Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Beautiful Day For a Ride

So I took a bit of a drenching on my ride home this afternoon. I took my usual route, which is about an hour of riding, plenty of time to get soaked through.  There is nothing like a shower, some dry clothes and a hot cup of coffee (I'm going to put some cocoa in mine) after a ride like that.

I got to turn on all of my blinking lights and plow through the pouring rain. I decided I would also sing at the top of my lungs since nobody would be outside listening to me. Yup, I'm that crazy guy singing and biking in the rain.  I am pretty ill prepared for rides like this, I'm sure there is a way to get from point A to point B on a bike, in the rain, without getting drenched but I don't know of it. Fortunately, it isn't cold in North Carolina at this time of year.

I'm looking forward to pushing my rides into winter this year.  I ride my bike year-round, but usually during the winter I head to the bus stop with my bike.  I'm going to try and bike all the way to work, at least once or twice a week, through the winter this year.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Biking in Ethiopia

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My wife and I are planning an international adoption through Ethiopia. The process requires two visits to Ethiopia within six weeks of each other. We are talking about touring Ethiopia during the intervening six weeks instead of making two trips. I have come up withe idea of doing our in country travel by bike.

It seems like a doable plan except for serious logistical planning that would go into it might interfere with serious logistical planning that goes into the adoption process.  So while this pie-in-the-sky idea lingers in my mind, I wonder how realistic an idea it is. I do have one advantage of being a former Peace Corps volunteer, meaning we may be able to contact the Ethiopian Peace Corps community for help finding places to spend the night, eat meals and get reliable translation of local languages whether it be Amharic or otherwise.

The other issue with touring by bike is making sure both Kyra and I are in the best physical condition to complete the trip.  Ethiopia is a mountainous country with many a dirt road. Additionally, the season we are in Ethiopia is dictated entirely by the adoption process. I have not looked into the climate of Ethiopia, but I would guess like much of sub-saharan Africa it has a rainy season, which would be a difficult time to bike around the country.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A mini rant

Dear Lady who cut me off at Mt. Moriah Rd,

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     Your little stunt today could have cost a life,  so here are some tips for sharing the road. First off a cyclist going straight at an intersection does have the right of way if you are turning right across the cyclist's path. If the cyclist is already in said intersection you do not have enough time to sneak in front of them and turn. If you absolutely must cut the cyclist off, for God's sake use your goddamn turn signal so s/he knows you're planning to be an asshole, it could make the difference between a pissed off biker and a dead biker.

Thnx Bye

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Route #3, Mt. Sinai, aka my favorite route

17.9 miles, about 1 hour and 10 minutes

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As indicated by the post title, this is currently my favorite route to ride between home and work. That may not be as true returning home because Martin Luther King Boulevard going out of Chapel Hill is mostly uphill.
      Anyhow, this route starts out the same as the rest of my routes. I take Pickett Road out to Randolph then Erwin. However, when I get to Erwin I just cross over and keep going out Kerley Road for a few hundred feet to Mount Sinai Road.
Mt. Sinai Road

Mt. Sinai Road: I love biking on Mt. Sinai Road despite the large hill right after I turn onto the road. The shoulders are not super wide on Mt. Sinai, but traffic is low, and the cars seem to be very used to bikers. In fact I tend to see the most cyclists when I take this route to Chapel Hill. Most of the people out here look like recreational bikers, not commuters, because only idiots choose a longer route for their bike commute.  I am a self proclaimed idiot, I love to experiment with longer commutes.  I prefer less stressful routes even if they add a half hour to my commute. 

Millhouse Road: Mt. Sinai Road crosses Route 86 and becomes Millhouse Road. There is a barbeque joint on the corner that is always fired up in the morning when I bike by. It almost makes me want to start eating pork ribs, it smells pretty good. Millhouse is a nice quiet road that has wide bike lanes on the second half. The first half on Millhouse has no shoulders, but little to no traffic, there is nothing back here but a horse farm and a Waldorf School.

Eubanks Road: Eubanks is the worst part of this ride, but it's short so I can accept it. Eubanks is in a state of major disrepair, on top of that there is a constant flow of buses, UPS trucks (there is a distribution center on Eubanks), garbage trucks (Orange County Landfill is farther up Eubanks) and construction vehicles (there seem to be some developments going up). This combined with no shoulders and heavily cracked pavement forcing you to bike into the lane make this a tense section of road to bike on. Like I said though it is less than a mile long, so mount a mirror on your helmet or handlebar and watch for large vehicles before you swerve around that giant crack in the road.

