Archive for January 2009

Maybe You Can Do All Kinds Of Rides In The Winter

January 31, 2009

Just a day after I said I did not like doing long road rides in the winter, seven of us did an 80 mile ride today. And it was good. For three main reasons.

To start, we rode the whole thing under blue skies and with little to no wind. Though chilly at the start, we enjoyed temps in the 60’s by the end. In short, perfect weather.

We did one of my favorite routes, too. We go north from town up to Mooringsport and then over to State Line Road before heading back through Longwood and Blanchard. The whole thing is very low traffic, most of the roads are good to excellent surfaces, the terrain varies enough to make things interesting, and the areas are somewhat scenic. It’s much better than the much more popular southern routes.

None of that would matter, though, if I’d rode like crap. Far from it, I am somewhat proud of my performance.

Of our group, one guy was clearly weaker than me, five were about the same, and one is probably one of the three or four strongest riders in Shreveport. That guy, when up front, set the pace in the mid-twenties. The rest of us, except for the weakest guy, would get up front and back it down to the low twenties. Here’s reason number one I’m bragging: All the other guys got up front and pulled for maybe a minute at a time, I kept at it for several times as long. I had two reasons for my extra work. Primarily, I figured the more time I was up front going slow, the more time the stud was in the back. Also, my ego played a role. I might not be able to pull at 25, but I can at least man up and pull at 22 for three miles or so.

About a third of the way through the ride, the slowest guy fell off the back. I decided to wait for him so he would not have to ride the rest of the way by himself. We rode side by side and b.s.’ed for a while. Then I got back in front and pulled him all the way to our planned store stop where we met the rest of the group. That was about 15-20 miles riding essentially solo. When we all left the store together, I resisted the urge to rest at the back of the line and continued to take my turns up front. Again, this made me happy.

Now the finale. With about six miles until town, the stud picked up the pace. The group tenuously hung together until a series of rolling hills when we split. Up front was the stud and one other guy. Fifty feet back was the one female rider. (Also a stud). Another ten or twenty was me. Then somewhere behind me was everyone else. I wanted to fade back to the slower guys. At this point, there would have been no shame. But I lowered my head and hammered until I caught the lead two. I hung with them until we finally made it back into town and slowed down, at which point I did go back for everyone else.

When I ride with my wife I always tell her cycling skills are all relative. She thinks I’m a cycling stud. But here I am writing a post basically saying I am thrilled to have simply held another guy’s wheel today. And if he’d really wanted to, he could have dropped me at any time. He didn’t, though, so for today I feel good.

I Think I Like Winter Riding Better Than Summer Riding

January 30, 2009

I used to park my bikes for the winter. Now I’ve totally changed my mind, and I think the reason is variety.

There’s lots of advantages to summer rides. Less clothing for one. Sometimes in the winter it takes me longer to get dressed for a ride than it did for work that day. Shorts, leg warmers, long sleeve top, jacket, long gloves, ear warmers, shoe covers, and on an on. If you ride during the week, you also need a light, as it gets dark by six. They aren’t that expensive, but once you have them, you have to remember to charge it (or keep fresh batteries in it, if it uses that kind). In the summer, you just throw on the shorts and jersey and ride.

Still, summer is only good for one kind of ride: The long solo or group road ride. Even with mild winter temps down here, I still don’t want to spend more than a few hours on my road bike. Eventually I’ll get cold. The wind is usually stronger and more unpredictable, too. In the summer, though, you can go as long as the gatorade lasts.

However, that’s really all summer is good for. You really can’t do my other two favorite type of rides: Night rides and mountain bike rides.

Up north, you can ride your mountain bike all year. Down here? No way. From June through September the woods are too hot, too overgrown, and – most importantly – too buggy to ride. Unless you enjoy stopping every fifty feet to wipe cobwebs and big a** spiders off of you, you won’t like the trails in the summer. Of course, you can always try to sucker someone else into riding with you and going first, that way they clear the trails for you. But it won’t take long before they want to switch.

Night rides are also out of the question, unless you want to stay up until midnight riding. For most of the summer, it won’t get dark until well after eight. Maybe there’s some folks who could go ride at that hour. I’m not one of them. By nine I’m already thinking about bed time.

Winter is the perfect time for these rides. Last night, for instance, I combined them. Right at five, I strapped the lights on my bike and rolled out of the driveway towards the Stoner Trails. I spent the last of the daylight and a few minutes of darkness on the trails, then followed the bike path into downtown. After spinning around downtown enjoying all the lights and sounds, I followed the bike path back to Stoner, exited into Anderson Island and cut through there to my house in Broadmoor. No idea how far it was or how fast I went, but it was two hours of fun I could never have had in the summer time.

