Looking for the right route

August 8, 2008

Brian Arner caught a CBS Sunday Morning report on how there’s a renewed interest in bicycling because of gas price increases. He noted how progressive one city has been for making its streets safe for cycling, which has increased cycling there tremendously.

As a cyclist who rides in a city that essentially has no bike lanes, it’s fascinating to see what Portland, OR, has done in establishing a 300-mile bike network. I wonder what kind of cultural changes we could experience in Knoxville if we had a similar commitment from community leaders?

As Brian does, I wish our area would follow Portland’s lead. Sadly, I don’t that expect to happen soon.

It’s true there are many bike paths here, when just 10 years ago there were almost none. But bike paths aren’t practical for bicyclists who wish to go fast or go cross town.

Lately I’ve been studying maps and driving new routes home from my office to scout a possible way for me to ride my bike to work. By car, the route I normally take is just over 20 miles one way, a very doable distance if I went instead by bike. But the route would not be safe on a bike. It includes four-lane roads and narrow two-lane roads without so much as a shoulder.

And that’s typical for East Tennessee. The roads are either busy, narrow, twisty, hilly, or more commonly, all of the above.

Still, I’m intent on trying to find a ridable route, even if East Tennessee never becomes another Portland.


Your mileage may vary

August 6, 2008

Apparently it was released a week or two ago, but I just came across a new Google Maps feature: walking directions.

It works like Google’s driving directions, except it maps out a more direct route using as many two-lane roads as possible.

Walking on roads isn’t my idea of a good hike, but the mapping feature is an interesting idea. It might have some good cycling applications, too, though I think Bikely.com is better suited for that kind of mapping.

Interestingly, as I investigated more about this feature I came across an article at PopSci.com, which said some people are expressing privacy concerns about it. But reading on, I discovered the writer is somehow mixing the StreetView feature with the walking directions feature.

It seems any new Google Maps add-on causes a slight stir with Internet users who are concerned about privacy. The Street View feature, which lets you see a 360-degree photo of the location you intend to visit and then view a succession of images as you travel the virtual route online, is well within legal limits, says privacy expert Mike Spinney from the Ponemon Institute, a think tank that studies privacy issues.

That confusion aside, I doubt there’s any legal grounds for this. I’m by no means a lawyer, but I know you can’t have the same assumption of privacy on your street curb that you have in your home.

A bigger concern should be a concern for Google’s lack of reasonable expectations for walkers and hikers.

I mapped a walking trip from my hometown to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where my younger son will start college in a couple weeks.

Walking directions to Ann Arbor, MI
543 mi – about 7 days 11 hours

Sure, that comes with a disclaimer.

Walking directions are in beta.
Use caution when walking in unfamiliar areas.

That doesn’t come close to warning you that hiking at this pace will kill you! Do the math. To walk 543 miles in 7 1/2 days you’d average just over 3 miles an hour — without stopping to rest, sleep, or eat.

I guess that qualifies for “unfamiliar areas.”

I needed a self-test to tell me that?

September 4, 2007

I just took a quiz at CNN.com called “Which hobby best suits your personality?” It contained several inane questions, like “Stranded on a desert island, what could you not live without?”

Despite the obscurity of some of the options, the result of the quiz pretty well nailed it.

You can’t be cooped up! People like you need to breathe fresh air and commune with nature. Feeling the dirt, rocks, water or sand beneath your feet and hands and having the wind in your face makes you feel alive. You’ll take the outdoors any way you can get it, whether you’re dangling from ropes, paddling a boat or speeding down the countryside on a dirt bike. You might like hobbies like spelunking, motocross, hiking, deep sea diving, white water rafting, ultimate Frisbee or other outdoor team sports.

Now what I need is a test to tell me how to find time for the hobbies I have.

Oh, yeah

July 23, 2007

Cervelo Team SoloistForgive me for indulging in a little self-praise, but I have to say Saturday I made one of the best change in plans I’ve made in a long while.

I like hiking. I like the challenge of getting to the top of a SB6k peak.

But I also like bicycling. And I really like saving cash, and that’s what happened when I changed my plans from hiking to buying a new bike.

I didn’t know it until I pulled out my credit card, but the Cervelo Soloist Team I bought Saturday was last year’s model, so it was 20 percent off.

But that’s not the half of it. I also had no idea how much difference there could be between an entry level bike, like I had been riding, and a machine like the Cervelo.

