Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Solstice Sunride: Come On Down!

If at first you don't succeed...try something different...

I want to submit an entry to the 2010 Bicycle Film Festival (my 2008 entry wasn't selected...c'est la vie). I've wanted to "observe" the Winter Solstice for some time now. And, I'm fascinated with Norfolk's emerging bike culture. So I mashed up all three and present...

Solstice Sunride:
A Cycling Community Documentary & Happening

On Winter Solstice, next Monday, December 21st, I will be shooting a film at Norfolk's Plum Point Park, on the Elizabeth River Trail in West Ghent, overlooking the riverscape. I will be setting up at least one timelapse camera to record the sunrise, transit & sunset on the shortest day of the year. And, I will also be making portraits and recording interviews with Norfolk cyclists during daylight at Plum Point Park.

So ride out before work, after school, or during your lunch hour. Pose for a picture, sip a warm cup of freshly mulled cider, watch the sun slip across the sky, and answer the question,

"Why do you ride?"

If you'd like to reserve a time between 7:15am and 4:45pm, drop me a note: friendwes_at_mac.com.

Now here's the really fun part...at 5:20pm we'll get on our bikes & ride from Plum Point Park: I'll be leading a mystery ride on a spontaneous route to an undisclosed location. Riders will be invited to participate in traditional solstice celebrations, including a yule log & warm grog.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ipswich after the Nor'Easter: It Could be Worse...

As soon as the power came on & I was able to start up the sump pump, I headed out to Ipswich on Saturday to see what kind of storm damage there was...truth be told, it could've been a lot worse! There are more pix in my photobucket album.

I didn't ride every single trail- in fact I never made it across the power lines to the south side: I mostly stayed in the older-growth section on the north side. But after Hurricane Isabel Ipswich was much more torn up. There were a fair number of downed trees, but nothing too bad: I only found one large (12"+ trunk diameter) Swamp Maple that was blocking a significant length of the "Orange X" trail east of the Rokeby/Main trail head, and I was able to get that out of the way with about an hour of work. I added a couple of logs to the trail for a little variety.

There's also a fairly tall pine tree that's fallen across "Blunt Corner" (the clearing at the Rokeby/Main trailhead that's often littered with Philly blunt wrappers). I only brought hand tools, so I just left it where it was.

I also got some "traffic direction" work done. If I did my job right, the main trails will flow more smoothly, and no one will notice what's missing...

And for the record, the plywood shack southeast of Blunt Corner was built by stoners, not a homeless guy...

EVMA is moving forward on becomes an official sponsor of Indian River Park (the official name of "Ipswich"), and we're looking to have a park clean up on Saturday, January 9. More details will be forthcoming. The City is receptive to EVMA taking on more of the maintenance at Ipswich, and has even offered to provide supplies- who knows? maybe we'll get a ton of gravel!

On the way out to the car this afternoon, I met up with Tristan & Greg, who were about to take a ride and see what needed to be done. Thanks, guys, for coming out! I think I also saw Kev's Audiwagon, too...

While I was out there, I laid out some pink survey tape to mark where the bermed turns could use some attention: I'd love to see some 2 or 3 foot berms on the "Orange X" trail south of the Rokeby/Main trailhead. There's the potential for some really nice S curves!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Not so New, but still Improved!

Based on feedback from riders and my own observations of the changing road conditions, I've updated my "Bike Friendly Norfolk" map.

I'm happy to report that most of the changes have been for the better: anecdotally, there are more cyclists out there. More cyclists make for safer roads, as a "critical mass" is established. Colley Avenue, in particular, feels more bike-friendly than it did two years ago, when I first published my map.

East Little Creek Road and Virginia Beach Boulevard have also been renovated: the service roads are now gone from East Little Creek, replaced by a 12-foot wide shoulder that is a bike lane in all but name. I'm looking forward to the roadwork being finished on The Boulevard, bringing it to a similar condition.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions or comments, and feel free to distribute!

Monday Night "Urban Assault" Ride

Even though, or maybe because, I started the Monday night ride with Liz some seven years ago (yep, Liz, it's been that long), I've gotten kinda bored with it...The route hasn't changed that much, and chasing after a bunch of ├╝bermensch while dragging along a baby trailer gets old after a while...It's been more fun to head out to Ipswich & do trail work.

We tried a different route last night, heading up Granby Street & out to the end of Willoughby Spit. On the way back I rode a lap of the cross-country course at Northside Park. Thirteen crazy folk showed up, mostly on 'cross bikes, and it was definitely an A Pace ride- 19mph+ for most of the way.

