Friday, July 31, 2015

Bike commute assault followup

I was assaulted while bike commuting two days ago. I posted about it on this page. This is a followup to that post.

Tricia pointed out I always wanted a tribal tattoo or some cool ritual scarification. This weird mark, perhaps a shoe print, on my head, has me covered.

Questions I've been asked:
How are you doing? You rode your bike away afterward, so not too bad, right?
I think shock must have helped me ride away. I sure couldn't come close to riding now. Standing up it a real challenge. Walking hurts.

I foolishly didn't take pain meds last night (I guess I want to be tough.) I couldn't get out of my chair. I am amazed how much I hurt. Here's a photo of my bloody knee (as link rather than embedded image so you can skip it.) My cracked rib isn't as visually dramatic, but it's what causes the most pain. It seems almost every movement we humans make connects to our core, and involves that area.

We all know the definition of "minor injury" is an injury that happens to someone else. I'm sure legally I'm "minor." But it happened to me, so it sure doesn't feel minor. It's difficult to predict the future, but I'm worried about the start of the Los Medanos College semester in two weeks, and wondering how I'll negotiate all that entails.

How am I doing? I wouldn't call it "OK." But I could be a lot worse.

Why didn't you get a better description?
It was all so fast. I rode almost past the two people, seeing only their backs. I could feel, or see in my peripheral vision an explosive move toward me, then boom, I was on the ground, and hurting.  All my memories from this point are disjointed and blurred, like an action sequence in a bad movie. I remember them yelling "Where's your wallet," waving a gun, and reaching into my jersey pocket to grab my phone. I have a flash of a shiny gun, and — this makes no sense — the other person holding, perhaps fumbling, with a hand full of bullets. The next thing I remember was them quickly moving away across the Turner School field, glancing over their shoulders.

I'm not military, nor do I have police training. My athletic-processor brain just isn't that quick (ask my tennis partners) and I wasn't expecting it. I just didn't see much, and I processed even less.

I did get a crime-stopper tip that I hope you'll never need: Note the shoes. People change shirts and jackets when running away, but not shoes. Alas, I remember no shoes.

Why didn't you track your phone?
I tried. As soon as I'd ridden to the hair salon where I called the police and Tricia, I used my laptop, their wi-fi and iCloud to "Find my iPhone." The bad guys had turned it off. It can't work with the phone off. I tried many times throughout the day, but never got a signal.

iCloud has a feature you can set that  issues a command to wipe (delete all data) on the phone next time it connects to the internet, which pretty much means next time it's turned on. I used that feature. I also set it to display "Please return to Los Medanos College Police Services."  In theory that's all it can do now. At around 1 A.M. I got an email informing me my phone was being erased. The date time on the message says 4:16. I'm not sure if that's PST or Eastern, or if it matters.

My phone also had a long password, so I'm reasonably sure my data isn't compromised.

Perhaps I should have used the "lost phone" feature that merely locks the phone and displays a message I could choose. It also would have reported the phone location to me. But I was still in a bit of shock, and was thinking it was more important I do what I could to not let any data fall into the wrong hands. And, really, are the police going to come screaming down upon some location I give them? I certainly wasn't going to go there and ask for my phone back.

My phone was insured, and a new one is on the way. I had a large deductible and need a new protective case, so I am out a bit of money.

I was surprised how smoothly dealing with Sprint, my cell carrier, was. The woman I spoke with was kind, sympathetic and made the process easy. The insurance part was a simple web page. Perhaps that's really all bad news in that so many phones are stolen they have the process down.

Are you going to keep riding your bike, and riding this trail?
I'm telling myself this isn't a good time to make decisions. Sure, I'll ride as soon as I can. How I'll commute, I just don't know. There really aren't any good alternate routes.  And, ironically, in the last two weeks Los Medanos College installed a very nice paved connector between the trail and campus. I'd been advocating for his path for years. Can I really not use it? I don't know what I'll do. I'm postponing decision making.

Could you have prevented this? Can you be more safe?
I've asked myself this again and again. I don't know. Do I reverse course whenever I see two young men if I'm alone? Is that practical? How unsafe is this area? Am I riding through a truly dangerous area every day?  I just do not know.

