Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ISM Seat Made In Tampa Gets Mention In New York Times

Steve Toll's very cool ISM bike seats gets terrific mention in New York Times story.

Check out www.ismseat.com

Sunday, June 26, 2011

St. Petersburg Trail Draws Cars, Too

It's nice to bike on the smooth paved trail along Gandy Avenue on the St. Pete side of the Gandy Bridge, but I hope the trail doesn't turn into a parking area.

Let's Bike Up To 12,240 Feet and Mount Evans in Colorado on This Rainy Tampa Day

It's a rainy day in the Tampa Bay area and I'm betting many bicyclists are keeping their rigs dry in their homes or garages. Maybe you're sufing the Web. and I thought I'd post a story I wrote about biking the highest paved road in North America -- the Colorado road about 90 minutes from Denver to Mount Evans at 14,240 feet in the Rockies.

I have re-visited Mount Evans twice via bicycle since writing this story about a decade ago. so I have added some photos to spice up the read. Stay dry on this wet Tampa day and I hope this story inspires you to one day bike up to Mount Evans.

* * *

The mountain goats wear goofy expressions. The shaggy-coated bighorn sheep
pose for photos. Summit Lake is a gem.

By now, they're are all in my review mirror - so to speak.

I'm pedaling way above 13,000 feet above sea level, en route to the summit of
Mt. Evans at 14,264.

The last five miles to the end of North America's highest paved road is
classic switch backs. I rise out of my saddle and I head into a U-curve,
working the mountain in the opposite direction. This routine will play out at
least a half-dozen times.

I'm not moving fast. Maybe six miles per hour up this steep grade. I don't
even notice how slow I'm going. The mountain scenery is too mesmerizing to be
concerned about speed.

The slower the better, I figure. More time to gaze at the alpine landscape
above the tree line of Pike National Forest. It's some 40 miles west of
Denver, outside of Idaho Springs.

It's been more than two hours since I parked my car at Echo Lake, 10,000 feet
above sea level. Cars have to pay a $10 fee for the right to climb Colorado
Highway 5, which climbs some 15 miles to the peak of Mt. Evans from Echo Lake.

But I park my car at Echo Lake before I reach the toll booth and pedal in for free.

The grade for the first 10 miles is challenging, but within grasp of any
experienced long-distance bicyclist. Instead, I breathe deeply, my lungs
expanding, then compressing, to the smooth and steady cadence of my ascent.

There is an annual race up the mountain every July called the Bob Cook
Memorial Hill Climb. Riders start in Idaho Springs at about 7,540 feet and
reach the 14,264-foot summit in about 10 minutes shy of two hours. Not bad.

Today is an early July morning in 1998. I have to start early because the
weather can turn ornery after high noon.

It'll take about two hours to reach the summit, and less than 45 minutes to descend.

There is snow in places along the road. After five miles, I catch up with a
woman on a bicycle who works in the Boulder DA's office.

We chat about the infamous Jon Benet Ramsey case as we pedal side by side. The killer of the little Boulder girl has never been caught.

I suggest she go ahead because I want to go slow and absorb the sights - the
undulating valleys below, swaths of pine forests and the jagged peaks to the

The mountain goats and the bighorn sheep are hams. It's show time and the
tourists with their license plates from coast to coast can't snap off
photographs fast enough.

As I approach Summit Lake, elevation 12,500 feet, I marvel at this road.
Sure, it can only be open between Memorial Day and Labor Day. But it's
smoother than most Denver city streets.

The state began construction of a road to the Mt. Evans summit in 1917 and
workers took a decade to complete it. It was totally paved by 1930.

The road led to a restaurant and gift store at the summit in 1940, but a
propane explosion wiped out Summit Lodge in 1979.

Nobody was killed. Its concrete frame still endures.

These days, thin-air entertainment comes in the form of a little hairy critter called the marmot.

These whistle pigs dig burrows next to the road for easy access to people -- and their food.

I stop at Summit Lake to take photos and chat with the handful of visitors
who have stopped to take in the lake buffeted by snow-covered walls of rock.

A ring of mountains, carved by a glacier, is the backdrop for the lake.
Wildflowers fill a grassy area between the road and the lake.

I mentally prepare to tackle the final five miles, which are more difficult
because of the steeper grade.

I pass a runner. Yes, on early summer mornings you will find runners striding
the 15 miles from Echo Lake to the peak.

The final five miles must take 40 minutes. The peak's first sign is the Mt.
Evans Meyer-Womble Observatory, the highest operating observatory in the
West, standing tall at a prolific 14,148 feet.

Finally, I pull into the parking lot. By now, dozens of cars have reached the
top. It's exhilarating up here. It enlivens your soul. There are no other
places to look up at - just tilt your head down to forests and valleys and

I'm not tired. Just the opposite, in fact. I practically skip around the
parking lot to a sidewalk that yields views that capture miles and miles of

It can snow and sleet in July, so I unravel a windbreaker and wear it as I
stroll to the remains of the restaurant and gift store. It's a mere shell,
but I study the concrete walls in one moment, then stare at the mountain
terrain in the next.

Kids are frolicking on rocks that lead go the official peak next to the parking lot. It's quiet up here, with no gaudy gift stores or hot dog stands. Photography is the main endeavor.

A woman takes my photo, and I do likewise. In fact, I take several photos of
people who smile for their cameras. They are genuinely thankful.

I stay about 40 minutes until noon, knowing I'm pushing the envelope of good
weather. The descent will take a mere 45 minutes.

I keep the jacket on. In fact, I don tight cotton gloves knowing I will hit
speeds of 40 miles per hour down the mountain. I hope my brakes work.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Police Bicyclists Ride From Naples To Tampa In Memory Of Fallen Officers

There's something about bicycling that's so life-affirming and inspiring that the very act of biking is taken up by people to raise money for a cause or bring attention to an issue.