Like I said, in the winter you can still enjoy a medium length road ride. Some folks even still do centuries every weekend. So, I’ve decided that because winter is perfect for the trails and for night riding plus you can still ride the roadie, winter is better than summer for cycling.

That said, I’m still ready for warm weather.

Good Clothes/Language Question

January 28, 2009

Barbara Wallraff’s most recent word fugitive:

Carolyn Haggis, of Oxford, England, writes, “I’m looking for a word for the items of clothing which sit perched on a chair in my bedroom, waiting to be reworn. They are not yet ready for the laundry bin (since I plan to rewear them), but they are no longer suitable for the wardrobe (which I reserve for clean clothes). I assume others keep their lightly worn clothes in a similar purgatory?”

I certainly have that issue. Not just with regular clothes, but also – during colder months – with bike clothes. Even when I ride hard, I won’t sweat much when the temps are below fifty. That means my shorts and jersey will still be clean post-ride, even if not fresh enough to put back in their respective drawers. So, not wanting to prematurely wear out my clothes by overwashing, either, I hang them on the hamper. Or leave them on the bathroom floor. Or on the bed. Or wherever.

I’ve never had a word to describe clothes in that state. It would be nice to have one, though. That would be much easier than trying to explain the situation every time I am asked why, if they are not “dirty,” (i.e. ready to be washed) I have not put them away. Some of the suggestions in the comments over there are good, but none seems perfect. I’ll keep checking.

Unintended Consequences Of Banning Cock Fighting

January 28, 2009

Like some of the commentators at the Times said, this is now how people in Haughton entertain themselves:

Jennifer Ann Madden, 35, of the 3400 block of Eliga, was taken into custody Tuesday after investigators determined she had recruited other people, most of whom were under age 17, to meet in the 100 block of Fullwood for the purpose of fighting.

Madden has been arrested for inciting a riot, riot, aggravated property damage, contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile and two counts of simple battery, a release from the Bossier sheriff’s office says.

The confrontation involved Airline High School students and Haughton High School students and it resulted in two vehicles being damaged, one child left beaten in a ditch and several other children injured, deputies said.

Madden gave directions to the fight, slapped two minor children and jumped up and down on the hood of a vehicle at the scene, the release said. Pool cues fashioned as weapons and bricks were recovered from Madden’s vehicle.

Really, what more can you say? No words could say “loser” more powerfully than does the image of a 34 year old woman jumping on the roof of a car urging a bunch of high schoolers to fight with each other.

And what should her penalty be? Being herself sounds like pain enough.

Types Of Bike-Car Crashes

January 27, 2009

This story brought the issue to mind:

A teenaged girl was injured trying to cross Interstate 20 in Bossier City early today, police there report.

The unidentified 13-year-old cyclist, who police at first said appeared to be in her early 20s, was struck by a westbound Ford Taurus just after 7 a.m. as she tried to cross the superhighway in front of the Louisiana state police Troop G headquarters.

I’d really like to know how many car related cycling injuries are suffered by kids and utilitarian cyclists as opposed to spandex types like me. Most people I ride with at least know someone who has been hit by a car, but I still bet it’s rare for sport cyclists to get hit. The reason is that most of us, even if we annoy drivers, know how to stay relatively safe: Be predictable, wear visible clothes, ride like a car. On the other hand, how many folks are there who get off work as a dishwasher at midnight, hop on their lightless and reflectorless old beater, and pedal in dark clothes on the wrong side of the road to the house? My guess is quite a few. I’d also guess they’re the majority of the car casualties, too.

If I’m right, there’s a corollary. Because sport cyclists know how to ride relatively safely, most of the time when there’s a wreck, the car driver is at fault. For the utilitarians, not so. If they had only known and followed a few safety rules, they’d have made it home.

I’m only guessing here. I may be totally wrong. In any event, everyone really ought to pay more attention to what they’re doing.

Jobs and Taxes v. Neighborhood Quality Of Life

January 26, 2009

There’s a proposal to build a huge recycling facility near the Martin Luther King neighborhood. It would supposedly create hundreds of decent jobs. Currently, the site is a dump for construction waste. It’s also currently involved in a lawsuit over possible zoning violations. The existence of that lawsuit prevents the city from considering the necessary zoning variences for the recylcing center. Not wanting to wait for the lawsuit to end, the company planning the recycling center is looking elsewhere.

