Monday, January 29, 2007

Locavores

I stumbled across this movement quite accidentally, but I like the idea they propose and think it could go a few steps further.

They are called Locavores, and they started their movement in San Francisco. Their goal is to only eat food grown or harvested within a 100 mile radius of where they live. Here's a little blurb from their website:

Why Eat Locally?

Our food now travels an average of 1,500 miles before ending up on our plates. This globalization of the food supply has serious consequences for the environment, our health, our communities and our tastebuds. Much of the food grown in the breadbasket surrounding us must be shipped across the country to distribution centers before it makes its way back to our supermarket shelves. Because uncounted costs of this long distance journey (air pollution and global warming, the ecological costs of large scale monoculture, the loss of family farms and local community dollars) are not paid for at the checkout counter, many of us do not think about them at all.


I think this is a pretty interesting idea, but I think it could go one step further. In addition to supporting this on a culinary level, this incentive could also be applied to just about all purchases. The Mom and Pop, Independent Business Owner model as we know it is vanishing at a surprisingly rapid rate. This is caused on so many levels. Things like Wal-Mart (and other large chains), the internet, mail order companies, all take their toll.


I know most of us don't give it much thought, but local businesses really help our local economy. Unlike the big chains, profits generally stay in the city limits. Most small business owners also use other small businesses for their needs (local accountants, insurance brokers, computer consultants, attorneys, printing, advertising, hardware, supplies, etc...) as opposed to that big box corporation that sends all the profits to the corporate office in another state and outsources projects to the cheapest bidder, no matter where that bidder might be (out of state or even out of country). I know this isn't always the case, and I'm sure someone can cite billions of examples of this being erroneous, well then they can start their own blog and cite all the references they want to. This is my soapbox and I'm quite comfy up here for the time being.


Sure you can't get everything locally (I don't see much fresh seafood coming out of the Trinity river), but if you have a choice... every now and then try someone local. Who knows, you just might be surprised. Sure the prices might be a bit more, but the service before and, more importantly, after the sale just might make it worth your while.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

New Fixie for my Fix!

Alright! Since Ghetto Fab is now out of commission, I swung by the thrift store to see if there were any candidates for a new fixed gear ride. I walked to the back and found the perfect replacement. A sweet little Schwinn World that was the perfect size for me.



I know these bikes weren't expensive when they were produced by Schwinn Chicago and aren't really collectible, which makes it perfect for my purposes. A guilt free conversion to fixed gear. This bike was in great condition, with the exception of the inch of grime, dust, and dry rotted tires.



When I stripped down the bike, all the parts (bearings, axle, etc...) were covered in dried up grease. However, the parts looked like they didn't have any use on them at all. The bearings look new. Heck everything looked new.



This lugged beauty is probably the best $30.00 I've spent in a loooong time. Other than the decals on the top tube, which were probably scratched off from the bike leaning against something or other through the years. So I rubbed them off, cleaned the bike up, greased what needed greasing, and transferred the necessary parts from G-Fab over. Another few bucks for a longer seat post and I was in business!



This bike rides great and will be a great city bike. While the quill stem is a bit on the short side, it's comfy for the 20 miles I put on it day before yesterday. I'll ride it more later this week and really see how it feels. Can't wait to try it out.





powered by performancing firefox

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Saying goodbye to an old friend (for now)

Well, the time has finally come. My first fixed gear conversion has to be put away for a while. The reason is simple...

Ghetto Fab is trying to kill me.

Yes, it's hard for me to accept this. I remember pulling the old mountain bike down from the rafters in the barn and madly scheming that it might make a pretty good fixed gear. The excitement I felt when I learned that there was enough clearance to put 700c wheels in there. The joy I experienced when I found a front brake that fit perfectly. It seemed like everything was going so well that it was too good to be true. Even when I overcame the problems of the vertical dropouts by fiddling with the chain/cog combination until I found the perfect one.

Well, apparently it was too good to be true. Vertical dropouts suck. There I said it. Sure it was great and beautiful while it lasted, but all great things must come to an end. When that new chain stretches a bit, that's the ending part as far as I'm concerned.

