Changing Lanes

 

It’s nearly a week now since I penned a somewhat, semi-formal letter to multiple local municipal mayors as well as a representative for the local/regional streets and roads maintenance program. I’ll attach. It was, what I thought to be, a rather simple request to an annoying if not outright dangerous problem. Heavily traveled local roads result in an unbelievable amount of trash deposited in the shoulder areas; or in many cases the designated bicycle lanes.

Given the emphasis the state, and particularly my county, Broward, put on outdoors recreation, including cycling, I am disappointed, yet not shocked, to not receive a single reply to my request. In fact, I’ve not even received an acknowledgment. Disappointing. At any rate, here’s the plea:

——— Original Message ———

Subject: Broward Bike Lanes
From: dwells@animalstrax.com
Date: 4/15/17 1:11 pm
To: dmckay@southwestranches.org, dwells@animalstrax.com, wmessam@miramarfl.gov, elaroche@miramarfl.gov, judy_paul@davie-fl.gov, Mayor_Ross@CooperCityFL.org, jlevy@hollywoodfl.org, fortis@ppines.com, tamarajames@daniabeachfl.gov, bsharief@broward.org, Barbara.Kelleher@dot.myflorida.com, dstermer@westonfl.org

April 15, 2017
The Honorable Mayors of
(Several South Broward Communities)
The Honorable Mayor of
Broward County  and
The PIO of FDOT District 4
Dear Mayors and Ms. Kelleher;
One of the things I was looking forward to upon my recent move to South Florida was the ability to bicycle the many miles of smooth roads, bike lanes and even paved trails.  As a middle-age male I was excited about the opportunity to continue focusing on my health year-round in my soon-to-be new state. After several months what I’ve found has been a decidedly mixed bag of enjoyment, sheer terror, exasperation and unexpected expense.
Multiple State of Florida websites, as well as local/regional bicycle advocacy sites, tout the benefits of cycling in Florida; and in some cases specifically South Florida. In fact, Governor Scott is given credit for proclaiming March as Bike Month in Florida.  http://www.broward.org/Parks/ThingsToDo/Documents/Florida%20Bicycle%20Month-%20Governor%20Rick%20Scott.pdf . Of note, several of the sites discuss the importance of bike safety both from the perspective of cyclists as well as motorists as follows: http://www.alerttodayflorida.com  Given the many avenues of publicly available State and Local support for cycling I’ve been frustrated with the on-the-ground reality of cycling in South Florida. Uninformed, careless and simply rude drivers have led to multiple rounds of terror but that’s an entirely different branch of discussion. For now I want to focus solely on the source of my frustration: trash.
That’s right, trash. It seems something of an accomplishment to cover a couple city blocks worth of bike lanes without finding an assortment of hazards lurking, waiting for the opportunity to strike and pop yet another tube and in some cases even tear through tires. Every couple of miles the lane-devils up their game and throw branches, car parts, big chunks of sod and the occasional piece of furniture at us. In the seven states in which I’ve lived I’ve never seen roadways littered with so many obstacles for cyclists. I’ve had more tubes pop in the months I’ve lived in South Florida than in all my previous 5-6 years of riding combined.
Initially I attempted to navigate the wonderful horse trails but quickly gave up.  Beautiful parks and crazy big homes were a draw to cover every block of the asphalt multi-use trails. Those clear positives melted away as I learned almost no sections are wide enough for an emergency vehicle (standard width per a state with world class trails per state codes: http://www.iowadot.gov/iowabikes/trails/chpt04-3.html). As such they’re not wide enough for two skinny-tire bikes so they’re of no value for a social ride with my spouse let alone a small group of my newly found cycling buddies for a workout.  In addition, after riding most of the trails I determined I could never again ride them with a standard skinny tire bicycle. The heaving cracks, holes and sometimes tree-sized roots were jarring for me and unhealthy for the bike. The trails will remain a tremendous resource for running my dog and the times I want to drag out a fatter-tire bike but they’re clearly not of the rails-to-trails standards needed for road bikes. Which brings me back to the roadway bike lanes……..
I said the sheer-terror part of my bike-lane emotions would be reserved for another space and it will. Mostly.  Since the (awesome) horse trails are not an option we turn to the wonderful miles of bike lanes here in Broward to chase our dreams of dropping that final three pounds and establishing social connections that we hope will lead to long-term friendships. Except when the trash in the lanes is so obnoxious (see above) we’re forced out into the auto traffic lanes full of vehicles that seem oblivious to any sense of speed limits. While off road/trail riders may grin at the sight of a six foot branch, porch door, car tire or office chair in their path, we skinny tire riders have little choice but to swerve and take our chances with traffic. My guess is few members of the road maintenance teams, politicians or other proponents of the benefits of road cycling in South Florida actually ride a bike either on the trails or the bike-lane equipped roadways. If they did my comments would be obsolete. Where I grew up it was common to say the local Council members were always the first to have their roads cleared of snow after every snowfall; regardless of conditions or cost; they had clean streets in their immediate neighborhoods.
My ask is how to go about filling a form or making a request to the appropriate resources who have the ability to clear out our bike lanes in Broward. My newfound cycling pals have stated they have contacted multiple agencies over time—-towns and County—clearly to no avail. I’m happy to comply with whatever medium is necessary to make the requests. Even if it means separate requests for each jurisdiction. Thank you for your time and understanding and perhaps someday we’ll see you out in the lanes!
Respectfully,
Don
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 I attempted to be somewhat casual yet explanatory. Direct yet not offensive. Concise yet complete. Clearly I missed on several fronts. I plan to give it three-four more days before chasing down some sort of followup, whatever that might be. I just want to ride my bike safely.
AniMal

