October 2014 Archives

We had just pedaled - very slowly, with agonizing effort - our recumbent tandem up a 650' section of road with an average slope of 17.2%, and once things finally leveled out a bit, my wife wondered aloud whether we were getting too old for that sort of thing. I wanted to dispute that notion but I lacked the lung capacity to do so, and, in fact, had wondered that very thing.
 
Of course, we could have stopped, gotten off the bike, and walked the hill. That would have been an admission of defeat that we haven't experienced in 25 years, and to do so might be the admission that as far as riding over the hill, we're over the hill.
 
Horseshoe Bay has some killer hills, in addition to the one described above. If you're familiar with the area, you know there's a significant elevation gain between Ranch Road 2147 and the HSB airport. There are several roads to get you there, but they are all basically long and steep. You can take Hi Mesa, which begins with a thousand foot climb that averages 16.4% slope (with one mercifully short section of 41.7%!). Hi Stirrup is an alternative; it also has an initial thousand foot climb but the average slope is only 15.6%. Then, there's Nolen Drive - the most direct route to the airport and the one most people will drive. It begins with a 1350' climb that averages 11.3% slope (but the last half is 14%), with a brief leveling out before continuing another 800' that averages 14.7%. We've never ridden that section of road. I ran up it once, and that convinced me that a motorized vehicle is the only sane method of transit.
 
We've ridden many memorable hills over the course of our cycling lives, including:
 
  • Vail to Vail Pass, Colorado - one 10.4 mile stretch averages 8.5% slope, with one short section of more than 30%

  • Freedom Trail Road, Kerrville, Texas - a 1,250' section averages 11.3% slope

  • Keystone to Montezuma, Colorado - a 5 mile ride with an average slope of only 5.3%, but it starts at an elevation of more than 9300' and ends a thousand feet higher than that, and has one section with a 36% slope

  • Road from McDonald Observatory Visitors Center to the summit of Mt Locke - this is perhaps the most infamous of roads for Texas cyclists. The entire distance is just over a mile, but the average slope is 13%, but one 700' section averages almost 19%, and the maximum slope is a ghastly 38%. Full disclosure: we rode this on our single bikes, not our tandem.

  • Bear Mountain (Fort Davis Loop), Texas - 1.5 miles with an average slope of 8.4%, but one 600' section averages 18%

  • Road from Fort Davis to McDonald Observatory Visitors Center - 1.5 miles with an average slope of 9.45, and one 200' section that averages 31% and a 700' section averaging 15%

  • Bear Creek Road (what is it about steep "bear" roads?) outside of Fredericksburg, Texas - 600' section averaging 10%, but the last half averages 14%
Out of fairness to ourselves, it's worth mentioning that on a recumbent, you can't stand up and pedal...you have to gear down and grind it out. Also, our tandem weighs around 60 pounds with our Camelbaks, loaded rack, and other accessories. Given those challenges, and the fact that we still haven't had to walk any grades, I feel pretty confident that we're going to be cycling the hills for a long time to come.

Note: All of these measurements courtesy of Google Earth, and I can't vouch for their accuracy but my legs and lungs can. 

Feel free to comment on this post via email or on my Facebook post. If you're a cyclist or runner, what's the most challenging hill you've faced?

The Importance of Being Earnest...on Twitter
October 11, 2014 1:44 PM | Posted in: ,

So this happened last week.
Let's backtrack a second. Here's some context, in the form of a brief partial thread on Twitter:

Screenshot of Twitter thread

That conversation thread was pretty innocuous, beginning with the other person's statement about wearing a personal fitness device to a wedding. My reference to the Pogo quote was in response to the other person's expression of an observation that was different from mine, but the subject was hardly controversial, nor the conversation adversarial.

If you're not a Twitterzen, that reference to a "friendly block" means that the person whose Twitter feed I was following will no longer allow me to post messages on or respond to their timeline. This is the type of action normally reserved for stalkers or people who post offensive things on someone's page. Or, in the case of this person, apparently, people who publicly express a belief in God or claim personal Second Amendment rights.

Here's the profile that seems to scare this person:

Screenshot of my previous Twitter profile

Now, I don't really know anything about the other person, whom I was following because of some interesting things they'd posted. I did know enough to understand that we had some significantly different views and values, but I'm not threatened by associating with people with whom I don't see eye-to-eye on every subject. Obviously, not everyone feels the same way. But it's hardly a life-changing event, and certainly not worth losing sleep over.

So why am I devoting a blog post to it, if it's not a big deal?

It did make me think about whether the public face I'm displaying on social media accurately represents who I am, especially on Twitter where you're limited to 140 characters. Am I unintentionally turning away people because I've been too cavalier in my self-descriptions, or used humor without the proper context that leads to misunderstanding?

