Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dreaming of Spring

If you have been reading my posts, you know that I have been participating in the Zap Twin Cities program. For me, the calendar on their website provides a nice visual indicator of how often I am riding that helps me set goals and motivates me to keep going. It has definitely helped me stay on top of my goals through the winter months. There have been a few icy days where I have got in the saddle just to hear that beep as I pass by the Zap station. A nice bonus is that they have a monthly drawing for prizes for those that have been "zapped" eight times in a month.

I don't expect to win the drawing, but they have occasional bonus freebees that I have been able to get in on. For being consistent in riding through September and October, I scored tickets to a Timberwolves game. For riding on some of the coldest days in January, I received tickets to take my family to the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show, which we were able to attend a few weeks ago. It was so nice to get out of the house, take the twins to do something other than for a walk at the mall on a Saturday, and fantasize about summer gardening and other projects around the house. As the first day of spring has passed this week and winter's chill continues to hang on, I keep riding and waiting for warmer days and wearing fewer layers.

Can't imagine someone putting a Moai Easter Island statue
in their yard, but it was a fun feature at the garden show.

Saddle up!

The Minneapolis Convention Center has a spacey view, that was fascinating to our twins.

They also loved seeing the large crowds of people. I think we were like most of these folks, zombies from our wintery world trying to forget that all this green was contained in a climate controlled convention center.

Love the willows(Salix caprea).

Everybody needs big bundles of twigs.

Skyway Performers

Monday, March 18, 2013

Brown Sugar

Not sure what compelled me to go out riding my bike in a blizzard today. OK, “blizzard” might be a slight overstatement. But it was snowing with wind gusts of up to 35mph and a zero degree wind-chill, the combination of which makes it borderline justifiable to stay home from work in Minnesota, regardless of your form of transportation. It’s probably because I didn’t ride at all last week and I have been itching to get out, and partly in defiance of the wintery March we are experiencing that I made the goal on Friday to ride every day this week, even if it is not very far. That was before I heard that the weather would be dicey today. To add insult to injury, I remember St. Patrick’s Day being a record 80 degrees last year; it’s making this snowy March every bit harder to bear.

I thought it would be okay, that the studded tires I put on my bike would give me a little more push… and they do in certain terrains. I feel more confident on the partially plowed roads and on the more icy packed snow. But I am missing my fatter tires with the deep tread when I get into the “brown sugar” snow that I so love to ride in. It’s dense, wet snow mixed with road-sand and salt and it really does feel and look like you could be riding through real brown sugar. On another day I would go looking for the stuff just for the fun of plowing through it and feeling it kick up onto my back.

Took cover from the wind crossing I-94
Today it is plentiful though (no need to search), but the tires I’ve got on my bike now don’t like it as much. I’m having to ride slow and put my foot down to stabilize myself at times and to slow going down the big hills around the capitol building. Brown sugar likes to clog my breaks and make them less responsive.

But it was fun to get out. The best was hearing the zap as I passed the Dero Zap station on Capitol Hill. For some reason I get satisfaction from marking another day in the saddle. Last month, for riding on some of the coldest days of the year I received tickets to the Minnesota Home and Garden Show from St. Paul Smart Trips, which we were able to attend a couple of weeks ago. It was so nice to get out and do something different on a weekend and fantasize about summer gardening and other projects around the house.

I wonder if Smart Trips will have a reward for near-blizzard riders this month. We’ll see. It’s not that I don’t reap the rewards of riding on its own; It’s just good fun to ride. But the little extra incentive is always welcome on a day like today.

This is about what I looked like on my bike today.
Andy Singer does these fun illustrations about bike riding.
Got a booklet of them at the St. Paul Transportation Summit.

Was done snowing on the way home. Lots of wind though. Stopped off for a snowbank shot.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Nice Ride Minnesota
I had an opportunity to visit the St. Paul Transportation Summit over lunch the other day. They gave the scoop on the projects, programs and policies impacting commuters in St. Paul, and it was actually a very interesting event. I had been feeling a little envious of those that were attending the 2013 National Bike Summit and had even looked to see if there would be online webinar offerings of the national Summit. Unfortunately, there weren’t any that I could find. But it was nice to be able to attend a short local version during the same week. (My favorite moment was when the Frogtown Neighborhoods program was acknowledged; all of the staff from the program stood and started waving and pointing to audience members like they were rock stars walking up to receive a Grammy. It still gives me a smile thinking about it.)


Full parking at the St. Paul Transportation Summit
To be clear, the St. Paul Summit was not about biking. Biking is just one ("key cog") component of what is needed in an integrated transportation system. What struck me is that the importance of building a seamlessly integrated system was a theme through each short talk held over the lunch hour (St. Paul Smart Trips did a nice job of lining up the speakers and orchestrating the event and this message).

I think it mirrored nicely one of the highlights that I read from the National Bike Summit that bicycling should no longer be considered a fringe activity. Douglas Meyer, who spoke on the Perceptions of Biking on Capitol Hill suggested that bike advocates tone down the message that “cycling is going to save the world” and that this type of promotion risks becoming “the equivalent of selling snake-oil.” (If you read my blog from February 28 you would see that I agree with him.)

Overflow Parking

The final speaker from the St. Paul Summit, MNDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle, underlined that transit and roads are not separate systems, and that we need to maximize our investment in roads for the use of all. Agreed.

But between the rah-rah of the first and last speaker, there was a lot of talk on ways to justify raising regional sales taxes to be able to pay for improvements to the system. There is proposed legislation at the State Capitol (different from the Governor’s current budget proposal) that audience members were asked to buy into. A few days removed from the event, I wonder what the culmination of possible raised taxes for each special interest (from education and health to transportation and the arts) will leave me with.

This is too much thinking for this blog. I think I will just get out and ride.