Turkey Trifecta 2016

(copied)
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Schweizer, Mike <MSchweizer

This was in the Columbia Tribune this morning… appropriate for the SCRC Turkey Trifecta… Going to get her a SCRC Shirt for the next roadrace!!!

From: Elsbernd, Ryan [mailto:
Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2016 9:29 AM
To:
Subject: Gravy Training: SCRC Turkey Trifecta 2016 – Day Two

Day Two will go on as planned, rain or shine. If you need some motivation, think of that third ladle of gravy over mashed potatoes and the strength and power it’ll give so you too can finish strong like NCAA XC Champion Karissa Schweizer.

Depart at 11:30 for Park Loop. Be careful crossing Fleur. Don’t just blindly follow like a turkey with its head cut off.

Important: everyone who finishes the entire Trifecta really is awarded an authentic, beautifully handcrafted and individually signed Certificate Suitable for FramingTM. So after tomorrow, if you’ve earned an authentic, beautifully handcrafted and individually signed Certificate Suitable for FramingTM, please respond to this email. One person from your group is welcome to email multiple finishers. Just be sure to include each finisher’s email address please.

Gobble Gobble,
~Ryan

Ric Flair

_____________________________________________

…so you can enjoy that guilt-free second and third helping Thanksgiving Day®

Monday, November 21st: Loop of Coin (7.1 miles) – depart at 11:40.
Tuesday, November 22nd: Park Loop (8 miles) – depart at 11:30.
Wednesday, November 23rd: Loop de Loop (10 miles) – depart at 11:30.

All official departures will take place from the northwest corner of 9th & High. Note the departure times as they differ each day due to the length of the course.

Things to keep in mind:
· Safety first…and second…and third. The Trifecta is run on open roads. Please use common sense and courtesy when dealing with traffic. And watch for deer.
· These are intended to be social runs. Everyone is expected to attempt to stay together.* And everyone is welcome to run.
· Each participant who completes all three routes of the Turkey Trifecta will be awarded an authentic, beautifully handcrafted and individually signed Certificate Suitable for FramingTM.
· Again this year! Anyone who completes the entire Trifecta within one 24 hour period will be awarded, in addition to an authentic, beautifully handcrafted and individually signed Certificate Suitable for FramingTM, a frozen Swanson turkey TV dinner.

If you’re not in Des Moines next week, satellite Turkey Trifectas are available in West Des Moines, St. Louis, South Florida, Lee’s Summit, Denver, Stockholm and Hong Kong. Contact your local SCRC rep for more details.

Please share this email with others who might be interested. Hope to see you there,
~Ryan

*the exception to this rule is Wednesday when, optionally, you may attempt to demonstrate your running superiority

**** This message was sent securely via TLS encryption. ****
—–Message Disclaimer—–

Political Fray

I’ve felt compelled to vent and rant about the current National (and sometimes local) political cycle and simply have been too lazy to follow through. As is the case with almost all the topics of late. The too lazy to follow through thing. I’ll take about anything to give a jumpstart to kicking my laziness to the curb.

Current national Republican Party leadership has hinted, indicated and flat out stated, ‘……it should be the will of the people who the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice will be……..’ therefore no hearings or votes will be taken as is specifically stated in the U.S. Constitution. Nearly unanimous support across the Republican leadership as well as general support amongst rank and file. The will of the people. That’s a quote.

