Archive for March, 2010
I live in a region with a drought prone mediterranean climate and so expressing one’s feelings about the rain (its frequency and abundance) is a local past-time and, I think, a reflection of becoming a true inhabitant of this dynamic ecological assemblage.
I love the rain — especially late season March/April rains, but it also reduces my riding (above is a fair weather picture from a mid-month ride).
And despite many rumors to the contrary, rainfall this year is just “average”. But “average” = “great” because now our reservoirs are finally full.
Stats from MMWD’s website:
Average year-to-date rainfall (inches): 46.3
Actual year-to-date rainfall (inches): 45.1
Current, reservoir storage (% of capacity): 99
Same time last year, reservoir storage (% of capacity): 84
Now we need to hope plans to restore native Coho salmon populations will soon start paying off.
Even though it’s just a little kiosk in a big parking lot, where else can you sit outside in the sunshine at a big picnic table with the daily paper. Maybe that’s why this place is always filled with bicyclists.
Pro’s: outdoor seating, a convivial local atmosphere, friendly baristas
Con’s: no proper espresso cups
As for the coffee: get a cappuccino or latte.
This is not the place for macchiatos or espressos.
It’s Spring…the hills have never been greener!
Great views from the ridge, some extending to downtown San Francisco. Lots of dog walkers and hikers — not many bicyclists up here, though.
The purple line marks paved roads. The green line marks the fire road connecting Ridgewood Rd. in San Rafael to Fawn Dr. in San Anselmo.
In a previous post, I described a new option for getting bicycling directions from Google Maps. Now I’m wondering how this feature deals with odd, highly impractical, or even impossible routes?
Trying to fool Google’s programming elves, I requested directions to a location on the other side of the Bay (i.e., a route from San Rafael to Berkeley).
The challenge, of course, is the bridges; they don’t allow bike travel (except for the Golden Gate Bridge). But Google Maps didn’t blink.
Rather than sending me on an ill-advised circumnavigation of the entire San Francisco Bay, I was instructed, as you can see in the screen shot below, to ride to Larkspur and to put my bike on the Golden Gate Ferry to SF (and then to catch the SF ferry to Oakland) before taking an overland route to Berkeley.
In urban planning circles we call this multi or mixed-mode commuting.
I was surprised Google Maps came up with this solution!
I saw a random picture of a handmade Guu-Watanabe bag back in 2006 and thought it was the most elegant design I had ever seen. (I urge you to spend some time exploring the design options now available on their website).
Shortly after seeing one of these bags, I tracked down the maker, Watanabe Shoichi, in Tokyo and together (with limited common language skills) we designed the bag for my Ebisu, emailing measurements and drawings back and forth until we had the proportions just right. I believe I was his first customer outside of Japan.
I’m still delighted with my purchase. It was — and still is — impossible to get a bag this size. It is much bigger than either the Ostrich bag or the Berthoud and it fits the proportions of my 59cm 650B frame just right, as I think is very clear in this photo.
The only flaw — if you can even call it a flaw — are the straps and metal buckles (a slightly fussy or showy detail that has no place in classic randonneuring designs). I would have preferred simple elastic and hook closures (and I notice that Shoichi now uses this type of closure on his current line), but otherwise it is perfect.
Kids always stop me on the street and ask who makes it and where can they find one.
Unfortunately, they can’t be found. But modern Acorn bags — while expensive — appear to be just as good (probably better).
Google Maps today added the option to get Bicycling directions (in addition to Walking, By car, and By public transit). This comes after more than 51,000 cyclists signed an on-line petition urging them to do so.
Google explains how the new feature works here.
For some reason these maps cannot be embedded yet in web pages, but above are some screen shots I made of the new interface and the map generated when I made San Francisco the destination.
Google engineers employ some fancy algorithms to deal with the problem of steep slopes and hills:
Our biking directions are based on a physical model of the amount of power your body has to exert given the slope of the road you’re biking on. Assuming typical values for mass and for wind resistance, we compute the effort you’ll require and the speed you’ll achieve while going uphill. We take this speed into account when determining the time estimate for your journey, and we also try hard to avoid routes that will require an unreasonable degree of exertion. Sometimes the model will determine that it’s far more efficient to make you ride several extra blocks than to have to deal with a massive hill.
Does it work as advertised?
- For the route to San Francisco it missed some smaller bike paths (e.g. the one behind the College of Marin along the canal). Overall, it seemed to make good, safe choices and no blatantly dumb ones.
- However, for a shorter trip to San Rafael, Google had me riding down the Miracle Mile rather than on Greenfield Avenue, which is really, really dumb.
At the very least, this beta version is a useful starting point for getting bicycling directions (and it will certainly become more reliable over time as users report problems).
Lagunita (the Spanish word for ‘little lake’) is the oldest and smallest lake in the watershed. It is also the highest in elevation (notice it’s relationship to the summit of Mt. Tam in the background).
Once you ride up here there’s a lovely little path circling the lake (see my route map).
But calling Lagunitas a lake is a bit of a misnomer: Lagunitas is really a man-made reservoir. One of seven reservoirs providing 75% of the county’s water supply.
The future of this supply is threatened, according to MMWD:
Our analyses show that current water supply will be insufficient to meet projected demand. This shortage would become severe in the event of a serious drought…We can get through one or possibly two dry years, but we would not be able to adequately supply our community in a longer drought.
Luckily, someone is paying atention. The intrepid little non-profit, Sustainable Fairfax is once again taking the lead:
Water project staff and volunteers will be approaching every business, school and resident in Fairfax to see “How Far We Can Go” to reduce our water use through technology and behavior. The idea is to focus intensively on one community to increase water conservation to see if that is an effective model resulting in long-term water savings.
(Note: It was too dark when I arrived to get a satisfactory image. The above shot of Lake Lagunitas was made this past summer…yes, fishing with a permit is allowed.)
You wouldn’t know it, but this is a picture of three wild turkeys (if you squint and use a little imagination you might see them). I was on my bicycle and it was dusk so all I got was this colorful blur.
Still, I think the picture kind of works as an abstract.
Riding around at sundown is usually a good time to see wildlife. I saw three deer and six wild turkeys.
Last evening the rain let up and I made the quick trip up to Lake Lagunitas. The ride is short, steep, and so very scenic (about 8-10 miles roundtrip with 800′ of elevation gain).
It’s the sort of ride to take when there’s only about an hour of sunlight left in the day. By this time, everything is quieter and water district rangers have shooed away the remaining visitors in automobiles. Only us bicyclists — and the various critters that emerge to forage at this magical time — are left to watch the fading of the light.
While I was off my bike (camera in hand) a small posse of mountain bikers appeared clucking “Hoo Koo E Koo” as they pedaled by.