In the case of the "guns and God" phrase in my Twitter profile, I was taking a not-so-subtle dig at Barack Obama's [in]famous quote. This is my semi-tongue-in-cheek method of displaying my political leanings, but some may read more into it than I intended.

If you're going to engage people on social media, especially outside the confines of friends and family, I think you need to be as transparent as possible about the values and interests that are so important to you that they form a big part of your personal identity. The preceding exchange caused me to evaluate how I was doing in that respect, and I realized that I was inadvertently making myself out to be someone I'm not.

For example, I'm a big supporter of 2nd Amendment rights, but guns don't really play a big part in my life. On the other hand, expressing a vague belief in God as almost an afterthought - and in a decidedly flippant manner - understates the nature and importance of my faith.

So, if someone decides to block me because I'm a Christian, I've got no problem with that. It's who I am. But if you block me because you think I'm a wild-eyed gun fanatic, then you've misread who I am. And, perhaps, that's because I inadvertently misrepresented myself.

Given those considerations, I've rewritten my Twitter profile so that anyone who sees it will be able to place in context anything I post or link to. It's not perfect, but I think it's better, and I hope it's adequate to let people know who they're dealing with.

Screenshot of my new Twitter profile

If you'd like to comment on this post, please email me or post something on my Facebook page.

Wrong Way Looking: Remedial Driver's Ed
October 6, 2014 9:34 PM | Posted in: ,

So, let me ask you a question. Is it just me, or have you also noticed that many drivers pulling up to an intersection tend to look to their right, and then back to their left after they start to move into the intersection?

I can't find any definitive statistics about whether the driver's side gets hit more often in side-impact collisions than the passenger's side, but based on my observations, I wouldn't be surprised to learn it's the former...simply because drivers are engaged in that peculiar behavior.

It's not an academic question from my perspective. It's not unusual for us to spot this kind of strange driver behavior when we're out on our bicycle, and trust me when I say that inattentive drivers are a cyclist's biggest nightmare. I can't count the number of times we've had cars pull in front of us (or begin to do so) and then spot us at the last second, simply because they looked right and then looked left only after starting to move into the intersection. (To be clear, in all of these instances, we've had the right of way.) Cyclists are always advised to try to make eye contact with drivers to increase awareness, but it's hard to make eye contact when they don't look at you until it's too late.

My firm recollection from driver's ed was the admonition to "look left, look right, then look left again." That was good advice back when we were riding mastodons, and it's still good practice. I'm dismayed that more drivers don't seem to be aware of it.

Comments? Email them or post them on my Facebook page. We'll all be glad you did.

Comments Disabled
October 5, 2014 8:16 PM | Posted in: ,

After almost twelve years of blogging, I've made the hard decision to disable comments on the Gazette.There are several reasons, including:

  • The blog platform I use, Movable Type, is a little buggy in its implementation of registration and some people have told me they haven't been able to get signed up in order to leave comments. I could probably fix this by either upgrading MT or switching to a better platform like WordPress, but frankly, I'm too lazy.

  • I could also solve the problem by removing the registration requirement, but that would open the floodgates to comment spammers. Again, I don't have the time or patience to deal with issue.

  • But, most important, most of the comments I get on posts actually show up on the Facebook post where I notify folks of new material. And because everything I post on the Gazette is  linked via a public Facebook post, there's no technical reason for someone not to leave a comment, even if it's not on the blog itself. I could make this process easier by including a link to the Facebook post at the bottom of each article, and I'll give serious consideration to doing just that. It might make for an interesting experiment to assess the level of interaction between the two media. (It does raise a "chicken and the egg" sort of question about the timing and logistics of the cross-linking. I have to post a link on Facebook in order to generate a link to that post that I can include on the blog post. Got that?)
I confess that I miss the good old days of blogging, in which almost every post elicited comments from readers that often turned into interesting, entertaining, or challenging discussions. But those days are gone, at least for the Gazette. My hope is that the discussions and interactions can simply shift to another medium.

Care to comment on this? You can do so via my Facebook page, or email me.

Shot through the barrel of a Canon
October 5, 2014 2:19 PM | Posted in:

Having the incredible - and surprising - foresight to get the yard work done on Friday afternoon, I found myself on Saturday evening with enough time on my hands to snap a few pictures. These will eventually be loaded into the Fire Ant Gallery, but for now, this post is the exclusive portal through which to view these limited edition photos. 

If that's not pretentious enough for you, let me know and I'll try harder next time.

Click on the small images for bigger versions, and to go through them slideshow-style.



About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2014 is the previous archive.

November 2014 is the next archive.

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