Sunday, July 31, 2011

It Was A Delight To Meet Both Her And Her Work At the Same Time

It has been hot and humid in St. Louis for what seems forever. But once upon a time it was cold here. Now people complain about the heat. Then they complained about the cold and the lingering ice. In that time of cold and ice on my dark winter night commutes home I would often see lights in a building at the corner of Shenandoah and Compton. It was both comforting and heart warming to know an artist was at work as I worked my way home. Each time I passed I would wonder about who this artist was and about her work. I knew her name was Carol Carter, the building had given me that much. I realized only after I met her that I could have "googled" her name, but I didn't think of it at the time.

Recently, as I rode Billie, me wee chariot, toward home in the long light and heat of a July day I noticed a poster in the window of the studio where I had seen those lights last winter. It announced an Open House on Saturday July 30th from10am to 4pm. I made a commitment to myself to be there.

It was raining as Heather and I made our way to the Open House. The rain was nice enough to let up as we arrived.

I like this building. I think the balloons wilted in the humidity.
We opened the door and walked into a studio both sparse and filled with color. The woman we would soon learn was Carol welcomed us even as she spoke with others already there. We wandered around, and on what I suspect was an inspiration wall I found a very good omen.

Yep, a flamingo.
When we did get to talk with Carol I told her I rode by her studio on my daily commute to work. I told her of seeing her in the studio during the winter as I rode home. I, also, mentioned to her I had a blog and was interested in learning more about her. She went over to a box and looked for something to give me. She handed me a magazine. It was the December 2009 issue of American Artist. She had it open to an article written by Stephen Doherty about a series of portraits she had done of her son as he grew from two weeks after his birth to young adulthood.

People were coming and going. The Studio had a wonderful feel to it. 
Heather took this picture of Carol.

On Carol's blog under the heading Things You Need To Know is this statement: "Painting my whole life--watercolor especially...." From being in her space I sense this is certainly true.

As I watched Carol being a gracious host to strangers and welcoming dear friends, I knew I was having an experience that I'm doubtful would have happened if not for my commuting to work by small motorcycle rather than car. Billie by her nature keeps me off the expressways, places me in neighborhoods, and demands my attentiveness. I by my nature find myself increasingly caring about these neighborhoods and meeting more and more of the folk that give these places life.

I loved Carol's use of color to open up the familiar and make it fresh. I'm very glad she has a  website, but I'm glad I didn't think to search it out before. It was a delight to meet both her and her work at the same time. That said, I hope you take a look. It's really good stuff.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Day of Triple Digit Temperatures.

Besides not tempting the road rash gods a good thing about wearing gear when riding in this weather is all the women who tell me I look hot.

It's so hot here that even the spider webs are "shimmering."

Friday, July 22, 2011

On the Road Again

This morning I went to see my Doctor. As I expected he released me for all activity. Come Monday I can go back to work. I can even skate, but I don't think I'll be doing any sprints for a while.

After lunch with Heather I came home and prepared to try out some new hot weather gear. It came the day I got hit by the car. I got a neck cooler which is just one of those things you put in the freezer and than tie around your neck. It didn't cost much and I figure I'd give it a dry. The other purchase was more of a risk. You can read about it here:

I had put the cool packs in the freezer to charge last evening. When I took them out they were the solid white color I was told to look for.
Here they are on the kitchen counter.

I placed them in the vest. The packs went in easily. The vest felt heavy until I got it on. I had hoped there would be less condensation with these packs than with other systems, and perhaps there was. That said these packs "sweat" quite a bit.

Obviously not a profession model.
It felt cool, but not freezing when I put it on. I thought it might feel heavy, but it didn't. I put my regular jacket on over it. And, I was good to go. 

I rode out to Castlewood State Park. It is one of my favorite places to ride to.

We stopped in the Park for water and a couple of photos. This is my first photo of Billie since the panniers were removed.

By the time I returned home I'd been wearing the vest for over two hours. I was still feeling some coolness from the vest as I waited at the last stop sign before pulling onto my street.

After two hours there was still some charge left. I was impressed.
It was triple digits here today so it was a good test. After my ride I wasn't worn out, not did I feel that overheated feeling that I nearly always feel after a ride in today's conditions.  The only negative so far was the condensation. As I expected I still did sweat quite a bit and hydration is still important, but the vest definitely kept my core temperature down. My initial reaction is: For the commute home and for longer summer rides this vest seems like it will be a good addition to my arsenal.

Changing the subject slightly, it was great to get on the bike again. It is difficult for me to comprehend that just a few days ago I was hit by a car. I was indeed one very lucky cat.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Billie Went Down, But . . . And, I Went Down, But . . .

Billie went down, but I was not with her.