Like today when law enforcement folks on bicycles pedaled from Naples to downtown Tampa and the TPD headquarters in memory of Tampa police officers killed in the line of duty.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Let's Bike The Catskills

When summer kicks into gear here in Tampa, my bicycle thoughts drift elsewhere -- the Rockies or the Catskills in my native New York state. I wrote this story about a decade ago when I lived in upstate New York, about 75 miles north of NYC. It was published in the Tampa Tribune and I thought I'd post it here. It's about a 95-mile bike ride from my home in New Paltz, NY to the Caatskill Mountains and back.

* * *

To me, it’s my own little space shuttle ride, a trek to the cosmos and back. All in one day. And all it takes is a few gallons of water and a whole lot of granola bars.

I’m not exactly breaking the sound barrier at a steady 15 mph clip on my Cannondale R300 road bicycle, but it’s still my rocket to the Catskills, the mountain range made famous by such Americana superstars as Milton Berle and Rip Van Winkle.

It’s a 95-mile course I’ve plotted to and through the Catskills from my home in New Paltz, a college town about 75 miles north of New York City. We have our own local mountain range outside New Paltz called the Shawangunks – a ridge famous for its white rock, dwarf pine trees, mountain lakes and some of the best rock climbing on the East Coast.

But today – an unusually hot day at 85 degrees for Tax Day here in the Hudson Valley – I’m off for a visit to a much younger mountain range, the Catskills.

Pull up your bike shorts, strap on the helmet and grab a bike seat. We’re going to the mountains and you’re coming along for the ride.

The morning heat burned away a dreary fog as I follow the flattest stretch of the journey along the slow-moving, north-flowing Wallkill River to a small town called Rosendale. The Wallkill is not exactly a raging bull of a river. In fact, the Wallkill makes the Withlacoochee River look like a white-foaming Colorado rapid.

Rosendale hit the big time decades ago when its limestone deposits were mined for cement, which was sent to New York City to help erect the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty. These days, it’s a funky and quirky place of some 6,000 souls with a fun Main Street that plays host to a rare single-screen movie house. Rosendale’s biggest day of the year? How about the International Pickle Fest every November.

“We’ll never be a . . . Woodstock. But we’re no longer the town that has 18 bars on Main Street,” the town’s ex-supervisor, Jeannie Laik, once told me.

It’s in Rosendale where I pick up Route 213, a wonderful two-lane road that will lead into the heart of the Catskills. The white-rock Shawangunks peeter out a few miles south of Rosendale and Route 213 skirts the northern edge of that small range.

Now it’s time to take the Route 213 flyer up to the Catskills. I love this road. The Rondout Creek runs parallel to 213, a two-laner offering gentle twists and hills amid the old rocks that yielded cement decades ago.

A few miles up the road it’s a small hamlet called High Falls, then a few miles after that it’s Stone Ridge. These are very hip-sounding communities where quality of life is taken very seriously. In other words, there are some good restaurants in town.

The Gunks, as the Shawangunks are called, have a high peak of about 2,280 feet. The Catskills’ peaks are in the 3,500-foot range. The Catskills are about 10 miles away once I head out of Stone Ridge.

But here’s the thing: while pedaling on 213 you don’t even realize you’re entering the Catskills and heading right into the heart of the range. That’s the beauty of it all: the gradual ascent amid fields, rugged houses and leafless tree lulls you right into the range. There’s no dramatic climb, just a tranquil journey into the mountains.

It’s in the town of Olive where you feel as though you’re in the Catskills. Viewsheds – don’t you just love that term? – offer a peak at the jutting upward slopes of the Catskills. The mountains are here. You have arrived.

I happen to like Olive for two reasons.

First, the town holds an annual Olive Day, which includes my favorite competition – the frog-jumping contest. I recall a youngster, eager to spur his entry to victory, stomped his foot to get the frog going. Well, one particular stomp of the foot missed its mark and sent this boy’s frog to the disabled list – well, let’s just say the big disabled list in the sky.

Second, Olive has a very cool town logo. Just about every Hudson Valley town has an emblem that includes a river, a mountain and a tree or some combination of those. Olive’s emblem shows a bird with – what else? – an olive branch in its beak. Maybe the Middle East talks should come to Olive.

The oohing and ahing over the Catskills’ rugged scenery begins at the Ashokan Reservoir, part of New York’s vast upstate reservoir network.

Mountains form a ring in the backdrop of the reservoir, which is mighty low these days because of a draught that’s drying up the Northeast water supply. It’s downright bizarre to feel this hot – this is mid-summer heat – and see no leaves on the trees yet. The buds are out, but only the evergreens offer color in the forests.

The views are spectacular. You’re far away from the mountain summits that the Catskills look like giant brown humps cutting a tranquil outline against a clear sky. You just want to sit and stare.

This being the post 9-11 era, there are cops guarding a causeway that leads over the Ashokan reservoir, which supplies New York City’s drinking water. They’re listening to the Yankees play the Red Sox on Patriots Day, when Boston plays host to the Bronx Bombers for an 11 a.m. ballgame.

“Who’s winning,” I ask the cop.

“The bad guys.”

Route 213 has ended and I’m on Route 28A along the reservoir’s southern edge heading for Route 28, a main valley drag that bisects the northern chunk of the Catskills. I reach Boiceville at Route 28, home to the local high school in the area, and head for Phoenicia, where I’ll take a lunch break at the 37-mile mark of the trek.

There are Catskills peaks on both sides of Route 28. This road’s water mate is the Esopus Creek, a swift-moving waterway running alongside 28. It’s the beauty of cycling – seeing how creeks are connected to valleys and how they both rest in the underbelly of the mountains on both sides.

