11 Years (not) a Slave to Cars

The crash happened on January 25th, 2005, a sunny Tuesday in Austin, Texas.  I was driving my 1995 red Honda Civic 2-door hatchback with almost 200,000 miles on it west on Bee Caves Road.  A truck pulled in front of me and didn’t get out of the way in time, resulting in a “t-bone” accident. I survived, the car did not; it was the truck driver’s fault.  That was the last day I owned a car for a decade and a year… and counting.

Skip ahead to today, January 26th, 2016, when I celebrated, silently to myself save for you, dear reader, 11 years of biking, busing, walking, and yes, sometimes driving an employer’s for work or that of a friend, but essentially being car-free.  I was carless for many other years, too.  So yay me for my little statement, victory, accomplishment or whatever you want to call it.  Some might say it’s a failure to make enough money to buy a new car, and they might be partially right about that.  So buy me a car, already!  I’m not against cars, just the accidents, pollution, congestion and isolation they promote.

But it’s mostly been a choice.  It means little to anyone but me, and even less the tens of people who may see this blog, but it’s still another accomplishment in my story as a bicyclist.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge deal.  Millions of people around the world don’t have cars, due to poverty or better mass transit options.  But in the U.S., particularly a state like Texas, being carless is an anomaly.

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A Force Awakens… the desire to bike more and have less war

So A Dude treated himself with what else?  A bike ride.  And also a movie, but not one about the Civil War as referenced in the title to this post (if you’re a human person, especially a white one, and haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave, please do).  I finally went to see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens two days before its run ends at the huge Bob Bullock Museum IMAX 3-D screen.  There is one slight spoiler below but a month after the film came out, that’s on you.



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Sunsets, Quakers and Yoginis (oh my!)

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Southern Walnut Creek Trail view at sunset

So many sights, sounds and stories occur over the course of a ride they cannot all be encapsulated.  Three deer staring at me from the Southern Walnut Creek Trail (my home turf, stomping on the pedals grounds).  I came upon two fellow bicyclists, Chad and Joey, fixing a tire.  They were fine, but asked about my awesome bright yellow visor with the words BIKE AUSTIN emblazoned on it.  (Bike Austin is a great bicycling advocacy organization I finally joined as a member — you can and should too! — and for whom I began volunteering a couple of months ago; I’ve been on some of their social rides, too.)  Another rider had asked me while I was seated, putting on more clothes, if I “had all I needed.” (As a matter of fact, A Dude was without back-up tubes, a risky no-no).  So, instant karma.  There was the awesome sunset pictured above.  And so on.  The wonders never cease.  Here’s the link to today’s map, data and other cool stuff on Strava (bicycling app).

I began the day by attending Quaker aka Friends Meeting, which is a generally silent meditation, though if people are so led they may stand and speak, as two elders did.  A Dude has been meditating daily half an hour for almost a year, so this was a good way to check that off today’s to-do list whilst in the supportive company of others.  Not unlike bicycling, while also purely an individual effort, when practiced in a group setting, meditation is just easier, somehow.  Amidst the backdrop of traffic noise, a fussy baby, the occasional coughs and creaking building, I found a bit of peace and stillness that I tried to carry with me on the bike the rest of the day.  Quakers are also into peace and simplicity, and biking certainly supports those values.  If more people biked instead of drove a car, the U.S. military would have less need to invade countries for their oil, and there’d be less pollution, too.  It’s certainly simpler and cheaper to bike than maintain and operate a car.  (About $8,000 a year according to a local biking guru.)

But I digress. 

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Riding v. Writing, Bowie & Biking

A Dude Abikes and keeps on riding, even when he doesn’t have time to be writing.  Between his job, life, and of course biking, there’s simply not time to set down in internet ink every ride and every story.  Perhaps someday when his lottery ticket stops saying “Not a Winner.”  A Dude knows he’s a winner inside, no matter what the haters at the lottery commission say.

Tonight I went for a ride to check out some new places to live.  One was a dump and the dog was whining the whole time.  She has a greeting disorder.  The other is possible, we’ll see.  So with that and rides to and from work, I put in a 10-mile day.  Not really remarkable.  But it was T.I.T.S. (Time In The Saddle) nonetheless (see my previous post for more on that).