I know that if I'd had pepper spray, a baton or a Taser it wouldn't have helped. They'd likely have taken it away and used it on me. And heck, they had a gun. A GUN! That's option-limiting. I'm not a quick-draw artist. If I had a gun I'd have to ride with it in my hand to be ready. What could possibly go wrong? A gun just does not seem practical, or even a remotely good idea.

People have been so nice to me. And even though I'm a grumpy old guy, having my friends, relatives, and even people I don't know, reach out with a kind word, a short email, or a Facebook comment has made a me feel so much better. I really enjoyed the Editable Arrangement from Jaime and Ganesh. The fruit was good, and I used the helium to make my voice sound like a chipmunk. Tricia's taking good care of me, and even my kids Erin and Eddie came over to visit.

I got a wonderful get-better treat from Jaime and Ganesh! It's an Editable Arrangement and it's here just in time for lunch. 

I can't really move, so blogging and Facebook have been wonderful ways to fill the day with something more intellectually active than watching TV.

My questions about crime and life in general
Has Antioch come to the point where a 61 year old professor can be assaulted, injured, held up at gunpoint and it's just business as usual? I don't expect the PD to conduct a house to house search. Heck, I don't know what I'd like done. But the apparent fact that this is not a big deal at all makes me sad. That means it's not news. It's something that happens all the time. And that frightens me.

There's an old story that goes "How do you boil a frog?" The answer is that you start with cool water and then slowly turn up the heat. The frog doesn't notice until it's too late and can't get out. (Apparently this isn't really true, in reality the frogs just jump out.)  But I'm wondering about Antioch and myself. I love my house, I love teaching at Los Medanos College. I love being able to ride my bike to work. But at what point is enough too much? When did some Jews realize things were going south in Germany and bail out? Is it silly to stay, or silly to plan to spend money I don't have to move to somewhere that's farther away from work and that would give me an unpleasant commute (in a car!)?

And what about my fellow man? Do I live in fear of young men? Of people with short hair? Of people about 5'6"? Of people with any of the surface attributes my attackers have? What's prudent? What's paranoid?

My good friend Trine is so positive about, well, everything. She points out that while Antioch has problems, there are also numerous kind and caring people here. I'm trying to channel her good attitude. But, I find myself asking not if there are good people here, but rather, have we've reached a critical mass of not-well-meaning people? What is the tipping point?  Are we there or past it? As the Clash sang back in the 80s, should I stay or should I go?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

If it doesn't kill you, blog about it

Anything that doesn't kill you can make a great story later department: 

First off, the bike is OK. And the blood will wash out of my clothes. I think.

The story:
Today, after playing tennis and working on an art project at Los Medanos College I was riding home along the lovely Delta de Anza Trail. As I rode behind Turner School in Antioch two young lads came onto the trail and, as I passed, knocked me from my bike. They may have hit me in the head, or kicked me. I have a very weird mark on my face.

They took my iPhone 6 and demanded my wallet, which I was too befuddled to cough up.  I'd fallen on my pannier, and it was perhaps hidden under my tennis bag, so they didn't take that, and I still have my laptop.

Oh. I left out the gun part. They had a gun. A GUN! I saw that alright, but it's amazing how little else I "saw." Just two slightly-built young men, maybe middle schoolers, short hair, and a shiny revolver. That's about it.

I climbed on my bike and rode to the place I get my hair cut to call the police and Tricia. She took me to Kaiser where I was treated (by a doctor who's a cyclist!) for a cracked rib and a knee that required stitches. 

It looks like I'll suffer no permanent damage, but right now walking, or moving at all is very painful. The Doc says I'll be in hurt city for a month or so, and that even though I hurt a lot now I'll hurt more as it heals. Yikes.

I'll leave out the really bloody photos, but look at this. Is that a shoe mark, or a pistol whip mark? I didn't fall on this side, so I'm not sure.

