Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sunday Drive, bike ride that is

Actually it was Monday bike ride (Memorial Day). Nooksack River quite high near Ferndale with snow melt from Cascades. River seen from Nooksack Dike bike trail. I went through Ferndale twice that day just riding around.

Waste of time?

At least it wasn't a waste of fuel. That's the nice thing about the Sunday drive concept on a bicycle. I did get hungry, however, but a supermarket solved that problem.

Friendly wave to the truckers who brought food to the supermarket.

Jumping from the frying pan into the fire

Frying pan of city center real estate got too hot and expensive so people jumped out into "drive till you qualify or can afford the rent" land. Then the fire of burning up fossil fuels with rising gas prices consumes them.

We need better planning. More density and destinations nearby in parts of suburbia. More public transportation. There needs to be some alternatives to having to choose between the frying pan and the fire.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Earth replica in 2008 Ski to Sea Parade

Planet Earth was in Ski to Sea Parade as part of an entry from the Restore.

Bicyclists from Mount Baker Bicycle Club and other sources were in parade also. The club shared a spot in parade with Community Car Share of Bellingham.

Car sharing and biking all go together.

While Earth did ride in a truck, bicyclists were seen with T-shirts saying, "be cool, stop global warming." We now have some bicycle taxi's in town.

Some one's 3 wheel bike with "electric assist" reflects my image in it's solar collectors.

Like last year, my bike had a sign saying "25 miles to the carton of chocolate milk."

Smart Trips and/or Mount Baker Bicycle Club had a spot in the 2007 Ski To Sea Parade. I went along for the ride. Here are a few images. Click on images for larger versions.

Someone got my picture.

Ellen's Smart Trips float.

The sign on my bike says, "25 miles to the carton of chocolate milk."

Solar power for a bike.

At the staging area.

Headed down the parade route.

To find out what Smart Trips is about, visit their web site.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Traveling to Mars

Phoenix Polar Lander is on a fantastic vacation. Wow, pictures from the landing site are far sharper than this image of Mars that I found in an old textbook.

Soon it will be time to look for some ice for the picnic cooler.

Congratulations on a successful landing.

No, they don't really have a picnic cooler full of beer and sandwiches on this unmanned mission. Still, they are hoping to find ice just under the surface. Ice that they can scoop up and analyze to learn a lot about the chemical composition of soil and ice on Mars.

Could life have ever existed on the red planet? That's one of many questions worth pondering.

Our frontiers of knowledge keep expanding.

The more we learn, the less we feel that we are at the center of the universe. It's good for humankind to have lessons in humility at times.

Enlarge my image to find some poetic writing about exploration from that old textbook. Maybe not that old, 1971.

To find more information and see much sharper pictures, visit

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bellingham Towers in ground fog

I'm not sure why they call it "The Towers" as it's just one tower, but ground fog provided a neat affect the morning of Bike To Work Day 2008. Turned out to be a nice day.

Bellingham Tower was built in late 1920s as a hotel. It's now offices. Sign in foreground from a local bakery.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Too much self confidence?

I lack the self confidence (or the stupidity) to drive and talk on a cell phone simultaneously. I don't drive anyway. I ride a bike.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bike To Work and School Day in Bellingham 2008

Yes, they do have a great logo this year. Image taken from one of their posters. Vince is a good artist.

Reasons why I am not biking to work that morning

I live so close, I just walk to work.

I work at night so I will be walking home from work that morning, but I plan to stop by the downtown Bellingham celebration station and say hi.

See My bike to work day page.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sprawl happens one parking lot, business, home at a time

And Rome wasn't built in a day.

Riding around town and country on my bike, I'm noticing some strip malls that weren't there last year. New ones along Pacific Highway in the outskirts of Ferndale, WA. for instance.

I don't mean to pick on those specifically. They are, after all, along the freeway, on a frontage road.

There have been businesses on that road in the past. Now there are more.

More ... or at least a few businesses and some empty storefronts.

The tail end of our local "early 2000s building boom?"

Sprawl seems to never be intentional. Few people say they want sprawl. It just happens one building at a time.

Like taking life one day at a time?

Life happens. It's not ideal, or at least that's what folks say. "Be realistic," they say.

One building is really not sprawl. Not sprawl until there's another one and another one and another one ...

One building is usually just some "business solution." A need for more space, convenient parking, highway access.

To a large extent, it's the convenience of the automobile and parking that "drives" this (pardon the pun).

I've often said, "if one could fold up the automobile and put it in a coat pocket for parking, the American landscape would evolve differently."

Sprawl isn't intentional, but it still happens, one place at a time.

Decisions by planners can feed sprawl, but often planners are kind of hamstrung by the political process.

Laws requiring parking space are part of this, but try changing the way it's been done and you get a world of worry.

