Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009

I like to think of everyday as Earth Day. Don't get me wrong; I'm not a tree hugging, patchouli wearing, long haired, underemployed hippie. However, some would think I have some of those tendencies.

I recycle, because it makes sense to me. I ride a bike to work and to the grocery store, because it makes sense to me. I use the bus at times, when it makes sense to me. I'm vegan, because it makes sense to me.

I like the idea of reserving a day and reminding everyone about environmental stewardship. Just like Halloween, you could say that it's gotten way too commercial. I did, however, make a conscious decision on this Earth Day to alter a habit this week.

All my adult life, I've used liquid laundry soap. Last week I bought powered laundry soap. It seems to be a little cheaper per load, but I think the main advantage is the reduced waste. The soap comes in a cardboard box, which would seem easier to recycle than the hard plastic jug that the liquid soap comes in. Certainly you can take a special refillable jug into Whole Foods. I also recall Omaha had a natural foods co-op at one time where you could buy liquid soap in bulk. I'm not sure if there's anywhere else to buy bulk soap.

Another advantage to powdered soap: It's lighter on the bike than a huge jug of heavy liquid soap.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Life Is A Series Of Challenges

That title sounds rather philosophical, but I mean it literally.

Within the next few months, we've got:
The YP Bus Challenge is happening now. And it might even overlap with the Bicycle Commuter Challenge. The Corporate Cycling Challenge is in August.

YP Bus Challenge

This one started Saturday, April 18, where it was to be kicked off at Earth Day Omaha event, but the threat of bad weather has postponed the Earth Day celebrations until Saturday, April 25.

The idea behind the YP Bus Challenge is to get the 40 and under set up to speed on how to utilize Omaha's Metropolitan Area Transit (the bus). Teams will log rides for three weeks, and the three teams with the highest average number of trips taken will win prizes. The participants will also provide valuable feedback on their experiences to help makes the transit system more relevant and efficient. Three weeks may also be enough time to change people's habits so they stick and folks might be more likely to ride the bus in the future.

I formed a team called The UP Hi-Railers. The idea was to stack the team with daily bus riders, of which UP has many. I had no problem finding four of them. I, being only a one trip per week rider, felt the challenge. Not wanting to be a weak team member, I bought a 30 day unlimited ride ticket and have committed to at least two trips per day. I can't completely give up the bike commuting, so I have some ideas on how to keep it interesting.

Here are some ways to log rides on the bus, but still enjoy the cycling:
  1. Bike to a random bus stop and wait for the bus. This isn't much fun, since some routes aren't very frequent.
  2. Bike to a transit center and grab the first bus going downtown. I did this Monday with decent results. It was weird riding five miles in the wrong directions.
  3. Bike to a bus stop that's in the general direction of my destination, and that has a shelter. Sit down and relax.
  4. When leaving work, go to 16th Street and take the first bus going in any direction. Exit the bus after 10 minutes and then try to figure out how to get home. This could be fun.
  5. Take the bus to the Keystone and then ride home. I did this today using the #4/#14 and cycled from 90th and Maple. The weather was gorgeous, so I enjoyed a sweat-free leisurely ride in my office clothes.
  6. Ride the bus to lunch. I did this today, meeting my wife at one of our favorite midtown restaurants. I then hit the Midtown Transit Center and grabbed the first bus back downtown. Bringing the bike helped me stay flexible and move to the stops/transit center more quickly.
  7. To rack up more trips, I could bike to a stop. Ride the bus for a few minutes. Exit the bus and bike to another stop. Repeat.
  8. Bike to a bus stop. Ride the bus. Exit the bus and sprint ahead of the bus, boarding same bus again. This is likely to annoy the driver (and passengers), and is not advised.
Despite these attempts to score well, I don't think our team can win. The team called OBRUA is either cheating (just kidding), or is super-committed to doing everything by bus. The are way out ahead of the number two team. You can see the leader board here. Some of our team are not logging in real time, but will probably submit a week's work at once. I think it's possible we could take second or third. Certainly, the winning teams won't be logging simple work commutes. It will take extra rides to stay ahead.

Using the unlimited ride card really changed my habits and thoughts about the bus. I logged a five block ride the other day. If I had to pay a dollar and a quarter for that, it would have seemed preposterous. Having the free pass totally changed my idea of what one can do with a bus. The 30 day card costs $50, and for someone who wants or needs to use the bus a couple of times a day, it's really worth it. Under normal conditions, I ride the bus once a week, so it wouldn't be the best use of the money. One of my reasons for cycling to work is to save the gas and parking expense, and replacing that with a $50 bus pass would certainly eat into the savings.

