Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Ox is slow...

...but the Earth is patient.

Back on the bike again -- the Red Menace to be exact. I've been fighting a chest cold as of late (coughing up bits that look like chewed up candle, if you must...) and lacking the the, ah, testicular fortitude to soldier on like more hearty souls (Ray and Snakebite). But, biking all year means biking in the winter and biking I must. I needed to shake the blahs (Christmas and being sick), so I tagged along with me Mrs as she went to work at the Cedar and had her drop me off at Town Hall. Proceeded to have pints and jolly fellowship with jolly fellows and then pushed on to see me Mrs. Heard Dark Dark Dark play live and then took meself home. I managed to slip while locking up the bike and my body doesn't like the sudden impacts that I enjoyed in earlier years. Just sayin'...

I pedaled on home and I felt better than I have in weeks. I avoided the Greenway (with much regret) and ploughed on home by city streets. The streets and sidewalks were really a mess, but the Nokians stood me in good stead and I had no fear and no slipping at all. Accompanied by the sound of frying bacon, I slowly rode home. Heavy rider, heavy bike and studded tires don't lend themselves to rapid transit, but the sizzling meant that my footing was sure and I wandered the 8 miles home without incident.

The fall on the ice left me with a scuffed left hand and a back twinged nothing like the days of yore when I was a hockey player. Age and years of sedentary desk work have left me less able to take a body shot and I was reminded of it when on my home. But, hell, you play through the pain, yes? Besides, the motion of riding is more therapeutic than drugs or hot tubs or sylph-like waifs massaging me. No, Midwestern grit and misery were enough to drive the pain (or most of it, anyway) from my back. I'm a Minnesotan, there's no other way! I'll be fine, just give me a minute...

Let's see how I feel tomorrow. Me Darlin' Mrs took a couple of spills today too, so it'll be good to see how sprightly we feel on the morrow.

The ride has opened up my spirits again. I've been feeling like Scoogey McGrinchypants throughout Christmas (my Holiday upbringing, yet I claim none of it now). Cloying "Holiday Spirit" shoved up my ass for the last couple of weeks has left me, uh, crabby. That and the cold and the work have drained most of the cheer out of this fellow. I have to say, the ride back from da bar was just the tonic I needed. The rich food, the lack of exercise and nicey-nice has driven me nuts and the slow, grinding ride home tonight really made me feel much better, despite the back pain and the aching elbow and wrist.

Weird. As much as I despise Garrison Keillor, his descriptions of Midwesterners is spot on sometimes. Yes, it hurts and no, it's none of your business. I'll be fine. I'll just have another slice of pie (you were gonna just throw it out anyway) and I'll sleep it off. I got another day off, so's I'll just be fine. Don't you worry about me. Of course, I'll help you shovel your walk...

Oh, by the way, the Red Menace has fenders and will be growing a rack, so it will be a real commuting bike and not just an afterthought that I ride when the roads suck. I have taken apart the Specialized, and I hope to add its cranks and pedals to the Red Menace (if only to rid myself of a the fucking Biopace chainrings, they do tend to throw a chain on a single speed). Wish me luck.

[Edited at the request of Mrs Yam]

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Step away from the browser...

Microsoft will be issuing an out of band patch for Internet Explorer for all of their operating systems and all versions (5 through 8 beta). Read more here. Basically, IE is really unsafe (no, duh) and you shouldn't be using it.

I mean it. This is my day job...

Really now, practice safe net:
Chrome
Firefox
Opera
Safari

These are all alternatives and I recommend most of them for your daily browsing needs. Unless you really need IE, I suggest switching and switching for good.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blistered thumbs

Bloody Nokians are some stiff tires. I really had to wrestle to get them on the rims last night and now my soft, delicate hands are all battered from the experience. I'm traumatized.

I need a tissue.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

ipod blogging

I've just gotten my new toy working -- an ipod touch. This is quite an impressive li'l critter, though typing can be bit trying.

I still need some practiceto type faster and without mistakes

Friday, December 05, 2008

Nothin' in the tank

Crikey, it was cold this morning. I was awakened with an enthusiastic grooming from happily purring BoyCat. I scratch him, he fixes what little hair I have on my head and both the contented rumble and the warmth of the bed did little to encourage my departure for work. I manage to break the spell and start my day regardless.

Morning ablutions complete, I pack gear and food and then step out into December's biggest hit this year. Dig the Dummy from the garage and begin my trip to work. Within the first block my legs are just not going to have any of this nonesense today it appears. No power, no endurance, just cold and struggle for the entire commute. It was a bad scene, man.

I hope that this is just a bad day (I've had them before) and not a foreshadowing of my winter. With any luck, soon I'll be as right as rain and I'll join the fine folks on the Hiawatha shop ride tomorrow. If not, I may just stay in bed all weekend. I'm just getting off my on-call shift and that does sound rather enticing at the moment...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

From the City of Minneapolis

Bicycling Update Subscribers,



In Minneapolis, many bicyclists embrace the winter months by continuing to ride. If you are already biking, or considering winter biking, here are some tips for dealing with the snow, cold temperatures, and motorists:



* Travel slowly when snow and ice are present. Riding a bike on a street can be challenging, particularly when ice has formed or snow has become lumpy and compacted by vehicles. Ride in bare patches of pavement or non-compacted snow when possible. Take turns and curves at a slower speed, and allow longer distances for braking. Be sure to plan ahead for extra travel time. And remember that cyclists have the right to ride in a general traffic lane, which may be necessary if bike lanes have not been properly cleared.
* Ride defensively around motorists. Cyclists are less visible in the winter (with fewer cyclists riding and less daylight), and roads are more narrow (when curb-to-curb plowing has not occurred). Always be prepared for motorists to make a mistake. Follow traffic laws and be as considerate as possible. Educate yourself and your friends (motorists and bicyclists alike!) on traffic laws and safety.
* Take the off-street trails. Since Minneapolis has so many miles of trails (82 miles and counting!), urbanites from across the country often suffer from “trail envy.” To top it all off, the Park Board and Public Works Department have policies of clearing snow from off-street trails soon after the end of a snowfall (read more about how the Midtown Greenway and Hiawatha Light Rail Trail are plowed). In most cases, this occurs in less than 24 hours. If you have the choice, leave the grime and compacted snow of the streets behind and head for the trails!
* Stay visible. Riding in the winter months means more darkness. Brighten your ride by using headlights, taillights, and reflective clothing and gear. Legally, cyclists are required to ride with a white, front headlight and rear, red reflector at night.
* Use an old bike in good working condition. Salt and sand can wreak havoc on your treasured bicycle, resulting in rust and breakdowns. Use an older but functional bicycle in the winter months. Two elements of a well functioning winter bike include effective brakes and a well greased chain (wet lube is ideal for snowy conditions). Wider tires with good traction are also essential. Add a pair of fenders to your bicycle to keep street muck from landing on your clothing. The Midtown Bike Center has a bike washing facility which can be used to clean off your bike for $3.
* Dress in layers. Just like other winter sports, bicycling can heat up your body rapidly. Apply layers to your torso and legs, and be prepared to strip them away as your body warms. A good rule of thumb is that you should feel chilly when you step outdoors – if you’re cozy before you start riding, you’ll likely be boiling when you stop.
* Cover your extremities. All of us have experienced the extremes of a sweating torso and numb ears or toes. Don’t ignore your head, neck, hands, and feet when you bike. Comfortable stocking caps, scarves, socks, and gloves (which allow dexterity) should be considered. And goggles don’t just look cool; they’re great eye protection from the cold wind and road grit.
* Use 311. If you see a bicycle-related problem which involves plowing, shoveling, signing, or another traffic concern, call 311. The City relies on the public to flag problems. If you live outside of Minneapolis, call 612-673-3000. A Minneapolis bikeway maintenance responsibility list is available for more direct call routing.
* Use transit. When the going gets tough, give yourself a warm break by using the bus or train. All Metro Transit buses and trains are equipped with bicycle racks. Bike commuters are also eligible to sign up for Metro Transit’s Guaranteed Ride Home program, which provides free transit rides or cab fare reimbursement for emergencies (like a snow or ice storm).
* Look for more information. We’re hardly the final say on winter bicycling. Any winter cyclist on Minneapolis streets probably has some good ideas, so go ahead and ask around. If you want to read on, visit www.icebike.org. In addition, several winter biking classes are being offered locally, and we’ll be adding more. Visit our Local Events page to learn more.
* Embrace winter. Our identity is shaped by our weather. Snow and cold temperatures add diversity and beauty to Minneapolis. Riding a bicycle in the winter can be exhilarating and practical. It keeps you in good health, it’s good for the environment, it’s cheap, and at times, it’s even the fastest mode of travel. [Ed Note: this is really the thing to keep in mind above all else. I live here because I love winter and biking is a good way to be out in it.]

Happy Riding,



City of Minneapolis Bicycle Program

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Habits

An Incomplete Inventory:

I ride my bike to work, to play, for play. I don't even think about it anymore, I just ride. I grab breakfast and lunch, stuff 'em in the messenger bag and roll out without a second thought. That took a long time (and, possibly, selling the second car), but now it's weird to get a ride in a car or to drive -- I usually ride and me darlin' Mrs drive.