Thanks, Robert, Liz & Mike, for suggesting a fun, new route. I never thought I'd see the day when Liz Schleeper would lead a group ride down Tidewater Drive!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Race Across the Sky: Coming to Hampton! Thursday Night!!!

Race Across The Sky, the Leadville 100 documentary, will be showing this Thursday night at the Hampton AMC Theatres!

I'm ordering my tickets now- the last bike film I saw in the theater was "The Triplets of Belleville."

Ipswich: Southside's Best Singletrack

"Ipswich? Man, I haven't ridden there in years!"

The rumors of Ipswich's demise have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, there's been a fair bit of grassroots effort in the past couple of months to make Ipswich (A.K.A. Indian River Park) a better place to ride. The Eastern Virginia Mountain Bike Association (EVMA) is negotiating with the City of Chesapeake to officially sponsor the park, at the behest of Southside Hampton Roads mountain bikers who want to realize the full potential of Ipswich.

Here's a short, and probably incomplete, list of some of the work that's been done at Ipswich since the summer:

  1. Litter Clean Up. Let's just be honest about it, Ipswich gets trashed. It's not as bad as it was, but it definitely should be better.
  2. Trail Maintenance. It's the little stuff- trimming back branches, pulling out thorn vines, and occasionally getting out a chainsaw to clear deadfall.
  3. Mud Holes. There are a fair number of low spots at Ipswich. The worst of them have been "palletized." Drainage and gravel has been added in a few spots, but there's still more work to be done in order to make some of the trail loops flow smoothly- right now it's pretty damaging to ride through the worst spots.
  4. New Bridges. In a fit of liability paranoia a year or so ago, the City of Chesapeake chainsawed the best MTB features, such as the 15' teeter totter...but there are some new features cropping up, including a sweet little bridge (if I do say so myself):
  5. Trail Marks. By far, this is the improvement most visible to newbies and riders who haven't been back to Ipswich since the last hurricane. While there's still more work to be done, it's now possible to ride the "Orange X" loop around both sides of the park. The marking of the "Red Circle" and "White Arrow" trails should be finished before Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Solo Breakaway Wins!

The 7-Eleven Posse Poses

"Hey man, I'll trade you a Davis Phinney for your Bob Roll," one nostalgic hipster said to another under the glow of sodium lights. But before a response could be made, another voice jumped in,

"Bob Roll? The Bob Roll rode for 7-Eleven? I never knew that!!!"

Yup, and so did Chris Carmichael, (yes, that Chris Carmichael), John Tomac and Andy Hampsten. Both Davis Phinney and his wife Connie Carpenter rode for 7-Eleven, too, although Connie was on the women's team with Rebecca Twigg.
Straight outta my high school locker...
"Rebecca wears Protec, or she wears nothing at all."

Eleven guys showed up for the first-ever Re-Cycle 7-Eleven alley cat, and paired up into two-man squads, with the exception of Matt, the odd man out. Matt took it in stride though, and declined to ride in a threesome, instead opting to go solo.

Riders needed to visit 4 7-Elevens (any four), as well as 7 of 11 "recycled" Norfolk 7-Elevens. "Premiums," or time bonuses, were offered for bringing back receipts from more-distant 7-Elevens. And a 27 minutes time bonus was offered for photographic proof of a recycled 7-Eleven not listed on the manifest.

Matt scored by finding a "7 Brothers" convenience store that not only recycled a 7-Eleven store building, but also ripped off the 7-Eleven logo for their sign! Kudos to Matt for a long, solo ride in the dark!

Matt, winner of 7-Eleven Re-Cycles, 2009 Edition.

Next up:
An Alley Cat tribute to Andy Hampsten and the Gavia pass?
A 7-Eleven race sequel on Sunday, July 11th?
Wait & see...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Re-Cycle 7 Eleven

Alright, if you've ridden with me around Norfolk, you know one of my favorites quirks of this area is the abundance of "recycled" 7-Elevens: convenience stores put to new use.

So while I'm not going to reveal the checkpoints for this upcoming Alley Cat, I will confirm that there will be more than a few former 7-Elevens featured.

Come out & enjoy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Clean Up @ Ipswich

I've been riding around Ipswich recently, getting ready for the Wednesday night rides. By the end of summer vacation the place had been trashed: given the abundance of fruit-flavored Philly Blunt wrappers, and the accompanying, munchy-induced soda bottles & potato chip bags, I'd guess that there's been some stoners out there...