Are people still going to shop there?

If there isn't enough parking, will there be overflow parking in nearby residential areas?

Worry, worry, worry.

Higher gas prices may help to break these patterns.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Having your cake and eating it too

"Nuclear free" without being mostly "car free" also.

As long as people insist on driving as much as they do now, we will likely have to turn to nuclear power for our energy needs.

Heating and cooling large homes takes gobs of energy also.

Nuclear isn't necessarily that bad, but slowing down and consuming less isn't bad either.

I keep hearing that wind and solar power will just not be enough; in the near future at least.

Nuclear is likely to become a larger part of the energy mix. Possibly powering electric cars in the not too distant future.

KGO talk show host Bill Wattenburg has even blamed global warming on environmentalists. Environmentalists have blocked construction of nuclear, thus adding to the need for burning fossil fuel in energy production.

The logic makes sense.

Main point I make is that we can't have our cake and eat it too.

We can always try, however.

Maybe someday there will be a "magic energy source" with no downside.

Hydrogen fusion rather than nuclear fission?

Aw, the topic of another blog post some day.

While I'm not against atomic energy, I also say that slowing down and being less materialistic is a virtue as well.

Remember that newer electronics can use less energy and do more things than older electronics. Smaller, but still better.

Think vacuum tubes vs transistors?

Maybe life can mimic electronic technology someday.

Smaller homes? Closer and friendlier neighbors? Walking to work? Biking to work? Good public transit?

Am I idealistic? That's actually how I'm living now. It can be done, but inertia keeps people where they're at.

We can gradually change inertia.

Whichever way we go, we just can't have our cake and eat it too.

Car drivers who want affordable electric cars may have to bite the bullet and support nuclear energy, for a while at least. Until the more magic answer comes along, what ever that will be.

I also remember this phrase, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Is road trip tenting on the decline in America?

Sure, you can still buy tents at the recreational supply boutique and pay plenty for them. These tents are used along wilderness trails.

What about tent camping on a road trip? Alongside the highway? Does the car driving public still use tents? Where does that leave me, as a bicycle tourist?

There are still places to camp, but I'm noticing less tent camping.

Maybe I'm wrong. Is this just my perception?

People who travel by car, on road trips don't use tents anymore. They've graduated to RVs. Yes, the big RVs with satellite dishes and all of that.

Energy in short supply? You'd never know it.

Seems like more and more campgrounds are for "RVs only."

Places that allow tents are still around, government run state parks and so forth, but RVs are taking over. Especially in the private campgrounds. Maybe this has always been the case, but it seems like private campgrounds are often just "RV parks."

Camping is getting more expensive and tent camping, even in some state, county and other parks is getting crowded out.

They must run all those RVs with plutonium generators. That's the way spacecraft are powered as they sail out to places like Saturn. Places too far from the Sun for solar panels.

Radio Thermal Generators. RTGs for short. Just kidding. They do work well in space however.

Bicycle touring still relies on tent camping. RTGs for the big screen TV are a bit heavy to carry.

Where can we camp?

I know, many bicycle tourists just "free camp." Don't bother trying to be "legitimate" in campgrounds. Who needs to pay the fee?

In regions that are specifically set up for bicycle touring, like that beautiful string of state parks along the California Coast with "hiker / biker" sites, it's great. Camp there for only $3 per night (last I checked).

Bicyclists still use tents and some areas subsidize, (basically roll out the red carpet), to encourage bicycle touring.

Hard to beat $3 per night in areas where "starter homes" may be in the million dollar range.

Energy shortage, recession, mortgage crisis be dammed. Much of America is still in the stratosphere.

Do automobile travelers still use tents?

One sees a few.

When I was a kid, lots of car campers used tents.

Now days, there are the "rent an RV" companies. I don't remember seeing those in my childhood. Now the road's crowded with them.

"See America, rent for the week."

An innovative idea. One need not own an RV to drive one. It must not be too expensive as the average American gets so little vacation anyway. A week or two of RV rental can't be too much.

So, I'm still the "odd ball" doing bicycle touring. Camping by tent, but I find myself staying in motels more often than in years past.

Am I getting old or becoming a flabby yuppie?

Motels are tempting when sleeping on the ground can cost around $20 while a small town motel might just be $38. One doesn't even have to pitch a tent and yes, it is fun to watch TV.

Maybe this is nothing new. In 1993, I found a place in North Dakota where it cost $7 to pitch a tent and only $10 for a basement motel room. That room was a bargain.

Friday, May 09, 2008


Myanmar's horrible military junta that doesn't allow aid into the country after the cyclone makes the Bush Administration's mistakes with aid after Hurricane Katrina look mild and innocent.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Big Ole Steam Whistle test at WWU

May 4 2008, I biked up to campus with my camera. Waited and watched for several test blasts of the historic steam whistle called Big Ole.

