30 October 2009

Bike Plan, Ongoing

Since my Let's Get Down to Business post I've been thinking about why the Bike Plan is important. Five years ago I would not of cared nor thought it worth spending time on. You know what has changed? Us. Those who pedal in this city. We've come a long way. We have numbers and energy that I didn't imagine possible in 2004, yet those outside of our circles don't see it. They need to see us, hear from us and know what we are about.

Yes, I know the city doesn't give a fuck about us. Special interests run government and we're irrelevant to them. But you know what? We are motivated, passionate, loud and our cause is just. This is exceptional. The 2009 Bike Plan is actually less useful/relevant to cyclists than the 1996 one, but their cogs keep turning and doing what they do - nothing. If we don't cause a ruckus and spell out why this is so fucking important to people - not just cyclists - those cogs will just continue spinning into oblivion and uselessness. Let's put a wrench in it!

Joe Linton wrote that LA's Bike Plan is a Step Backward on Bike Lanes from the 1996 plan. If you have not made a comment regarding the Bike Plan, what are you waiting for? Here is the real site and then a fun, mirrored one with a little more umph (where your comments still get submitted to the city): www.labikeplan.com. Alex Thompson gives a more thorough critique related to the Council District Transportation Advisory Committee with some great talking points. Enci discusses why non-cyclists should care about the Bike Plan.

Meeting at Santa Monica/Vermont Red Line Station at noon on Saturday the 31st and heading Downtown for the 1pm workshop. On facebook also.

Meet @ The Exchange at 1pm: 114 W. 5th St., Downtown LA, CA 90013

A new city meeting has been added in Northeast LA:
Wednesday, Nov 4
Ramona Hall
4580 N Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90042

27 October 2009

Eat your colors

Fried rice to be.

24 October 2009

New Moon Century

My friend, housemate and co-conspirator in many adventures, Sasha, organized a century ride on Sunday Oct 18th: the New Moon Century. It was in the beautiful Santa Monica mountains and utilizes many of the terrific roads on the Mulholland Challenge and the Different Spokes Century (which incidentally is the first bike ride I ever paid for AND where I learned about double centuries way back in 2004). All of the proceeds go to an anti-hunger organization and Sea Shepherd!

Sasha is one of those people that when she gets a good idea, she just plows forward and learns as she goes. I could learn something from her, as I tend to over-think and over-organize before even getting started. It was all a little chaotic, but the best things in life usually are. We had a great team putting this on, including a SAG vehicle driven by Janet Christiansen, who finished Race Across America this year.

About 75 people rode one of the three options- 36, 62 and 100 miles. Outstanding considering the narrow focus: kosher! vegan!

Lunch stop volunteers and riders
For Jacob and Mike, sitting on the left, it was their first century

I helped at the lunch stop and had the honor of explaining to people what the hell tofurky and vegenaise are. Some were not interested and it was funny to watch them make a tomato, avocado, mustard sandwich, which is what I have to do when it's real deli meat. But most people did try and seemed to enjoy it.

I had a fantastic time hanging out at Peter Strauss Ranch in the Santa Monica mountains and helping people accomplish something as demanding as a century. Putting on and helping at events can be as rewarding (and tiring!) as actually doing them. I also got to meet some new people, including a vegan cardiologist who I had only communicated with via the internets. She has a write-up on her great blog.

Thanks to the groups who helped out: Orange 20 Bikes, Clif bar, Tofurky and others:

Mandatory vegan restaurant hang-out post-ride:
Vinh Loi Tofu

21 October 2009

The Yes Men Fix the World screening

The Yes Men, those political pranksters responsible for the 'News We'd Like to See' fake New York Times have a new movie out called the The Yes Men Fix the World. I was fortunate to attend the west coast premiere last night at the Hammer Museum in Westwood with my friend Lisa (link to her and her awesome sweaters!), amongst others. The last time I went to the Hammer was for Bike Night, where aforementioned Lisa organized a screening of Breaking Away and a fully-catered vegan dinner.