Last week during one of those "Scattered Thunderstorms, Some Possibly Severe" that "pop" up from time to time here in St. Louis during the Summer, the wind blew Billie, my Symba, over. One of the maintenance guys called the Fileroom trying to contact me, but I was in the other Courthouse at the time. So, my boss and Walter went down and set Billie back upright. When I got back, I went down and found her mostly damage free. It's good to be taken care of. I really appreciate Mark and Walter for being Billie's guardian angels.

The only real damage to Billie was to one of the panniers. I must admit to having a love hate affair with these panniers. I got them as part of a special deal when I bought the bike. They had to be ordered. When I first saw them they seemed very flimsy. Later, when they were installed the service techs said they couldn't hook up the lights in the panniers. This meant the original tail lights could only be seen by the person directly behind me. I didn't like this and eventually got them to install another set of lights in addition to the regular lights at my expense. These lights quit working after a month or two. Not a pleasant customer service or product quality experience.

I mentioned how flimsy these panniers seemed, yes? Well, they were plastic and the lids rubbed together. It was hard plastic on hard plastic. They were noisy and there was a trail of plastic dust on the panniers from the lid and the bottom of the panniers grinding away on each other. I lined both the lid and base with electrical tape and it stopped the rattling. Another annoyance was the need to remove the top box to open the panniers. Needless to say I didn't use them for storage very much.

Ah, but when Mike took over the service department at Maplewood Scooter my relationship to the panniers was transformed. He said it would be no problem to wire up the lights. And, when I finally got a chance to see how cool they were, well, all the pannier's past sins and shortcomings were forgiven, but not forgotten.



I will miss the lights, but we'll come up with something. And, I will miss the place to put stickers, but other than that: Good riddance! 

And, I went down, but Billie wasn't with me.

Last Monday evening I was inline skating on Grant's Trail. The previous Saturday I'd done a nice long slow skate of twenty miles (32.1km) and was doing intervals -- nearly full out sprints followed by recovery time. One cyclist had clocked me on one of my sprints as doing 18mph (29km/h).

As I approached where the trail crosses Union Road I had sprinting on my mind. I was due to begin one shortly after crossing Union. When I saw in the distance the clock on the crossing sign showed eight seconds. I figured if I began my sprint it would be tight but I could complete the crossing before the light changed . . . and I could have. What I hadn't allowed for was the car preparing to run a red light. We suspect he was going 35 to 40mph when he hit me. I remember impact and remember as much as is possible in such instances of what happened during the impact. I pretty well trashed his windshield. The first responders think my head hit there. I'm not so sure, but I know I was thrown ten or fifteen feet down the road after impact. I'm sure my head hit the pavement.

Importantly, given my head injury past, I was lucid all the time. There was no unconscious time. The helmet did its job. So, after an ambulance ride to St. Anthony's Hospital. I got to spend the evening meeting X-Ray and CAT scan technicians. I had an EKG. Everything checked out. I spent a couple of additional hours trying to give a urine specimen to rule out bleeding from the kidneys. That took forever, but I was finally successful and was released.

Yesterday, I was sore, but not as sore as I expected. I have had days after an American Rules Football game where I felt worse. I've felt no need to take any pain medication.

Today, I'm even less sore overall, but it is becoming clear to me where the points of contact were. I'm getting out and about. I drove over to have breakfast with Heather before she left for work. She took yesterday off to make sure I behaved myself. I, also, went by the the eyeglasses place to begin the process of replacing my glasses. The glasses didn't break and the vision technician said I did a good job of straightening them out, but the lenses are scratched pretty badly. Oh well, it was time for new glasses anyway.

My face is swelled up on one side where the glasses seem to have been jammed into my face, but it looks like I will avoid having a black eye. I still suspect the whole of my left leg will eventually blossom into one gigantic bruise. My right elbow has a scape on it. One small area of concern is some vertigo I'm experiencing, but that seems to be lessening. I took at least one major blow to the right side of the head and suspect this may be balance related and not concussion since it only happens when I bend over to get something or rollover in bed. In bed if I keep my head elevated as I roll no dizziness.

Tomorrow? I may actually go back to work. It is hard to believe I was hit by a car just two days ago.

The ER Physician, Dr. Vincent, saw some pictures one of the EMT's had taken of the car and of the scene of the accident. He was amazed I walked away from it. I was lucky. And, Dr. Vincent also pointed out being in really good physical condition certainly helped. Needless to say, wearing protective gear helped perhaps most of all. In addition to the helmet I was wearing knee and wrist guards.

Heather took these photos of my helmet . It has a major owie. Time for a new helmet.
Oh well, add being hit by a car whilst inline skating to my resume.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Most of my riding comes in the form of commuting. On the weekends Heather time becomes the priority. Of late, the priest at the Church where I assist has needed to be out of town much more than planned so my Sunday morning rides there and beyond have also been curtained. Of course, there was also the issue of Billie's chain. Anyway it was beginning to seem the 10,000 mile mark was never going to be reached.