Built in the 1890s, it served on Bellingham's waterfront at 2 different mills. Then moved to Port Alberni, BC. in the 1940s.

Modified in Port Alberni as it was so loud it broke windows.

In 1997, Big Ole came back to Bellingham as a historic artifact. A year or so ago, it was tested at the Encogen Power Plant on Bellingham's waterfront.

Still works, but has a strange moan after it's modification.

Recently installed on the steam heating plant at Western Washington University. They plan to use Big Ole as part of a campus emergency warning system. I read that it's not as loud as they would like it to be.

A few people came out of nearby buildings wondering what the sound was. One person thought it might be a line break at the boilers.

This is definitely a unique sound. I wonder if emergency warning sirens would work better if they had a standardized sound? Is there a protocol for emergency sounds, like the standardized number of 911?

On the other hand, maybe a unique sound gets more attention?

Is it better used for ceremony? Announcing a big festival on campus? At least festivals are pleasant events rather than than emergencies.

Of course there are things like fire drills, where one can experience the sound without having to have an emergency. It's usually hoped that an emergency will never happen.

My camera didn't pick up the sound very well. Video 20 seconds.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Careful bicycling down hill

I'm nervous going over 15 MPH. Maybe that's why I'm Theslowlane. Recently, a car pulled out into the right of way, basically running the stop sign as a cyclist was coming down Barkley Blvd. I'm not sure how fast the cyclist was going, but he was killed as the car pulled into his path and he slammed into the side of the car.


The cyclist had the right of way. Details in recent Bellingham Heralds.

Still, I'm wary going down hill. There are a lot of unpredictable circumstances. Stones in the road, cars pulling out, car doors opening. I'm nervous going over 15 MPH. on my bicycle.

I'm also afraid to drive a car, period. One small mistake and one's life can turn to regret. A mistake by car is more likely to inflict harm on others. A bicycle isn't totally harm free to others, but harm is less likely. I prefer bicycling at my slow pace. Also seems easier to see who's around when one is on a bike; pedestrians, bikes, cars. Cars can have a lot of blind spots.


In spite of all this, I still feel safe on my bike, going at my slow pace.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Errands around town

A friend got my picture as I was on my way around town.

AMA medicine's biggest side effect: cost

Yes, I basically believe in most of traditional medicine. The doctors I have gone to have seemed to exhibit common sense over the years.

This isn't true for all doctors I am sure.

Even the physicians I have seen will admit that avoiding the doctor is a good idea most of the time. Probably the biggest side effect of medicine is the high cost. This can actually cripple one's lifestyle. Folks often hold a job they don't like because they want the health insurance. Health insurance is getting rarer for the work force.

I like simple phrases like, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."

There's also non traditional medicine, but be careful.

"Non traditional" may just be another thing with a cost.

I'm amazed how many pills, workshops and treatments are out there. Herbs for just about everything. It's dizzying just to go into a place like the Food Co-op and look at all the bottles. Trying to figure out which herb works for which gland can cause severe eye strain. All that fine print. Who's telling the truth? Some of this is useful, but it can also be just another layer of cost.

Many non traditional practices, like Transcendental Meditation, for instance, can be useful and are even suggested by a lot of regular doctors.

Good diet, exercise and low stress seem to be low cost no brainers.

I like soups with a bit of meat and lots of vegetables. Most Americans eat too much meat, but a touch of meat adds flavor.

One can say about meat, "a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down." Famous quote from Marry Poppins. Local Food Co-op often has at least one vegetable soup with a hearty touch of meat.

Exercise is easy for me. It's integrated into my bicycling lifestyle.

I can understand how exercise is more of a chore for some people though. I feel that way about brushing my teeth. A chore worth procrastinating and finding excuses not to do.

According to most dentists, brushing several times per day and flossing at least once per day is high priority.

I guess a dentist would see the entire world from the perspective of one's mouth, like an economist might see the whole world from the perspective of money.

At least my diet doesn't have too much sugar so I get by without too many mouth problems even though I'm not perfect.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

McCain's summer gas tax holiday idea full of potholes

Who's going to pay for the road and transportation construction during Presidential candidate John McCain's proposal for a summer holiday from federal gas taxes?

Much of this revenue now goes to road construction. Will this construction just grind to a halt laying off all those workers? Will future traffic gridlock just get worse due to lack of funding for transportation infrastructure?

Or will construction continue and just be added to the federal debt?

It's so easy to just promise everyone the world and then add it to the debt. Maybe there is no consequence from adding to the debt. It's just like plucking money from the money tree.

Who is not thinking these things through all the way?