Procrastination. Why do today what can be put of till tomorrow. Any excuse will happily be the scrap I cling to avoid doing what needs to be done. Prioritizing is easy, execution is a bitch.

Making breakfast ahead of time and bringing it to work. I'm usually not hungry when I get up, but after arriving at the office, the familiar knocking comes around in about a half hour. Breakfast is now pretty much the same thing and it is a hot cereal of mixed whole grains: steel-cut oats, barley, wheat berries, wild rice, corn meal, buckwheat, etc. We buy them in bulk and mix 1/4 - 1/2 cup of a grain we have (it varies) into 2 cups of mixed grains and 8 cups liquid (usually a mix of water and skim milk). Put this in a crock pot over night and cook it all on low and you have an inexpensive, wholesome, simple cereal that keeps well and microwaves easily. A handful of raisins and almonds on top and a splash of soy milk and I'm ready. Packaged cereal is a costly joke.

I'm wearing my helmet all the time. I don't like it, but so what.

Talking to people as I ride. Saying hi to everyone is really a pretty neat thing and everyone seems to warm to a person on a bike. Maybe because I don't threaten them with 4,000 pounds of steel, rubber and glass. You'd be surprised how friendly people can be. But, you'd also be surprised at how unfriendly people can be.

I get wound up easily. I'm not as bad as I was, as aging and marriage have calmed me considerably, but the punker/hockey dink/rugger still show up. I'm not ever violent, but it sure can look like it sometimes...

Eating better food. We've cut out most of the junk -- no prepackaged/frozen foods, no huge chain fast food, gardening or shopping at the coop and the farmers' market for vegetables, fruits, whole grains and skipping a lot of stuff we used to have around the house. Not only are we healthier, but it tends to be considerably less expensive. Down side -- you have to cook. Up side -- I get to cook. We have time as we don't watch TV. As an aside, I can't eat a lot of stuff that most folks do now. The Hardee's burger ads make me a bit queasy and too much junk food starts to affect my insides in less than pleasant ways.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Traffic calming on Lyndale South

Lyndale is sorta complete, it appears. By complete, I mean that it is connected from the freeway in the North to the Parkway in the South and that the construction equipment is (mostly) out of the way and stripes are down. Hurrah!

This is good or bad news depending upon your view of the glass -- half full or half who-the-hell-drank-half-my-whisky. Lyndale is is reborn from about 40th south to the Parkway, complete with turn lanes, parking cut-outs and manner of swervy concrete on the sides of the street and sometimes in the middle of the street. Gone is the almost-wide-enough-for-two-lanes lanes and the unimpeded motion for blocks at a time. Now we are looking at one lane for forward traffic, and one lane only mind you, and a copious sprinkling of new stop signs to keep the cagers in line. Lots of things in the way and ways to make the cars move slowly down the street. Traffic calmed, as it were.

Now, in an earlier, more rush-ed (Shakespearian pronunciation, two syllables please) age, I would be angered by said modernization. But now, as a less rush-ed person, a bicyclist and one who is beginning to appreciate the urban landscape, I applaud the changes. There is room to bike without fear of some dingleberry in a SUV driving over you in his imaginary second lane. Lanes are no wider than necessary for a car and turn lanes and parking abound. Rah-rah, good show lads.

As a I'm-just-bloody-glad-there-is-still-whisky in my glass sort of fellow, I cheer along with what I can I can only hope are the people who live along the street; no longer are they and theirs threatened by speeding vehicles and your "Please Slow Down, We Live Here" signs can be given to more deserving folks now along other streets. I've already noticed a kinder, gentler traffic while biking home from rescuing my dear Mrs' purse from the Bulldog. It seems that folks were kind enough to let me pass cars parked in the new cut-outs and then passed when I moved out of the lane -- no tailgating, no horns, nothing.

I like it already, more like this please...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Best Cranberry Sauce Ever

We make this every year and I never tire of it:

Cranberry Sauce with Pinot Noir
1 tbsp oil
2 cups cranberries (about 8 ounces)
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cups Pinot Noir or other dry red wine (we used Zinfandel)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp curry powder
3 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
large pinch of Chinese 5 spice powder

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cranberries and fresh ginger; stir until cranberries begin to burst, about 3 minutes. Add wine and sugar; boil until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Add crystallized ginger, curry powder and 5 spice powder. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Crunchy beard

It's getting cold, I'm not sure if you've noticed. You haven't stopped riding, right? If you have, you're missing the best time of the year; no pathletes, no little kids wobbling all over the paths, no skaters. Just we few, we happy few, we band of cyclists...

I've gotten the clothes down: light wool sweater and a rain jacket, wool socks and a light hat under my helmet. The shoes are starting to let me down, so I'll attempt to find warmer ones and though I may have dismissed them last year, I'll say that the Novara Headwind gloves are actually working well. I don't know why I was so down on them after I purchased them last year, but I take back any horrible things I may have said. They work just fine.

Ride yer damn bike. There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

Do it for Doug...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dear CNN

I don't care what Sarah Palin has to say about anything any more.

She lost.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

#197

I voted just before 8:00 AM this morning and almost 200 people had voted before me (including one lovely Mrs Yam). Lines like I'd never seen before, but people were in good spirits so the wait wasn't so unendurable.

Obligatory biking note: as I was riding out of the polling place, a woman was getting into line and sang, "cool cool cool cool bike" as I rode past.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Beware!

If you see a nun with a beard on a Big Dummy, it's probably me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bask in the crazy



Wow

This would be so great

From Marc Ambinder
A reader:

One name I keep hearing from the DC transportation world for Sec. of Transportation is Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. He was an early Obama endorser and has done a lot of work on metropolitan transportation issues and infrastructure financing. His name was also discussed for this post in 2004, as I remember.


Earl is the genius from Oregon that put the bicycle reimbursement into the bailout package. He's truly a friend of cyclists and his potential to be Secretary of Transportation is truly an awesome thought.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Election time (part the first)

You've got a week, so study up. As I walk the dog around the neighborhood, I see signs for races I haven't considered. You know the ones, the judges and water conservation district managers and school board races that you just sorta fly through after the fun for voting for all the really important stuff.

In an attempt to change, I decided to better edumacate myself and at least look at the candidates. Perhaps put a face or policy to a name on a sign.

Hennepin county residents can go here to find where your polling place and see a sample ballot. Ramsey county residents can go here.

Tonight's edition of "Who the Heck Are These Folks Anyway?" brings us to the judges that are running. Minnesota Lawyer magazine has a nice page that shows all the judges running. Look at the resumes and opinions and go in with some semblance of knowledge.

Tomorrow night I will be looking at the Soil and Water Conservation Managers. I'll list what I can find. Right now, the cold medicine is kicking in and it's time for beddy-bye...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Question

If Obama is the antichrist, wouldn't you welcome his arrival as the beginning of the End of Days? Isn't the Rapture just around the corner?

What are y'all afraid of? Isn't it time to be raptured up?

Can I have your stuff when you are?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Big Dumb Dumpster Diving

Riding to work on the Dumvee yesterday morning, I pass a bench grinder by the curb with a "FREE" sign on it. This seems a bit too good to pass up, so I circle around and stop. I size up the critter; it's old, maybe 50 years old on a stand with 2x4's that were actually two inches by four inches and the whole thing must have weighed 75 pounds.

I poke, I prod, I push. Look at how to load it and then decide that I don't really want to carry it to work, so I move on.

On the way home, I ride back the same way to see if it's still there, and, sure enough, it is. This time I take out the tackle and load it onto the deck and secure it with an old tube, a couple of bungys and and some straps that I usually use to hold sleeping bags. It's wobbly, but it's not going anywhere.

The poor Dumvee is a-flexin' like crazy but I slowly pedal off and everything seems mostly back to normal when I get up to (a slow) speed. I pedal past my wife's uncle's house and notice that a bunch of family is there, so I stop to chat. They're amazed to see someone who rides to work, and my uncle says "I haven't seen a bike laden like that since I was in Korea."

I bid my adieus, and wobble off up to speed again and make it home most of the way -- the traffic gods were smiling on me, as I didn't hit any red lights or long waits -- when the thing decides it wants to slide off the side. Reaching around, I haul it back up on the deck with one arm (I would regret this later) and set it up right again. Pedal 10 meters. Thing starts to slide off again, reach around, haul it back on, pedal 10 meters. Repeat ad nauseum. The last four blocks took longer than the journey up to that point. I eventually got off the bike and walked it.

So now I have a busted blinkie, a mauled Snapdeck, a sore neck and bench grinder that I don't even know if it works. But I have a bench grinder, it was free and I carried it on my bike -- I'm claiming a win!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stay classy Norm...




What a greasy little man you are, Norm. I look forward to voting against you -- I always have.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Biking to da bar - thorn in my side edition

Went Wednesday to Town Hall to join folks for beers as usual. Biked up the Hiawatha LRT trail as usual. Ran over some foliage as usual, but something kept clicking in the fender. I can see that I've gotten a twig or something stuck in the front tire which I will remove when I stop. So, after pulling off the trail by the Bedlam Theater, I flick at the twig that was stuck between the treads.

