Wednesday, July 30, 2008


In the local news today: the trucking company who's driver killed Jane Higdon 2 years ago is set to give $1 million to a bike safety fund. Then, a story on bikes vs. vehicles. It's good to see some neutral coverage of bikes as transportation, without some of the negative, anti-bike coverage the press usually generates. The new reality is settling in and growing, and we're lucky enough to have some of the most progressive bike freindly streets around. Yet, every day that I commute or just ride through town, I get a taste of why there is still conflict and danger on the streets: there are dangerous motorists, and there are equally dangerous and stupid cyclists, and every dangerous cyclist is just antagonizing one of those ass-wipes with the 4000lb guided missle. Yesterday, I almost nailed a dude, on a recumbent, going the wrong way down a bike lane on 18th, whom I didn't see coming at me through the shadows at about 5pm. Jay-sus. My alternatives: swerve into traffic, or hit him. Neither is good.

If I can see them coming, I usually pick a third alternative with the directionally challenged bikers: I put myself right at the curb, push out the elbows, and play chicken. It works with the bums, the clueless, and the baggy-pants bmx riding punks who are having issues with a straight line anyways. It especially works with the fixed gear hipsters who can't hit their non existent brakes and squawk in fright as their tail-feathers are ruffled in the head-on traffic. Better you than me, dude, I'm following the law.

I've noticed a large pick-up in bike traffic in the last few months as a) gas prices have taken off and b) the weather has permitted it. I have seen more commuters out than any other time before and with the extra riders come the extra conflicts.

I saw a guy on a fixie ride the wrong way up 13th avenue and bail off his bike in front of midtown pipe and tobacco. Not helping the cause. I saw another fixer ride off a curb in front of traffic to cross 18th because he had committed to the move before he saw the cars coming and almost got smacked. I saw that recumbent cruising the wrong way down the bike lane and scare the be-jay-sus out of me when I almost nailed him head-on. I see guys going the wrong way up the bike lane on Bertelson all the time, but at least I can see them coming for a ways.

I've been brushed by cars and trucks on purpose, had a cars hit their horns right as they passed me, been yelled at, had various items tossed from windows at me, had cars going the opposite way honk their horns just to give me the finger as I go by, and been almost caught by vehicles passing then making a right turn in front of me several times, including by one guy in a truck with a boat trailer who passed then started to turn into a DairyMart parking lot before the trailer had gone by me, on 28th. I executed a hard-right crit style turn to save my butt on that one, and was lucky I didn't hit someone coming out of the lot.

It's US vs THEM out there alright, but not the way you think. It's not cars vs bikes. It's smart vs dumb. It's respectful vs disrespectful. It's legal vs illegal. It's people vs people.

Don't be a dumbass. Don't stand for people who are. If some idiot is riding the wrong way down a bike lane, stop and set them straight, just like you would get the plates of someone who is driving dangerously. It's all the symptoms of the same disease. Our infrastructure has a long way to go before it's comfortably accommodating of bikes as serious transportation but we won't get there with a large percentage of 'people on bikes' (note i didn't say 'cyclists') behaving as scofflaws, just like we won't with a large percentage of motorists being ignorant of the laws and worse, not caring. The bike-car interactions are just going to keep growing. Let's make sure we do our part and police our own ranks as we go.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Velonews reports that American Beef is signing on as a co-sponsor of former Saunier Duval. How eerily appropriate - doped-up cows sponsoring a doped-up team. Maybe the direct line to bovine growth hormone will make for some impressive riding at the Vuelta, or maybe your next burger will come with extra red cells for new and improved juiciness. I guess you can always learn from other industries.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


If I could only do one Oregon ride a year, McKenzie Pass would be it. No question, hands down, my favorite. So after hearing various stories and rumors regarding the status of the road this year, I decided to take the opportunity of having the woman out of town for the week to load up with a bike, cooler, and change of clothes, and do some exploring.

According to ODOT, 242 is closed to traffic during construction work between the snow gate at mile 11 or so, and the top of the pass. However, 'closed to traffic' and 'unrideable' are two different things. I had heard a rumor that it was passable on weekend when no road crews were hauling 40ft loads of gravel down the middle of the road, and no expecting rogue cyclists. I also heard that two bridges somewhere on the road and had been TNT'd and were being rebuilt, meaning that the road was completely shut unless you brought some hiking shoes and a machete (of which I own neither). So I figured that at the very least, the bottom half of the climb it a worthwhile trip in and of itself, and I would see how far I got.

As it turned out, I got exactly as far as the gate. And both rumors and reports were somewhat true, ironically. ODOT is in fact rebuilding two bridges, but there are temporary bridges up that they are using to drive trucks across. So the road is rideable, although presumably somewhat debris-littered. However, the road is completely closed, since in their wisdom either the county, state, or contractor has installed a live-in gate keeper, who we shall call 'Cleetus'. Cleetus is, in fact, the road closure.