When I bought my previous bike, a now-obsolete Lemond Nevada City, I was just starting out in road cycling. I wasn’t sure I would do that much riding, but I wanted to try it. Plus, I knew my two sons were interested in cycling, so whenever I visited a bike store I said, “The good news is, I have enough money to buy a great bike. The bad news, at least for me, is I have to buy three.”

But this time I was buying for me. And though the Team Soloist is at the bottom of the Cervelo line, it is a huge leap forward for me.

I guess I should have expected it. I read several reviews. Many of them included the word, “Wow!” But it wasn’t until I rode mine that I realized what a difference a stiff frame and quality components can make.

Wow, indeed.

Coming up sevens

July 19, 2007

I’ve started to plan for the ultimate South Beyond 6000 peakbagging trip: Seven summits in one day.

It can be done by starting at Mt. Mitchell (6684 feet) and hiking a there-and-back route of nearly 14 miles along a string of peaks, going over Mt. Craig (6647 feet), Balsam Cone (6611 feet), Potato Hill (6475 feet), Winter Star Mountain (6212 feet), Gibbs Mountain (6224 feet), before ending on Celo Knob (6327 feet), then returning to Mt. Mitchell.

From the Carolina Mountain Club description:

All of these peaks are in a sequence on the Black Mountain Crest Trail, which begins at the Mt. Mitchell Parking Area, and ends with Celo Knob, the terminus, at 6.7 miles. A number of other peaks are also along the trail, though they are considered spurs of these six.

In other words, it shouldn’t be that difficult. Because you can get the summit of Mt. Mitchell by driving a spur road from the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’re starting at high elevation.

I’m planning to do this hike Saturday, but I wish I had thought of it sooner. I should have done this hike couple weeks ago.

How cool would it be to say I hiked 7 peaks on 07-07-07?

UPDATE: My plans have changed. I saw a bicycle that had my name on it, and…

Well, okay, it had Cervelo’s name on it, but I feel compelled to buy it anyway, so that’s what I will do instead. The hike will have to wait.

Nature gone wild

July 5, 2007

woodchuckIt’s been a while since I’d checked up on Tom-B, one of the thru-hikers I met on the Appalachian Trail back in April, so tonight I looked up his recent TrailJournals entries.

At last report he was still hiking and now in Pennsylvania. Recently, he says, he had a close encounter with a vicious killer.

Well, okay. Maybe it wasn’t a moment of terror, but it could have been a dangerous situation.

I’ve seen 4 groundhogs on the Trail in the past few weeks. With one exception, they all scooted down the Trail, and eventually turned into the woods. The one who wouldn’t leave the Trail was probably sick or injured, and I realized later, possibly blind. When I first saw it, it stumbled up the Trail with a back leg appearing to not work well. As I got closer, thinking it would turn into the woods, it turned around and came toward me. I stopped, and it stopped. I yelled, made noise with my poles and threw rocks in its direction, but it had no effect. When it started toward me again, I was concerned that it might be rabid, so I started backing up. Not the best strategy on a rocky Trail, because I fell backward, fortuantely landing on my pack, so no harm done. I got up, and stood on a log on the side of the Trail while the groundhog stumbled by without even looking in my direction

That reminds me of my own encounter with a crazed groundhog a few months ago. I was riding my bike on a short (15-mile) route I frequently take when I don’t have much time to get in some decent distance. It’s a there-and-back route that goes over one hill and a few short rollers.

Now, when it comes to hills, I’m not the fastest guy on a bike.

Okay, I’m slow.

But I never thought I’d have to speed up so that I wouldn’t be out-run by a woodchuck.

As I neared the top of that hill, a fat woodchuck darted out of the weeds along the side of the road. It was headed right at me.

I’m not making this up. I had to speed up so that I wouldn’t be attacked by that animal.

I’ve been chased by dogs many times, but never before by a woodchuck.

But it wasn’t long before that would-be killer got his. A couple weeks later I returned to that hill, only to discover a dead woodchuck lying in the middle of the road.

Serves him right.

Vicarious ride

April 20, 2007

YouTube - Tour de GeorgiaLately I’ve been getting a lot of traffic to a trip report I wrote a year ago about riding in the Circle the Bald charity ride and watching the Tour de Georgia.

I would have liked to do the ride and watch the race again this year, but the event was moved to a Friday (today). I didn’t feel I could afford taking a day off from work, so I missed it.

But thanks to Road Mag, I got enjoy some of this year’s activities, including a rider’s point-of-view video of the last 1km to the top of Brasstown Bald.

This way there’s no aching calves, burning lungs, or sweat in the eyes.

But it’s not as much fun, either.