The Yes Men, if you are not familiar, pose as the representatives of the companies that are responsible for social and environmental destruction and make presentations with ridiculous topics to get the audience to question the legitimacy and power these companies have. As the film progresses, they struggle with just how much bullshit people are willing to accept if it makes them money ('We were hoping to offend them and they only asked for our business cards!' one of them says).

Especially worthwhile is how the Yes Men deal with the discomfort they feel when pulling these pranks. The film begins by showing Andy's live interview on BBC on the anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster, posing as a spokesperson for DOW Chemical. He speaks directly to 300 million people. Seeing his nervousness and what he is pulling off makes you think these guys are just like you and me! I'd be nervous too, but maybe I could do something like that.

I think normal protest tactics trigger automatic responses in people. Often the issue at hand is not even discussed. I'm a big fan of political pranks because they:

1) challenge accepted norms of behavior and the status quo.
2) make people uncomfortable! Being out of your comfort zone inspires new ideas, thoughts and perceptions (see how this can relate to ultra-cycling?)
3) get media.
4) inspire others.
5) do not cost much money, require a board of directors or official non-profit status.

Lastly, I admire that they have an anti-capitalist stance and encourage active participation. During the Q&A they mentioned Tim DeChristopher, the Utah enviro activist being charged with federal offenses for making false bids at a BLM auction and a site advocating civil disobedience called Beyond Talk. They don't just want companies just to be a little nicer they question if these huge, wealthy, powerful companies should even exist. Are they good for the majority of people? I believe the answer is no.

Most recently they posed as the Chamber of Commerce, which was also covered on this great site, Art of the Prank. See the film, get stoked and see what you are capable of...

19 October 2009

Gibraltar Loop from Mesa Ln in Santa Barbara

Went on a little day trip to beautiful Santa Barbara for some road riding: Gibraltar Loop from Mesa Ln. Unlike my last trip to Santa Barbara, I was with others and we all piled in a car and drove up. Finally able to hang out with Alex, Ron and Ilya, who I have only ridden with occasionally or not at all.

Mountain, ocean, you know.

Not sure how Ron got these colors with his iPhone

After a mechanical and some other delays (if you count coffee as a delay, I count it as a necessity), it was pretty warm for the 9-mile climb. Some sections hit 14 or so percent (or so claim those with the GPS devices rattling off numbers). I was missing having that 27 on my cassette.

This lower area had been hit by a recent fire, but there were finally pines near the top

Sweet descent

On Painted Cave Rd back to SB

Alex has some friends with a house/property above the beach.
This is the view from the hot tub platform!
Watching dogs play on the beach has to be one of the most
smile-inducing activities in the world.

Nice to get out of my normal routine and do this. Other surprises: opportunity for a post-ride outdoor shower on above mentioned property. Also being the only vegan and saying, 'Yeah I can eat anywhere don't worry about it' and ending up at a brew pub with very few options (the beans had meat in them!?).
Thanks Alex for planning the route, Ron for driving/taking photos/drinking excessive amounts of coffee and Ilya for keeping us entertained.

14 October 2009

Los Angeles: Let's get down to business

I've been involved with Los Angeles cycling 'culture' since 2003 and the growth, energy and spirit of it has been unexpected, lively and insanely motivating. Since back then we have C.I.C.L.E, the Bicycle Kitchen, the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition; all of which have been working diligently to put people on bikes in this city. And my how we have grown. Midnight Ridazz has ballooned by epic proportions and now the splinter rides of splinter rides have their own rides. There are a whopping four community bike spaces, not including the bike shops opened by active members of those spaces. There once was a time when I knew every cyclist I'd pass on Sunset Blvd. I'm delighted that this is no longer the case and bike riders abound like never before. And in the city where everyone said it was impossible...