Sunday I did my preachy thing and the other errands that needed to be done. It was rather hot here. It was only 95F but the heat index was over 110F. This was a bit high for us to load Heather's bike and my skates in the car and head for a trail. Ah, but it was the perfect opportunity to see how my hot weather gear stacked up.

When it gets this warm my gear changes a little bit. I leave the textile pants on their peg and take down the vented cordura pants instead.

Yep, these are snowmobile racing pants. I wear a set of hip pads and strap on knee pads underneath them. I have an insulated pair made by the same company that I wear during the colder months and liked them so well, I bought these.

Vents open.
I use an evaporating cooling vest when I'm not commuting. When I commute it gets things too wet.

I'm still learning how to use this. I think I've padded it dry but then it takes two days for it to hang dry after my ride. Oh well, better that than . . .

I wear a long sleeve wicking shirt under the vest.

No big name brand, but it does its job.
The goal was to visit my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter out in St. Charles. I took a photo of the odometer before I began.

I planned my route so I could stop at Creve Coeur Lake and drink a liter of water.

Then it was over the Page Avenue Extension to St. Charles and my heart's destination. This was the fastest I've ever rode on Billie. Before the chain change I was lucky to hold it at 40smph*, but at one point I was holding 50+smph while moving up a slight grade. Once downhill I breached 60smph. To say I was pleased would be a major understatement.

Alma likes her shoes.

The cutie.

After a nice visit it was back over the Missouri River and home.

And how did the gear do? Excellent. I suspect I wouldn't be able to convince all the riders I saw wearing cut-offs and sleeveless tees that I was quite comfortable.

Now I can stop saying Billie has almost 10k miles on it and begin saying she has over 10k miles. Yay.

*Symba Miles Per Hour. I've never done an actual check of the Symba's speedo, but suspect it is optimistic. That said when I go past those "Your speed is:" things I'm always at or above what it indicates I'm going.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


After waiting a long time for SYM to get their act together with parts, I gave up. Now Billie, my Symba, has an O-ring chain and brand new SunStar sprockets . The O-ring chain is no doubt overkill since I have a covered chain and now know how to take care of it. I don't care. Overkill sounds just fine by me.

I've been very pleased with the difference the new sprockets and chain make. It is almost like having a different bike. It is much more responsive off the line and cruises at 45mph+ easily. I am very happy. Because the chain was pretty well cooked, I've been staying close to home this summer. I haven't even been riding Billie over to see granddaughter. Now, I not only suspect this will change, but that there may be some longer adventures on tap. We shall see.

Since riding a 101cc motorbike puts me somewhere between a touring bicycle and a motorcycle I decided to add a flag to increase my "being seen" factor. It's not a traditional orange triangle, but the dots are reflective and the green is hi-vis. I figure what can it hurt? And, besides I think it looks almost cool.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

His Garden

There are two intersections on my evening commute that are just too exciting for my taste. In the morning they are fine, but after work the traffic is heavier and this can create situations I'd rather avoid. So, now I have a new route home.

My new route led to the discovery of a house with a yard that is nearly all vegetable garden. It was obvious this was the home of a serious gardener. I had an uncle who was such a gardener. He was always out in his garden doing something. On Grant's trail I inline skate by a couple of gardens that remind me of his, but the garden I now pass on my commute home has a different feel to it. I think it has to do with it literally saturating the lot the house is on. It is a marvelously intense garden.

I kept hoping to get some photos of the garden before it had grown to the point where it would be difficult to get anything other than the vines growing up the fence, but either the weather kept promising rain and my camera isn't waterproof or I'd just forget to take the camera with me. I, also, really felt I wanted to ask the owner's permission before I took any photos.

Finally, one day I noticed a man weeding the garden. I stopped. He was delighted that I was delighted in his garden. Somehow it came up that I worked at the Courthouse Downtown. He asked me if that was where he would come to take the oath. It took me a moment to figure out that he was talking about becoming a citizen. He is originally from the Philippines, but was going to become an American citizen in just a couple of days. I told him that would be the Federal Courthouse, the one with the green dome. I work in the State Courthouse. We chatted for a while and as I prepared to leave he told me to feel free to stop and take as many pictures as I wished anytime I wished.

Last Wednesday I was able to stop by and not only take some pictures but congratulate my new gardening friend on becoming a new citizen. I was going to take some pictures from the outside, but he would have none of that. No, I had to come in a take lots of pictures of his garden. So, I did. He made me promise to come back when he was harvesting the fruits of his labors. I told him that I would. I suspect I will from time to time post photos of his garden. I'm looking forward to paying attention to how his garden grows.

Billie, my SYM Symba, waiting patiently as my new gardener friend shows me his garden.

Trying to keep the varmints out.

Maybe a fake snake will deter some critters.

And, as I took pictures he went back to work.

Once again, I'm grateful for another gift my commuting to work on the Symba has given me.