The trails are in pretty decent shape, and a few kind souls have cleaned up some of the recent windfall, but the trash has gotta go! So this Saturday, 9/26, Liz Schleeper & myself will be coordinating a cleanup at Ipswich, starting at noon. We're looking for folks to come out for an hour or two, pick up litter, and maybe do some minor trail maintenance.

There are a few "potholes" in the trails that we've been calling & avoiding for a year or more during our group rides. It would only be a couple of minutes work with a shovel to fill them in, but who thinks to bring along a shovel on a mountain bike ride? There are also some inclined sections that could use similar attention: a bucket of dirt spread on the fall line would make for a smoother ride. There are also a couple of larger donut holes left by dirt bikes that need to be filled in, too.

The trails are relatively clear of branches and weeds, although there are will always be some new growth that needs to be trimmed. If you're inclined to do so, bring along a small, folding handsaw.

Finally, I could use 10-15 gallons of gravel. If you can get it to the trailhead, I'll take it from there in my B.O.B. trailer: I need it to lay at the base of a new ladder bridge.

So here's a list of what we need, Saturday Afternoon:
1. You.
2. Your friend.
3. Willing hands to pick up trash.

Optionally, we could also use the following:
A. Shovels
B. Handsaws
C. 10-15 gallons of gravel
D. 5 gallon plastic buckets w/ handles (good for moving dirt)
E. Wheelbarrows
(good for moving more dirt)
F. Bike trailers. (2 wheels good, 1 wheel better)
G. Your Bike

After we finish cleaning up, we'll celebrate with a group ride around Ipswich, followed by a group hug.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ludicrous, Giving Away Cars!

Rapper Ludacris gave away twenty cars earlier this week.

How empowering.

For the same amount of money, he could've given away 300 decent bicycles, which would've been a far better bargain for the working poor:

I'm gonna hazard a guess that the average recipient of a Luda-car doesn't have health insurance, and they're already strapped for cash.

Ludacris gave them each a car, but didn't cover the insurance, registration or taxes. And now, instead of improving their cardiovascular health, and thereby decreasing their risk of diabetes and heart disease, they now have a new key to a sedantary drive, thereby decreasing their life expectancies.

(No, really: cyclists have a longer life span than automobile drivers.)

If they'd been given bikes, they not only would've saved money on automobile taxes, title, registration & insurance, they would've also saved thousands of dollars per year on gasoline & maintenance costs, not to mention the above-mentioned healthcare savings.

Yep, chalk up another one for the American Dream: style trumps substance.

My Morning Road Rash

It was a cool, clear morning: blue skies & puffy white clouds.
I grabbed my touring bike with fenders, expecting to find a few puddles left over from yesterday's rain.
I was cutting a turn through a parking lot in City Park, when
my rear wheel slid out on a scrap of cardboard.
Down I went, tearing up my favorite Portland-style bike knickers.

It just goes to prove,

Litter Hurts.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Full Fenders & Goretex

Our rain barrels are overflowing under the gutters, and for the first time since spring I had to suit up in full Goretex, head to toe, in order to be able to ride into work.  I rode my trusty touring bike, with full.fenders and mud flaps.  Yup, it's a workhorse: my winter bike.  A couple of coworkers laughed when they saw me emerge from the elevator, dripping wet.

But hey, I had a good ride in!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sponsored by Pringles?

It's a Chevy Nova.
Why would anyone bother repainting it, buying new wheels, registering it as an "antique," and slapping the Pringles logo on the side?

Is this part of a new urban trend?
I saw a Nestle Quik motorcycle, with matching helmets, the other day.


On my commute into work this morning, I saw a Canada Goose lying dead next to the road.

I guess somebody was sorry.

Norfolk Bike Cops- Get Off the Sidewalk!

I was on my way to join the Wednesday night road ride out of the Norfolk Conte's when I saw a squad of bike cops riding north on Granby Street, single file, along the sidewalk. They stopped at the 7-Eleven at 38th & Granby for refreshments, and I took the opportunity to engage them.

While adult cyclists in Norfolk are legally obliged to ride in the road, Norfolk bike cops can ride on the sidewalk whenever they darn well feel like it.

Well, I got three different answers to that question from a squad of Norfolk's "finest." I'll leave you to judge the lameness:

1. "The department won't buy us rear-view mirrors."
2. "The sidewalk is safer because we're targets."
3. "The Supreme Court says we can."