Wait, it's still there -- this doesn't look right. I finally pull at the offending flora only to find that it was stuck to the tire by a thorn. A thorn of immense proportions it turns out. I finally extracted it and I was amazed at its length. It was roughly 4cm long and the width of a sewing needle. I've never seen anything like it before, but whatever it was, it was a true road hazard as it had penetrated both the tire and tube.

I managed to get to the Hub Co-op on Cedar to get another tire (yes, I have a patch kit, but beers were waiting) and walk the bike the two blocks to the bar. After a pint of a really nice Oktoberfest, I felt steady enough to change the tire, after all I was really shaken by the size of that thorn, you know. Can't just fix a tire with shattered nerves...

Passers by asked about the tire or the bike (the Dumvee), and one fellow asked how you fix a tire, so I showed him my patch kit (see, I told you I had one) and explained how it worked. Eventually the tube was replaced and fully aired -- and I'm going to thank Kent Peterson for the recommendation for the Road Morph G, it is a great pump -- and I was able to join the festivities already in progress.

Thankfully, the ride home under a beautiful moon was uneventful.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Weekend visitors

Doug and Susan were in town for a wedding and they were kind enough to let us know they were coming. We met them Sunday at REI where I got a personal tutorial on winter riding clothes. Following that, we dodged traffic and construction on our way to Cafe Agri for lunch.

Afterwards, though the skies looked threatening, we decided to take our chances and ride one of the best loops of the Twin Cities; we left our house in South Minneapolis to Minnehaha Parkway to the Falls, up the West River Parkway to the Greenway and followed that to the Lakes and around back home. A really pleasant 18 or so miles.

We added a dash of culture to the evening with a trip to the Cedar Cultural Center (one stop shop for all your cultural needs) and listened to a show of a collection of guitarists -- some really quite good and some, uh, less so. But live music is always interesting and we heard some good songs.

Good company, good food, good music and a lovely ride -- no better way to spend a day...

Friday, October 03, 2008

From the City of Minneapolis

Really good news -- the path along the river is done and we're the first loser in cities that commute by bike!

Bicycling Update Subscribers,



Several bike-related announcements are listed below:



* The West River Parkway bike path under the south side I-35W Bridge has reopened. 2nd Street SE under the north side of the bridge has also reopened.
* Minneapolis has retained its spot as the #2 location for the percentage of commuters who bike to work, among the 50 cities with the most workers. The recently released US Census Bureau figures show that Minneapolis bicycle mode share increased to 3.8%, a substantial gain over the 2006 figure of 2.5%. That means an estimated 7,200 Minneapolis residents regularly rode bicycles to work last year. The survey has a 0.8% margin of error. Minneapolis is also closing the gap with #1 Portland, which has a bicycle mode share of 3.9%. Read more in the Census 2007 Report (pdf).
* There are two local events this weekend. The first is a Ghost Bike Memorial Ride, to commemorate those who have recently died in bicycle-vehicle crashes. The second is the Unite Bike group photo. Both grassroots events take place on Saturday and are open to the public.
* In 2009, Hennepin Avenue will be converted from a 1-way street to a 2-way street for vehicular traffic. A public meeting will be held next Wednesday, October 8th in the Central Library at 5:00 pm. Several alternatives will be presented for the placement of the bicycle lanes. Bicyclists are invited to share their opinion on the alternatives. For more information read the meeting flyer (pdf) and visit the project website.



Happy Riding,



City of Minneapolis Bicycle Program

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Biking to da bar - big dumb edition

Beautiful autumn day and a great day to bike. I took the long way from work to Town Hall and savored the changing leaves, the pale blue sky and the cool breeze off of the lakes. Had beers and walked out to unleash the Dumvee only to find out she a litter of dumblets. There were four Big Dummies chained to the tree next to mine! When I realized my bike didn't give birth, I went back in and found a bunch of guys from Bicycle Chain bike shop had ridden their fleet from Roseville.

Shook hands and chatted a bit about selling cars and riding a Dummy for all of your personal transportation needs. I then said good bye and promised to stop by their shop, mounted my green steed and headed home to me darlin' Mrs.

Also, did anyone see Letterman last night? Boy, is he pissed that McCain blew him off to get on Couric's show. He was rippin' the ol' flyboy a new one all night last night. Wrong guy to anger there Johnny Drama.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Stupid? Crazy? Or just another driver?

Wow

It was the ultimate expression of road rage. A furious woman driver died after ramming another vehicle and spinning her wheels so fast that her own car burst into flames.

Serena Sutton-Smith, 54, burnt to death after refusing to get out of her Vauxhall Nova as she sat with her foot flat on the accelerator.

She spun the wheels so fast that her tyres disintegrated and the metal rims sent a shower of sparks into the engine, igniting the brake fluid and setting the car on fire.

Appalled onlookers urged her to get out of the car as the flames licked around her but she told them to “F*** off”, an inquest in Gloucester was told.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bikin' to da bar (Good Samaritan mix)

Autumn has arrived here in the Twin Cities and it is as wonderful as always. Today's journey to Tippy's Town Tavern (as a co-worker calls it) found me wandering up the Greenway only to pass a fellow that was pedaling slowly and with an obvious clicking sound. I stopped to ask if he was OK and found out that he had recently changed a tire and didn't have a wrench to to tighten down his rear tire. He needed to have 15mm wrench to finish the job and, as luck would have it, I had said 15mm wrench -- it is needed on the Dumvee. We pulled his chain taught, straightened the wheel and tightened the bolts and sent him on his way with the stern admonition to spend the three dollars and carry a 15mm wrench and a patch kit.

I know this because I was caught in the rain without one and I'm a friggin' expert now.

I had beers and went home under a cloudless sky without incident. What a beautiful night to ride. Again, I love this time of year.

The music that goes through my head while riding

Monday, September 22, 2008

Up to my nipples in Cheeseheads

Last weekend's outing was to Chippewa Falls, WI for Oktoberfest. Good German food, watery American beer and one of the funniest bands I've ever seen, The Happy Schnapps Combo. Meine Freunden auf Chicago (aka the Chicago Contingent) booked a bunch of rooms stumbling distance from the Fairgrounds where the Fest was held.

It was a good plan, but no stumbling happened. You see, your humble narrator has developed an immunity to mass-produced American lagers, so basically after a session of this, I just burp and pee a lot and the potato dumplings with gravy and the spaetzle with gravy were just backup. Mmmmm, gravy. But we did have fun singing songs like "I Don't Wanna Do Dat," "The Bears Still Suck Polka" and "Dis Ain't My Toilet:"
Dis ain't my toilet
It's got a funny seat,
The paper's on the left
It should be on the right
so I won't sleep here tonight


I was also surprised to find out that the good people of the Norske Nook have gone into the homebrew business and now have a brewpub in Eau Claire. The beer was better than Leinies' (no big surprise there) and they the have the fantastic pies that they're known for. Beer and pie...

A loverly weekend, indeed. This would have been perfect, but I had a chance to see a psychedelic belly-dance band from Turkey last night at the Cedar Cultural Center to cap it off. A true multi-media presentation; a belly dancer of incredible beauty and skill, a sketch artist rocked a Macbook with an ever-changing drawing in time with the music and a trio of musicians that were so tight they squeaked. Percussion, percussion and samples and an electrified long necked lute called a Saz.

Yo, check it:


This one is "The dance of the Adultress," a piece they wrote to celebrate the overturning of a new Turkish law that would punish a married woman for adultery (there was no equivalent penalty for men). This gives a pretty good example of the evening and what you missed.

Partly, it's my fault, so I'll tell you some of the good shows at the Cedar that are coming up ahead of time to avoid this in the future. Also, I have added the Cedar's music blog since they are better writers and have a deeper knowledge of what's coming than I can hope to scratch into the interweb's electrons. Read it, learn it and, most importantly, go to the shows. You need some culturin'.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

If Palin were my mom...

my name would be "Froth Moonshine Palin."

What's yours?

Biking to da bar - Take The Long Way edition

A perfect day weather-wise here in the Twin Cities. Got off of work and rode to and around The Lakes and then down the Greenway to da bar. On the way, it seemed all of Minneapolis had taken an early day and was around the lakes; bikers, bladers, runners and walkers in lazy circles around the lakes. It's easy to love this city during this time of year. I would venture a guess that if you were to ask any long time resident of Minnesota what their favorite season is, a resounding majority would say Fall.

Sat outside and watched the last night of traffic inch its way through Seven Corners. Tomorrow brings the opening of the new 35W bridge over the Mississippi and the happy reduction in traffic.

Sweetie got out of her meeting and we biked home under a waning moon. So very romantic...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bike Lane Closures

From the City of Minneapolis:

Bicycling Update Subscribers,



Two bikeway closures are affecting bicycle travel. The first is the reconstruction of Marquette and 2nd Avenues in downtown. A Bicycling Community Advisory (pdf) has been issued by project staff. Sections of the bike lanes are closed on both streets. Work will continue through the end of 2009. Alternative routes are on Hennepin Avenue (bike lanes) and 3rd Avenue (no bike lanes).