The latest “ride” (defined by me as over 20 miles requiring some exertion) was this past lazy Sunday.  The riding pal and I went for a nice but chilly ride to Northwest Austin to visit a friend.  He was super late as he often is so we missed the friend.  But aside from that it was pleasant.  Nothing crazy, numerous stops, low wind, sunny, no mishaps, 25 miles.  Nice.  Here’s the scoop:  January 10 ride on Strava

But a funny thing happened, as things are wont to do while bike-riding.  We stopped at a sub shop (yeah, that’s how we roll sometimes, pun not intended but we’ll take the ugh anyway), and we had delicious Philly cheesesteaks.  The guy there was all about triathalon training, and he was also on Strava.  He was playing a video to keep himself and his co-worker from getting too bored.  It ended and he put in another DVD.

Guess what he played?  It was none other than the muppet fantasy movie Labyrinth, starring David Bowie as the Goblin King.  Hours later over in England, Bowie died.  Oooh.  Weird coincidence.  Sad.  A Dude was once in a high school garage band that played “Suffragette City.”  So he loved the guy’s music too.  Rock on, wherever you are David Robert Jones.   Here are two fun clips from HBO, one of him skewering Ricky Gervais in song on the latter’s show Extras called “The Little Fat Man With The Pug Nosed Face.” (Bowie enters at 5’40”). The other is from Flight of the Conchords’ called “Bowie’s in Space.”  Hilarious tributes.

No Whey!

Time has passed and the details of the day are fading, but I remembered I needed to get some more natural unflavored whey protein.  A Dude prefers Biochem Natural Flavor 100% Whey Protein.  This is much better tasting and a more complete product than the unnamed vegan pea protein I previously tried.  It’s like sucking on dirty socks, really.  (Er, I imagine.)   If you watch the ads, you can get it for 25% off at Sprouts during their quarterly health and beauty sale.

Passing by an Asian shopping center, the co-rider went inside for some spicy sauce.  I got this photo above of a marble dragon and koi in a brick pond, with my Fuji bike in the background.  Pretty cool work for a shopping center.  The last year of the dragon in the Chinese astrological realm was 2012 (black water dragon, to be precise).  That New Year approaching February 8th (red fire monkey, if you’re curious).

That’s apropos of nothing except that with a new year, there are new challenges.  I signed up for Distance and Climbing challenges on Strava.  Not to race others, just to see how I’m doing.  So far, I’m on track for a 4,000-mile year.  That’s worth writing about, but first I have to do the riding.  I wonder if Bowie ever bicycled.  Turns out, he’s inspired a big ride in Portland called Bowie v. Prince.

David Bowie has done so much in his life’s work, but one of the lesser-known things is getting more people in Portland to ride bikes, even if just one day of the year.

Pretty cool.  On a much, Much, MUCH smaller scale, perhaps I will inspire someone to bike too.  Like another British glam artist named Freddie Mercury of Queen once sang:

I like to ride my bicycle / I like to ride my bike / I like to ride my bicycle / I like to ride it where I like.


T.I.T.S.! Lots and Lots of T.I.T.S.!

Time.  In.  The.  Saddle.  What did you think it meant?  A doctor who bikes told me this, so it’s okay.  And he’s right.  Spending alot of time sitting on a bike seat, legs spinning out the miles while time goes by, is what one needs to do to feel comfortable on long bike rides.  A Dude enjoys alot of T.I.T.S, going 10-miles an hour average with stops as he does.

So Tuesday night, feeling tired, not having a riding buddy, but knowing it would rain the next day, and as Monday was mostly a rest day, I suited up and got back in the saddle.  Because that’s what A Dude does, even when he doesn’t particularly feel like it.  Instead of puttin’ on the ritz, he’s puttin’ in the T.I.T.S.  Here’s my 33.5-mile ride results on Strava.

It was a chilly night, but eventually I had to remove my hat with nose and mouth cover, outer gloves, and unzip jacket and jersey.  I had a fun thought and did a fly by of the residences of one riding partner and then the place of another friend.  Strava isn’t 100% accurate, but it shows I was there, for sure.  But I didn’t stop, because that would mean less T.I.T.S.  Still, good times.