All that said, this might seem like a great opportunity the city is letting slip away. But Mayor Glover thinks we’d be fine without it:

Part of the Clean Earth recycling process includes everyday garbage, meaning the purpose of Harrelson’s landfill would change. Currently, it accepts only construction debris.

During a recent City Council meeting, Mayor Cedric Glover publicly opposed bringing household garbage to the Martin Luther King Jr. community.

He said the negative impact the landfill would have on neighborhoods surrounding the proposed site was not worth the jobs it would create.

This isn’t the first time Glover has opposed Harrelson.

He opposed the current construction debris landfill back in 1994.

“What is currently there now represents a detrimental element to the neighborhood,” he said. “You do not sell your soul and the quality and integrity of our neighborhoods for jobs.”

Glover said the facility could locate in another part of the city, like near the Woolworth landfill.

“The idea of any area adjacent to the MLK community becoming a location for the disposal of municipal solid waste, I can not abide by,” Glover said. “For that reason alone I am in opposition.”

I really like having a mayor capable of weighing ALL the costs to a development project. That is, not just the expenses of tax breaks and what not used to lure the company, but the decreased value of people’s homes and neighborhoods. Too many local officials hear “jobs” and begin salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. They’re ready to do whatever is asked to bring those jobs home, never considering whether the benefits outweigh ALL the costs.

That said, I’m not sure I’m with the mayor here. The site is bordered by I-220 on the west, Twelve Mile Bayou on the North, Shreveport-Blanchard Highway on the South, and North Hearne on the East. (See the map, here). There is just no way anything that happens there could impact a neighborhood. Most of the areas around the site are industrial. All the access roads are thoroughfares and the nearest neighborhood (MLK) has I-220 between it and the dump. Sure, as the crow flies, it’s probably only a mile from the closest home. But the interstate will more than insulate the neighborhood from any additional noise and activity. They won’t notice anything more than they do now: The hum of traffic on the highway.

Maybe he knows something I don’t. The Mayor has seemed like a sensible person so far in his administration. But if his only objection is potential harm to the MLK area, I hope he soon changes his opinion.

The ACLU: Not Just For Homosexual Terrorist Muslims Anymore

January 26, 2009

Two interesting cases.

First, from right here in Louisiana, the ultimate “I disagree with what you have to say but will defend your right to say it” case:

Lawyers for the ACLU’s Louisiana chapter signed up this week to represent Johnny Duncan in the case he filed last year in U.S. District Court against the city of Amite, its police department and several city officials and police officers.

Duncan said he was parked outside a restaurant in Amite, about 75 miles north of New Orleans, in August 2007 when police officers confronted him about a sign on his car advertising a book he wrote called “You Might Be a N—–.” The officers cited him for violating the state’s obscenity law, but the ticket was later dismissed.

The ACLU, which describes Duncan’s book as a political and social commentary, said the title may be offensive but isn’t obscene.

“The facts of this case show that Mr. Duncan was detained for no reason other than that the police in Amite didn’t like what he had to say,” ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman said in a statement.

Good for them. I hope they win. It is every American’s right to offend every other American.

The second case is from Minnesota. It caught my eye because the ACLU recently successfully challenged our own state’s practice of giving money to Christian Churches.

The ACLU lawsuit against the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy claims the charter school runs roughshod over the line that separates church and state.

TiZA, as the school is known, serves mostly immigrant children, many of them from Muslim countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. And it makes no apologies for catering to Muslims.

Arabic language classes are offered and school leaders note how important parents find it to have time set aside for Muslim prayer – and that time is optional.

But the ACLU claims that lost classroom time is never made up. The federal lawsuit also questions the relationship between the academy and its charter school sponsor, California-based Islamic Relief USA.

It claims a prayer is illegally posted at the school’s entrance and it questions the school’s dress code, which prohibits girls from wearing short sleeves per Muslim clothing rules. And the suit notes that school buses don’t pick up kids until an hour after class ends, with the gap being filled with a Muslim studies program that most kids are enrolled in.

“This is in many respects – almost all respects – a religious school, like a private religious school, except for one key thing: There’s state money going in there,” according to Chuck Samuelson, the ACLU’s executive director.

There would be no lawsuit if TiZA were private, he says. But TiZA gets tax money, $3.8 million this year, which changes the ballgame.

“If they want to be a private school, then that’s fine. But then they have to give up state money and if they want the state money, then they have to behave as a public school does.”

That last quote sounds simple enough. It’s a shame that after lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit, such an amazing number of public officials don’t understand it. The government has no business funding religious teachings of any kind. Good luck to the ACLU in this lawsuit.