If I were to get rid of one of our two personal vehicles (not counting my son's car) and didn't have to ferry my daughter from time to time like I do, then I would absolutely buy the pass each month.

Bicycle Commuter Challenge

All I know of this one is that it starts in May. It will be interesting if it overlaps with the YP Bus Challenge. I suppose that's the cool thing about multi-modal bike/bus commuting, in that I can do both with proper planning and record keeping. I don't think I can count the miles that my bike is being carried by the bus as bike commuter miles, however. That'd be nice, huh?

This is usually initiated with a Mayor's Ride in conjunction with National Bike To Work Week. I'm thinking it might be fun to show up for this in a suit and tie, as suggested by EB, perhaps with a briefcase on the rack. Do you think this would be seen as the joke it is, or taken seriously by people who take everything seriously?

Corporate Cycling Challenge

This is really just a fun group ride. Routes are usually at 10, 25, and 45 miles.

It's not too late to sign up for the YP Bus Challenge. You don't even need a full team. Watch the local bike blogs for more information in the future for more information on the other challenges.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

130 Mile Weekend. That Was Fun. Let's Do It Again.

Roxanne and I got back yesterday from our 130 mile round trip to Shenandoah, Iowa. Basically we rode the Wabash Trace down Thursday to Shenandoah, stayed in a hotel spending the night, then a full day of sightseeing, overnight again, and then rode back.

A sore knee, a squeaky chain, and mild sunburn were the worst parts of it. Everything else was all good.

Here are links to the posts from the travelblog:
Wow, what fun. I can't wait to try something like this again.

Actually, there is an opportunity to do the complete Council Bluffs to Missouri ride next week with the Spring 2009 Crank and Camp, but schedule constraints will likely prohibit me from attending.

Bike touring is fun, and it was quite an adventure doing it on gravel through the hills and prairies of southwestern Iowa. It was also interesting to learn about the little towns we rode through, and about Shenandoah, where we stayed. It was a great way to spend time with my wife.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bontrager Makes The Best Bike Tools

You gotta love any multi-tool that can to this while out on a cycling tour.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cycling Tour Destination: Shenandoah, Iowa

Check out this travelblog.

Hopefully it won't end up like this. Fortunately for me, my pump fits neatly in my bag.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Passing Gas

Um, that should be passing gas stations... as in cycling right on by.

Oh well. Saturday morning I had to buy more gas in the truck again. The last time I bought gas for the truck was back on February 5. I'd driven it 278 miles and purchased 15.9 gallons, making for about 17.5 miles per gallon, at a cost of $30.77 for a fill-up.

17.5 MPG is not so good. I guess carrying around all those sandbags and some items destined for the dump aren't doing me any good on the dry streets. Perhaps in the snow it was nice for extra traction.

I wonder how many miles I could ride on my bike for $30.77 worth of burritos, hummus and Dr. Pepper?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Spring 2009 Bike Tune-ups

When you really get down to it, Redd Shift is a personal blog. I only occasionally pretend to be a blog of interest to the world. Perhaps the discussions that spring up are of interest to some.

This post is not interesting. I'm using the post to record some bike maintenance information so I don't forget what I did and when I did it.

Yesterday I pedaled down to Re-Cycle bike shop at 13th and Center at lunch and walked back to work. Mike, the owner and chief mechanic, tuned up my Trek 7300 with his second best tune-up plan. I wasn't feeling ritzy eough to splurge for the detailing and wax job, especially since Roxanne and I will be dirtying up the biking down the Wabash Trace next week to stay overnight in Shenandoah, Iowa.

My chain was stretched after about 2,200 miles, so we got that replaced. Mike cleaned up the drive train (wow, the cogs are really silver! I always thought they were black), replaced my cabling (leaving the housings, which were still in good shape), and replaced the front brake shoes. I've done that before myself, but I figured while he was tuning up, I might as well go ahead and let him take care of it. Mike also trued the wheels and adjusted the hubs and bottom bracket.

On my way home I noticed the chain would pop when under load on the biggest cogs. I wonder if they are worn. Mike said he could take a look at it when I bring the bike by.

Today I left Roxanne's Trek 7300 for a similar tune-up this morning. She's getting a new chain, too, but I think everything else is still in pretty good shape.

Mike is very friendly and helpful. He has always been accommodating in getting our bikes in and out for service. His rates are great, too, and it's nice to help support truly local businesses when I can.