UPDATE: Eubanks road is being repaired and widened, see new post.

Eubanks Road connects to Martin Luther King Boulevard, and the rest of this ride plays out like the end of Route #2. So connect to that post to see the rest.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Route #2, Whitfield road to MLK boulevard

Total Distance 14.9 miles, about one-hour ride.

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So this second route that I have taken a couple of times gets me off of Erwin Road sooner than my usual ride. It is a bit longer due to the shunt over to Martin luther King Boulevard on Whitfield Road. Honestly this route doesn't really make me feel any safer while I'm out there.

Whitfield Road: Whitfield Road has more traffic than I expected it would. I'm not sure where everybody is coming from or going to, but there tends to be a fair number of vehicles driving this road.  On top of the traffic, there is not much of a shoulder for the entire length of Whitfield.

Martin Luther King Boulevard: The one thing I learned from taking this route is that MLK Boulevard in Chapel Hill is very well equipped to handle cycling traffic. There are dedicated bike lanes on both sides of the road for almost the length of this ride.  The grade is sloped mostly down toward the UNC campus, but gently so your not flying down a steep hill. This does make for a very quick ride end to end.  The slowest part is the last half mile or so, which is a bit of a hill.  If you're lucky you'll catch the green light at the bottom of the hill and momentum will be your friend for the first part of the climb.  I travel this route faster than the heavily used busses, i.e. if I see an NS bus at Eubanks Road headed toward UNC, I will get to work before the bus gets to Manning Drive.

 From the intersection with Franklin Street my ride through campus is the same as my usual route.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Usual Route (Erwin Road)

13.1 miles, about a 50 minute ride.

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So I'll start by describing my usual route to work. I'll be the first to admit this is not an ideal bike route. However, I have noticed more the number of bikes along this route rising since I started riding it three years ago. I used to pass the occasional rider once a week or so, now I am almost guaranteed to see another rider on every trip.  Here are descriptions of the four main parts of the trip.

Pickett Road
Pickett Road: Pickett is shoulderless, but traffic is relatively slow and there are few cars.  Traffic can be a problem around Garrett road and near Durham Academy at the beginning of school hours.  The surface is super nice because it was paved at the beginning of the summer 2010, unfortunately they neglected to widen it a little for bikes when they repaved.

Erwin Road: Erwin has a fairly wide shoulder, it's not a bike lane, but it is absolutely necessary for the speed and volume of the traffic you will encounter on Erwin. Erwin is definitely the route of choice for auto commuters avoiding 15-501. My ride includes only about 10 minutes on Erwin, which is too much if you ask me, I don't like biking on this road.
Erwin Road

Franklin Street: If you live in Chapel Hill and ride your bike, you've biked on Franklin Street. This the main artery through Chapel Hill. Coming from Durham, I ride Franklin almost from end to end. I join at the east end of Franklin where it begins as a four lane 35 mile per hour clusterfuck with all sorts of businesses and side streets on both sides. There is no bike lane and the gutter has some crazy storm drains that I'm sure could catch a bike wheel. Traffic is heavy during rush hour and cars are turning on and off, so you have to be very alert here.
     Eventually, you get past the business end of Franklin Street, and head toward the residential/campus end. After you cross Estes Drive you are past most of the businesses/malls but now you head up the eponymous hill. It's not that big a hill, my GPS data says about a 200 ft climb, but some days it seems to go on forever.

Campus: The final section of this route is through the UNC campus, which I will define as the top of the Franklin Street hill just described. The Franklin street speed limit drops as you approach campus, down to 20mph. I go right up to Columbia Street on Franklin. Franklin is kinda crazy on campus, but traffic is slow. You do have to dodge unloading delivery trucks, busses and thousands of students. The entire route through campus including Columbia and Pittsboro Streets is littered with busses, trucks and students. Trucks stop in the middle of Pittsboro street to unload goods for the Carolina Inn. There is also a good deal of construction through campus that robs us of our bike lanes.

As I said at the beginning, this route is not ideal. I will post some of my longer commutes that are safer, but longer.  They are also prettier routes!