Cleetus has two dogs, one trailer, one truck, and half a mouthful of teeth. He also has some tattoos. I believe that he owns exactly one pair of shoes, one pair of jeans, and two t-shirts. He also owns a gun. Or several, but one of which was on hand.

After 50min or so of rolling and sweating from the ranger station, I came up to the gate, where Cleetus was leaning against the rail on the other side.
G: "Hi."
C: "The road is closed. You're not going through."

OK... so who are you, exactly?

G: "Um, ok, where is the road closed?"
C: "Right here. Says road closed. You're not crossing this gate."
G: "But you're on that side of the gate"
C: "See that trailer over there? I'm living here. I'm the guy who keeps people out."

I see now. Some banter ensues. I ask about the details of the road project, where the hiking trails are closed, how open the road is from the sisters side, what the project timelines are, etc. He keeps coming back to the point of not letting anyone through, on foot or otherwise. Talks about some people getting belligerent.

C: "I won't lie to you. I'm not armed... except for that little .45 under the seat of my truck."

OK. Cleetus has a gun. Somehow I don't think it's in the truck like he says. He also hasn't moved in 10 minutes. He's looking at me sideways and facing slightly away from me. He is chewing something that I can't identify with his remaining teeth. I think he is chewing without molars. His dog is friendly enough but there is another dog in the trailer. At this point, I know I'm not going to check out the closure beyond this point because, no matter how rideable the road theoretically is, Cleetus is a reality. If I snuck by while he was dozing in the trailer I might get shot on my way back down. By a .45. That's OK, this morning I had figured there was a really good chance I wouldn't make it to the top, but thought it would be because of long stretches of missing roads, not a greying back-woods type sneering and vaguely threatening bodily hard if I made a move towards crossing the gate.

So I strike up some small talk.

G: "So how long are you here for?"
C: "I'm here until they're done. They are supposed to wrap this up by the end of August, and they've been busting their asses to get it done. I tell you what, they better hurry up 'cause I'm calling on a new job tomorrow mornin'."
G: "Oh yeah? Same sort? Where at?"
C: "Dunno. Didn't say. Said 'remote cabin' and had a phone number. Remote. I like remote."

Yeah, I bet you do. Don't look like the socializin' type.

Cleetus and I talked some more. I struck a chord when I shifted the topic to guns, and hunting. He says he doesn't hunt anymore, but said he wished he had his .410 with him up on that hill, there's so many rabbits around.

C: "Ain't no jacks, either. Fucking bunnyhoppers. Rabbit stew? Tasty."

He tells me he's from Oakridge. Shoots a lot of rabbits up there. If I want to kill some bunnies I should drive up a road around dusk, and make a mark of every rock on the road. Turn around at dark, drive back, and if I see a rock that wasn't there earlier, shoot the sum-na-bitch. He was back there last weekend, driving around with his brother. Shot a bunch of grouse in the road from the passenger side of his brother's truck. Of course, I don't mention that it's not grouse season, and shooting across roads is illegal, much less shooting at them. Cleetus is not the kind who cares. He probably doesn't have a license or registration for that truck, since I'm pretty sure those tags are expired. I doubt he pays taxes. That "little .45" he has tucked in there? Told me he cut up his old 29ft trailer to get the mice out ("Fucking mice had stored dogfood up in the insulation in the ceiling. Took a sawsall to it, fucking full of dogfood."), then traded the frame of the trailer for the .45. It was either that or a snowmobile, apparently, and he didn't really want a snowmobile.

At this point I wished him good luck with his new job tomorrow, and coasted the 20k on back down to the car. I enacted plan B and climbed up to Cougar reservoir and cruised the Aufterheide in the midday sun, keeping an eye for Cleetus' brother driving the otherway with a shottie out the drivers window looking for grouse.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


July. Le Tour. Cycling itself, defined, over three weeks in July. For three weeks, I don't care if they all pack a bucket of cow's blood every morning, I'm still up early watching before work and then up late watching the re-runs after dinner. Maybe this is what the rest of America feels for the NFL. I doubt it, though, because nothing comes close to being a fan for a sport you actually participate in. I swear, I ride better in July just because the Tour is on TV.

And speaking of, did anyone else catch Jonathan Vaughters dropping the F-bomb live during the time trial? I'm sure VS took a big smacking from the FCC for that one. It was pretty priceless, though - JV was so excited he didn't notice either what he said, or how Robbie Ventura froze, dropped his jaw, glanced back and forth at the camera, and lost his train of thought. Priceless. JV kept on talking. Way to smooth it over, Robbie.

It's stinking hot. I showed up to the crit with four water bottles. Last week I only needed three. Sheesh. At least the legs are turning, though. And sleeveless morning rides before work are pretty sweet, too. July.