Phoenicia is a classic Catskills village that’s become a tourist destination. Old-time outdoor stores selling heavy plaid shirts stand near yuppie cafes where well-coifed waitresses serve city slickers. Emblematic of the mountain town gentrification is a bar I used to frequent called the Sportsman Bar and Grill. It’s become a chi-chi Mexican restaurant. But at least they kept the old sportsman statue out in front.

There’s still the place that rents tubes for people to go tubing on the Esopus Creek, that foamy creek that runs along Route 28. It’s quiet today in Phoenicia and this April day still feels like July, when the place would be crawling with tourists.

Phoenicia is surrounded by mountains. Look down Main Street and It’s time to refuel because I’m about to climb 10 miles on Route 214 to the Catskills forest preserve near the ski towns of Hunter and Tannersville. I gobble up bagels and granola bars and quaff a liter of water.

The best part of the trip is that there’s no malls. There’s no suburbia. I don’t get why people drive miles so that they could walk from their car on an asphalt ocean the same distance if they parked in a city and walked to their shops.

I study drivers’ faces when I ride. Motorists are just not a happy lot, I’m afraid to say. They either look sad or mad, but never happy. Sometimes in my more whimsical states of mind -- which is often when I’m pedaling – I think the quickest way to end war and disputes is to abolish religion and national borders and give everyone a bicycle. Riding a bike is one of those precious few acts that both young and old enjoy for the sheer love of pedaling, seeing and getting around. The expressions on their faces are the same – joy.

But I digress. It’s probably because it’s time to climb some serious mountains. It’s 10 miles straight up to the lofty foot peaks of the state forest preserve. I pass through small incorporated hamlets such as Chichester, Lanesville and Edgewood. There’s a post office here, a church there, small rundown homes next to smartly-manicured vacation houses.

I’m not going very fast. Maybe 6 or 7 mph. But it’s a steady zen-like spin as I ascend the mountain. There’s a certain purity to climbing. You pedal, you move and there’s no way around it. No BS-ing, no negotiating, no fast-talking the mountain to let you up without digging deep and settling into a steady cadence. It’s why I love riding up hills. It’s not who you know, or how much money you have, or who’s your papa – it’s just you and the uphill.

Route 214’s water partner is Stony Clove Creek, an Esopus Creek tributary. The road cuts a jagged course through the mountains. Again, the double-takes: all those trees look mighty naked without leaves.

Near the top of the climb is the state forest preserve, a healthy chunk of raw woods with trailheads and scenic lakes off the road. This is the Catskills – hearty, inspirational and rugged.

After a three-mile descent – man, it’s sweet cruising 40 mph down the long hill – I finally hit Route 23A near Hunter and Tannersville. It’s disorienting. If it feels like summer, then how come I’m seeing snow-covered ski runs falling down Hunter Mountain? It’s about 50 miles into the ride as I approach Tannersville and Haines Falls on Route 23A.

Tannersville is a hybrid of a ski town and local hangout. It’s isolated enough to have a car dealership close to downtown. There’s a mish-mash of bed and breakfasts, convenient stores, old homes crying out for a paint job and local businesses like family-run pharmacies.

Ah, the big descent to Palenville. It’s four miles of sheer 40 mph downhill past evergreens, trees with buds ready to burst and rocky waterfalls. I hit Route 32 and follow this main artery to the 70-mile mark at Saugerties in north Ulster County.

I’m out of the Catskills. The hills now roll instead of rollercoasting you up and down and around. In fact, Saugerties sits on the Hudson River and the Catskills are the stuff of books and maps and pictures in the bookstores of Saugerties, a village of 5,000 that’s kind of a New Paltz Lite without the state college. Joining the bookstores are cafes and antique shops lining a pleasant Main Street.

For a major pit-stop, I stop into a McDonald’s, the first one I’ve seen on the trip and I ask for a water bottle refill. And another. And then another. The skinny teen-ager with his McDonald’s uniform shirt falling outside of his pants can’t believe it. The kid’s never seen anyone ask for water in the joint. I read the New York Daily News. The Yankees-Red Sox series dominate the sports section. I skip over the Middle East strife coverage. There’s time to catch up after the bike ride.

Now, it’s time for the flatlands. I follow a road south that runs parallel to the New York State Thruway to Kingston, the county seat. It’s late afternoon and I’m in the homestretch of the ride. Kingston is a city about 25,000 with varying old neighborhoods. It stretches from its uptown stockade area to its waterfront on the Rondout Creek, which meets the Hudson River. You remember the Rondout – that’s the creek that flows through Rosendale.

I hook into Route 32 in Kingston for the final 15 miles back to New Paltz. It’s a climb to get out of Kingston, but once I’m past the Ulster County public safety center on the edge of the city, Route 32 flattens out and I head for Rosendale, that old cement town, which is about halfway between Kingston and Rosendale.

The Gunks come back into view, and the Catskills are a dream-like blur on the northern horizon.

By now, the zen-like pedaling rhythm is kicking in. I pass Bloomington, Rosendale, Tillson and New Paltz is the next stop. It’s early evening now and the miles are slowly passing – 91, 92, 93 – as I reach the New Paltz village line.

The sun is setting behind the Shawangunks and a pink corral shade is backlighting the mountain ridge. I soak up the view.

I’m still in bike shorts and jersey when I stride into my kitchen and put a pot of water on the over burner to boil. Pasta is on the menu.

The post-ride feast has begun.

Multi-tasking Drivers Are Dangerous

Here's why I use arm and hand motions to get the attention of the motorized vehicle drivers around me when I bike.

What’s the number one driving mistake that causes crashes?

Answer: Multi-tasking while driving, which is particularly a problem among young drivers. A survey of 2,300 teens around the US released this month found that 68 percent of them were involved in near-miss collisions in 2010-2011 due to distracted driving, including changing songs on portable devices with screens, cell phone use, and texting. The government reports that in 2009, an estimated 448,000 Americans were injured in crashes caused by distracted driving, and 5,474 were killed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't Ruminate -- Illuminate!

These links caught my attention. Check out this dude -- a rapper, but not your average rapper, deploying some unique bling and a rap song about bike lights.

Then, there's this story from Bonita Springs, Fla. where a ghost bike was installed to memorialize the loss of life of a bicyclist.

But then the Florida DOT removed it because it was on a public state right-of-way.

Tammie Wonning put it best on Facebook: "We can't get laws to protect us or drivers cited for killing us yet you remove something to help bring awareness and memorialize those cyclists we have lost. Florida, you never cease to amaze me."

The DOT also removed a ghost bike on Gandy in front of the dogtrack in St. Pete that was installed to remember bicyclist Frankie, who used to work for Tour de Pizza in St. Petersburg but was killed by a motorist several years ago.

Cities With Top % Of Bike Commuters

Cool story from The Atlantic on the top 15 bike commuter cities in the U.S. based on the highest percentage of bike commuters

As you might expect, the top five are from out West and a bunch are college towns, but a Florida city clocked in at no. 6.

Brandon Bikeworks Grand Opening On July 2

Congrats to David and Jodi Luppino for their Grand Opening of Brandon Bikeworks at the Winthrop Town Centre. They wanted to pass along this message:

Just a note to all our customers to join us on July 2nd for Brandon Bikeworks' Grand Opening Celebration for Good Riding, Good Eating, and Great Giveaways while watching the Tour de France’s 1st Stage/Prologue.

The shop is located at 6048 Winthrop Town Centre, on the corner of Bloomingdale Blvd and Providence in Riverview, behind the Starbucks and Moe’s, next to The Acropolis Greek Taverna.

We carry Trek, Gary Fisher, Bontrager, Zipp, Catlike Helmets, Hawk Racing, ISM Saddles, SMP Saddles, among many other popular brands. We have a neighborhood shop feel with friendly and courteous customer service, great prices and selection of bicycles, accessories and parts for everyone.

We’re also a full service shop offering repairs for everything from a 20+ year old Huffy's to high end frame builds and fitting services.

Have coffee at Starbucks, lunch and dinner at Moe’s, Five Guys, Acropolis, Cappie’s Pizza or the Green Iguana and dessert at Menchie's and come see us at Brandon Bike Works.

Remember to go to our website at www.brandonbikeworks.com and click on our Facebook link and ‘Like’ us.

Grand Opening Schedule of Events and Special Offers:

* 7AM road ride starts from Brandon Bikeworks to Just Ride Bicycles departing from the 7/11 parking lot next to Just Ride Bicycles at 7:30AM

* Road ride 36-40 miles with speeds ranging from 18mph to 22mph

* Back to the shops for the Live Tour Coverage , Food & Drinks

* FREE raffle for a free Radio Shack Team kit (do not have to be present to win)

* FREE Radio Shack Team Kit (jersey & bib set) with purchase of a bicycle with a retail value of $1000.00 or more for the month of July to celebrate the Tour de France

* Radio Shack Team kits on SALE $100.00 retails for $210.00

* Bontrager Aeolus 5.0 Carbon/Aluminum Clincher Wheelset SALE $1000.00 retails for $1600.00

* Gary Fisher Road Bike Ion Pro SALE $1600.00 retails for $2100.00

* Gloves for $10.00 retail price $45.00

* Saddles for $10.00 retail price $70.00

* Special Coupons for Restaurants at Winthrop Town Centre

* And much much much much more!!

See you there...
David & Jodi Luppino (Owners)
Ron Garrett (Store Manager)
Brandon Bike Works
6048 Winthrop Town Centre Ave
Riverview, FL 33578
(813) 438-8908

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Let's Bike Flatwoods

It's wonderful to bike very early at Flatwoods when the light is faint, the heat is moderate and the shadows are long.

Monday, June 20, 2011

SWFBUD Welcomes The Mark Roman Law Group

SWFBUD welcomes its newest member -- the Mark Roman Law Group of Clearwater.

Law firm partners Mark Roman and Morgan Gaynor are bicyclists who support SWFBUD's mission to make the Tampa Bay area a more friendly place for bicyclists. Check out www.markromanlaw.com.

The Mark Roman Law Group joins the following SWFBUD members:

Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium
Oliver's Cycle Sports
Just Ride Bicycles
Chainwheel Drive
Bicycle Outfitters
Street Fit 360
Trek Bicycle Store of Tampa and Clearwater
University Bicycle Center
ABC Bicycles
Trek Bicycle Store of St. Petersburg
The Ironman Store

Lawyer Tom Singletary
Lawter Chris Burns
Lawyer J. Steele Olmstead

Bicycle-Ped Projects Help The Economy

From the League of American Bicyclists:

Bike/Ped Projects Create 46% More Jobs Than Road-Only Projects

Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects create more jobs per dollar spent than other road construction projects, according to a study released today by the America Bikes Coalition.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure: A National Study of Employment Impacts, authored by the Political Economy research Institute, finds that on average, the "road-only" projects evaluated created 7.8 jobs per million, while the "bicycling-only" projects provided 11.4 jobs per million. The report is available at peri.umass.edu.

Listen to the press briefing at americabikes.org (available Wednesday).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bicyclist Killed In Largo Early Today

Risky behavior -- riding a bicycle at night without lights. A bicyclist was struck and killed early this morning -- 4:48 am -- while biking without a front or tail light.

Be seen all the time when bicycling. Wear reflective gear, put lights on your bike and make yourself as visible as possible to motorists -- especially at night.

Biking North Boulevard -- Hope The Sharrows Come Soon

While biking from Tampa to St. Pete this morning, I caught up with Brett Woods at North Blvd and MLK and we rode south on North Boulevard -- newly paved but still waiting for its sharrows.

Brett was riding a single-speed aluminum bike and we biked together to Euclid and Manhattan in Tampa when Brett headed to Bayshore on Euclid (home of the sharrows) and back to Seminole Heights while I continued on to St. Petersburg this morning.

Brett is a great guy and fellow Seminole Heights resident.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stay Safe -- Check Out This Video

Well-done video on bicyclists using the roadways in Florida.

Sadik-Khan Discusses How New York City Is Making Its Streets More Friendly

Wow, this is great stuff. Check out this terrific interview of New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Moxxie Bike Club of St. Petersburg

Check out the web site for a cool women's bicycle group in St. Pete called the Moxxie Bike Club of St. Petersburg.

Just another example of the diversity of the Tampa Bay bicycle scene.

Familiar Faces Along The Way

The wonderful thing about cycling very early in the mornings at the same time each day is intersecting with the lives of people who also are out doing their treks at the same time -- whether it's walking or pedaling.

Like this fella I see daily on 40th Street at 7 am as I head out to Flatwoods during my bread-and-butter 41-miler.

Fitness Business Places Orange Bikes On Road In New Tampa

These orange-painted bicycles have popped up around the Panera Bread/Best Buy shopping center along Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in New Tampa. They were placed out in front of the shopping center entrances and along the road by a workout and fitness business. Looks a little like an orange ghost bike.

Biking With The Turkeys At Flatwoods

Wildlife is just part of the fun of cycling the 7-mile loop at Flatwoods Park. The turkeys are a common sight -- along with boars that collided with a bicyclist a few years ago, snakes, bobcats and birds of prey.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Biking Across Country And Then Some To Visit The Ballparks

Reading the story today in the St. Pete Times about a 24-year-old guy by the name of Darren O'Donnell riding his bicycle 4,500 miles around the United States to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums (he was in St. Pete today for the Rays-Red Sox game) reminded me of my two solo cross-country bike rides in my 20s when I biked from New York to the West Coast, and then biked along the West Coast.

Biking across the country with a tent and a sleeping bag and letting each day unfold to its own rhythm is something every bicyclist should do. The journey takes you and not the other way around and decades later I still can recall the most amazing and detailed anecdotes about days along the trek.

The St. Pete Times did a nice job telling Darren's story.

And I realized the other day that the reason I crave diverse bike rides and different scenery is that it's an effort to re-create the vibe of discovery on a daily basis that's all about cross-country bike rides.

I think about biking across the country again -- maybe one day.

Project Your Own Shared Lane Marking

Jim Porter sends over an item about a nifty device.

It projects an image of what appears to be a sharrow onto the road. I've seen devices such as this one also project a bike lane. I hope the surrounding vehicles can also see that same image.

Let's Take 5

5 Observations while bicycling Tampa Bay (Or as Dick Greco would say, "Give me 5!":

-- I never use ear buds while bicycling. I love to hear the whoosh of the air as I pedal. My ears function as the eyes for traffic behind me and I don't use the ear buds even when cycling in a car-free venue like Flatwoods park or on a paved trail. I like to hear everything around me. It's one of the reasons why I bike.

-- I like diverse surroundings when I bike and sometimes I enjoy cycling the side streets of south Tampa or St. Petersburg because I enjoy observing neighborhoods. Other times I like biking the Withlacoochee Trail when I don't want to deal with cars. And sometimes I like biking on main roads on early Sunday mornings like 49th Street in Pinellas County because industrial zones without car traffic are sometimes bizarre and fun places to bike through. And then there are the hills of San Antonio or Clermont if I want to climb.

-- The frontage roads on the Courtney Campbell Causeway are amazing places to ride your bike. I ride them all the time on my 3 Bridges Ride because I love being so close to the water while cycling. Sure, the span on the Tampa side is not pleasant to go over but it's relatively short and the access to the Bay is wonderful. From the Tampa side, there's decent access to the causeway via the U-Path and the Skyline Park trail. And from Clearwater, get to the road that leads from Safety Harbor that's near the Christian college at the causeway.

-- I use hand signals to say hi to drivers, give them the power fist, and even wave them around me on roads. I think connecting with motorists breaks down the potential conflict on the road and sets up an environment for more pleasant relations on the roads around here.

-- My new favorite bike lane road is 40th Street in Tampa, from Hillsborough to the USF campus. Shooting through the round-abouts is fun and the road surface is smooth as silk. Check it out.

More Travels With Jose

Tampa bicyclist Jose Menendez came upon this recent bicycle scene:

Jose, take it away:

Here's a bit of positive TPD cycling news. Early this afternoon, I happened to ride from Platt St. down the ramp to the Riverwalk behind the Convention Center, and when I came out at the small parking lot between the Convention Center and the Sail Pavilion, I saw nearly 20 police officers with bicycles. I stopped to find out what was going on and saw two TPD officers -- one male, the other female -- training a large class of would-be bike patrol officers. There were 17 trainees. Almost all of them were TPD officers, but I did see one wearing a Sheriff's Office shirt and one or two wearing USFPD shirts.

First, while riding around the parking lot in circles, the trainees learned how to pull their front tires into the air. Then they practiced using that skill to ride up over the curb from the parking lot onto the sidewalk. Then they practiced riding down the broad steps behind the Sail Pavilion onto the Riverwalk, first going straight down the steps, then going down them at a sharp angle.

While they were riding down the steps, one officer called out to me, "Hey! Get in line and join us!" I chuckled and shook my head no. A little later, I asked an officer who had successfully made it down the steps, "Are all of you training to be full-time bike patrol officers?" "Yeah," he replied, but an officer standing next to him said, "No, just doing it for the certification." I guess the first one wants to be on bike patrol full time, but the second one doesn't.

After filling their water bottles in the Convention Center, they rode up the Riverwalk behind the Center and up the ramp to Platt St. I decided to follow them for a little while to see if they were going to practice their traffic skills. They made their way up Franklin St., turned left onto Whiting St., then right onto Ashley Dr. They got into the inside lane on Ashley, so I assumed they were going to turn left onto Kennedy Blvd. But they kept riding north in the inside lane on Ashley all the way to Tyler St. by the library, where they turned left and went to the Performing Arts Center. It's a good thing they were law enforcement officers, or they might have gotten tickets for riding all that way in the inside lane. ;)

While they were going through their paces by the Sail Pavilion, a woman wearing a TPD Forensics shirt was taking a lot of photos. I asked her if the photos are going to be posted online. She smiled and said, "On Facebook!"

New York Officer Pulls Over Bicyclist For Showing Too Much Leg

New York is a fun city for bicyclists -- and a bit bizarre, too. They have striped many miles of bike lanes and have a cool campaign called "Don't Be A Jerk" about trying to get bicyclists and motorists to obey the traffic law.

But sometimes police issue dumb tickets. You might recall my old college friend David Regen was among the bicyclists cited for speeding in Central Park only to have a police officer show up at his home and tell him the ticket is being withdrawn. Then, there was the filmmaker was was cited for NOT biking in the bike lane and he made a funny video about the obstacles in bike lanes that went viral and was interviewed by AP for a news video that appeared on yahoo.com.

Now I present this New York Daily News story about a Dutch tourist showing too much leg while bicycling. She was pulled over by the officer and reprimanded for showing too much leg flesh but not given a ticket.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Motorist Who Killed Bicyclist Diane Vega Gets $1,000 Fine, Suspended 6-Month License

Tampa bicyclist Jose Menendez offered these observations about the driver who was charged with running a red light at Sprice and Himes October 1 and killing bicyclist Diane Vega while Diane was biking home from her job.

Here's Jose's report:

I went to the Edgecombe Courthouse this morning for the 2nd hearing for Josefina Rodriguez, the driver who was charged with running the red light at Spruce & Himes and killing Diane Vega last Oct. 1st.

I was delayed getting there, and it was 10:50 am when I reached courtroom 300. The defense attorney had already presented his two witnesses and was making his closing argument. He was trying as hard as he could to convince Judge Ober that his client was innocent and that one of the other drivers, Lucille Franklin, the elderly woman who was driving a Lincoln Town Car, had actually run a red light on Spruce St. and caused the crashes. He claimed that the driver, David Zinn, who testified at the first hearing that he witnessed the defendant run the red light on Himes Ave. and got a photo of her before she got out of her SUV after the crash wasn't a credible witness.

(For more info about the witnesses at the first hearing than I gave in my original email, here's a link to Alexandra Zayas' very good St. Pete Times article about that hearing. Thanks to Mike Weimar for sending me the link to the article the morning after the hearing before I even started looking for it. By the way, I didn't see any media people at today's hearing.)

Near the end of his argument, the defense attorney said that he could understand the anger and grief felt by Diane's family and he wasn't trying to diminish it, but their anger was directed at the wrong driver. They should be angry with Ms. Franklin, he claimed, not his client.

Finally, he said he hoped the judge would find his client not guilty. Almost instantly, Judge Ober said, "Well, I'm going to find your client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Is there anything else you want to say?" The defense attorney replied, "I don't think there's anything left to say." Then he sat down and hung his head, looking dejected.

Before the judge imposed the sentence, Diane Vega's two daughters, Selena and Genevieve, her sister, JoAnn, and her mother, Amelia, took turns addressing the judge. (In his closing argument, the defense attorney complained that the judge had overruled his "soft objection" and listened to Diane's mother at the first hearing. The judge interrupted him to say that it didn't influence her.)

Selena said that her mother's death had left a huge whole in her life, that her mother wouldn't be there when she gets married, has her first baby, etc. She also said very sadly that every time she sees people riding bikes she looks at them hoping she'll see her mother out for a ride again and that she'll return home one day. But, she said, she knew that would never happen. The judge told her that even though her mother was gone, she would always be with her.

Genevieve also spoke about her mother's loss. She also said with great emotion that she knew forgiveness is very important and that she had already forgiven the defendant and didn't want revenge for her mother's death. The judge told her that accidents and tragedies happen every day. Some people, she said, say it's a matter of luck; others say it's fate. But all of us are only human, and unfortunately humans make mistakes. And sometimes their mistakes lead to tragedies.

Besides speaking about her sister's death, JoAnn spoke angrily about the legal delays and the fact that the TPD's investigating officer failed to show up in court for both hearings. The judge said that TPD officers never show up in court, and JoAnn shot back that they do when someone's trying to get out of a speeding ticket. Judge Ober replied, "But they never show up in court for traffic cases involving a death or serious bodily injury. I'll issue a court summons, telling them to appear, and they still don't show up." (While the judge spoke about no-show TPD officers, two HCSO deputies standing on either side of the courtroom door exchanged glances.)

When Diane's mother Amelia spoke, she was angry that the defendant wouldn't get a harsher sentence and that the defense attorney had tried to blame Ms. Franklin for causing the crash. The judge replied that no sentence she could impose for the charge under current law would make the family feel any better about what happened and that the attorney was just trying to do his best for his client.

Judge Ober went on to say that the family may want to become activists, adding that a number of victim's families had done that and lobbied the state legislature, local governments, etc. She said that, as a judge, she was very limited in how much activism she could do. She added that perhaps they could start by demanding to know why TPD officers don't show up to testify in court for traffic cases involving a death or serious bodily injury.

Finally, Judge Ober imposed her sentence. She fined the driver $1,000 plus court costs, ordered her to attend driving school, and suspended her driver's license for 6 months.

There was one final dramatic scene. Diane's daughters had left after addressing the judge. After the sentencing, I walked out of the courtroom with Diane's mother, sister, and one of their friends. While we were walking down the hallway, the daughter of the defendant suddenly hurried out of the courtroom and started speaking to Amelia and JoAnn in a voice choked with tears, first in Spanish then in English. Not wanting to intrude on such an emotional private moment, I walked on by myself and sat down in a chair about 30 feet down the hallway. I could only hear bits of what the defendant's daughter told them. Basically, I think she said that her family was very sorry about what happened to Diane, but they were convinced that her mother hadn't run the red light or caused the crashes.

Well, sorry for another lengthy email. I doubt any of you will think the sentence was strong enough. I'm going to tell some media contacts what Judge Ober said about TPD officers not showing up in court to testify in traffic cases involving death or serious bodily injury. Maybe they can verify the judge's comments, then demand an explanation from TPD regarding their no-show officers.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Biking Early In Tampa

I bike very early on summer weekend mornings to check out Tampa. There are few cars and no one is rushing around and it's not too hot.

I like Cypress Avenue because it's a decent east-west road that goes from central Tampa west all the way to the U-Path and the Rocky Point/Clearwater causeway area.

Here's Cypress west of Dale Mabry Highway and it looks like it has been re-paved, so I'm wondering why there are no bike lanes or at least sharrows.

RIP Tom McEwen -- the Tampa Tribune's former sports editor.

The U-Path trail connects Cypress with the Rocky Point area at State Roads 60 and the Clearwater causeway. The U-Path is very close to Tampa International Airport.

I found this paved trail behind Blake High School along the Hillsborough River and I'm wondering why is this gate locked?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


TAMPA -- ISM, the world’s premier bicycle saddle used by some of the fastest bicyclists in the world, has entered into a sponsorship agreement with famed Indy Car racer Tony Kanaan, one of the fastest car racers in the world.

ISM – Ideal Seat Modification – is sponsoring Kanaan, who uses the ISM bike seat during his triathlon training and races. Kanaan, one of the biggest names in Indy Car racing, is a passionate triathlete and was invited to this year’s Triathlon World Championships in Kona, HI .

“Indy Car racing is synonymous with speed and getting the most out of technology. ISM saddles compliment this line of thought as we are about comfort and performance,” said Dave Bunce, ISM operations commander.

Kanaan participates in triathlons to help stay fit physically and mentally for his car racing. He was given an invitation to this year’s Triathlon World Championships -- the sport’s pinnacle event of the sport: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run.

“Tony desires to be in the most aerodynamic and comfortable position possible for the 112 mile bike during an ironman. ISM saddles will get him to the line faster. We are pleased to sponsor the fastest triathlete on the planet,” Bunce said.

The ISM logo appears on Kanaan’s car and will be on the racer’s car this season.

The ISM seat, based in Lutz, Fla. outside Tampa , is now used by thousands bicyclists across the world – from Olympians and professional triathletes to casual bicyclists and serious bikers.

The ISM saddle eliminated the seat nose – a move that also eliminated the source of discomfort of sitting on traditional bicycle seats. The reason the ISM seat is so effective is that a traditional bike seat causes pressure on sensitive blood vessels during a bike ride for both men and women.

Log onto www.ismseat.com for more information on ISM bike saddles

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

SWFBUD Lobbies For Regional Paved Trail Network

Bay News 9 this afternoon filmed Randy Myhre, owner of SWFBUD bicycle store Oliver's riding his mountain bike on the Bypass Canal Trail.

SWFBUD wants Hillsborough County to pave the trail next to the Bypass Canal Trail from Morris Bridge Road to State Road 60 to help create a region-wide network of bicycle trails that would lead from the county into the city of Tampa.

I will be making a powerpoint presentation on the Bypass Canal Trail to the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, making the case that it's just one segment of a trail network that would include the South County Greenway, and the Selmon Expressway Greenway leading into downtown Tampa.

Look for the Bay News 9 report Wednesday during the day.

Lodging On The Withlacoochee Trail

Dear Bicyclists:

The Central Motel is a small privately owned motel located in Inverness,
Florida in the heart of the Nature Coast. The Withlacoochee State Trail
runs directly behind the property. The trail is 46 miles long and we are
near the midpoint which makes us very popular with bicyclists. We offer
secure bike storage to our guests.

We take pride in our establishment. Our 55 rooms are clean, comfortable and

We would like to extend a special rate to you and your members. The
discounted rate will be:

$ 55.00 One Night - Two Queen Beds - Two Adults
$ 50.00 Per Night - Two Queen Beds - Two Adults if staying Two Nights or More

These rates are based on availability, advance reservations required and
offered through September 30, 2011.

There are several other activities available in the area - canoeing, golf,
fishing, boat rentals. The Rainbow River is located 17 miles from Inverness
in Dunnellon and the crystal clear river is perfect for snorkeling, diving,
kayaking, or tubing. Crystal RIver and Homosassa Springs are also
approximately 18 miles from the motel.

Please call our toll free number 800-554-7241 if you would like more
information or to book a reservation. I have included links below to our
website along with the Florida State Trail site. We hope to have the
pleasure of welcoming you to The Central Motel!


Teri Adkisson
General Manager
The Central Motel

This Post Brought To You By Uncle Chipster

So: Back in April I had some time on my hands. I had just finished writing my third novel in March, and I got that pesky 60th birthday thing out of the way as well. What to do? What to do? Hey, I know, I’ll build a bike!
You know me. I “build bikes” all of the time. That is to say, I take an old bike frame, slap some used parts on the thing and wheel it out to the curb with a “FREE!” sign on it. This new/old bike is usually gone within about ten minutes and I’m done. This time, however, the build was substantially different.
My friend Charles Brown builds recumbent bicycles out of boxed and laminated plywood. I have razzed him for years about building a prone instead of a recumbent, so that’s what I did: I built a prone. That is to say, I built a bicycle upon which you lay (lie?) on your stomach, arms out in front of you, and you pedal with your legs behind you rather like swimming. I dubbed it Project Underdog, as you tend to go down the road flying really low to the ground like Superman after a very rough night. Kinda like Underdog.
My neighbor Rudy donated a box aluminum girder to the cause to be used as the monobeam frame, and I bought a 20” wheeled full suspension mountain bike from Goodwill for $20 for the rear triangle, the wheels and other assorted bits and pieces. Chainwheel Drive , City Cycle, The Energy Conservatory and Re-Cycle Bicycles were all sources for parts for Underdog. Plus, you know me- I had a few things in the garage. Home Depot, Lowe’s and Harbor Freight provided the rest, as did JoAnn Fabrics (the foam padding for the hip pad).
I annoyed the neighbors to distraction through the month of May running my pneumatic cutting tool, air wrench and bench grinder. It was like Heavy Metal Heaven in the garage. Even I wore hearing protection. It was that loud. My compressor got a serious workout, as did I. Finally, after much cutting and drilling, Underdog came together on Memorial Day- and pretty much everything fit! Wow.
There was still a bunch of tweaking to do, and those extra-long tandem cables to buy, but the bike got built- AND IT WORKED. Ah, but how did it work, you ask? (Go ahead, ask.) Keep in mind that Underdog is 80 inches long and only 30 inches high at the top of the handlebars. It weighs in at 35 pounds (it’s got a couple of feet of heavy steel angle iron on the back end, along with 16 strong bolts, holding it all together). It’s a six speed with 100 psi road tires and the profile of a Steam Punk torpedo. Ok, so it looks really cool, but how does it ride? I’m glad you asked.
A number of people asked me, as they saw Underdog under construction, if I thought it would be tough to balance. I had no idea. At least it was low to the ground, so if it couldn’t be balanced, I didn’t have far to fall. That beats the snot out of how my high wheeler adventures ended up all those years ago. I will say this: I was seriously concerned with how low to the ground this thing was. NO ONE was going to see this thing on the road. If it was even rideable, was it safe?
Initial short test flights (in the garage and driveway) held on the evening of June 5th proved that it was at least rideable- but perhaps not the ideal machine for a 60-year old man to be playing with. Still, I rode it. It has a high stall speed, and it wants to go fast. Brakes are going to be very important. So is having plenty of rolling room. I need a longer runway for this thing. Much longer.
So here’s the deal: This coming Sunday afternoon, 1 p.m., June 12th, will be Underdog Day in Eagle Lake Park on Keene Road (between Belleair Road and East Bay Drive ) in Largo . JoAnn and I will be there, somewhere between Shelters 4 and 5, with Underdog, the prone bicycle.
You are invited to come and to laugh and point, and yes, to ride the thing. Bring your camera, as few will believe it, and words fail to describe. There’s a nice, reasonably flat, paved 5/8th mile loop right there in the park, so you can take this dog for a serious walk. Or ride, as the case may be. Hope to see you there!
(What does misery love?)



Saturday, June 4, 2011

Even The Taco Bus-mobile Needs A Pitstop Now And Then

Seminole Heights Bicycle Club's Easy Ride

How to grow bicycling? I think it's all about beinbg as inclusive as possible and making bike rides appeal to everyone who rides a bike no matter how fast you bike or what type of bike you have.

That's why the SHBC Easy Ride -- held the first Saturday of each month from my house at 8:30AM -- is such a kick for me.

It's a mere five miles through the tree-lined streets of Seminole Heights and you never know who will attend and pedal.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Biking The 4 Bridges On Early Sunday Mornings

There's no better time to bike in the Tampa Bay area than very early on a Sunday morning or a holiday morning.

Few cars on the road mean less threats. There's nothing inherently dangerous about riding a bicycle, but here in the Tampa Bay area there's always an occasional motorist who does not want to slow down to go around a bicyclist or who is distracted by his or her phone.

That's why I love lonely roads, when it's just me on my bicycle and the rare driver heading to work or visiting a friend or family member.

It's a great time to ride the 4 Bridges, my 50-mile ride when I follow a bridge across the Hillsborough River and three Bay bridges -- the Clearwater causeway, the Bayside Bridge in Clearwater and the Gandy Bridge.

The Courtney Campbell Causeway between Tampa and Clearwater has good and bad features.

The good? The frontage roads along the State Road 60 causeway that allow you to pedal next to the water.

But there's also the challenge of biking across the big span on the Tampa side where the shoulder is a mere three to four feet wide. It's not very pleasant biking when cars are zooming by your left shoulder by a foot or two.

Which is why I and SWFBUD support the Florida DOT plan to build a trail and new bridge along the causeway.

When biking in the bike lanes around Tampa Bay, you still have to be careful. I feel bike lanes reduce the risk of being struck by a motorized vehicle, but it's no automatic safe haven.

Plus, there's glass and debris in the bike lanes and also in Tampa there are even wheelchairs coming right at you in the bike lane. This fella was wheelchairing it against traffic in the bike lane on Manhattan Avenue in Tampa.

When there's only a few cars on the road during these early mornings, I see the individual cars very close up -- more than when there are many vehicles because the line of cars creats a blur effect.

That's why when I'm biking and a giant vehicle such as a Range Rover, Expedition, Excursion, Suburban or Hummer speeds by, the enormity of the vehicle is so apparent. Those vehicles don't seem to be built at a human scale.

The 4 Bridges Ride is a good early Sunday ride. It's great to bike on hilly country roads but I also get a kick out biking quietr and lonely main roads that are perfectly safe when there's only an occasional motorized vehicle.