But in a way, very little has changed. The Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) is virtually unknown to those who use two wheels as transportation, our 'inside' person with the Dept of Transportation since 1994, Michelle Mowery, acts as if it is still the mid-nineties and bicycling as transportation is a totally unachievable pipe-dream in this city of cars. Advocacy appears to be dominated by the triumvirate of Alex Thompson-Stephen Box-Joseph Brayj attending meetings, blogging and opining.

And now the 2009 Bicycle Plan has been released. Our city hired a Portland-based consulting firm to create the plan, but it lacks the energy, direction or vision of Portland. To quote Stephen Box on StreetsblogLA,

"Portland is currently going through the same Bike Plan update process as Los Angeles and they have eleven working groups, one steering committee and one technical advisory committee, all working together to ensure that the Bike Plan is a robust document that represents the desires of the cycling community."

I understand that we are not Portland, but the point of a bicycle
plan is a vision of what could be. I've spent time in Portland; the weather sucks, the roads are narrow and the city is spread out. Yet they are considered a bike mecca with only 6% of trips made by bicycle. We could have 6% of trips here in Los Angeles if our city took our concerns seriously and built bicycle infrastructure. New York, for example, tripled the number of bicycle commuters in three years by making the cost-effective, smart, safe changes that cyclists were demanding. Our city could not even organize a Bike Plan meeting within 5 miles of the East Hollywood 'hub' of cycling. We need to demand more from our elected officials.

It's a big city. We should dream big.

So what do we do?

As the number of social rides and fast rides has increased, the number of advocates/activists has not. When we have such few rebel-rousing, noise makers, the city believes that we are a minority fringe with only a few people who care about this issue. Michelle Mowery went as far to say that it is not a bike issue, that it is only about 'them'. This is detrimental to the future of bicycling in our city. We simply need more voices, more action and more pressure. We know that cycling is great for us, but we need to represent beyond our own interests: more urban bicyclists is better for the health and social well-being of everyone. Fewer cars means less pollution, safer streets and a more democratic and engaged citizenry. But it is up to us to make this case and up until now we have done a mediocre job.

Urban cycling is not swimming or golfing. It's gritty. Every day we are harassed and forced to fight for our space on the road. We are a tough bunch, used to taking shit from people and giving it right back. We fight to survive on our own streets. We need to harness this grit and anger and change our situation for the better.

Where from here?

Come to the LA Bike Working Group meeting this Saturday at 1pm in the LA City College Faculty Lounge* as we work to improve the plan. 1000 come to a social ride, but we're lucky to get 10 to a meeting. You can do both and you can influence how policy is written in our city. More info here and facebook is here.

Write a comment about the 2009 Bike Plan here:
Los Angeles 2009 Bicycle Plan. Yes, they do read and note them. Imagine if we generated 10,000 responses demanding more bicycle infrastructure and actual implementation! You should review it and form your own opinions, but the most popular arguments are: lack of vision, no real plan for implementation and cyclists' concerns are secondary. If you only read one article, read L.A.’s Draft Bikeway Plan: Non-Committal, Sloppy and Perhaps Illegal by Joe Linton.

Get involved with a campaign. There's
C.I.C.L.E, the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition, and even Midnight Ridazz has some advocacy plans. And don't forget that the Department of DIY always has open positions (DIY bike lanes, DIY park).

Read. Seriously. We need substance beyond rhetoric and need to be educated on the case for bicycles.

Speak with cyclists, friends, activists. These ideas and events need to be given life. No one is going to do it for us. Tell others about what is going on.

Donate money. My least favorite of the actions. We need money for all that we do, but we'd prefer you and your energy. Donating money creates the mentality that others will do it for you, but those most invested in this have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars of their own money because of their passion. Buy an activist a burrito!

More on the bike plan
Call for open revolt (about the draft, but relevant)
LA's Bike Plan: Return to Sender
Bicycle Advisory Committee unanimously recommends deadline extension

Other sites

Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will."
- Frederick Douglass

Get to work.