At times general traffic lanes will remain open, and bicyclists may use those lanes. Please use extra caution when bicycling through this area. Here are a few tips to keep you safe:



* Ride with the flow of traffic, unless a contra flow bike lane is open.
* Stay visible by not riding in the gutter. Ride where the right wheel of a car would be.
* Follow traffic signals, and signal turns and lane changes.
* Use headlights and taillights after dark.
* If you would rather be on the sidewalk, walk your bicycle. Sidewalk riding is prohibited in the downtown business district.
* Use heightened awareness at intersections, and be particularly cautious around turning motorists. Read more about defensive bicycling.

When Marquette and 2nd Avenues reopen, the bike lanes will no longer exist. At that time Nicollet Mall will be reopened to cycling traffic 24 hours a day. The City Council has directed City of Minneapolis staff to study the possibility of bicycles using the bus lanes on Marquette and 2nd. A recommendation has not yet been made by staff to the Council. For more information on this project, visit the MARQ2 project website.



The second closure is the Washington Avenue bridge over the Mississippi River. Hennepin County has eliminated the bike lanes due to concerns over the strength of the upper deck of the bridge. Because of high pedestrian traffic, bicyclists must walk their bikes through the enclosure. University police are enforcing this rule. Read more about the closure on the University of Minnesota website. A signed detour route using Bridge #9 is currently being developed. The bike lanes on the bridge are expected to reopen in the spring.



Happy Riding,



City of Minneapolis Bicycle Program



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This service is provided free of charge by the City of Minneapolis.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Stumped

I purchased two Surly front racks for the Green Goddess and the Dumvee. I got the rack on Mrs' LHT without incident, but the disk brake on the Dummy made for a classic effort in frustration.

I first ended up having to cut the brake side offset sliding plate to get it to fit (and these parts are aluminum -- they're stainless freakin' steel) and then attempt to get it centered and with enough room for a fender underneath. I got it on, but it was a case of either I could have a rack or a front brake, but not both. I was hoping to have this done in time for a bike camping expedition this weekend, but between a lot of after-hours work, an allergy attack that ruined the little sleep I was able to rustle up and a bunch personal things that needed to be taken care of also, I bailed and dropped it off with the resident mechanical genius at Hiawatha, Mark.

We're driving to the campground, but that's okay. I'm in such a foul mood right now, I probably wouldn't make it very far by bike anyway. The rain has taken some of whatever-the-hell-it-was-that-was-making-my-life-miserable out of the air, but I'm still so tired I can hardly see. I just want beers and to stare into a fire and not talk or do anything with anything that needs electricity.

Harumph.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Old School

My keyboard at work is the keyboard from my first computer that I bought - a 386/20 from Northgate circa 1989. My keyboard at home is from an IBM PS/2 386SX Model 55 before MCA.

If you don't know what these are, go ask yer dad...

Question: why is the input device that is used most on a home or office desktop computer always the cheapest piece of shit that the company can get away with? If you value your input like I do, get one. They are still available as the Avant Prime keyboard.

Don't ask why I wrote this, I won't tell you. Just accept that you needed to know.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Linky love

If you are a reader and you are not represented in the list on the right and have a desire for some hot link action, please leave a comment and your URL and I'll add you to the list. Recent mods were the addition of Snakepants (as dubbed by da Lunatic, hisself) and Wheeldancer. I've removed Dave Moulton's blog as he feels he's run out of things to say. Jim has too, but his link is preserved as the blogs listed there tend to be quite interesting.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Equipment info bleg



The temps are starting to drop around here and I would like to ask the folks that are kind enough to drop by for recommendations for wool riding wear. What have y'all found useful? Is it worth the money? What brands have been good to you? What should I look for? Where's a good place to buy it (either here in the Twin Cities or on the Web)?

If you're gonna ride every day, you gotta ride every day. I figure that being warm is a pretty good start...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Biking to da bar - the "Pay It Forward, SoggyDoggy" mix

I'm posting this on Friday, but this happened on Wednesday (always on Odinstag, ja?). Had the day off and puttered around the house (I'm old and I'm allowed to do this now) until the desire for coffee hit me. Jaunt up to CRC for a coupla pints of java and a nice sit down with my birthday present from the loverly Mrs, a guide book of Superior Hiking Trail.

Jittery enough from said coffee and a bit misty for the North Shore, I then headed up to Town Hall to have some cocktails and meet my old roommate who has since moved to sunny San Diego. We then joined by our other roommate -- a nice little reunion. Cali roommate went to have dinner with his cousin while I continued chatting with local roommate.

Time passes and so, apparently, does a cold front. I head out to leave to see that the rains have come. Bleah. Oh well, if you ride every day, you ride every day. I throw on the rain jacket and head home.

[Note to self -- get fenders on the Dumvee]

As I'm riding along Blaisdell, my pedals seem to stick and I stand up to make 'em go around. Next thing I realize, I'm ass over teakettle and sprawled in a puddle. Somehow I threw the chain. Monkeying around in the rain at night with insufficient light to really see what I'm doing, I flail about attempting to get the chain back on, but to no avail. I then flip the bike over and look at it from a better vantage point and I now see why the difficulty; the axle had jumped from the dropouts.

About this time, someone from the neighborhood walks out with a flashlight (yay!) and asks if need help. I graciously accept and we manage to get the tire back where it belongs and the chain on with his light and a couple of his wrenches. I thank him and tell him that he had "paid forward" any help he may received later. He seemed to like the phrase as he thought about it and repeated it. "Pay it forward," he mused as he walked back into his house.

Thanks, Mystery Dude. Pay it forward, indeed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No grail, but...

We've done it. We've visited all State Parks and State Recreation Areas in Minnesota (except for Garden Island -- that's 15 miles into Lake of the Woods and I don't have a boat). More later -- I'm still cleaning up and I want to enjoy my next couple of days from work.

Quickies:

Red River SRA - meh. But, it is a work in progress.
Old Mill - sweet little park. We'll be back.
Lake Bronson - okay
Hayes Lake - okay
Zippel Bay - I've never seen LotW before and this is a nice park. We'll be back.
Franz Jevne - hated it, don't go (wink-wink, really just to keep this to myself and not have it spoiled by hoards of people)

A night in Bear Head Lake and the last night in the campground in Grand Marais. Many miles, many sights, many thoughts to sort.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Biking to da bar (Mosquito Commander edition)

Overall, I'm happy that smoking has been banned inside bars here in Minnesota. I do have to say that one of the things that I miss is playing Mosquito Commander in the urinal. A great game, in the Olde Dayes when people could smoke inside, was to piss on the cigarette butts and make the ash end come off or peel the wrapping off the butt when the tobacco was gone. Chasing a wad of gum around isn't nearly as satisfying (it doesn't break up), but, hey, you take what you can get.

Regardless, it was a nice night to ride home with me darlin' Mrs.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Near the end of our quest



Two years ago while hiking around Lake Maria State Park (nearish St. Cloud), we found out about two State Park programs; the Passport and the Hiking clubs. This weekend, we've seen four more parks and hiked two of them.

The Passport Club is simply going to all the State Parks and State Recreation Areas and getting a stamp to show you've been there. There are 71 Parks and SRAs and they located all over the state. The best thing about this is that you see parts of Minnesota that you wouldn't normally go, or you would pass by great swaths of the state by taking freeways and speeding past them on the way to your destination, since, apparently, the journey is now the destination and the time spent traversing the dull countryside is just time that is better spent where ever your destination lies.

The Hiking Club gets out of your car and onto your feet at the parks you're visiting. The hikes vary from 1 to 6 miles and the difficulty ranges from simple strolls on paved paths to strenuous rock strewn hill climbing. There is a set Hiking Club path and generally they are well marked and somewhere along the trail is a sign with a code word. The word generally has something to do with the physical features, history or flora/fauna of the park.

We've now hiked 60 of the 65 Hiking Club paths (for a total of 185+ miles) and we've visited 63 parks and SRAs. This leaves us with the last group in far Northwestern Minnesota (Red River, Old Mill, Lake Bronson, Hayes Lake, Zippel Bay and Franz Jevne). We plan to close the books on both of our quests next weekend in a flurry of driving, hiking and camping. I'm not unfamiliar with the area since my dad was from up there and my mom's family is from just on the other side of the Red River in North Dakota and I lived up there while going to school at UND. I've seen many things that our fine state has to offer but I've yet to see this corner with the eyes I have now.

There will be more on this later, but I have come to appreciate things now I never dreamed I would earlier in my life. Moving slowly, away from crowds on infrequently traveled roads and appreciating small things has made this "quest" enjoyable. To see this area 20+ years later will be interesting and I'm looking forward to it. The long weekend we're planning to take will make sure that we have plenty of time and we are in no rush.

Now, what to do after this?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mission Accomplished

For Snakebite:



Not a great picture, but you can see the Dumvee in action -- that's a cooler full of beer and ice for our neighborhood night out block party. Rides like a dream...