Winding my way back north from nearly to the Austin airport, I found myself on my old friend, the Southern Walnut Creek Trail.  Riding it at night is fun, now that I know the way well, plus with my super-bright rechargeable Serfas Thunderbolt lights that I lucked upon at the Bike Farm and a freebie orange and yellow safety vest I got lucky and got for free at the Yellow Bike Project, I feel alot more comfortable.  (How’s that for name-dropping?)  Saw a cottontail rabbit who almost ran in front of me, and then nearly hit a possum.  The three wild boar I saw previously were not there.  Five guys having a party were the only humans I passed.

Time is short and A Dude is tired, so I’ll say that at one point I heard coyotes.  People in cars yielded the right of way.  My knees hurt.  So did other things I won’t go into.  Nothing happened, and yet everything happened:  life, going by quickly.  I had seen my friend’s riding on Strava, so I set out with a goal to bike more than my riding buddy did.  The rain only fell in sprinkles, and I did not fall off the bicycle, get hit by a car, or receive a ticket.  I simply put in the time in the Saddle, and that is it’s own reward.

Of course having the ability to spend hours biking and thinking of something else is a bit of a luxury.  But one with blood, swear and tears, too.  More to come but I welcome your invitation.  Keep on reading, and I’ll keep on writing.

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Thanks! A Dude Abikes


© 2015-18 A Dude Abikes.  All rights reserved.

Not so Lazy Sunny Sunday Ride to Mount Bonnell

A beautiful Sunday in Central Texas, 50’s, sunny, light to no wind. Great riding weather. A Dude likes that, so I suited up and headed out for another 25-mile ride.

Suiting up requires some steps. Picking the right amount of layers so you’re not too hot, not too cold. Checking your nutrition and hydration. And at the other end, taking care of your bathroom business.

Which brings up a sore subject: the saddle, or bike seat, can make things sore down there. What’s A Dude to do? Well, for a while I went with the bike shop recommendation, Chamois Butt’r. Butt lately I’ve been using baby Desitin ointment, which is basically like suncreen for your tuchus and netherly parts. A doctor recommended it, but I’m not sure he knew it was so thick (it’s mostly zinc oxide), that A Dude needs a Brillo pad to get it off his hands. Butt the good news is it seems to work.

You can read a hilarious review of DZNuts by Fatty at FatCyclist.com. I wrote him a while back, before I really started getting at the miles, and he generously replied, I forget about what. Now it appears he lost of ton of weight and does some serious racing. So maybe I’ll say hi and see if he replies, big-time blogger to newbie. I’ll report back if he does.

So you’ve got your clothes, food, toilet out of the way, what about the bike? Well, it’s good to lubricate the chain if you haven’t lately. Be sure to wipe off the excess oil. I’m sure reams have been written about that, but right now A Dude uses the misleadingly named Dry Lube. It does the job but requires more applications than others, I’m told. Of course check the tires, and for any obvious signs of problems like your seat is missing or something weird.

Now it’s time to head out. First, I power up the Strava app on my basic smart phone. And go. Because of the later hour, I head for the sun, I go west. By the University of Texas, past Lamar, and up and down and up we go. I could stop and look for a route, but having a pretty good general knowledge of Austin and some specific bike routes, I just go for it.

At one point in a well-off neighborhood on a street ironically named Robinhood, I ask for directions (OK, I had to several times). But in this case, I see a man out on a neighborhood jaunt with his young son on his bright orange bike, practicing his bunny hops (the father, that is), so I say “Hi, I’m “pleasantly lost, can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?” Not really, Scenic Drive. And he tells me without any attitude. West Austin may have a reputation for being staunchly Republican, rich (yes, even A Dude can admire the beautiful homes), but to a one everyone was friendly or at least not rude: walkers, joggers, bicyclists and drivers, even the dogs. Not that I was expecting rudeness, but it does happen.

Well, my ride progresses up and down some decent hills, with great views of Town Lake, and I find myself on Mount Bonnell Road. I’m inching up it, getting out of the saddle at times, still feeling pretty sore from New Year’s ride and tumble. A woman is walking her dog but he’s more intent on smelling things. I wonder if she’ll beat me to the top. I keep grinding, even though I’m in my lowest (granny) gear, and make it to the base of the stairs. Hauling the bike with me, I reach the summit of this non-mountain, and I’m rewarded by the great views of downtown, Town Lake and the 360 bridge. Anyone worth their salt living in Austin has seen the movie Slacker, and knows the final scene is shot there.