In the last week I've thrown the chain twice. Once with no ill effects and I was able to stop easily. The second time was day before yesterday. I was going down a pretty good hill when the chain flung itself away from me, deciding that this wasn't enough it then chose to wrap itself around the hub between the track cog and the spokes. That was the most incredible skid I've ever done on a bike. Downhill speeds on a wet road make for a pretty exciting skid, especially when there's nothing you can do besides just try to stay upright and not die.

This last one made me realize that I need to do something better if I want to keep riding this bike fixed. I could keep chasing that perfect chain/cog/crank set up (and I know in my heart if I went to a 43 tooth on the front it would work- good luck finding one with a BCD of 94 though), but I'd be throwing money at a limited solution. It would only work with the one chainring/cog combination and nothing else. Seems a bit limited to me. No, what I need to do is just bite the bullet and have track ends put on the bike. Probably wouldn't cost that much more to have a proper track end brazed onto the bike. My first choice would be the ones from Paul Components. Their track ends look pretty bulletproof. Too bad they don't have a bottle opener on them though, but the flexibility they would offer with more than one set-up and the tensioner device would be more practical than the bottle opener option...

I e-mailed David Cheakas over at Southwest Frameworks to see if he could help me out. I'm sure he can, he's a really approachable guy that makes beautiful bikes. Maybe he can help Ghetto Fab out. Who knows, I might even get him to shoot a real coat of paint onto her.

I guess if I get really desperate, I can always convert the Cross Check to fixed gear again for a while. But it's my super grocery getter... Sometimes it's nice to have gears on a bike that's carrying a load.

A moment of silence for my friend Ghetto Fab... She'll be back in another evolution sooner or later:






Friday, January 19, 2007

Rainy day comfort food...

Alright! A Thursday night out and the trend to try new places continues. Sharon let me pick again, her only criteria was that she just wanted someplace warm. I thought, how can you go wrong with some good Soul Food? Went with a place called Ovation over off Camp Bowie near Como Heights. I think I made a good choice.

While I can't comment much on the atmosphere (we were in a cozy corner near the stage and I was facing the wall), I can comment on the food and service. The service was great. Margaret was our server and I almost felt like I was at home for Sunday dinner and my Mom was over my shoulder. Very attentive. The only thing Sharon didn't care for was the stage lights. They flashed in tempo with the music, shining directly into her face like some sort of deranged traffic signal. So if you go I recommend sitting a bit away from the stage. Live music is also played nightly, looks like they started around 8'ish.

While the menu isn't exactly what I consider standard fare "soul food" (not an easy term to define anyway) it hit all the classics with fancier ingredients and an upscale presentation:

While everything on the menu looked good to me (well, except the catfish- I hate catfish) I chose the Shrimp, Fish, and Grits. This is a blackened salmon dish served with two good sized fried shrimp over a bed of jalapeño cheese grits with a crawfish cream sauce. At $18.00, it's not a cheap meal, but well worth every penny of it. Not only did I enjoy this dish, I found myself sopping up the crawfish/cheese grits with the bread served with the meal.

Sharon went with the herb roasted chicken, braised green beans, and garlicky mashed potatoes. Presentation was nice and she said the food tasted great. Although she prefers her green beans a little more on the crispy side (my fault, since I barely steam them when I make them- what can I say... I spoil the girl).

Another notable dish, the table next to us got the chicken and waffles. Wow, it looked fantastic! Fried chicken, collard greens, a Belgian waffle, cinnamon butter, and blueberry infused maple syrup. While I'm not a huge fan of collard greens, everything else on that plate looked incredibly good. The dessert menu had some nice looking offerings on it, but we had decided beforehand to walk next door to Starbucks for an after-dinner coffee.

If you like soul food, which is really just comfort food when you get down to it, and dishes like smothered pork chops, fried chicken, pot roast, short ribs, and gumbo served with an upscale twist appeal to you... then this could be right up your alley. I know I'll be back.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Braking the Law

While looking at something completely
unrelated to the subject, I came across
this little jewel in the Texas state
statutes (emphasis mine):



§ 551.104. SAFETY EQUIPMENT.

(a) A person may not operate a bicycle

unless the bicycle is equipped with a brake

capable of making a braked wheel skid on dry,

level, clean pavement.


(b) A person may not operate a bicycle

at nighttime unless the bicycle is equipped with:

(1) a lamp on the front of the bicycle

that emits a white light visible from a distance

of at least 500 feet in front of the bicycle;

and (2) on the rear of the bicycle:

(A) a red reflector that is:

(i) of a type approved by the department;

and

(ii) visible when directly in front of

lawful upper beams of motor vehicle headlamps

from all distances from 50 to 300 feet to the

rear of the bicycle; or

(B) a lamp that emits a red light visible from a

distance of 500 feet to the rear of the bicycle.



Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 165, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1085,

§ 11, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.







Found here:



http://tinyurl.com/2svay8



Now personally, I prefer to ride my fixed gear with a
brake and the cyclist in me thinks most people are
silly to ride without one. However, the libertarian
in me feels that if they have an overwhelming desire
to become a hood ornament and thin out the gene pool a
bit... then that is their business. However, I don't
know of anyone in Texas that has ever had this problem
(legally speaking). If you have I'd love to hear
about it...



Portland on the other hand, has had more than their
share of problems with this same subject:



http://tinyurl.com/ecks3


Fine and dandy, but really the way the law is written,
it's a bit silly. I have three different bikes in
the stable right now, of all different types. One
road bike, one cyclocross bike, and the fixed gear.

The Masi has dual caliper brakes of very good quality
with excellent brake pads on them, the Cross Check
has Paul Cantilever brakes that are practically
legendary in their stopping ability. The fixed gear
has a single caliper brake on the front and my legs
to back pedal. Point is, not a single one of these
bikes would pass the law the way it is currently stated.
No skid whatsoever. Well, on wet pavement I've
skidded once on the road bike... but I didn't want to.



Actually, skidding to me seems to be an undesirable
prospect. Isn't that the reason new cars are equipped
with anti-lock brakes? I feel comfortable cruising
down hills at speeds that hit 50 mph (yes, I am a
downhill Juggernaut) and have never worried that my
brakes would fail me. So the question that comes to
my mind is this:



Are these laws unreasonable? If so, is it in intent
and purpose? Is it the way the law is currently
written? Or is there more to this than just flippant
thoughts and conversation?



I wonder how many more states have laws just like
this on the books that are difficult to enforce. Of
course this begs the question, should they be challenged
or should we let sleeping dogs lie?

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Icy Peril!

Last night was a bit of an adventure. The fixed wing and helicopter were down due to weather, so that left us with just the ambulance to get around in. Went almost the entire day without a single call, then as it got dark it all started. While we were out we saw 15 accidents in a 2 mile stretch. That is some crazy stuff. The roads were just terrible on anything that was elevated. So I did what any rational person would do in similar circumstances, I left work early and rode my bike home.

I have to throw out some more mad props to those Innova studded tires. They are the bomb! Wet, dry, icy, muddy... it didn't matter. The bike just plowed on through them without missing a beat. While my co-workers thought I was nuts for riding a bike to and from work in this weather, I was probably the most prepared person there. Glad they were on the Cross Check too, that way I could use my rack and bag. Much easier to carry with the potential conditions.

Here are a few pics of my set up...


Front view of my Cross Check- possibly one of the greatest Jack-of-All -Trades bikes ever created!



Rear view with my rack and bag:



A close up of that incredible tire (one I don't get to use nearly enough here in Fort Worth- but when I need it... it's priceless):



Also, there's just something about the simplicity of a fixed gear that I am absolutely falling in love with. The entire process is just so smooth and incredible. I never thought I would have an interest in it, as it seemed to be something for bike messengers and the hipster crowd. Well I was wrong. Even the simple things, like a good chain line, just seem so appealing to me now.



Yes, if you look closely at this bike you'll probably notice the STI shifters and possible even the rear dérailleur, this bike is usually a geared bike and one I'm planning on using for touring in the near future (hence the racks and bags), but since I didn't have the clearance for studded tires on the fixed gear I just made a few adjustments to the Cross Check so I could ride it fixed for a few days. Seemed like I might need a little more control that riding fixed could offer me. I was right. My rims were freezing up a bit where the brake pads made contact on my way home last night. So I just took it easy on the brakes and back-pedaled to slow down.

Staying home with Gracie today. We'll have to find something fun to do before she develops Cinderella narcosis. How a pre-schooler can watch the same movie 20 times in a row is a bit beyond me... I try to limit her video intake to one or two videos, preferably with no repeats. Tough being cooped up all day though. We'll hit the playdough pretty hard after nap time, maybe even bake some cookies.

Don't turn your back on the pre-schoolers either. They'll go Ninja on you in a heart beat! Flying through the air and attacking at will:

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Is winter upon us?

Finally! It was cold on the way in this morning. Too bad it was dry though. I had a mostly lonely ride on the Cross Check. Switched it over to a Fixed gear with the Innova studded tires as I was expecting pandelerium on the way in. Alas, it was not to be.

The only strange things I saw were the occasional patch of ice from the odd bit of standing water (which made the studded tires worthwhile- even if they sound like a chainsaw buzzing down the road) and some guy standing outside in his underwear (briefs only... no socks, shirt, or shoes). His truck window was broken out on the drivers side and it looked like he was assessing the damage. We both gave each other odd looks. I guess he wasn't expecting some crazy guy to ride by on a bike at 5am with temps in the 20's, just like I wasn't expecting a guy in briefs in the same conditions...

This brings up a point that just irks me to no end. I've been commuting by bike for over a year now and I have probably seen 10 or so cars with broken windows. This is just through Ryan Place and Fairmount. My wifes car even had a window broken about 7 months ago. We didn't have anything stolen out of the car, but there wasn't anything in there either. I'm guessing it's an act of vandalism. I don't know if the others are the same, or if something was stolen from them. All I know is that it cost me money. I'm sure they think it's hilarious, but it's not a victimless crime. It takes money out of my pocket that could be put to much better use.

Judging from the one I saw this morning, I must have missed the smashing by only a few minutes. I never really gave it much thought, but I wonder what I would do if I saw it happen. I guess my best bet would be to make a good witness. A guy on a bike doesn't have much of a chance against a car in either a chase or a game of chicken, so neither is a realistic (or practical) solution. The only thing that worries me is that they might sideswipe me as they make their escape. Squirting them with a water bottle would probably only make things worse. That only works with dogs.

I love commuting early in the morning and late at night, but things like this make one pause for thought every now and then. Especially when they're desperate enough to do it on bad weather days.

It's raining/sleeting outside again right now, so I should have a fun ride home tonight! Maybe even some ice riding tonight and tomorrow morning. Hoping that Bernie over at Panther City Bicycles finished up his ice ride and maybe we can kick around some tomorrow and get weird looks.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Couple of things worth mentioning...

Went to Trinity Bicycles over in Irving yesterday. Nice place to visit. Rode the TRE over there and then continued on with the fixed gear. As far as accessibility goes, this shop has a great location. Took a few minutes to get there by bike. Although I almost missed my train back to Fort Worth as we were still talking. Hope Anthony didn't think I was rude having to leave so abruptly. Picked up a really cool rack for the Cross Check. Been looking for one like this for a while now. Pics to be posted later.

Jeremy, the traveling messenger of ambigous accent, built up his track bike yesterday. It looks great and rides fast. The coolest part is, he built the frame with his own two hands. He's a great guy who now has a great bike. This is something that will deserve a post of its own as soon as I can get his bike and my camera in the same location at the same time!

Last thing, looks like the frosty weather is on its way. A winter advisory was just issued! Got the snow tires at home. Maybe it's time to use them... A boy can only hope! I am especially stoked as they are saying the chances of the ice reaching us is pretty slim. Meaning a weather lock down for sure. Hurry out and get your water/milk/bread/toilet paper before the stores run out!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Logging commuter miles...



While I'm not into Mountain biking (I'd kill myself for sure), DORBA has a pretty decent website with a commuter forum. Some pretty good information is available if you're new to commuting, or interested in starting. There are more than a few bicycle commuters, a couple of bike messengers, and at least two local bike shop owners that post there on a regular basis. It would be a huge waste of resources not to take advantage of something like this if you were new to urban riding.



One of the neater things they are doing is that they are logging collective commuter miles (both ridden miles and public transportation miles) and extrapolating that data. I think it's a pretty neat idea to take this information (that I log anyway) and use it for the bigger picture. Also, a couple of the guys have worked towards things like bike racks on buses in Dallas, changing the rules (and attitudes) concerning bikes on the light rail (which used to be asinine) and other such things. While I haven't been on their message board long, I've enjoyed what I've seen so far.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Taking a ride on the wilder side!

Took the train over to Dallas yesterday and I have to say, some of the best and worst Urban riding I've ever had.

Met a really cool guy named DJ on the train and we talked most of the trip. This was his first trip on the train with a bike, so of course we sort of gravitated towards each other. After talking for a bit we learned that we were pretty much riding the same general direction so we headed out together. Gotta say, riding in downtown Dallas is pretty nice. I never realized how flat the area is. Plus, a few of the older neighborhoods I rode through between Baylor and the Lakewood area were just beautiful. You never really notice them when you're driving in that area. Nothing like a bicycle to let you slow down a little bit and take notice.

Riding downtown good. Every other part of Dallas I hit that day, bad... Once you leave the downtown bubble the drivers get much more aggressive I noticed. In the future I think I'll try to limit most of my riding in that bubble. Still, I'm willing to bet getting from Union Station to Lakewood took less time on my bike that driving.

Friday, January 5, 2007

So, Sharon and I had a night alone. Happens from time to time. We decided to go out and eat dinner. I've been wanting to do different stuff so we went to Cafe Chadra (ok I'm cheating, I've been there before). This place is awesome. I highly recommend the Feta salad. How something with no lettuce can be a salad is a bit beyond me, but hey... it's mighty tasty!

This probably isn't a place anyone would ever go to on their own. Come on, it's across the street from the ER at JPS. An area that doesn't exactly scream out, "Fine dining" if you know what I mean. However, once you get inside you forget that you could be the victim of a drive by at any minute, heck the first time I went there I chained my bike to the gas meter so that if anyone tried to cut the chain there was a 50/50 chance they'd blow themselves up hitting the gas main by accident. The good news is, Cafe Chadra will be finding new digs in April. Apparently they have a spot picked out over on Park Place, near the Neighborhood Grill. Definitely a step up.

That's all for now. I gotta go get some miles on my bike so I can stay ahead of Bernie on Bikejournal. Something that probably won't last for long...

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Happy New Year

Well,

I thought I would join the rest of the free world and have a blog as well. The first of the year seems to be a good time to do this. A few things to mention.

On New Years Eve I did most of a fixed gear century. Wow that was a beating. Wind and hills all the way out, then when I finally get to the point where I can be rewarded... I fall onto the top of my bike and taco the front wheel. That was great, so I'm able to true it up enough to make it partway home... but it was a rough ride. So I call in the calvary to come pick me up. Sharon and Gracie were glad to do it. A special thanks to Bernie for sticking with me. Still ended up with around 68 miles though. I just wish I could have taken better advantage of the downhill with the wind at my back. Oh well, I'll have other opportunities to get in that century.

As an aside, I've been seeing the "Which Superhero are you" post showing up on blogs lately. I took it, although the results are so obvious I shouldn't have even bothered...



Your results:
You are Hulk
























Hulk
80%
Spider-Man
75%
Green Lantern
70%
Iron Man
65%
Catwoman
60%
Robin
47%
Batman
45%
Superman
40%
Supergirl
35%
The Flash
35%
Wonder Woman
15%
You are a wanderer with
amazing strength.


Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...



Yeah, that's right. I'm the big lumbering one. What a shocker...