Yet during the same news cycle these same Republican leaders refute, rebuke, denounce and degrade Presidential candidate Donald Trump. Even as clearly it’s the will of the people (to date) that he lead the party. Defy the U.S. Constitution and defer to ‘the will of the people’ out of one side of the mouth at the beginning of the news cycle and before the end of the news cycle denounce the will of the people in the selection of the (probable) Republican Presidential Nominee. Which is it? We the people get to have a will or we don’t? Sure wish they’d make up their minds so I know when my will matters. Washington elite–neh Washington ‘cartel’ (nod to Senator Cruz). I’m right their with ‘the people’ and think I may have found my candidate.

 

AniMal

 

Training: Week 1

I took one of those pledges toward the end of the first week of the year. You know, lose so many pounds, do so many sit-ups, say so many nice things, etc…. Mine happened to be run so many miles for the year. I’ve never done that before. In my nearly twenty years of miles on the bike and the feet I enter each year with a general idea of events I’d like to complete; rarely taking the initiative to sign up more than four-five months in advance. However, given my significant goal for the year being on record since June of 2015 I recognize I need motivation and carrots and cajoling.

A couple of former A-List runners started a program a couple years ago to get folks committed to moving more. They had them set a pretty audacious goal—walk/jog/run 2015 miles in 2015. That breaks down to more than 5.5 miles per day. Every day (on  average). That’s really a lot of moving in context to a recent study I heard that said roughly only five percent of people proactively, on their own exercise on a seriously regular basis. Run The Year 2016. Price was right leaving the only barrier to entry as the actual thing the coaches want you to do: run 2016 miles by the end of the year. No small feat. 168 miles per month, nearly 39 miles per week and over 5.5 miles per day. My response after joining: promptly take two days off running.

With nearly continual pain, in various degrees, to both knees I’d hit a point it was time again to see the Doc.  After a visit and an affirmation that I’m still structurally sound he pulled out the needle (actually one of his assistants did) and injected me with another round of relief. Yay Rx! Yay me! But down for a couple days to let the knee settle in with its newly injected invader. Defender of the truth, masking of the evil.  A somewhat eventful first full week of training to begin the year.

 

The One Percent

Sitting nearly smack in the middle of the court and only ten rows up my eyes should have been glued to the players on the court warming up before what would be a blowout of a game. Yet I found my eyes darting back and forth between the court, the two perfectly lighted student sections and the crowd still pouring into their 15 inches of bleacher we’d all call home for the next three hours. I counted: one…..two, three…….four…..four……five, six……..seven…..eight…..nine. Perhaps a couple others—the students rarely sat, or stood, still for more than a couple of seconds at a time. I remember, and miss, those days. Looking back to the court: one…..two, three…..four, I think. Now back to the non-student sections of the crowd.  Similar.

In my own naive, uninformed way I felt a rush of familiarity with the recent protests, movements or actions (you pick’em) taking place on several college campus’ across the country. Within an entire student section in a sold-out game I counted perhaps ten non-white students.  Spanning the 16,000+ Allen Field House capacity crowd were maybe a couple dozen non-white fans, staff, volunteers. On the court perhaps 75% of the home-team players were black.

During one of the breaks the announcer touted the limited chance to purchase a team autographed ball. Tickets, not to mention parking, that run well into the three digits. The < 2% of student population, but >75% player population, capitalized on to help fund the program. From that view it’d appear equitable—fair even. 75% to help fund the other 25%. Yet that’s not exactly how it works.

I’m not read in enough to know many details of the plights and pleas of the (largely minority) student groups around the country apparently attempting to make gains. Perhaps they are justified, perhaps not. What I now have, that I didn’t truly understand before, is a first-hand view of how campus life appears to many minorities. Cool heads, thoughtful discourse and the art of utilizing whatever power the groups might have will pay off in the longer run. Oh, and Go Jayhawks!

AniMal

Plenty Ladylike?

United States Senator Claire McCaskill was in town a few weeks ago. While she currently makes her permanent home in the St. Louis area she spent time in the Kansas City area in the ’80’s and ’90s. Presumably as a consistently upward progressing professional she maintains several relationships in KC. When I learned she was scheduled to make a public appearance I took a look at schedules and decided we could make it.

Anxiously I emailed the organizer as they sounded quite certain the venue may be stretched to accommodate attendees. While reservations were not required—it was suggested they be notified so we did.