Dog and woman make it up, and we chat a bit. Her name is Darla, and the dachshund/beagle mix is Thomas Jefferson. Despite being young and fit, she said she could never ride up that hill on her bike, and complemented me on my “strong work.” I demurred by saying I do what I can, but who doesn’t love a complement? The Future Mrs. A Dude unfortunately did not share her phone number, but that’s alright, she had mentioned that she lives south of the river, and that’s too far a commute.

But I digress (get used to it).  I ran into some interesting characters, which is typical of Austin:  a grouchy guy on an old bike who didn’t need help, was just checking his phone, who apologized since “now he had some grey hairs everyone was always asking if he was ok.”  A guy walking barefoot.  A couple with kids deciding not to climb the mountain even though everyone else was.  A homeless guy bundled up and chatting while I’m at a light.  A woman who gave me directions and I saw again later walking.  Some guys on a trail.  And so on.  You never know who you’re going to see or meet on a bike, which is one of the sublimely wonderful things about getting out there on one.  If you do, you know what I mean, if you don’t, you don’t know what you’re missing.

I continued to ride, finally reaching some flatter terrain, the trusty old Shoal Creek Boulevard, and stopped off at one of my favorite bike shops, Sun and Ski Sports.  I know, it’s not in the name, but they do have a bike department.  It turns out Mike the Mechanic used to work at The Peddler, my other main shop, and he’s been terrific.  He wasn’t there today, so I said hi to the also awesome Chris, did a liquid exchange, and headed home.  No flats, falls, wrecks or tickets, and I made my mileage goal (making 105 for the week), so it was a successful day.  Again, you can check out my ride and stats on Strava, if you’d like.

Keep on reading, and I’ll keep on riding.  And writing.  Likes, dislikes, comments, questions, suggestions?  Go ahead and type them in.

Thus Spoke A Dude: A Blog for All and None

Jan 1 Austin Weird foto

3,000 miles.  That is (approximately) how far I rode my bicycle(s) in 2015.  It’s an accomplishment many have surpassed with ease, but it’s one worth noting nonetheless.  Worth noting to whom remains to be seen.  But on this first evening of the new year, January 1, 2016, this web blog starts with not a bang, but a proud whisper, a simple note to self:  “Hey, you really did that.  Great job!”

To put that distance into some perspective:  3,000 miles (or 4828.04 kilometers) is the equivalent of going from San Diego, California to New York, New York.  Or from Vancouver, British Columbia to Ottawa, Quebec. Or just a little less than from Tangier, Morocco to Moscow, Russia (maybe including the ferry ride).  And so on.  When thought of in those terms, it’s a very, very long way.  I’m an average guy, not an elite cyclist, so I felt every mile.

So how did I do it?  Why did I do it?  What difference does it make?  Can I inspire others to have an awesome year in whatever arena they choose?  As I begin a new year of bicycling (4,000 miles, perhaps?), those are the sorts of questions I hope to explore.  Along with some stories, personalities, maybe some tips and tricks, and whatever else seems relevant, interesting or worth (web)logging about.

While biking is the main fodder/food for thought, it is not the only one, just currently the main topic.  I also do yoga, meditate, work, attempt to be in better shape, volunteer (currently at two bike groups), have friends, family, and soon again roommates, enjoy movies, tv and comedy, plus other stuff.  Which if I write about may be by turns amusing, compelling, educational, or boring as hell.  Hopefully not the last one.  Boring is bad.  Unless you’re a miner.

So let’s get to it:  Today I biked 25 miles.  Not a huge distance, but not a walk in the park either.  It was cold (40’s), cloudy, a bit windy, but dry here.  Here being the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin, Texas.  (Feel free to visit, but please don’t move here – too many people already are doing that, rents are high, traffic’s horrible, summers are super hot and humid, and it’s full of bicyclists.)  Anyway, I picked up my riding buddy and we intended to join a local bike advocacy group, Bike Austin, for their Chasing the New Year’s Baby ride.  Well, my friend had left his tire at my place and I left it there too, so the group ride didn’t happen.  First rule of cycling:  plan ahead.  But we went on our own ride, and that was fine. Continue reading