Here's my Garmin track. (Yep, I GPS my commutes. I am a geek.) There's a dot where it happened, and you can see the little wobbles right where they hit me. If I'd only had a GoPro...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Seen on our Tuesday morning ride

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Not only did we see, and stop to nibble on, blackberries, we saw three river otters in Marsh Creek as well as another animal that we couldn't identify. Perhaps it was a beaver or a mink.  And we finished our ride before the temperature hit the over 100 mark. Not bad!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pedalfest 2015

Bicycles everywhere! Oakland's PedalFest at Jack London Square was a blast. Weird bikes, cool bikes, bike advocacy, bike-powered music. Food. It was just too much fun.

We started by riding 15 miles to BART. Tricia got more than a couple of comments on her cool Shelia Moon cycling dress (it even has pockets in the back!)

Of course, navigating a city by bicycle can be challenging. Most maps don't have enough bicycle-specific info. We managed, but didn't enjoy playing leap-frog with the busses,  or later riding down a busy road when we were sure there was a better way we just didn't know about. On the plus side, Oakland drivers seem used to bicycles and don't get angry that they exist.

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sneakin' Kellie through the Alley

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on
Tricia and I took our friend and relatively new cyclist Kellie out for a ride across the Benicia Martinez Bridge, the Carquinez Bridge and along the Martinez Scenic Drive Trail. She's stayed with us to watch the Saturday edition of le Tour and brought her bike with it's flat tires. She rides in Sacramento and had recently posted on social media about her many-flats day. I helped her with her flats and discovered lots of thorns hiding in her tires. I'm hoping she's learned to check them. I know I got a lot of practice patching tubes and digging our pointy objects.

 Our ride, though windy at the start, was pretty much perfect. Maybe it's the bridges, or the social pace, or the fact that we don't ride this loop a lot, but it feels longer than really is. Still, I highly recommend the Two Bridges loop. Great scenery, fun bridges. Go do it.
A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tricia's birthday doings

We started Tricia's birthday cycling events with our favorites folks from on Saturday with a 60 milers around Mt. Diablo. It was our first real ride in a while, and it went wonderfully.

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

We kept it going on our Tahoe trip.
A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cyanotypes and bike parts

Cyanotype bike parts snap_2344 You may know that in my other life, when I'm not on a bicycle, I'm a professor who teaches, among other things, photography. Lately I've been working with cyanotypes as a way to reconnect with the physical part of photography in an increasingly digital world. It's been fun.

My first effort, at Tricia's suggestion, was to make photograms of bike parts, much in the way Anna Atkins did with seaweed in the 1840s. I liked the results enough that I framed a set. I'm not sure how I'll move forward with this. It might be fun to try making them on fabric. Or maybe use nicer paper. But there will be more.
Cyanotype bike parts snap_framed

Friday, June 12, 2015

It might be art

I'm starting to get angry phone calls in the middle of the night, threatening me with all sorts of bad things if I don't post more content here. I'm hoping to live a little longer by repurposing these Instagram photos....

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Tricia at the Sand Creek underpass in Brentwood. Someone painted it, and now it looks totally cool and is less scary and more cheerful.

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

If you haven't ridden the American River Bike Trail in Sacramento you're missing out. It isn't epic, but it is often very pretty.

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on
I'm in a Facebook group about "Look at pictures of my bike leaning on stuff" so I leaned on this poster in Sacramento.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sidi shoes vs Shimano cleats

Tricia wore out her beloved Sidi shoes. Too many miles and too many days just did them in. She's replaced the cleats several times, and even the wonderfully replaceable heal piece. But her ruby-red slippers at last came to their end.

We'd looked for perfectly matching ruby-shaded replacements, but I don't think they make them any more.  Tricia, a woman with white bar tape and a white saddle, decided she'd give white shoes a chance.  Sidi, of course. And they do indeed look marvelous.

It would be silly to get new shoes and not get new cleats, so she bought a pair of Shimano SPD-SL road cleats as well. I installed them to match the placement of her old cleats and figured we were good to go.


They wouldn't clip in to her Ultegra pedals. I thought at first maybe they were new and just stiff, so I tried it. No deal. After much frustration, fussing about and looking hard it turned out the problem was the interface between the shoe and cleat. The bottoms of these shoes are more curved than her old shoes. Enough that the cleat bent when I tightened it down, making it impossible to click in.

