Sunday, February 20, 2011

Durham -> Chapel Hill Bike Pool = FREE BEER

I want to see more cyclists biking to work.  I want to see fewer cars on the road. I want to commute in a pack of cyclists providing visibility and support. Right now I ride alone from Durham to Chapel Hill each morning and I know there are others out there doing the same thing, or just waiting for the right opportunity to start.
     Spring is right around the corner, and I know bikes all over the triangle are being yanked from winter storage and cleaned off for the new season.  Or new bikes are being purchased at end-of-winter clearance sales just waiting for a rider to hop on 'em and go. I am looking for a small group of riders who want to pool together into a "bike pool". The benefits of a bike pool include: being more visible to drivers, having support of other riders in case of flats or other bike issues, companionship, and FREE BEER.
     WHA? FREE BEER? I propose that the bike pool will ride together daily, to Chapel Hill in the morning, back to Durham in the evening, ending at a beer serving establishment of Fridays, (e.g. FullSteam). For those riders riding as much as or more than me for the week, first round is on me.

I am willing to ride any of the routes I have written about, or get creative and take a new route depending on interest.

Ground rules for this bike pool are not set and will depend on who, if anybody joins the pool.

I do not ride fast and I'm willing to slow down a bit to get people new to bike commuting to join.

Leave a comment with some sort of contact information if you are interested in this concept, or just the free beer.

One thing is for sure, I'll be out there riding.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Trans-Gambia Bike Ride (2002)

If there is one bike ride I remember very fondly, it is the time I crossed The Gambia with my friend Will.  We were Peace Corps volunteers in Senegal at the time, and we decided we wanted to see The Gambia, but not through the window of a bus speeding down the dusty red laterite road. So one early morning we hopped on our Peace Corps issue Trek mountain bikes and headed south from Nioro du Rip. We carried with us water, a change of clothes, and a list of Gambian Peace Corps volunteers to look for along the way and beg for floor space on which to sleep.

Considering how little planning went into the trip the results were great. We made it from end to end (Nioro du Rip to Velingara, via Gambia) with no real incidents, and never had to spend the night in an uncomfortable situation. However, if I were to do it again I would avoid planning my bike trip during Ramadan in a heavily Muslim country. When you are biking 60 miles in the hot sun, food and water are important to have. After very early morning it was hard to find food until sunset. The food at sunset was amazing though.

I guess we had some toilet paper in our pack too, but how much pooping you gonna do when there is little food to be had, and you're biking all day long. I guess a fair amount if you're drinking whatever water you can find.

Me and a Gambia volunteer, Jenny

Along our way we stayed with fellow Peace Corps volunteers and in Peace Corps regional houses.  We enjoyed West African hospitality, often sharing meals with Peace Corps volunteer host families as if we were honored guests. Gambia volunteers allowed us to sleep on their floors despite our state of filth from daily cycling.

The most interesting volunteer we met, by far, was Robert. We stayed with Robert our first night, his story was interesting. He had been a mortician, but he had been fired from that position multiple times, four if I remember correctly. He told us he came to the Peace Corps because he misread a pamphlet that said "looking for volunteers to undertake...". He didn't finish reading he just said, "Hey I can undertake".  Chances are he was pulling our legs, but for some reason I believed the entire story at the time, perhaps the hot sun and lack of food.

Meagan and Will
We met Meagan on the island of Janjanbureh (Georgetown) in the middle of the Gambia River. We were there midday so we did not spend the night at her house, but she did give us lunch and treat us to a dip in The Gambia. We had been avoiding swimming because we had been warned off fresh water swimming by our Peace Corps medical staff. Fresh water in Senegal and Gambia can contain things like schistosomiasis, and crocodiles. Meagan regularly went swimming in the river and seemed ok to us, so we went, happily we are still here, and it felt soooooo good in the middle of the day. I did not stray very far from the dock, in my mind there were crocs right beneath the surface of the murky water.

I have always ridden my bike a lot, but I think that this trip convinced me that it really is a superior form of transportation. The bicycle can get you from one place to another quickly enough. However, I never felt like I was missing anything along the way. Like the laterite hill below, or the stone circle hidden in the woods.

I look forward to my next bike ride that takes me to new and unfamiliar terrain.  I look forward to my bike commute through familiar North Carolina scenery tomorrow morning. I look forward to riding my bike.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eubanks Road Improvement!!!

Last Wednesday morning the weather was beautiful. It was 60° when I left the house for work. So I shed my tights and all my winter gear and set out on my commute. Such a nice morning was just asking for the perfect ride, so I took the Mt. Sinai route to work.

If you read my description of the Mt. Sinai route, my one complaint is the condition of Eubanks road in Chapel Hill between Millhouse road and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Well, it looks like that may be no more. When I rode by last week there was major road widening occurring on this very stretch of Eubanks. A whole third lane is being added to the road, which will make it easier for the buses, UPS trucks and garbage trucks to pass cyclists with ample space.

HOORAY!!! My favorite route just got favoriter.

Update: I rode the new and improved Eubanks the other day. They have added a bike lane and a sidewalk to about half of the stretch between Millhouse and MLK Blvd. Very nice, now finish it all the way to MLK and it'll be perfect.

My New Obsession, realized.

I got one
Back in October I wrote an entry about my new obsession with a bike I thought was to expensive for me to buy. Well, no longer, I'm now the proud owner of a Surly Long Haul Trucker. I've had the bike for about three weeks now, and I've put over 200 miles on it since I brought it home three Fridays ago. I've been commuting on it since I got it, but have yet to take it out for a nice long weekend ride.

The beauty of North Carolina is that spring is here! We are already having sporadic 60-70° weather, so before long one of those warm days will coincide with a Saturday, and I'll be gone right after breakfast, Long Haul Trucker beneath me, no tights, no jacket, no wool socks.

I am really enjoying this bike. It's slower than my old bike, but it is much more comfortable than the old bike.