Saturday, August 1

Beyond Advocacy

I've often said on this blog that I am "NOT AN ADVOCATE." That's because many, if not most, advocates strike me as people with their hands held out for money that may or may not make things any better at all for cyclists. LAB is merely one of many in this regard.

Still, there are lots of things that each or any of us can do to make things better for cyclists in big or small ways. Good words about new bike racks is one thing I noted here. The bike racks in question were not optimal, but they WORK and are a lot better than anything any of their competitors provide. Similarly, not too long ago I got told that McDonalds did not allow cyclists to go through their drive-through line. The first time I went through, I had no problems. The second time, I was told I could NOT be served "for your safety". BS - if it is dangerous to have a drive through, the business in question should not have one. I have not noticed stories about carnage in McDonalds drive through lines, though I HAVE seen stories about SUVs driving up on sidewalks. In the receipt I got (after going inside), I took the opportunity to indicate that I did not appreciate them groundlessly shutting out cyclists. I got a personal phone call from the franchise owner and, probably because I requested one, a follow-up email.

In many cycling forums, you hear a lot of "advocates" whining that McDonalds is opposed to cyclists. I have NEVER seen any of these whiners get an "official" response. You can see what I got below. IMO, this is beyond advocacy, and it didn't cost the taxpayer a single penny.

Friday, July 3

25 Years From Flight to Flight

Yesterday marked Canada Day and the first flight of the Bell Helicopter 525 Relentless in Amarillo, Texas. I do not know if this was coincidence or intent. I was fortunate to work on that program for much of its early development, though I was unable to see its first flight in person. It was one of the few “completely brand new” developments that most engineers get to see in their careers nowadays. It was a collaboration of the Bell sites in Texas and in Canada, as well as many suppliers. The first flight is shown below.

A while back I got to see “my own” previous first flight of a “completely brand new” aircraft. It was the YF-23 Black Widow II. It’s first flight will be 25 years ago next month (August 27). Its first flight is shown below. The quality isn’t as good since it was my own video shot at the event at Edwards AFB. Less than a year later, we had signs up around our area saying “will design the world’s most advanced fighter jet for food.” I pray the Bell 525 works out a lot better. Only time will tell. 

Sunday, May 31

God Bless Bike Mechanics

Interior of the LaVogue Bike Shop, in Hoquiam's "Historic LaVogue Building"
This last week, I was reminded that a bike mechanic is more than simply someone who knows how to turn a wrench on a fastener. He or she is someone that can get you back on the road, whether your problem was complex, or simply minor but irritating.

I decided to “multimode” by bike and bus into Aberdeen again, taking advantage of the “local knowledge” acquisition I did here on “Steve’s Day Out.” Well, as it turned out, I had problems of a different sort. My now venerable U Lock has been getting a little cantankerous lately, but still seemed to have a lot of life in it. After getting off the bus, I rode over to the nearby Walmart to see how THEIR film processing compared to that of Rite Aid. As it turns out, their film processing is both quicker and cheaper, though it is clear that the days of quick and good film processing are sadly behind us. Rite Aid has their film developing horse and buggy come by once a week while Walmart has twice a week service. Still, either of those are better than Tall’s “Camera” in Seattle which not only doesn’t handle film developing, but didn’t know of any place closer than about ten miles away.

To make a long story short, after completing my recon at Wallyworld, I rode over to Safeway in order to get groceries either not available at IGA, or with greatly superior value. Pulling up to their bike rack, my lock would not open. Golly! I tried again. Sheesh! Suddenly, it seemed I was 25 miles from home and on a shopping trip with a lock that wouldn’t open. While I felt lucky it didn’t fail with the bike locked inside at Walmart, shopping and a library visit now seemed out of the question. After considering options, I decided that the best option would be to ride over to neighboring Hoquiam and pay a visit to the only bike shop in Gray’s Harbor County.

Front of the LaVogue Bike Shop
The ride was uneventful, retracing a route I rode the week before, and in due time, I was at the LaVogue Bike Shop counter saying “I need a lock” as I plopped the frozen U lock down. The owner indicated that usually, the locks just needed lubrication and he tried that. Apparently, however, lube doesn’t help locks where the mechanism is falling apart beyond making stuff greasy. I indicated that the only thing it would be nice to save from the old lock was the cable which I use to attach the front wheel to the frame/rear wheel/bike rack combination. The owner stated he could probably get the lock apart and proceeded to put it in a vise until a potential customer diverted his attention. It is a wise bike shop owner that will ignore a bike sale in favor of hacking into a now-greasy lock.

U Lock in Happier Days
Still, I was not out of luck. The mechanic in the back of the shop inquired about the problem and I related how the lock was terminal, but I’d like to keep the cable or, if he couldn’t save it, to buy another to go with the new U lock. Being a guy with a golden touch, he cranked away on the lock and soon had it broken in two, with my old cable free to go with the new lock. In reply to my jesting “golly, if you don’t make it as a bike mechanic, you can always go into the business of breaking locks,” he said “yup, as long as I have a vise and a big hammer with me, I can break most any lock.” Well, perhaps a vise and a hammer is not the most subtle way to steal a bike, but I was reminded, once more, that bike mechanics are blessed. Anybody can adjust a working derailleur or replace brake pads, but fixing stuff not designed to be fixed is a talent not given to us all. And they DID sell me a new lock! I let them keep the key for the old one...