I had never been to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library–a travesty considering it’s less than a 25 minute drive. We pulled into the parking lot around thirty minutes prior to Sen. McCaskill’s appearance. She was in town as part of a book tour–Plenty Ladylike–presumably planning to ramp up sales amongst friends to help show high numbers to her publisher. Simply a presumption. Independence, Missouri is not particularly a gem in the greater Kansas City MSA. In fact; many parts of it are rather tattered looking. Back in the days of Truman and the influence of the Pendergast Machine I’d suspect it was a bustling metropolitan area; not so much anymore. Over one of the many hills of Independence Avenue the library complex appears almost out of place. A few acres of green grass and parking asphalt were a welcome break from the miles of strip malls and dated homes. Dated; not charming, classic, historic or historical; just dated.

We pulled into the nearly empty lot and immediately shifted our thinking from a dynamic, packed crowd of groupies, fans and political wonks to our upcoming time with a handful of retirees, close friends staff.  We were spot on.

President Truman’s Library retains an aura of prestige in spite of its age and relatively pedestrian locale. Timeless stone with crisp lines, plenty of green-space including a sizable courtyard that also serves as a gravesite. Naturally the gift shop (read as steady revenue stream) directly inside. Perhaps more on the library and museum at a later time. For now it was down the hall to the mid-sized theater room–perhaps room for 250. In line with our thinking as we pulled into the parking lot we stood out amongst the blue-hairs, personal friends and staffers. All couple-of-hands-full of them. Twenty-five, thirty tops. Disappointing to say the least. Were I in the position of Sen. McCaskill’s assistant I’d have been preparing myself for a tongue lashing. Surely a sitting United States Senator making an appearance in a metropolitan area of nearly 2.4 million one could expect more than a couple dozen attendees on a pleasant Fall weekend afternoon.

Seats aplenty we chose the middle of about the fourth row back. Perfect. Details of the presentation can largely be obtained from her book, Plenty Ladylike. In fact our host, the library events director stated as much. He pulled questions and topics directly from the publication–after all this was essentially a book tour–and the Senator responded largely in line with the book.  Clearly she has friends, enemies and frenemies; per the book she makes and leaves an impression. Seems one would know how one stands with her after an interaction. I liked her–she’s tough, opinionated and principled. All of which earned through a lifetime of political wars and a fairly well-off upbringing.

Event @ Truman Library
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill @ Truman Library

I was saddened for our time to come to a close. Being suckers for this sort of thing of course we wanted a signed copy of her book. I’m not much for standing in line…..short as it may have been…..so I took an abbreviated tour of the library as Ames jumped in line. True to form the Senator was short on small-talk; it was all business and quickly conducted at that. Worth the time? Absolutely. It’s added to my list of similar events I’ll take with me.

Leukopenia. HIV. Autoimmune disorders. Bone marrow disorders/damage. Lymphoma. Severe infections. Liver and spleen diseases.  Lupus. Radiation therapy.

Rather unpleasant sounding, all of them, I’d say. For the second time in a year I’ve scored a low white blood cell (WBC) count–Leukopenia. The rest of them are common (but not all) conditions associated with a low WBC. None of which I’d rather have over the others. Some of which I know I cannot possess: radiation therapy and severe infections. In thoroughly researching this the last go-around (several months ago) I self-diagnosed myself as having none of them—to be fully exonerated when my retest  came back just over the OK lower limit per my physician’s guidelines.

I had a grandparent who was a bit of a hypochondriac. At least the way I remember it—I was a mid-teen when it was time for the nursing home so it’s a bit of stretch to recall details.  An infection sounds about right. Maybe early onset liver disease—after all I’ve consumed my share of alcohol. Autoimmune disorders. Now we’re talking. After all I’ve had a total of a dozen injections and seemingly endless tests in an effort to diagnose the pain and swelling in my arms and wrists. And my knees have been problematic for years. Fatigue, joint-pain, malaise. Check, check, check.

Death doesn’t bother me. Dying does. Watching the aging of my siblings and parents has been rather troubling. Unfortunately none of them takes particularly good care of themselves—surely they all must feel worse than I do. Have worse scores than I do. Why don’t I hear from them? In fact my parents seem convinced they’ll live forever. Well into their latter 70’s and early 80’s it seems they’re busier than 10-15 years ago. Maybe I do have something very specific to me–apart from any familial chain.

Stopping in my coffee shop after an easy run this morning the last thing on my mind was low WBC. Royals baseball, my paint store order and a quality cup of coffee were first on my mind. Five more weeks. Five more weeks before I’m allowed to have my arm re-pricked by the lab. Five and one-half weeks before I score either two of four or three of four low WBC. Let the distractions begin……