As far as I know there isn't a custom titanium shim for $189.00 to solve this, so I used a couple of old zinc washers I had, installing them under the front bolt. It took two for each shoe. But it worked well enough that Tricia was able to wear her new shiny white shoes today.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Amgen Tour of California 2015

I think I've hit almost every Tour of California. This year Tricia and I went to the opening day in Sacramento. It was a tough call; whether to try and catch the peloton crossing the Rio Vista bridge and hope for a great photo op, or go to the festivities in Sacramento and see the women's race too. Sacramento won.

 We took our bikes and met our friend Kellie a few miles away, then rode to the start. It turns out I didn't need 80 pounds of locks after all; there was free valet bike parking.

We also tried to ride through the finish line, which is kind of like throwing a football around on the field just before the Super Bowl. We were politely shooed away.

We had fun looking at all the stuff to buy. Tricia was bike jersey shopping for her son's one-year-old. 
Kellie fell in love with a Bianchi.

After the men left for their large loop and we finished watching the women race the city circuit we went to lunch. We rode back to downtown just as the men flew in. We were able to watch the race finish from a delightful beer bar where we could see the actual race go by and watch the TV finish at the same time. The only thing that was less than wonderful: I brought the wrong camera, so I don't have the cool photos I'd hoped to have.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cinderella Classic vs Calarveras Road

Tricia at the Cinderella Classic 2015
Tricia rode this year's Cinderella Classic, a womens only ride sponsored by the Valley Spokesmen. Not only is she trying to recover from the flu, but her riding friend had to cancel. She ended up doing the 65 mile course by herself. She still had fun.

After I dropped her off at the Alameda County Fairgrounds I took my bike out to Calaveras Road and did my own own ride.

No great tales of anything, just a pleasant ride on a beautiful day.
A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Bonus fun photos

lean Good friday 30DaysOfBiking tricia_0907

There's a swell relief map of the California Delta out at Big Break, a East Bay Regional Parks site. Here it is on Google maps, zoomed in. It's kind of fun to keep hitting the zoom out control and go from the park's map to the Google map. It makes sense if you try it.

Dentist office lean. Yep, my dentist expects me to arrive in cycling shoes. #bestdentist

My dentist expects me to ride in and be wearing cycling shoes. Bike in the waiting room? No problem. #bestdentistever

Friday, April 03, 2015

It's #30daysofbiking month

#30daysofcycling and Diablo Good friday 30DaysOfBiking tricia_0931

Tricia got a new bike jersey in honor of 30daysofbiking. Then she went out and rode really fast. A good time was had by all.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

White Sidi straps

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Sidi replacement straps for the ones I broke cost more than I wanted to pay. I found a supplier who had white ones (instead of the standard black) on sale for much less than half price. Plus, maybe they look interesting. So that's what I have now

Monday, March 09, 2015

I'm too powerful for my shoes

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

I blew out my Sidi on Sunday's ride. Yep, that's the kind of power I create.

The good part is that Sidi offers replacement parts, so I went to the almost-local shop and picked up a new strap. Unfortunately when I got home I realized I had broken the other part of the strap, and not the replacement I'd gone out to buy. Oh well. It will all work out eventually. I ended up ordering a snappy white set online and on sale.

I also bought replacement outer heel pieces for Tricia's Sidi shoes. Pro tip: Don't let them wear too far or the screws will become so ground down they are almost impossible to take out. Pro top 2: Tri-flow at least loosens them enough that you may only wreck three screw drivers getting them out.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Diablo summit 2015 at last

Tricia and I normally ride up Diablo on New Years or at least soon after. This year we just didn't get it done. Between fog and cold, and then my getting sick it just didn't happen. Until today.

It was a glorious day, and despite the fact I can tell I haven't spent and time climbing this year and was very very slow, it was still fun.
A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Tricia, on the other hand, looked her usual wonderful self as she skipped and scampered up the mountain.

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Here's hoping this bike riding for fun trend continues.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Instagram. And white bar tape.

I use Instagram. There, I said it.

Here's an Instagram photo of Tricia's new bar tape. Expect more. With filters. And special effects. Like borders and tilt shift.
A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on