*Update: The LA Bike Working Group meeting has changed time and venue. The new location and time is Saturday, 2pm, at the Hollywood Adventist Church, 1711 N. Van Ness Ave., Hollywood, CA 90028. We’ll be in the Fellowship Hall on the NW side of the parking lot.

07 October 2009

Furnace Creek 508 wrap-up

background on this year's race here.

It's never easy to write about these kind of events. Yes, I rode for a long time, it was difficult and I'm stoked on the accomplishment. But the adventure, camaraderie and even spiritual (yeah, I wrote it, what?) parts can barely be articulated. My crew: Morgan, Max and Chris, were so exceptional and supportive and best of all super fun! Around 1am, as we traversed Death Valley into 40 MPH winds, the van rolled up next to me at 5 MPH, my average speed for most of the night, just in time for me to see Chris puke out the window. Quite a sight with the winds! Did it slow him down as a valuable crew member? Nope. We laughed about it. Spent a lot of time laughing, even more so when conditions were worse. And that's what I love about 'being out there'. The bike is merely a medium, as I've said before.

Pre-wind, average speed of almost 20 mph through 254 miles

I did have some important goals for this race. One was getting up Townes Pass (the 11-mile climb into Death Valley) in the light in order to 1) have less time for car-sick prone Chris to have to follow behind 2) do the 50 MPH descent a little more safely. The extra benefit was the stunning beauty of the sunset. This is my favorite time to ride. Another goal was to swim at the Furnace Creek Inn at mile 254, which we did successfully. Though eight fewer minutes swimming and I would gotten 9th. Haha. It was worth it. I tried to make up the time by bunny-hopping the cattle guards (did 4 of 5).

I recommend reading the AdventureCORPS post-race write-up and this story on Charlie Engle who owns the the record for fastest combined Badwater ultra-marathon and Furnace Creek 508 in the same year. He's articulated the course and race very well.

Thank you guys!

Nutrition/food post coming soon. Thanks for reading. Have a fantastic weekend and be thankful for your health and ability to do all we do.

06 October 2009

Dessert Locust, the alter-ego of Desert Locust, which is the alter-ego of....

What are the chances? Chris makes the amazing dessert locust signs for the support van and uses photos from my friend Danielle's bakery Vegan Treats for my second year racing the Furnace Creek 508 solo. The day before the race a mutual friend of ours returns from a trip to Pennsylvania and brings me a peanut butter cup brownie, one of the desserts on our signs! I'd say unbelievable, but really, when you set out to do fun/silly things, the world responds positively and next thing you know you have a great photo op:

Every Furnace Creek 508 racer gets a pre-race mugshot.

Photographer: You know there is only one 's' in 'desert' right?
Me: Uh, yeah. I'm writing dessert.
Photographer: (cocked head, stares puzzlingly)
Me: I'm going to be eating this dessert in the photo as well, if that's cool.
Photographer: Uhm, okay.

vegan chocolate raspberry blondie bar finish to complete the circle of desserts.

And has anyone mentioned that it was windy? Like 40+ mph and 8 hours to ride 45 miles? Just thought I'd mention that part. I'm going to do a more thorough write-up this year and discuss non-dessert related nutrition, etc. My crew was so so supportive, I can't thank them enough. Same with the encouragement I received from friends, family, other races through this blog, facebook, etc. This is only a bike race, but having so many people 'with me' is incredible and I'm extremely fortunate. Thank you!

04 October 2009

Matt and his hero

Matt gets to eat his cake, too...

Approaching the finish line in Twentynine Palms

Everyone is tired, but Matt's display of Ruscigno Power is impressive.
Five miles to go!

Almost almost Amboy

Almost at the last checkpoint before the finish line... Crew ETA
around 10:30pm

Leaving Baker, ~126 miles to go...

We dosed Matt with jet-fuel grade camp-stove brewed espresso...

The 508: a tour of the worst roads in the desert

Goat here, filling in for our intrepid hero, Matt, aka Desert Locust,
aka Dessert Locust. My first ever blog post, quite exciting. I imagine
I'll ruin Matt's sincere and consistent prose style, oh well.