So let's take a look at each of these excuses for failing to follow the rules of the road:

1. "The department won't buy us rear-view mirrors."
Rear-view mirrors are not necessary to ride safely on the road. A cyclist is far more likely to be injured by what's in front of them than by what's behind them. And it's hard to lend much credence to budgetary woes when the officers in question are riding $2,000 bikes, and their utility belts are sagging under the weight of radios, handcuffs, tasers, batons, pistols and pepper spray. The Norfolk Police Department can't pony up $5 for a helmet or handlebar-mounted rear-view mirror? Please...

2. "The sidewalk is safer because we're targets."
One of the younger members of the bike squad asserted that it was safer for bike cops to ride on the sidewalk because they're targets in the road. But if some enraged driver wanted to run over a bike cop, I doubt that a six inch curb would be much of an impediment. I'll hazard a guess that the injury rate for bike cops is statistically proportional to that for civilian cyclists: in North America a cyclist is more likely to be injured and killed when they're riding on the sidewalk.

3. "The Supreme Court says we can."

Well, I can't argue much with this one. The Norfolk City Code allows city employees to ride on sidewalks. The Supreme Court has upheld that police officers are legally allowed to use lethal force and ignore traffic laws in the performance of their duties. I hardly think, though, that riding to 7-Eleven is a part of their official duties.

To argue by analogy, let's consider another police officer heading north on Granby Street to 7-Eleven. It's late afternoon, and traffic is heavy, so the officer decides to drive their squad car/motorcycle/paddy wagon on the sidewalk. In the abscence of any emergency, I believe that most law-abiding citizens would consider such behavior to be an abuse of power. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

What our public servants should do is teach by example: Green light means "go," and red light means "stop." Signal before changing lanes or turning. Obey the speed limit. And if the protection of the public safety warrants, drive the wrong way down a one-way street, through a red light, or, on the sidewalk.

There is a commonly held misperception that cyclists belong on the sidewalk. More than once I've been told on the streets of Norfolk, "Get on the sidewalk!" When bike cops abuse their authority to ride on the sidewalks, they endanger themselves in the short term and their fellow citizens in the long term: In the short term, it is more dangerous to ride a bike on a sidewalk for anybody, bike cops included. In the long term sidewalk-riding bike cops endanger their fellow citizen cyclists by
enforcing the public misperception that the sidewalks are where bikes belong.

Bike cops neither protect nor serve the public when they ride on the sidewalk. In the abscence of a compelling duty, they need to get down off the sidewalk and into the gutter with civilian cyclists.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bike parking for all

95% of American car trips end in a "free" (in reality: indirectly subsidized) parking spot.

Automobiles spend 98% of their time parked.

So maybe it's time for "free" bike parking.

Read Slate for more details.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kickin' it up a notch: New Team Zissou Uniform Accessory

55 Days & Counting: Team Zissou, Part 2

Yes,Team Zissou will be returning to the Tidewater Mountain Bike Challenge, with at least one entry into the Duo-Enduro Category.

Costumed members of Team Zissou qualify for both a registration discount and a FREE red cap. Supplies of blue Team Zissou shirts are in limited quantities. Speedos optional.

Persons interested in joining Team Zissou should email friendwes_at_mac_dot_com.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

I was able to get access to some prime real estate in New Jersey for a shot of a Norfolk Southern intermodal train paralleling the New Jersey Turnpike and Newark International Airport.

And the catering wasn't too bad either! Swedish meatballs...

Behind the Scenes: Bend Your Knees

Yep, the excitement of road trip photo shoots is pretty much summed up in this picture: heavy camera cases, padlocks and bungee cords in the back of a Honda Element...Bend Your Knees.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back from New Jersey...

I spent most of last week up in Northern New Jersey, photographing trains and cargo terminals...I think my lungs will be recovering for a couple more weeks. For the better part of a morning I was hanging out of a helicopter, shooting video with my Nikon D90 & stills with a D3. I mounted a KenLabs gyroscopic stabilizer to the base of my Captain Stubling rail system- heavy, but effective.

I've got some more footage to edit down into a movie about the July Critical Mass in Norfolk. Maybe I'll get some time for that tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coming Soon to Downtown Norfolk: Bike Racks!

I got a call Friday afternoon from the Downtown Norfolk Council, telling me that my proposal for a bike rack sculpture had been accepted.