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Nation of Scaredy-cats

Oh, fer cryin' out loud, will ya look at this.

Organizers for the Democratic National Convention and party leaders have touted the official greenness of the upcoming convention in Denver, including everything from biodiesel buses and recyclable materials to carbon counting.

But in the rush to secure everything green -— even setting up a “hybrid-only parking lot” at the Pepsi Center -— it seems one simple and fairly obvious LEED-certified step was overlooked: Installing bike racks.

Indeed, there will be no bikes allowed within the DNC perimeter of the Pepsi Center, nor at Invesco Field, where Barack Obama will deliver his acceptance speech, DNCC organizers confirmed this week.

Repeatedly citing the Secret Service and the Denver Police Department as making all security-related mandates, including not allowing delegates, volunteers and gathered media to park a bike within the convention perimeter, organizers said not accommodating leg-powered transportation is the exception to the rule when talking about the true greenness of the event.


But you can pull up to the venue in a SUV, no doubt.

Fuck them.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I dub thee...

Just returned from a Costco run with the Dummy and I must say I am really impressed. We loaded about 40 pounds of stuff (mostly fresh fruit and a 32 pack of Diet Coke for my junkie wife) and while chatting with a couple about commuting. The Dummy really is a conversation starter, but the chat started when I noticed the other fellow had a Trek Soho and that's a pretty cool bike.

The Dummy under load handles like a bike. I noticed a bit of a difference starting from a stop and the ride was a bit bumpier, but other than that, I was able to negotiate the crowded trails besides the lakes with ease. This is a damned impressive vehicle.

Also, the new Dummy has a name. Wednesday, while enjoying the fine products of Town Hall, the table was discussing bikes and the Dummy when an H2 went by. Mark the Carpenter noted that the bike is sort of like that, "It's a Dummvee."

Perfect. "The Dummvee" it is, then.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Unitarian Jihad

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Brother Molotov Cocktail of Fervent Patience. What's yours?

Mrs. Yam is now to be known as Sister Rail Gun of Contemplation.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Baggie tagged me...

Old Bag tagged me with the following questionnaire that's been wanderin' 'round these hyar Inter-toobs:

If you could have any one -- and only one -- bike in the world, what would it be?

I haven't yet ridden all the bikes in the world, so I cannot make an informed choice as to which one I'd ride. But since that answer isn't in the spirit of the question, the one bike I'd ride is a levitating, jet-powered Big Dummy with twin .50 calibers on the back and a cooler.

Do you already have that coveted dream bike? If so, is it everything you hoped it would be? If not, are you working toward getting it? If you’re not working toward getting it, why not?
I've got the Big Dummy, but acquiring the twin .50 calibers is proving itself mighty difficult. I haven't started working on the levitation yet, but I have an idea where to score some jet packs.

I have a cooler.

If you had to choose one -- and only one -- bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?
One bike and now one path? These aren't questions about something that one enjoys, this is setting yourself up as a stand-in for Sisyphus. What a stupid question.

What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike ride for the rest of her / his life?
The Greek Gods and whoever dreamed up this quiz.

Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrowminded?
Is the Big Dummy a mountain bike? Is the Bleriot with big tires on a fire road a street bike? Is an ancient Schwinn mountain bike converted to a single-speed commuter still a mountain bike? I ride bikes, and the epithet narrowminded from someone who wants me to ride one bike on one road for the rest of my life has no meaning.

Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent.
No I haven't, but I'm willing to learn

Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss?
Look at the title of this blog -- I may be fat, but I'm slow. My knees are barely speaking to me, so running is out. If chased -- I fight, I can't run. I can swim but I don't really like swimming in lakes and I'm too fat for aero bars.

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why?
What's with the absolutes? What small, cruel world do you live in? The universe is large enough for both ice cream and bikes. But, if pushed, ice cream goes.

What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it.
Boxers or briefs? I rarely wear underwear and when I do it's usually something unusual.

You’re riding your bike in the wilderness (if you’re a roadie, you’re on a road, but otherwise the surroundings are quite wilderness-like) and you see a bear. The bear sees you. What do you do?

He rambled up over the hill
expectin' me to do one of two things,
Flip or fly, I didn't do either one


Now, tag three biking bloggers. List them below.
rigtenzin
Scott
Doug

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't get smart with me (or, I've been Dummified!)



Stopped by to see the fine lads at HCHQ and, will any luck see the progress on the next acquisition. Mrs and I stroll in at 7:01 (just opening the door before Jim could slam it and lock us out) and there before my eyes, a nearly-complete Big Dummy.

My nearly-complete Big Dummy...

With the olive-drab color and the sand colored Fat Frank tires, it looks sort of military. Something out of rat patrol, maybe. I need to wear an Aussie Bush hat when I pick it up.

Nah, that'd be dorky. And the Mrs doesn't abide dorky.

Do ya, hon?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Noo Shooz

Mark at HCHQ brought to my attention the lack of tread on the rear tire of the Bleriot. I'd also noticed that the back end would skid a little, making me less confident in turning at speed. So I have now reshod it with a new pair of Nifty Swiftys.

My goodness, what a difference.

The ride is a bit harder, but the (slightly) thinner tires run quieter and grip like the Col de la Vies never did. I also like that they're essentially slicks -- hence the silence. Let's hope they wear a little longer than the previous tires did.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

E-rag shows off Xtracycle

Salon has an article today about the author's use of his Xtracycle. It's a light fluffy piece for the most part, but it does give an idea of how these things work.

Not that I know. Yet. I've given Jim loan of credit card and he's (hopefully) gathering the parts for my new Big Dummy. I may eventually get the blender, too.



Helmet tip to my buddy, imotoraway.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ethanol = no fish

No catfish for you

LELAND, Miss. — Catfish farmers across the South, unable to cope with the soaring cost of corn and soybean feed, are draining their ponds.

“It’s a dead business,” said John Dillard, who pioneered the commercial farming of catfish in the late 1960s. Last year Dillard & Company raised 11 million fish. Next year it will raise none. People can eat imported fish, Mr. Dillard said, just as they use imported oil.

As for his 55 employees? “Those jobs are gone.”

Corn and soybeans have nearly tripled in price in the last two years, for many reasons: harvest shortfalls, increasing demand by the Asian middle class, government mandates for corn to produce ethanol and, most recently, the flooding in the Midwest.


Except for making ADM and Cargill rich, has ethanol done anything? All we're doing is turning diesel into ethanol...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday is one hell of a way to spend a seventh of your life



Because I'm back from vacation and I'm having a hard time concentrating...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Storms, wind and failure

Friday dawned rainy and muggy. A perusal of cable channels and the weather.gov site showed that temperatures were due to be in the low 90's and dewpoints in the 70's with severe storms in the afternoon. We set up this trip with a some time to spare in case of bad weather, and we decided to use that day today. We signed up with the desk of the casino hotel for another night and went back to sleep.

Entertaining ourselves at the casino consisted of sleeping, watching TV, wandering around the complex and sleeping. Naps were necessary since we were beginning to feel pretty spent and the humidity was taking a lot out of us. We ate breakfast and then spent some time in the workout room and here we were oddly not interrupted. We wandered down to the bar for a drink or two before "Prime Rib" night at the buffet. After a couple of drinks, we felt sufficiently numb for the spectacle that was the casino's buffet.

More...

This is a blog called Fat Boy Biking. As advertised, I'm not slim, but I'm much better than I was and I'm in at least good enough shape to ride around Minnesota, as we're learning. But watching the herds of gooey Midwesterners filling their slavering maws at an all you can eat buffet, made me feel absolutely emaciated. Watching a 13 year old girl (already pushing 200+ lbs) go for her third double-fisted trip to the dessert bar is horrific and compelling. Seeing the rest of the family gives me a fairly good idea of where she learned her dietary habits. I imagine geese getting ready to become Fois Gras with a better sense of self-control than the folks in this room. It does wonders to appetite to see this and I'm tempted to bring a camera and film it and to sell the tapes as weight loss aids. Oh, the the prime rib sucked, too.

Feeling a bit queasy, we walked around the complex to check out the weather and satisfied that a storm was indeed on its way, headed back to the room to watch the local weatherpersons work themselves into a lather. From the fifth floor and facing west, it was patently obvious that something big was coming, and the high pitched squeals from the TV only cemented it for us. Around 8:00 PM, we could see the approaching squall line and the winds whip the trees. The fury of the storm descended, with the violence almost completely obliterating the view from our window. Then, as quickly as it had arrived, the sun showed through the clouds and we witnessed a beautiful sunset. Glad I wasn't biking through that...

We watched TV until the storm had passed into Wisconsin and Robot Chicken was over and then got ready for our last leg of the journey. We were warned that the weather would be "cool but windy," but we had no idea how windy "windy" was. We slept and looked forward to getting home.

We awoke early, packed, breakfasted and left and headed directly into the wind. "Windy" consisted of soul-grinding gusts howling directly at us. The roar in my ears sounded like a laugh track of the gods, punishing me for my hubris on the century the Wednesday previous. We covered 11 miles the first hour, and finally, blessedly, we turned away 90 degrees and into some tree cover to some respite from the tempest. When you have to pedal hard to go downhill, you're in for a long, difficult ride.