I've always read horror stories of the 'thermonuclear headwinds' that
are said to rip through Death Valley at night. In my four years of
involvement with the 508, however, they've never materialized. The
glorious northbound tailwinds have always dissipated by the time night
has fallen, leaving fairly smooth conditions for the southerly route
through the valley itself.

Things were looking good this year. Matt's in excellent shape, and has
a lot of 508 experience now. He completed the first 200 miles in just
over 9 hours, and just outside of the top ten riders. The time, in
part, was aided by the aforementioned tailwinds.

Unfortunately, this year, the winds were here to stay. After a
refreshing break at Furnace Creek, there ensued eight hours of
gruelling slog against intense, gusty headwinds. To make matters
worse, one our crew. Had chronic, vomit-inducing car sickness. Matt
hung out in the van for a couple of rest breaks, but soldiered on
regardless. The winds eased by the time he hit the Salisbury and
Jubilee passes climb, and there was light in the sky.

Somehow in the overnight chaos I also managed to misplace one (of my
two) shoes. Oups. Should liven up the rest of the trip.

So now, here we are leapfrogging Matt across the (in my opinion)
toughest section of the 508, Shoshone to Baker.
Here, the rider has essentially thirty or forty featureless,
approximately flat miles, on a shoulderless road populated by
thundering RVs. It's a painful and lengthy trek before you reach the
quiet beauty and grandeur of the Mojave National Preserve just past
Baker, with the Kelso dunes and the Providence and Granite ranges.

To quote the closing passage from Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus":
"...we must imagine Sisyphus, happy" .

02 October 2009

2009 Furnace Creek 508 Solo

with reports, photos and progress through the weekend.

Well, here we go again. The Furnace Creek 508 starts tomorrow at 7am. A 508-mile race from Santa Clarita through Death Valley and Mojave to near Joshua Tree. I wrote extensively about it here (read this!), I have a 508 tab and National Geographic Adventure covered it when they called it one of the top ten toughest races in the world.

Is it October already? Despite taking part in this race the previous four years, 2005 (crew for Morgan), 2006 (fixed gear team), 2007 (hang out), 2008 (solo), it always excites. Despite a last-minute crew switch from one race veteran to another and finding tiny cracks in my Dura Ace wheels yesterday, preparation is going well. Chris and Morgan are back for another year of crewing and Max is joining us for his 5th(!) time on the course. I couldn't be more fortunate! I have phenomenal support in these guys and in all of my friends who have helped me out leading into this weekend. Like Jack lending me his ridiculous wheels without any hesitation. Thank you all so much, I couldn't do this without you.

You pick an animal totem that is yours for life. I'm Desert Locust:

With a minor change for this year:

Take yourself seriously, but not too seriously, right? And yes, those desserts are vegan. Though I still love dessert, I've managed to get my weight down 15 pounds from last year. I'm weighing in at 170, a number I haven't seen since high school. A full 30 pounds lighter than winter Matt!

I'm looking forward to a weekend of adventure, mindfulness, solitude, beauty, struggle, fun, high highs and low lows. The desert nearly defeated me last year somewhere between Baker and Kelso, but after our training ride out there this summer and some Edward Abbey studying, I am more prepared and approaching with an open heart and mind:

"I am convinced now that the desert has no heart, that it presents a riddle that has no answer, and that the riddle itself is an illusion created by some limitation or exaggeration of the displaced human consciousness." -Edward Abbey

He also said this, which nothing to do with bike racing, but is worth passing on:

'Hierarchical institutions are like giant bulldozers —
obedient to the whim of any fool who takes the controls.'

I'll do my best to send updates from the road, but cell service is limited. Thanks to everyone who has already sent kind words or vegan desserts!

Listened to 36 Chambers the whole way through this morning for Swarm!ing motivation:

01 October 2009

5 gallons of tea: crucial