I Still Swear by the Combination of a U Lock and Cable

Monday, May 18

Steve's Day Out

Ocean Shores "Station" is Just a Covered Bus Stop - Aberdeen is Two Stops Away
For a while, I’ve been wanting to make a multi-mode trip from Ocean Shores to Aberdeen. Gray’s Harbor Transit has the very reasonable fare of $1 each way and the bus covers the trip in about 45 minutes, with no stops before it gets to Hoquiam and Aberdeen. That is far less than it would cost for gas alone if one were to motor the same distance and each bus has a two-bike rack on the front. Taking my bike on a bus rack is also something I haven’t done in the past. I found the bike rack pretty easy to use, but the beach cruiser tires did not fit the slots properly and the bike's wheelbase was also a bit too big. Still, it mostly worked OK and the bike didn't fall off the bus.

Oops. Wrong Library!
To make a long story short, I got off in Hoquiam, intending to visit the Hoquiam library. Lesson One: Make Sure the Library is OPEN on the day you plan to visit. No problem, since I got there at nine, I Googled the Aberdeen Library and found it would open at 10 and it was just after 9AM. Lesson Two: Sometimes, when you Google something, it finds something else as I discovered after reaching the “Spellman Library” at Gray’s Harbor College, which is in the middle of nowhere, though still “in” Aberdeen. While it was a nice library, I discovered that they don’t even have wifi for “regular” visitors, unlike the Aberdeen Timberland Library (which is a very nice library). Apparently it IS possible for "normal" people to obtain lending privileges at the Spellman Library, though it is difficult to get there on bike from the main part of Aberdeen. Across the street from the college is a traditional mall that's in the process of dying. One wonders why investors ever thought Aberdeen needed a mall in the first place. I'll avoid any speculation, but it isn't the sort of place you'd go except in a hard-core motor culture.
Aberdeen Timberland Library is for Us "Little" People. Unlike the College Library, it Has Bike Racks Outside
the Front Door and also has WIFI for the General Public
After some shopping, and upon getting ready to board the bus home, I saw that Aberdeen has bike lockers provided by Gray’s Harbor Transit. Oddly, the same transit agency didn't see fit to provide as much as a simple bike rack at their Ocean Stores Station. Anyway, it was a fun day and I expect I’ll go back again before too long. Safeway has a FAR better selection of groceries than the Ocean Shores IGA and the Aberdeen Library is a big step up from its Ocean Shores counterpart as well.

Simpson Ave Bridge Across the Hoquiam River - Sign Requires Bikes to Use the Sidewalk
Bridge Was Closed to Roadway Traffic so that Didn't Seem Bad at All!

The Bridge Grate Shows WHY Cyclists are Required to Use the Sidewalk. It'd be Dicey Even for Motorcyclists

On my Ocean Shores blog, here, you can see some of the Aberdeen sights that motorists seem to miss. My own favorite is the rusty vintage truck, though the carved gargoyle is a close second.

Aberdeen Bike Locker Rules and Regulations

Loaded Up on the Bus and Ready to Come Home

Saturday, May 16

Who are "THEY" Anyway?

Closest Thing to a Bike Rack at the Ocean Shores WA IGA
Of course, this post COULD be titled “I’m no more dead than Rantwick!”

Are "THEY" Canadians?
Seriously, this all started back in late April. I’d ridden my bike to the IGA espresso stand and was picking up some groceries while I was there. One of the IGA employees asked how I was doing and I gave my standard answer that included a desire for a bike rack. She replied, starting this whole thread; “We had one but they trashed it.” Hmm, who WERE these beings anyway? Initially, I wondered if she thought that cyclists trashed the rack. Not bloody likely since cyclists were the most obvious beneficiaries of even a bad rack. Before long, I wondered if a gang of Canadian thugs had trashed the rack during one of their cross-border raids. That seemed more likely, but still remote. Perhaps some militant motorists wreaked vengeance on any symbol of cycling. That theory was supported by my observation that somebody ran something big and heavy into the McDonalds bike rack.

Might THESE People be "THEY?"
Before long, the mystery deepened. In response to an IGA survey, the manager noted that they had ordered a bike rack. This was in the first week of May. Well, that rack still hasn’t arrived, so perhaps “they” intercepted it.

Perhaps Chandra Snuck up to Ocean Shores to be "THEY?"
I also heard about potential “they” scofflaws in the local news when I heard that motorists were zooming down shoulders in Seattle in order to pass stopped school buses, narrowly missing students that were about to board. Scary. However, as time went on, I realized that the “they” are almost all of us.

Might "THEY" be the Mormon Church?
Which brings me back to wanting a real bike rack at the IGA...