Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Riding Tampa

This year, I scheduled a trip down to Tampa, Florida for Christmas with my family.  Upon seeing that the weather forecast for the week or so that I'd be there was for high temperatures in the 70's-80's, I was unable to resist the temptation to rent a bike and get some miles in.  A google search found City Bike in downtown Tampa, who kindly obliged me with a 58cm Jamis Ventura, which was adequate for the task and cost about $160 for the 10 days I'd be there.  They set it up with my pedals, and once I got to my sister's where I was staying, I went to setting the seat and handlebars to their correct positions.  I would rent from them again the next time I'm in the area for an extended period.

My sis's house is actually just north of Tampa, near the Hillsborough/Pasco county line, and as this was my home base, all of my rides in the area were in the north end of Tampa.

Florida is flat.  The first real ride I did that wasn't just exploring the neighborhood was up to San Antonio, which folks assured me was the hilliest terrain around.

This is about as hilly as it gets.
It was a fairly nice ride, and once I was able to escape the 6 lane divided highway arterials that are ubiquitous throughout the area and get onto some nice rural 2 lane road, the scenery was nice and pastoral.

Wide open spaces just south of San Antonio, Florida.
There is even a seminary along the way called St Leo's.  It is telling that the elevation gain on this hilliest of area rides is about as much as the flattest routes around the Seattle area.

The longest ride that I did was along the northern section of the Suncoast Bike trail.  I drove up to the northern end of the trail and started there, as there were storms coming in from the south that day and winds were out of the south at about 15-20 knots.  I much prefer having a tailwind on the way home during a long ride, and given the distance, and strength of the wind, this turned out to be a good decision.

The trail was very sparsely used, I encountered about 5 cyclists over the entire 50 mile route

I also discovered the aptly named Flatwoods Park, which is situated between Bruce B Downs and Morris Bridge roads to the northeast of Tampa proper.  I did a couple of rides here, the first day doing the south end of the loop and using it as a connection to continue south on Morris Bridge road.  On the second day, I took off on a dirt spur that seemed to be on top of a flood control dike.

The surface was hard packed sand.

Miles of gravel grinding goodness amidst solitude.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lighthearted California PSA

After passing a law requiring drivers to provide 3 feet of space when passing a vulnerable road user, California released this lighthearted Public Service Announcement that's well worth the 30 seconds of your attention.

Design Matters

The Economist posted an article today contrasting how different approaches to road design result in drastically divergent outcomes for vulnerable road users.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Riders on the Storm

There was a storm that went through the area on Saturday that prompted the first tornado warning in western Washington since something like 1996.  I rode right through it, as it was between me and home.  On my way south down to Seward Park, I picked up a few sprinkles early on as I skirted the line of clouds slowly moving in from the north.  But after turning around to head back to Ballard, it was clear that dark and ominous cloud line would not be moving out of my way.

When the rain started, it was a heavy rain, much more like a Florida thunderstorm than what we typically get out here.  Then it got heavier.  And turned to hail.  And then it got even heavier.  It was coming down so fast there was an inch of water on the road, not just in the gutters, but across the whole road.  I just put on my rain jacket and kept going.  And within about 10 minutes, I had passed through it and there was bright sunshine.

The transitional seasons of Spring and Fall always make me feel alive.  Sure, summer's great, with day upon day of great riding weather beckoning me to go for a ride.  But the sudden and dramatic changes that happen here on a minute to minute basis in the Fall just fill me with a feeling of being alive.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


We've had such a nice late Fall that I decided to get some late season mountain riding in and climbed up to Paradise from Ashford, located about 5 miles below the Ranger Station.  The climb mostly follows along the Nisqually River drainage, and is steady with a fairly low gradient.  Along the lower half of the climb, I was in mostly heavy mist, but it cleared up to reveal beautiful views as I gained elevation.

View from the top.

I took this one lonely picture from the top.  It's very difficult for me to stop as I'm making my way up the mountain, as I don't like to break my rhythm, the best thing is to just keep going.  Then, on the way down, I often promise myself that I'll stop at specific view points, but seldom can I muster the will to interrupt the descent.

One of the best things about riding to me is the state of getting in the flow, and stopping to take pictures, or even just getting the iPhone out from the jersey pocket seems an unwanted interruption to this mental state.

And the climb, which I have done once before, didn't seem as hard as I remembered it to be.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pondering the Magnitude of the Void

Today, rather than making circles, I took steps and went for a hike. The weather pattern has been cloudy in the lowlands, the marine layer in the valleys. Often, during one of these weather patterns, one can hike up above the clouds and be treated to magnificent views of wildflowers and surrounding peaks, like this.

Today was not one of those days. One never knows, until reaching the top, whether the clouds will be left below. Today, standing on the peak of Mt. Dickerman, I saw nothing but grey mist in every direction, as the mountain dropped away into the mist below. Near the edge of the north face, I could look down and see only grey directly below me.

I didn't take any pictures. There's no way a grey box on a screen can capture the utter groundlessness of being surrounded in this way. But Lao Tzu says it better than I can:

- 4 -

The Tao is empty but inexhaustible.

Eternal, like the void;

it is filled with infinite possibilities.

Infinitely deep, it is the source of all things.

Within it, sharp edges become smooth;

twisted knots loosen;

the sun is softened by a cloud;

the dust settles into place.

It is hidden but always present.

I do not know who gave birth to it.

It seems to be the common ancestor of all,

the mother of all things.

Monday, August 11, 2014


A great article on Flow and some reading suggestions on the subject can be found here, at one of my favorite cycling blogs, Red Kite Prayer.