The forces of nature decided to team up with fate this morning and my squeaking handlebars, clicking crank were now joined by a more ominous sound, some new tick from the back wheel. After we stopped for lunch in Braham ("the Homemade Pie Capital of Minnesota" we were cheerfully told by the city's sign), things sounded much, much worse. I had developed a crack in the side of my rim that was clearly separating and spreading. The wind had taken a lot out of me, but the various noises from my bike had been joined by the cracked rim and a vicious wobble from the front of the bike and these destroyed what was left of my will. I was beaten.

I called my brother to see if he was available, and luckily I turned into an excuse to leave the Anoka County Fair for a rescue operation. I told him to meet us in Cambridge, the next town of any size in the area. I was going to limp along the final ten miles and hoped that the stricken bike would make it. A seemingly endless uphill against the wind for the 45 minutes it took to reach the Perkins was enough time to have him join us and load the bikes into his pickup. We drove back to Minneapolis and he dropped us off at home. Getting home in an hour certainly made me feel even worse after I figured it would have probably taken us over six hours of riding and who knows how many stops to cover the same distance. We showered, went to Town Hall for a drink and then took my Mom out for dinner to thank her for looking after the dog.

I'll probably write more about this later after I digest what happened and find out what needs to be repaired and maybe why it broke. I was willing to ride against the wind to finish this ride and that's because Mrs Yam wasn't about to stop. But I didn't finish it on my bike and that leaves me disappointed and sad for the failure to complete our journey. 430 miles isn't bad, but it isn't the 490, but I have an idea to do a day trip up to Cambridge and back to close the loop. Right now though, it probably won't be for a while as I'm pretty sunburned, weary and just plain grumpy to consider it seriously.

Time for bed -- my bed. That helps this day go down. I think I'll stay off the bike for a day and work on my gardens.

Good night.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A day off and the Munger trail

We're now in the casino in Hinckley and this isn't a place that we're used to at all. If you are a person that likes the structured and sterile "fun" that a Disneyland provides, this place may be for you. More on this later.

Duluth was great, as usual. We had absolutely exquisite weather with warm sun and cool air. We didn't do much; sleep in, wander around and just sort of be off the bike and rest the legs a bit. They had a something going on called "Sidewalk Days" where Superior Street was blocked off for a couple of blocks west of Lake Ave and the local merchants had their wares on display in the street and games, rides and food.

We then walked down Superior to W-Trek outfitters to check out their gear. I like the store and we met the owner the last time we were in Duluth. He remembered us and asked if we finally decided to drink the whisky. We had indeed followed his sage advice and cracked the MacCallan -- any time you drink a 25 year old whisky is a special occasion. I bought a cool t-shirt and then we wandered away for a little lunch.

More...

We had a snack and a Margarita at Casa del Sol, enjoying the effect of the cool air and the tequila. The chips were welcome too. We then wended our way to Fitger's to see what was going on, looking into the shops and eventually perusing the beer list (I had brought a Nalgene growler and I wasn't going off empty-handed). Duluth commuter champeen Doug returned my call and we set up a time to meet for dinner up the hill.

We had a lovely dinner at the Chester Creek Cafe and it was a real nice change from the lowest common denominator food in Canal Park. Doug and Susan are very pleasant and interesting people who have quite the story -- quitting everything and spending time hiking the entire Appalachian Trail was quite inspiring. We chatted about biking, life, composting (I learned about worm juice!) and food among other things. We ended up closing the place and they were kind enough to drop us off at Fitger's so I could fill my growler. We then went back to the hotel and slept -- tomorrow was another bike day.

Thursday dawned cloudy and cool with the promise of rain. Since this is July, we didn't bring much in the warm clothes department and the water was the last thing we needed was to have waterproof and warm clothes. So it goes. We crossed Duluth and rode out to the Munger trail head through the part of town that actually works for a living, quite the change from the boutiques and restaurants of Canal Park. I'll have to tip my helmet to Duluth for the bike lane signs that they put up, signs that point out how to get to different parts of the city and arrows showing the way, not unlike Portland.

We found the beginning of the trail and started heading out to Carlton -- a 15 mile climb that you really don't notice since it's an old railroad bed. As we rode through the rocks just out of town, I saw something I doubted I'd ever see with my own eyes, Minnesota's state flower, a Showy Lady's Slipper! These are rare as they don't set seed often, have a habitat that is not really found anywhere near where people tend to be and don't usually make it to flower since they're a tasty treat for deer. But here it was, just next to the trail plain as day. They are as beautiful as the pictures portray. As I was taking pictures, a local couple riding by stopped and we chatted. A couple more pictures and back on our way.

The Munger trail is an old railroad bed that has been paved and so the best description is dull. No turns, no hills, no nothing. After you leave the port area and pass over the St. Louis River, no much happens except miles. You climb to Carlton and are welcomed by a filthy pit toilet and a picnic shelter with a sign that says that you can't put your bikes in there. Welcome to Carlton, indeed.

We pedaled through a light rain along the Northern border of Jay Cooke State Park which managed to chill us down even farther. The rain eventually stopped, and we biked through the damp forests and fields until we finally found a place to get some lunch in Mahtowa. There isn't much left here, but the proprietor of the little store had the decency and foresight to make a welcoming place for cyclists with benches, a clean bathroom and good snacks. I'd recommend this as a model for towns to attract riders and help make tourism a way to create a little revenue.

On through a bit more drizzle through Barnum and a stop for an iced mocha in Moose Lake. By now, the sky was beginning to clear and the sun felt quite good. Not much else happened, just pedaled the miles away. Neither of us were feeling all that strong and the ride is pretty, but dull, so there was nothing really inspiring except finishing and getting some dinner. There is a bit of interesting trail around Rutledge -- it actually turns quickly and climbs and falls. Oh, and the Black Flies come out there too...

This turned out to be the inspiration we needed to keep going. The little bastards were taking large chunks out of me (apparently, I'm tastier than me Mrs) and they were landing in the holes of my helmet and I really didn't want that. 15 mph was fast enough to keep them from landing, so we busted ass to keep them away. Between the fast finish, the humidity, the cold and the boredom, all we wanted to do was to finish, shower and eat. We finally made it to Hinckley and the Casino and we were quite happy to get a room and crash. We opened the growler (the 20/20 IPA) and toasted our survival and cleaned up for dinner.

We were both pretty zapped from the ride and Mrs Yam even more than I. The beers and and fatigue created a sort of surrealistic haze as we entered the casino. I don't gamble (with a degree in Math, you learn that you really don't win) and the creepy vision of row upon row slot machines with old people poking buttons completely detached from their surroundings. The first suck--, uh patron, was a woman with an oxygen bottle tapping at a machine like a rat smacking a feed bar. Wading through this hypnotized humanity to get to the buffet, I sort of felt like Hunter Thompson.

Dinner was really weird. We were starved from the road, but LCD food yet again -- a sort of Old Country Buffet as designed by Starbuck's. If an all you can eat steak buffet doesn't look good after 85 miles, you're doing something seriously wrong. After eating half of my steak, I could confirm that they were indeed doing something wrong -- all that would go through my addled mind was Rodney Dangerfield's lines in Caddyshack.

We ate the other stuff and wandered up to bed. Mrs Yam was asleep in literally seconds after hitting the bed, while I watched Jon Stewart for a couple of minutes before dropping the remote a couple of times, thus convincing me to go to sleep also.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Easiest. Century. Evah.

100 miles is easy. All you need is a good road, a good breakfast, a good riding partner.

Oh, a 15-20 mile per hour tailwind.

We left the cabin early in the morning with the promise of a good tailwind, a partially cloudy day and cool temperatures -- perfect biking weather. We rolled into Grand Rapids and some groceries and then to the neat coffee shop they have there called "Brewed Awakenings." The woman behind the counter had heard of our journey from Mrs. Yam's sister and set us with a couple of large iced mochas and some cookies. We then went to the bike store and got some gloves (we started losing feeling slightly in a couple of fingers), checking tire pressure and tightening the stem on my bike as it had developed a nasty creak.

Highway 2 is surprisingly pleasant to ride on; good shoulder, considerate traffic and a beautiful view along the way. We stopped for water breaks, ice cream and lunch but no need for the long rests that we needed Sunday. The difference in the temperature was as important as the tailwind; 73 and dry versus 88 and humid. We followed the highway until we got to Proctor and then headed for the Skyline Parkway as suggested by Duluth routemaster Doug.

Skyline parkway is a road that runs along the ridge overlooking Duluth, a road that twists and turns and climbs and falls like nothing in the Twin Cities. There are no straight sections and the potential oncoming cars had Mrs Yam a bit unnerved. The road is in fairly bad condition but the views are magnificent, but not enough to keep us from wanting off. Unfamiliarity with the road and heavily laden bikes are not the ingredients you should be adding to this stew. Since we're staying in Canal Park, we decided to turn down Lake Ave and head to the hotel.

Yeep! It's straight friggin' down! Not sure on how to handle this, I thought that we'd just switchback down the street; down a block, over a block, down a block, etc. But the thought of that descent of the first block was too much for Mrs Yam and she hopped off her bike and hoofed it down the eight blocks to Superior St. The walk is nearly as treacherous as the ride. I don't know how y'all ride in this town...

We got to the bottom alive (much to the Mrs' relief) and found out that we were a mile and a half short of a century, so we headed up the boardwalk trail and back to round it out. The last 10 miles had really worn on me darlin' Mrs and she seemed quite pleased to check in and shower.

In all honesty, me too...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Up to the Northland

I write this from the deck of the cabin on Bass Lake ust north of Cohasset, Minnesota. Mrs Yam and I persevered and found our way up here yesterday evening, for a total of 214 miles. We ended the ride by coasting down to the lake and throwing ourselves in, causing much consternation for a woman and her children who seemed to think that we intruded on their beach. Sorry to harsh your mellow, sister.

The first day we declared our independence. Cliche, I know, but to mount the bikes and confound the in-laws by stating that we're biking and we'll meet you in Grand Rapids. No, we don't need a ride. No, it doesn't sound as bad as you think. In fact, we're looking forward to it.

It's a test. When my darlin' bride suggested that we bike there, I was apprehensive. Not that I doubt my ability -- self delusion is a very powerful protective measure -- but I feared that she wouldn't be able with the bike she rides to work. A visit to the fine folks at HCHQ and the addition of a LHT to the family assuaged my equipment fears. We've been riding daily to work and for errands, but these would be the longest days we've ever ridden together. Could we mount the bikes the second day? How would the weather behave? Technicals await? Would we even be speaking to one another? The bikes were built for the miles, but would our tender legs and marriage survive the ride. No amount of self-delusion would stay my nagging concern.

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We mounted up and started our journey on an extraordinary day, cool morning, steady tailwind, and not a cloud in the sky. We fortified ourselves with iced mochas and bars from Urban Bean and amazed a legshaver with our plans to ride to Northern Minnesota. He seemed pretty surprised that a couple of Freds could ride that far. Through an abondoned downtown to Second and followed the bike lane until we hit a path I had never seen before, which led to a nature park along I-94 around 49th that was stunningly gorgeous. Wildflowers everywhere and some of the nicest people I've met in the Park System. We'll definately be going back.

From the park we followed the path along the river and crossed on 694. This was a mistake as we eventually lost the path I was trying to follow. We ended up in Coon Rapids and we ended up on a busy road into Anoka. We had lunch and met another of the many looks of disbelief when we told the waitress of our plans. Good wishes were offered and we left. Through suburban tracts and traffic and they thinned to farms and open fields. The weather was still nice and we were making pretty good time. We stopped in Nowthen for an iced mocha -- a convenience store creation from a machine -- and chatted with a couple out on their Harley, just riding around enjoying the day. Can't blame them, really. Well, except for the Harley, but more on those later.

A stop for Mr. Mistys, uh, Arctic blasts now I guess, in Princeton and a stop to marvel some tasteless inflatable yard ornements. We eventually pulled into Milaca and our hotel around 7 PM, showered and had dinner. We called our moms and went to bed, surprised and satisfied with our day. We wondered how we would do tomorrow, but there was hours of sleep between now and then and we'd come across that soon enough.

The next day found us feeling great and eager to go on. Continental breakfast and we were off. It was hazy and the promise of humidity was in the air and the sun was already warm. The course I had plotted has us parallel 169 on county roads until Onamia where we'd ride by Mille Lacs-Kathio State Park and onto 169 to get around Lake Mille Lacs. The problem is, the maps never tell you the surface of the road and the trip to Onamia was on gravel. This slowed us down a lot but we did see some beautiful things, fields, marshes and the beginings of the coniferous forests of Northern Minnesota. About two miles from Onamia, we turned west onto another gravel road, this one far more loosely packed than the previous 23 miles worth and on a loaded touring bike, loose-pack is treacherous. I almosed biffed it when I misjudged the condition of the side and sank into the sand, causing me to almose lose the bike as it slid out from underneath me. The consolation of this was the butterflies -- thousands of little black butterflies were on the side of the road and as I passed, they took flight delighting me darlin' Mrs who was riding through them.

We got a call from the in-laws asking us where we were and much to our surprise, we would be in Onamia at the same time for lunch. We crossed 169 on the Soo Line ATV bridge, washed up and met them as they pulled into the parking lot. We related tales from our journey thus far and our route plans, good wishes were wished and we parted company. We headed west out of Onamia and past the park, stopping for water and conversation with the rangers at the desk. We took the old 169 along the lake to avoid the traffic the best we could, but there were times when we had to ride on shoulder of the highway. Barely muffled trucks with headers pulling boats, packs of Harleys with straight pipes and general vacation traffic was bordering on nerve-wracking.

We trudged on, the road hot from the sun and humidity and wind extracting and carrying off our life essence as we rode through the hell that is 169 in summer. A stop in Garrison for chocolate milk, fruit and candy bars brought back some life and we gamely soldiered on. After the Y in the road to Brainerd, traffic thinned noticeably and we continued on mostly unmolested by the loudest and most awful of the vehicles. I had originally planned to take some more country roads that paralleled 169, but since the worst had passed, we decided to take the direct route up 169 to Aitkin.

After an hour of pedalling, we made it to our hotel but decided that we would have a drink before checking in. A drink turned into another and soon we were ready to order dinner. Mrs Yam checked in, I ordered two prime rib dinners and a couple more drinks. Gosh, those gin and tonics were refreshing. The rib arrived and, well, left almost as promptly as they appeared. Biking does give one a bit of a hunger, doesn't it. We carried our bikes up the stairs to our room under the disbelieving eyes of the children in the entryway, unpacked, showered and slept. We needed to get ready for t
he worst ride yet.

As hot as Saturday was, we were nowhere near as prepared for Sunday's swelter. The tailwind that we had with us for the last two days turned on us. The hot, sticky wind would be our demon -- seemingly in our faces no matter which way we headed. The temperatures were as hot as the previous day, but the humidity was greater and the swamps that lie between us and Grand Rapids offered no shelter from the wind or sun. A long hard slog. When it was first suggested that we bike to the cabin, this was the ride I feared; bugs, sweltering heat, wind and scrub. Here, I realized my nightmare ride. After an hour, we stopped for some water and rest under a little shade and I could tell that we were going to have to ride the ride Mrs described as "the mental part." To quote me Mrs, "the first leg is easy because it's new, the second day would test our bodies after the first day but the third day would be the mental day." Yes, yes it was.

The heat and the boredom were starting to really get us, the water was almost gone and the squeaking from my chain from yesterday's ride through gravel was grinding at my psyche. We stopped speaking to one another and just kept going. There isn't much in the line of civilization up here and just about the time I was about to turn into a raving, gibbering idiot, we stumbled across a bar. Like an oasis, it was the only thing at the intesection of 169 and Nowhere, but it wasn't an illusion. It had water and air conditioning and Bloddy Marys and cold Coke and beer. We listened to the local drunk tell his stories to the regular patrons, got differing opinions on the distance we've yet to ride, but it was magnificent.

We filled our bottles, thanked everyone and pressed on. The heat and stickiness were still there, but it didn't seem as oppressive as it did an hour ago. We pedaled for an hour to Hill City, had lunch at a charmless roadside bar and pressed on. Along the way, I thought that it might be be better if we went around the west side of Pokegama and arrived at Cohasset from the south instead of riding through Grand Rapids to highway 2. Just before the turnoff, we found yet another roadside bar with a helpful bartender and a some drunk lady that kept offering to draw us a map, and would stop, slurring "Honest to God, I'd hate to see you get lost" and then look for a piece of paper and then tell us to go through Grand Rapids. Then the show would start over again, with another slurred request for piece of paper, the feeling of guilt at our potential dislocation, and the directions to Grand Rapids. After this occured several more times, we politely said good bye and ducked out in a hail of "Honest to Gods" and "lemme getcha a maps" and mounted our bikes. The bartender came out and commented on our "ten speeds." We thanked him and rode the last half dozen miles down 169 (his suggestion) to Grand Rapids.

We picked up some sodas and fruit at a grocery store and played "spot the local/tourist" as people came in from the parking lot. We also had a pleasant conversation with a fellow from Iowa who was a bicyclist also. We spoke to the Lake People and told them that were were on our way and that we were in Grand Rapids. They didn't bother to tell us that cabin was a full eight miles from Cohasset and that messed with our heads. We were under the impression that the lake was nearby Highway 2, but instead it felt that we kept riding and riding and that we would never get there. It was then that a search party made its first contact with us -- a brother and his daughter were on bike and told us we weren't far. We headed back with them as our escort and eventually a crowed cheered us into the resort. They directed us to the lake and glided to the water and we dismounted and dived right in. Beers and dinner and tales of the road followed and and head shakes and muttered lines of "you're nuts" and "I can't believe you did it." We fell asleep to the sound of loons happy in our successful conclusion.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The epic journey begins

Tomorrow, me darlin' Mrs and I load up the Bleriot and the LHT (henceforth to be known as the Green Goddess, as christened by MDM) and head north to Grand Rapids, Duluth and back on a bicycling vacation. Three days to GR, a century to Duluth (even if we have to do circles in the hotel parking lot to reach 100 miles) and then two days back.

Hope to post pictures and stories from the road as the week progresses. Also, we hope to spot the Great Northern Minnesota Crested Commuter (aka MNBicycleCommuter; aaka Doug) whilst in Duluth. Here's crossing my fingers that the weather holds and the pinch flat ghoulies are elsewhere...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

SOLD!

for $10,000.

Jim, put on the lycra I like so much, I'm comin' to chat...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Black Velvet Apricots

No, it's not some new dirge-pop band from Denmark. It's a summer stone fruit that I've become enamored with recently. Plum sized with the rich, nectar-like juice of an apricot, but with a deep tropical creaminess like a mango or papaya added.

Get 'em before they go away.

Friday, June 27, 2008

You have got to be kidding me

A new Amendment presented by the moralists:

110th CONGRESS 2d Session

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES JUNE 25, 2008

Mr. WICKER (for himself, Mr. VITTER, Mr. CRAIG, Mr. ROBERTS, Mr. INHOFE, Mr. BROWNBACK, Mr. ALLARD, Mr. THUNE, and Mr. SHELBY) introduced the following joint resolution; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

JOINT RESOLUTION

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission by the Congress:

"ARTICLE"

Section 1. This article may be cited as the Marriage Protection Amendment.

Section 2. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.


Sponsor:
Sen Wicker, Roger F. [MS] (introduced 6/25/2008)

The full list of co-sponsors:
Sen Allard, Wayne [CO] - 6/25/2008
Sen Brownback, Sam [KS] - 6/25/2008
Sen Craig, Larry E. [Wide Stance] - 6/25/2008
Sen Enzi, Michael B. [WY] - 6/26/2008
Sen Inhofe, James M. [OK] - 6/25/2008
Sen Roberts, Pat [KS] - 6/25/2008
Sen Shelby, Richard C. [AL] - 6/25/2008
Sen Thune, John [SD] - 6/25/2008
Sen Vitter, David [Pampers] - 6/25/2008

A bathroom-trolling closet case and a whore-chasing, diaper fetishist are telling me about how marriage should be. Words fail me...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bug factory

While the HC crew rode alleys and others rode epic border crossings, me darlin' Mrs and I went North and West for to hike and 'splore areas of our great state. This past weekend we found us on the border of the prairie and forests where the last of the glacial lakes lie: Glendalough, Maplewood, Buffalo River and Big Stone Lake.

We took a half day from work and headed up towards Glendalough, which is about 25 miles east of Fergus Falls. This is another surprisingly gorgeous park with forest and prairie and utterly clear, sand bottom lakes. There are no drive in camping sites so there isn't the accompanying noise and commotion that comes with huge trailers and lots of car traffic. We set up camp in a grove of oak trees. A pleasant breeze ran through the park and everyone there was enjoying themselves -- kids racing around on bikes (but no screaming!), couples walked past hand in hand, and families coming back from an afternoon of fishing, smiling and showing off their catch. It was idyllic except for a hidden menace that lie lurking just below the surface of this peaceful scene.

Apparently, this is where the hidden tick factory for Western Minnesota creates its creepy spawn.

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These transition areas are where deer like to live -- not too far into the woods to hide and not too far into the prairies to eat. With the deer here, deer ticks can't be too far behind. Or ahead, or to the left or the right. I have never seen so many ticks in my entire life. We must have pulled 50 ticks off of each other over the course of the weekend and Mrs. Yam is still a bit jumpy at the slightest tickle be it a breeze from vent or a pant leg barely grazing exposed skin.

Glendalough is a former retreat for the big Minnesota newspaper families and has been preserved quite nicely. It is on a couple of small, very clean lakes and the DNR has started bringing back some of the native prairie to the areas that aren't forested. The hike was around Annie Battle lake that was really quite striking with the beautiful evening, light breeze and clear skies.

Saturday found us on our way to Maplewood State Park. It wasn't far from Glendalough, you just had to wander your way through all of the lakes that dot that area of the state. It was nice to see lakes with the old style cabins, you know, little ones with a maybe three rooms and that great screen door held shut with the long spring that went "goyng goyng goyng" as you walked through and then would slam shut with a satisfying crash. Not like the 48 room "cabins" you see on lakes around Brainerd. Fishing boats and resorts from the 50s still abound -- it all looks like an ad for Schmidt's Beer...

This was the longest hike of the weekend with a length of 10 kilometers over surprisingly hilly terrain. This is also the last of the great Eastern Hardwood forest before the prairie takes over and where the glaciers stopped, with the moraines and the lakes evidence of their passing. Sheila, our dog is about 10 years old and is beginning to slow down and the hills and heat were just a bit more than she was able to do. We stopped a couple of times to look at the maps and the poor thing would climb in the tall grass and collapse, panting. So, for her sake, we cut short our walk and headed back to the car. Since Maplewood is a large park, we didn't really shorten our walk all that much, we just hiked on the road, but that seemed to make all the difference for her and she seemed to improve. When we arrived at the parking lot, she crawled under the car and went right to sleep.

The next stop was Buffalo River which is east of Moorhead on highway 10. This is a small park, but it is magnificent in that you get to see the prairie. We saw a thunderstorm roll past us to the north and caught a few drops during our hike. The route first takes you past the pool and into the woods that run along the river and this was the most mosquito infested place I'd ever been in. They were so plentiful, that at times it felt that you were covered in them. Glance down at your leg and you would see 10 at a time. We basically started to run to leave the riverside and get to the prairie where we would rather take our chances with the ticks. Hell, even the visitor's guide to the park says that the place is best viewed in the Spring or Fall since it's so buggy.

We completed the short walk and headed back to the camp. On the way, we stopped in town and had dinner since we were really hungry and didn't want to wait for a fire and food prep. Bought some beers (Brau Brothers Pale Ale) and the Mrs. was delighted to find that the liquor store carried Shakers Rose -- a vodka that is flavored with the flower and is a lovely pink. I believe Shakers stopped making it, so she was happy to score a bottle. Back to the tent, built a fire and stared at it until, one by one, we were the last campfire burning. Then, we too extinguished ours and hit the bags.

I awoke early on Sunday and began breaking camp as the Mrs and Sheila slept. I was about halfway done when she arose and we proceeded to pack the car and leave for the last park -- Big Stone Lake. This park lies on the border between Minnesota and South Dakota in that bulge on the western edge of the state. It wasn't necessarily close to us, but it is the last park in the southern half that we haven't visited yet and this was as good an opportunity as any. We drove through the flat farmlands and then became amazed as the terrain changed from billiard table farmland to rolling pastures. The lake seems like it's really like Lake Pepin in that it's a wide part of a river more than a standalone body of water.

After descending the bluff to the park, we found we were the only ones there. A beautiful sunny Sunday, hot and bright and no one at the park or on the lake in a boat seemed a bit odd, but we were happy to have the solitude. This walk is in an oak forest along the lake and is a short there and back. Quite lovely, I was afraid it would be like hikes some of the other southern parks where a small river is dammed up and a park is set around the lake. These are usually dull, short and crowded with campers, if you can really call dragging 40 feet of hotel room behind a pickup and setting your TV on a stand by the fire "camping." No campgrounds, a couple of boat landings and that's about it.

Four parks in 2 and a half days, 12 miles of walking and 50 ticks later, we headed east on highway 7 back to home. We pulled ticks out of our toes, our sandals, the dog and even when we were 100 miles from the last park, ticks were still crawling around the car. Ew. Smoky, sunburnt, tired (we don't sleep well in a tent) and content. Another good weekend.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For Sale

2003 Honda Civic LX. 4 door, 5 speed manual transmission. A/C AM/FM/CD. Dark blue with some cosmetic scratches and dings. Runs well. New tires.

I'll update the miles when I look at the odometer (right now, my guess is ~50,000)

No, there's nothing wrong with it, I just don't drive it and I don't want to pay the upkeep on something that is taking up room on my driveway. I'm gonna buy a Big Dummy and live with one car, two is stupid here in town.

Update: the mileage reading is 51,473 miles. I bought the car with 35,000 on it in February of 2005 and we put 4,000 the next month on a trip to the East Coast. So in three and a half years, I've put 12,000 miles on it.

Oh yeah, gotta have that second car...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Philadelphia's mayor speaks, you listen...

Philadelphia Mayor on planning a city:

For many, it was enough that Nutter unambiguously endorsed a major plan for the Delaware River waterfront and the creation of a Design Review Committee.

No doubt many in the audience pinched themselves when Nutter described Philadelphia as if it were a progressive West Coast city rather than a Rust Belt survivor:

"We are a walkable city, increasingly home to bicycles," Nutter declared. "We want to preserve our urban form. We do not want the automobile and its design requirements to dominate the landscape."

Platitudes, maybe. But what stirring ones.


Good for you, Philly.