin 100% wool hiking liner socks.  These are designed to fit close to the skin, wick away moisture, and provide and extra layer of warmth.  I would almost never need these on a morning commute, but on a longer social ride, definitely.

End of Part I . . . .

Monday, December 14, 2015

Reframe the Membrane

A Saturday bike ride, chilly and damp, made lovely by the utter dearth of people on the Keystone and Big Papio trails.

I don't usually ride trails, but I needed brainless pedaling, free from traffic, free from decisions any more complex than "North first?  Or south?"  And the prevailing winds decide that anyway.

Hawks swooped startled from nearby branches, only to reperch and regard me without concern.  Gaggles and gaggles of Canada geese declined to move from where they sqatted alongside the trail, between the trail and the ravine, in the fields across miles of scrub grass or fallow fields.  Though it was overcast, gloomy, and wet, it was still about 45-50 degrees with a stiff wind out of the south.  With the trails almost compass-straight north and south, I alternated between 17 mph and 12-13, with about the same amount of effort.  Actually, I alternated between "I AM FLEET AND FAIR AND STRONG!" and "I am the fattestlaziestlousiest rider of bikes in the world."

I rode 35 miles on flat paved trails, pshaw, nothing.  Used to be nothing.  Now that I'm so long between rides of any kind, much less good long ones, it's something and I'm proud.  I claimed my hot tub time like a weary boxing champ, chanting, "I am still a contendah!"  Until the lightning began, when I climbed back out, dripping and muttering, "I am still not stupid."

During a commute or even a long social ride, my brain is focused on traffic, cadence, performance, form, ohshitabighill, or -- sometimes just as challenging -- making clever conversation.

Saturday's ride was completely in my head.  #SoZen.  I had a lot of time to think, and some of that thinking was about how I might write about the ride I was on.  #SoMeta.

But I wasn't thinking about the blog.  I still have to remind myself I've rekindled the blog.

So I guess it shouldn't surprise me that my thoughts about Saturday's ride came to me in 140-or-fewer-character bursts.

Time to untrain the Twitter brain.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Monetize !

I have long neglected the blog and long dithered over adding store links or banners.

I spend enough time and money on Amazon that I feel confident recommending their services and allowing their ads on my site.

I spend enough time and money hiking, biking, camping, and otherwise traveling that I do desire a more public forum for writing about those jaunts than my little paperback journals.

I hereby commit to reigniting this blog and driving readers to share in the Gentle family adventures as we hike, bike, and camp across these United States and, who knows?  We might venture further afield in 2016.

Welcome back, me-as-blogger.  Glad to have you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thursday, July 15, 2010


As of this afternoon, the leak has been stopped. So celebrate, right? Well. It's a only a temporary measure, so a bit premature for celebration.

According to the AP article I just read, it has been "85 days and up to 184 million gallons."
184 million gallons!

At the very least, if the cap holds and the next steps work (new wells), the engineers can focus on the failure analysis, and by that I mean prevention of the next failure, not finger-pointing. And perhaps those cleaning up might start to feel that they're making progress instead of just stop-gapping.
And we are all assuming, hoping, and praying that capping this tube doesn't just force the oil to find another outlet, rupturing the seabed for example.
Still watching and waiting, then. Not celebrating. Not yet.

Photos Group 2

Stormy sky, lonely parking lot

Henry loving the beach.

Jack loving the beach.

After a dunking, Noah prefers the sand to the water.

You can just see the stain of oil on the sand above the seaweed.

Noah and Jack back in the water. Noah is watching that wave verrrry carefully.

Warning sign on Santa Rosa Beach

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I'll try to add the pictures later.

We stopped in Mobile, Alabama to tour the battleship USS Alabama. The ‘Bama is a big girl, she supported operations in the Pacific with about 2500 crew members during wartime. Quoting from the Battleship Park’s official website, she is about half as long as the Empire State building is tall. Also in the park is a WWII submarine, the USS Drum, which the kids enjoyed exploring. Before entering the ship/sub area, we visited Vietnam and Korean War Memorials and passed several old helicopters and planes, including a B-29, which, according to Mom, is one that my grandpa flew during his WWII service in the USAF.

As we walked up the ramp to the ship, Jack pointed to the oil collected near the shoreline. Booms were in place, but hadn’t stopped this nasty stuff. Honestly, though, I couldn’t be sure that it was not from the old ship or possibly from local traffic & industry… Mobile is 30 miles from the Gulf and this is near a heavily industrial area. We could see the gantry cranes once we were on deck on the battleship, and we drove by a huge shipyard on our way out of the area.

If there was any doubt in our minds that this oil tragedy is real and is in Mobile, it was gone when we saw the pelicans. Henry pointed and said, “Look, they’re flying. They’re fine!”
I said, “Pelican bellies are white. Those aren’t.” During the time we were on deck, we saw several that were flying in spite of the oil on them. We only saw one struggling, its wing feathers stuck out, straggly with oil.

Another storm rolled in and we toured belowdecks. Henry’s ankle was bothering him and I was depressed, but when the rain stopped, we pushed on and toured the sub. (It was a lot smaller than the battleship.) The boys cheered up; they found it pretty cool in there. As in “interesting,” mind you. It was in no way “cool.” More like “sweltering.”

The littles got to pretend to steer and dive the sub at the direction of a retired sub operator who was on hand, and all three boys climbed up into the conning tower, which Henry proclaimed a “tight fit.”

The retired operator (sorry, kind sir, I neglected to remember your name or rank), when he got a good look at Henry descending the ladder, asked, “Holy cow, son, just how tall are you?” We told him (6’6”).

“I’m trying to imagine you assigned to a sub for 3-6 months. You’d have a permanent bruise on your forehead,” the man laughed.

We returned to the car and got Henry’s foot up. On to Biloxi. At some point during the drive, it stopped raining and a beautiful sun came out. Just in time for our rock-star treatment at the Hard Rock Hotel. It was time to shake off our malaise. It was time to play.