It looks like it'll be at least 6 months until the sculptures are installed. Which gives me time to get a few more built by the Norfolk Machine & Welding Company, and sold to local businesses in need of functional, attractive bicycle parking.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bring a Gong. Bang it on.

Family-friendly Critical Mass ride tomorrow night in Norfolk, 6pm. Meet at Blair Middle School on Colley Avenue. Route & mileage to be determined, but usually 5-10 miles, through Ghent, Downtown & (maybe) ODU.

Bring a bell! Prizes will be awarded for the friendliest bike bell.

Richmond Cyclist Dragged by Truck, Survives

My favorite line from the video clip:

"Police say they are treating this as an unfortunate accident; no charges have been filed against the trucker."

According to one witness in the clip below, the driver "clipped the sidewalk." I'd think that would be sufficient for a reckless driving charge!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Captain Stubling, Reporting for Duty

I made the investment last month in a rail system from Redrock Micro for my Nikon D90, all the better to shoot video with, my deary!

I've got an aerial photo shoot coming up next month, hence the KenLabs gyro on the bottom. It's definitely stable, and heavy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cycling Dad Shot in Head

A driver, now identified as an Asheville firefighter, shot a bicycle rider because he was angry the man was riding with his child on a busy road, Asheville police said.

Let's hear it for public servants/vigilantes...what happened to "protect and serve?"

"Over your dead body will you ride that bike with your child through Tunnel Road!"

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ghost Ride: Norfolk

I printed up 40 spoke cards & had three left over after handing them out, so by my count we had 37 cyclists out last Friday for a special Critical Mass ride. The air temperature was in the mid nineties, never mind the radiated heat from the asphalt roads. After three flats and a couple of regroups, we set up two memorial Ghost Bikes. All pix by BC Wilson.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fireworks Rides: Cogan's to Plum Point Park, Norfolk

There is some prime fireworks viewing from Plum Point Park on the Elizabeth River Bike Trail in Norfolk. Fireworks tonight & tomorrow night at 9:30pm.

Gather at Cogan's on Colonial Avenue in Ghent before sunset: plenty of bike parking, beer & pizza. Ride will depart by 9 for a casual ride along the Elizabeth River Bike Pat

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mid-Life Crisis, Pt. 2: Bakfiets Envy

"It's the Cadillac of Minivans,"
John Travolta said in "Get Shorty."

Well, this is the Minivan of Bicycles:

Before Bakfiets mom had kids,
she could have been the inspiration for Cracker's "Euro-Trash Girl."
But now she's passed into M.I.L.F. territory...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Honda Mashup: Elemental Insight

Jennifer & I just love our Honda Element, but the day is coming when four seats will not be enough.

So this is an open plea to Honda- stretch out the Element! Add a third row of seating, and keep that easily-maintained urethane interior. Smooth out the nose a bit for better aerodynamics, but keep the clamshell doors, side and rear. Hybrid would be great, but not necessary. Ditto for All Wheel Drive.

Yeah, it would look a little like this:

NEEDED: More Sharing

We need to see more of these signs around Norfolk:

"Virtual" Bike Lane

It's more of a DIY, portable bike lane, but I hope it really does come to market!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wanted: Corrugated Plastic

The faltering economy has been bad for gas stations, forcing many to close. However their loss has been my gain, as I've scavenged dozens of cigarette signs, printed on corrugated plastic.

I'm looking for more corrugated plastic for an art project, so if you know of a good source, email me: bvavideo2008_at_gmail.com

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vulnerable Road Users Bill Vetoed in Texas

A fine piece of legislation that can be summed up in the graphic above was vetoed by the governor of Texas, even though it had wide support from a large number of groups, including the AAA.

Read more details at BikeTexas.org.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ghost Ride: Norfolk

Ghost Ride: Norfolk

In the past year, two cyclists have been struck and killed by automobile drivers in Norfolk.

Next Friday, June 26th, we will have a special Critical Mass ride to remember those cyclists who have been killed, and remember that there have been no legal consequences for their killers. We will place Ghost Bikes on Tidewater Drive and Little Creek Road to mark the spots where Michael Holmes and Kevin Bragg were killed.

Ghost Ride: Norfolk will start and end at Blair Middle School on Colley Avenue in Ghent, start time 6pm. Total mileage will be 17 miles. For cyclists preferring a shorter route, there will also be the normal Critical Mass ride through Ghent and Downtown Norfolk. The route of Ghost Ride: Norfolk can be seen here: