Smile, you’re going to be on YouTube some day

This is not entirely safe for work, especially if your office, like mine, is positioned near the door where the kids return from school. But if the kids overhear you watching the video, remind them that cyclists and motorists all ought to have better manners during the holiday season and beyond. You never know when you are going to be on YouTube.

Spied via Boston Biker » Blog Archive » RAGE!.

Sandy is not so dandy for exercise

Sandy is forcing many to work from home today — if at all, depending on the power situation in your neighborhood.

I was asked earlier today by a distant colleague how things were going on Cape Cod. I replied that I would certainly not be riding my bike today. Mullet Marathon New England confirms that assessment:

Guess today will be an indoor training day. Thanks, Bobby, for the official word.

(The dog that chases Bobby near the end looks like one that lives right up the street from Commuterdaddy Central. Bad dog! It’s not very neighborly to attack a local reporter providing a public service.)

The bike is back in the commute


Putnam County Trailway
Originally uploaded by spolay

During my regular trip to New York this week, I resumed stowing the bike in the trunk. The training is officially on for at least one century ride this summer. I have my eyes on a second century, depending on how the kids’ summer calendar shakes out.

Temperatures were in the 70s in the Hudson Valley this week, and daylight lingered past 8 p.m. The weather was a far cry from what has been simultaneously experienced on Cape Cod. I actually got to sample a little bit of this thing called spring I keep hearing about. I think it was the first time this year in the Northeast that I was not wearing leggings or a jacket on my rides.

What made me happiest though, was that my two rides while on the road this week were on the first and last days of the trip. I usually don’t ride on my travel days, instead reserving the cycling for the full day that I spend in town. However, rides after work on Monday and yesterday were refreshing, and felt a little like I was stealing time back from my schedule.

The ride yesterday was a double bonus. I tried out a new path — or at least new to me: The Putnam County Trailway. The trail head was an hour into my commute back to the Cape from New York, and just slight detour from my regular driving route. It was a nice way to break up the drive home.

It also was gloriously green throughout, and the section of trail in Brewster, NY, was pristine. The only reason I turned around 10 miles into the ride was I was running out of time to make it back to my car in daylight.

The ride out from the trailhead was mostly uphill, which meant the ride back was a fantastic flying finish. I only had to slow down for a few intersections and blind corners.

We are not moving away from Cape Cod anytime soon, but an instant love affair with Brewster and Carmel, NY, was kindled yesterday. The Putnam County Trailway is sure to be a regular stop on my commute from now on.

It’s a sprint, not a marathon

Halfway into my cycling hills workout — such as a hills workout can be on Cape Cod — I look down at my Cateye. My average speed: 13.2 mph. I quickly look over my shoulder, to see if George Mutai or any other elite marathoners is gaining on me.

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to realize how fast elite marathoners run. Mutai finished the Boston Marathon earlier this month in 2:03:02.That’s an average speed of 12.78 miles per hour. I bow to that greatness. I am not worthy.

Truthfully, any runner has my respect. I’ve tried adding runs to my workouts any number of times over the years. I’ve never accomplished much more than a mile. Blame it in part on my asthma, though I am sure I could overcome that. I’ve just never felt the running magic.

In my youth, I preferred more competitive sports. Baseball was my original love. Tennis too. Later came weekly pickup football games, until my knee zigged while the rest of me zagged during a muddy contest in my early 30s. Goodbye, ACL. Hello, golf.

The one exception to my love of competition has been cycling. I much prefer it now as my primary mode of exercise. I have always loved long-distance rides, and recently spent a few days as a bike commuter while in Austin for SXSW. I rented a bike instead of a car on that trip, and loved the experience.

My regular 1-hour rides constitute a long moment of solitude, reflection, and peace — save for the podcasts filling my ear when I ride solo. My most regular route along the Cape Cod Canal offers a chance for bird watching, catching headwinds sea breezes, and racing boats. Thankfully, the boats are supposed to maintain a 10 mph speed limit while in the canal, so I frequently am triumphant. I am not ashamed at being spotted the speed. Now that I have crossed into my 40s, I can use the ego boost.

I don’t often ride with others. I have shied away from committing to regular rides because of my travel schedule, but after speaking recently to a member of the Cape Cod Cycling Club, I may work more social rides into my training repertoire. I completed my first century ride last year, and while the last 25 miles were a struggle I did enjoy the overall experience. This year my goal is to complete two such rides, so any extra training will help.

The cycling club member I spoke to said she is not competitive, and usually rides with a group averaging 16 mph — a C-level rider, she somewhat bashfully admitted.

Guess I better pick up the pace a little.

The training wheels are off

Benjamin has had a momentous couple of weeks surrounding his 6th birthday, and therefore so have Brandy and I.

The birthday would have been milestone enough, but there were several other red-letter days sprinkled around that. Benjamin lost his first two teeth, rode a bicycle without training wheels, graduated from a learn-to-skate class, hosted a pool party on the half-day of school before his birthday, and attended his first learn-to-play lacrosse clinic on the first day of April vacation.

Amid all of Benjamin’s accomplishments over the last two weeks, life continued at its normal pace for the rest of the family. Mason scrambled between soccer and baseball practices. Sam attended band practices and his weekly volunteer stint at Sandwich Public Library. Brandy handled two parent-teacher conferences, reading to Benjamin’s class and teaching art history to Mason’s class while I traipsed about the Northeast on three short business trips. Taxes were prepared and filed, house and shed were cleaned, spring garden was planted and freelance and day-job projects were tackled.

This month is barely beyond the halfway point, and we’re already out of breath.

When Benjamin declared he was ready to take off his training wheels last weekend, we headed to nearby tennis courts. We had tried to convince him he was ready last fall, and helped him ride around the back yard. That proved to be too difficult for maintaining balance once we let go, so the training wheels went back on the bike after a few attempts.

This time, after a lap around the tennis nets with one training wheel removed, he asserted that he was ready for a fully solo, training-wheel-free ride. He hardly needed me to run behind him to get him going, and other than one minor crash into the nets (end of first video below) and another glance off the fence, he looked as if he had been riding on two wheels for most of his life. You’ll see in the third video below he even graduated to Mason’s bike inside of a half hour.

Benjamin shedding his training wheels is a metaphor for Brandy and I as parents. Sam and Mason have been our training wheels. Juggling the schedules of two children up to this point has been fairly elementary. When double booked, we divide and conquer.

The past two weeks, though, have shown us the future. For example, Benjamin’s T-Ball schedule just arrived in my Inbox last night. There are three games that directly compete with something on another child’s calendar, and that is without knowing what Mason’s regular season baseball schedule is yet. We also caught a glimpse this week of the fall soccer schedule. Mason and Benjamin will have games at the same time. Luckily, they will be at the same facility, but there will undoubtedly be other scheduling pressures once fall fully rises above the horizon.

We will remember this spring as the tipping point, when Brandy and I fully became two divided into three. Our balancing act just got infinitely trickier.

Commuter Daddy Face Off: Austin vs. Middletown, NY

Monday morning commute
on the first full day
of Spring, 2011.

Looks like I got out of Dodge (a.k.a. Middletown, NY) just in time last night. More than half of a foot of snow is falling there today, on the heels of a couple of inches that accumulated (and swiftly melted) there, in the Poconos and beyond on Monday.

I’d like to blame the Supermoon. The full moon was so close to Earth over the weekend, its effects are lasting well into this week. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. It makes me feel better to chalk up our extended winter weather to episodic astrological events, rather than admit this is a normal spring in the Northeast.

The weather and other circumstances this week are a far cry from my road trip a week prior, when I was galavanting about Austin for SXSW Interactive. So in the spirit of Nick Bakay‘s “Tale of the Tape“, let’s pit March road trips to Austin versus those to the Hudson Valley. I think you can safely predict Austin will win, but let’s give it a go, shall we?

1. Gas prices:

  • This week I paid $63.62 to fill up the Commuterdaddymobile. I don’t recall ever spending that much on a tank of gas for my VW Passat. Heck, the pizza delivery for the family dinner the night before as about $10 cheaper.
  • Last week I rented a sweet Specialized Roubaix road bike instead of a car. Cycled to and from the Austin Convention Center from my Hampton Inn, just shy of five miles each way. In between sessions, I rode to a variety of eateries such as Juan Pelota Café at Mellow Johnny’s, or to far-flung panels at the Sheraton and University of Texas. There was one afternoon I had to race the sunset back to the hotel, but Daylight Savings Time saved me, extending the potential evening cycling time by an hour on Sunday. In the evenings, I was either hanging out with friends, or was hopping the SXSW hotel shuttles. The shuttle drivers were among the most interesting people I met at the conference. One was in the middle of securing investors for a neat sounding music app for mobile devices (there was an implied NDA in our conversation, so I will say no more than that). Another was putting her boys through college, and was moonlighting from her law enforcement day job by ferrying us SXSW revelers around town. We were in good hands.
  • Advantage: Austin.
2. Weather:
Enjoying the early spring scenery
in Austin prior to a  SXSW Interactive
session at the Hyatt.
  • Last week, I was wearing shorts daily. I managed to find some pairs of mountain bike shorts at REI that worked both for my bike commute and were sufficiently tasteful attire for the SXSW sessions. I did have to don rain pants and a light jack briefly one morning, but as soon as I started riding away from the hotel, the rain had stopped and the extra layer was no longer necessary.
  • This week the winter coat is still in heavy rotation. This morning, I was still wearing a hat to cover my ears for the early-morning dog walk. The 30- and 40-degree temperatures the last few weeks are not preventing me from riding my bike, but the snow predicted for Cape Cod tonight certainly mean there is a good chance I will not be riding tomorrow — at least not in the morning.
  • Advantage: Austin
3. Food:
Exerted will power
not to eat dessert
before the main course
at Annies Café & Bar
4. Hours:
  • Middletown: On the Monday mornings of my treks to Middletown, the alarm is typically set for 4:30 a.m. I hit the road by 5, and ideally arrive at the office around 10 a.m. The snow this past Monday made the arrival a little later, but otherwise everything was according to pattern. Tuesdays of my Middletown trips translate to sleeping in a bit. The alarm was set for 7:30 yesterday morning.
  • Austin: I stayed at the Doubletree Club in Boston the night before departing for Austin, in part to avoid getting up so early to make the drive from Cape Cod to Boston in time for my 6 a.m. flight. The other motivation is the parking included in the room rate, making it cheaper than parking for several days at the airport. Usually I stay either at the Embassy Suites or the Hilton at the airport, but this time I elected to stay off the airport property to get a bit of a break on the rate. One problem: The shuttles from the Doubletree depart at the top of the hour. To allow myself enough time to check my bag, waiting until 5 a.m. would have been cutting it close. So I chose the 4 a.m. shuttle. Alarm time? 3:45 a.m., which was roughly the same time I would have had to get up if I had stayed home.
  • Advantage: Middletown
5. Technology
  • For the Austin trip, I ditched the laptop. SXSW advice I read (or watched) prior to the trip advocated traveling as light as possible. So I decided this was an opportune time to travel with only my iPad and iPhone — especially given that I was carrying my bike helmet and shoes onto the plane. There was only once that I missed the laptop as I tried to do work in between or during conference sessions, and even then I was able to work around not having the laptop.
  • As soon as I arrived at the office in Middletown on Monday, I picked up the phone to call home to let the family know I had made it to my destination safely. I was immediately prompted for my long distance code. I rarely use my office phone for anything other than conference calls to a toll-free number, so I have not yet memorized my long distance code. I needed to look it up on my laptop. But when I awoke my laptop from sleep mode, it still thought it was conenected to the monitor at home, and therefore the start menu from which I usually fire up my password program was not visible. I had to reboot. While I did so, I tried using my mobile phone. How is it that the only time Verizon’s signal is not strong enough for my phone is when I am at either my home office or the Middletown office? All other places, I rarely experience dropped calls. In the two places I frequent the most? Dropped calls. Sure enough, as soon as my wife picked up the phone, the line went dead, causing her to worry slightly. She called me back, and the network again dropped the call. Sigh. Finally, laptop restarted and password program accessed, I could successfully dial out from my desk phone. All worry finally subsided.
  • Advantage: Austin, though it is not really Middletown’s fault that I haven’t yet put a password app on my phone. I have since memorized my long distance code too.
So there you have it. Austin wins 4-1. Sorry, Middletown. Better luck in August and September, when you’ll at least have a weather advantage.

Commuter Daddy’s 2010 resolution report card

Related Reading:
Pass/Fail: 32 Stories About Teaching,
from Inspiring to Hilarious

In last year’s recap of Commuter Daddy 2009 readers’ favorites, I embedded some New Year’s resolutions that many of the posts inspired. Now that 2010 is nearly concluded, here’s a pass/fail report card:

  1. Cycle 2,500 miles: Fail.
    I rode 1,609 miles, including my first century ride, but the cycling activity tailed off in the fall. Sinus issues and chest congestion were partly to blame. The rest of the lull was due to not making time for fitness over work. I will renew this goal for next year. Can’t wait for the warmer temperatures predicted for this weekend to melt the ice from the Cape Cod Canal bike path.
  2. Cook more in my hotel room. Pass.
    I actually filmed some video of my hotel quesadilla experiment, but never got around to editing and producing it for the blog. I should increase the frequency of my hotel-room cooking, but for now we’ll take satisfaction from having done some throughout the year.
  3. Forgo candy on the commutes: Fail.
    I managed to skip candy for a while, but then I rediscovered Necco Wafers. They are my new commuting vice and addicition. The good news? They’ve been modernized and made all natural. Who’d have thunk?!
  4. Install drainage at side door: Fail.
    Bought the materials, but they are still sitting in the shed. Channeled this energy into building a PVC soccer goal for our back yard instead. The boys are ecstatic, but the basement still needs me to divert some water. Again, will renew this resolution for next year.
  5. More sharing of favorite podcasts: Fail.
    This list is not going well. Not a single such blog post was written in 2010. I now have at least one blog post topic for sometime in January.
  6. Read a book per month: Fail.
    Was on a good pace at the beginning of the year, but am still on book #7, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, which I think I started in April. I hereby vow to finish that one in 2011, and renew my goal of a book per month. I predict this will be most likely to be marked as a fail on next year’s report card. I’ll see if we can provide a mid-year progress report. Maybe that will keep me on track.
  7. Travel with refillable coffee mug and water bottle: Pass.
    Never leave home without them.
  8. Choose mobile conferences over newspaper ones: Pass.
    I attended only one conferences in 2010: ThinkMobile in New York. The trip even inspired four blog posts:
    - No streaming media while riding the rails
    - Keep it wild
    - A wrinkle in the commute
    - More on Acela Wi-Fi via the iPad
    That’s a sign that I need to attend more mobile conferences, even if only to inspire more blog material. Speaking of which….
  9. Blog more: Pass.
    This will be the 57th post written this year, beating last year’s total by 5. I tied 2008′s total, but that’s OK. I have another post scheduled for tomorrow, ensuring complete passage of this resolution.

So the final score for 2010 is failures beat out passes, 5-4. That’s not to say other things weren’t accomplished in Commuter Daddy land, though many of them were outside the scope of this blog. There were two Florida vacations, including the first family trip to Walt Disney World. My wife and I also managed to sneak away for a kid-free overnight in Boston, a rare treat for us. I painted and installed a wooden screen door — again. The wood pile has been replenished, despite our first fall of all three boys playing soccer in the same season. I carded my first sub-100 round of golf. All in all it’s been a great year.

I’ll just need to focus more in 2011 on personal enrichment: cycling, reading, writing and home improvement. These are all things I enjoy doing. It should not be so difficult to make time for them. Consider at least that much — more personal time — done.

    All the news that fits — and the blogger too

    Spied via Mediabistro’s Facebook feed, who found it on Engadget: The ultimate bloggermobile. My VW is worried.

    The “bufalino” contains bedding, refrigerator, cooktop, basin, water tank, and storage bins. The back doors can even function as a clothesline — especially handy for beverage mishaps.

    A commode is apparently not an option, but road warriors are used to having to pull over for nature’s call, so I don’t see that as a deal breaker. Plus pulling over and moving around helps stave off thrombosis.

    There was no such thing as blogging when I drove cross-country from California to Massachusetts after college, but I still could have used a vehicle like this. I didn’t have enough money for a hotel room at every stopping point, so there was at least one night somewhere near Flagstaff that I slept in the front seat while parked at a Denny’s. My Isuzu Trooper was so tightly packed that I could not recline the seat. The bufalino bed looks quite comfortable in contrast to that memory.

    Still, the VW is safe. With the rear seat folded down, I can fit my bike and my golf clubs in the back. Not sure that would be the case in the bufalino. A bike rack might make that thing pop wheelies.

    Google adds biking directions — but cycle cautiously

    A friend gave me the heads up this morning that Google is announcing the addition of cycling directions to Google Maps. Very exciting!

    It’s still in “beta,” which for Google could be a long time, so I’ll withhold full judgement. The first set of directions I requested, however, show there are some wrinkles to be ironed out.

    When mapping a route from Sandwich to Woods Hole, I am directed to cycle through the Massachusetts Military Reservation, a definite no-no — more so since base security recently clamped down on recreational trespassers.

    Here’s a screenshot of the map (you apparently cannot yet embed maps of cycling directions):

    Google offers an alternate route, but it too traverses the base:

    I’m not opposed to riding through the base. I wish base security would let road cyclists through. Generally speaking, road cycling ought not to conflict with military training. Once upon a time you could cut through MMR, so I have some experience on the roads there. If you were riding from Sandwich to Falmouth, you could easily avoid riding by any firing ranges.

    For now, though, this is the route I would recommend, remapped thanks to Google Maps letting the user drag and drop points on the default route to a preferred course:

    Criticism aside, a feature that I love is the assumption that a rider would prefer bike paths, so my remapped route includes both the Cape Cod Canal and Shining Sea bike paths with a minimum amount of effort. The LatLong blog explains some of the other features, including factoring hills into the algorithm.

    Cyclists everywhere are going to have fun putting this Google Maps feature through its paces.