Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tour of the Washington Cascades book

I've just ordered an 82 page book of our 2014 Washington Cascades Tour with Adventure Cycling. Mostly it's photos and text that appeared in this blog. That makes it sound easy, doesn't it? But the reality was something else. I gives me even more respect for the people who do this sort of work professionally.

 Insider geek insight: I was going to use MyPublisher They offered me a free book because they took forever to print my "Kate Wolf Festival" book. That book had no text, and wasn't too hard to make. This book, with a reasonable amount of text, was a pain in their MyPublisher program. So much I gave up and tried Blurb's Booksmart. I finished it, but when I went in to fine tune the text it was a nightmare.

So I did what I should have done in the first place. I used Adobe's InDesign, a real page layout program that I've used a lot and even taught. For some reason I thought using the canned templates and programs MyPublisher and Blurb offered would be easier for something "quick." I was so wrong. So I basically built the book three times. Here's hoping I got right, because unlike this blog where I can change misspelling, print is forever. You can buy my book on blurb, but you'd be crazy too. It's not cheap, and really, do you care? If you'd like to see it though, let me know. I'll be happy to show it off.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Good-bye! Good-bye! Good-bye my trusty steed

My bike is starting its reincarnation journey at Delta Scrap in Oakley. After a brief service involving a thumb print I was given $1.56 and sent on my way. The bikes ultimate destination remains undisclosed. Perhaps it will return as another bike, or a beer can. Both would serve to make this world a better place.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Cyclist death trap?

Is this for real, or permanent? The entrance to eBART in Antioch at Hillcrest (by highway 4) has the bike lane that goes straight splitting the dual right turn lanes. This is how you'd ride a bike to get to the new eBART station. It's the only way. Crazy. Any cyclist going straight, because they wouldn't be getting on the freeway, would be smacked by the cars that must turn to get on the freeway. Who thinks this is a good idea?

Monday, December 07, 2015

Commuter Curtis vs Truck

First off, I’m OK.

During my bike commute on On Thursday December 2, 2015 I was in a collision with a truck. Miraculously, I am only badly bruised, though my bike is totaled. The driver stopped, and helped me get my bike out of the road, but the left scene before the police and ambulance arrived. It’s hard to piece together exactly what happened.

My shoulder hurts enough right now, and has limited mobility, so I won't be riding too soon. And it's going to play havoc with my tennis game.  But I'm not dead! Just a few inches more and I don't think I'd be typing this.

Jim McFarland of the Wheel Peddler Mobile Bike Repair came by and pronounced the frame bent beyond use or repair, as well as noting most components were also wrecked. 

I'll be bike shopping soon. Who am I kidding, I’m bike shopping already. I’ve also added up all the extra broken pieces and it comes out to more than I would have thought. Panniers, a rack, and fenders add up quickly.

I hope to be commuting again soon. Right now I’m planning to be on my fixed/SS bike using a back pack or messenger I guess. It's not my favorite way to transport my things, but at least I'll be on the bike.

After my emergency room visit I got a ride to the college before my classes started. I told my students I'm ordering a shirt that says "Hit by truck, got to class on time. Tell me your excuse again.”

I've had a lot of support and love from friends and Facebook. Thanks to all of you for helping me through this.

Right now I just want to put this behind me — at least as much as I can what with the need to replace my bike and accessories — and heal so I can ride again. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Winter in California

OK, it's California. So it's not cold like in the winter other places in the country. Still, it's cold enough to break out the tights, headgear and gloves. And there's no reason to add ice to your water bottle. Tricia does not believe this.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Marsh Creek Trail at Cypress Road in Oakley WTF

 Why are these signs here? They don't make my life safer or more easy. JeezelPete. Why not just a sign that says "Don't actually try to use this trial. Get a car. We hate you."

 Not that I'm bitter or anything.

 NOTE: I got an email form a Delta Peddalers Cycling Club member that kind of explains it:

 Several years ago I remember that the trail crossing at Cypress was built and included the, now turned off, crossing signals. The signals were only on for a couple of weeks and then turned off permanently. My understanding is that they were turned off because someone feared that when the trail users activated the signal traffic was backed up across the railroad tracks, trapping vehicles on the tracks when a train came along. It looks to me like there was a major lack of planning at that time and an even worse remedy the situation now. I would think that if citizens that live in Oakley would complain to the City Council something might get done. I doubt if very many people using the trail adhere to the signs saying to go to the crossing at Main Street.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

ATV on the bike path: Busted!

Yesterday I was commuting home by bicycle when, up ahead of me I saw a four wheel ATV turn onto the bike path near the park on James Donlon Drive in Antioch, CA. I found myself wishing I wasn't so far away I couldn't capture an image on my handlebar mounted camera.

That old saying that there's never a cop around when you need one? Apparently it isn't always true. About half a mile later I came across an East Bay Regional Parks patrol officer stopped in front of the ATV and looking like he was doing police stuff. Yea!

Here's a super short video of me rolling past.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Giro di Vino 2015

Giro di Vino 2015Curtis all wet
This year's Giro di Vino was wet. Not too wet, but wet. At least near the end. We knew we were rolling the dice when we left for Lodi on Sunday morning. The weather reports called for rain, but it was unclear about when it would arrive.  We thought we'd get an early start because who doesn't enjoy wine for breakfast, and who doesn't enjoy starting a ride at 39 degrees?  We started early enough the first winery we rode to hadn't opened yet. We were early arrivers at the second where we found a few other cyclists huddled around the fireplace.

Young women in leggingsGiro di Vino 2015_0467

One thing about cyclists, we all think we look better than we really do in our cycling outfits. Some of us rock the helmet, gloves and shades even when tasting fine Lodi wines.

Wine drinker Giro di Vino 2015_0477

At Oak Farm Vineyards I harassed Tricia by FaceBook posting a photo of her with her wine breakfast.

Tricia morning wine Giro di Vino 2015_0483
Tricia was much classier and photographed her bike by the outdoor fire.

I also made a photo to contribute to the Facebook group "Look At My Bike Leaning Against Stuff." That giant bag is a Revelate Designs Pika Seat Bag. It unfolds even farther to hold more. I'm going to use it on tour this summer and thought I'd test it on this ride. It works, and held my rain jacket and pants with lots of room left over.
Oak Farms Winery Lodi Giro di Vino 2015_0487

Ripkin winery had their pet running about. I understand they are smarter than dogs, but, well, still...
Pig Giro di Vino 2015_0492

We carried along under threatening skies for many miles.
Tricia iunder dark clouds Giro di Vino 2015_0506

At the rides end Tricia was amused/annoyed/alarmed/appalled to find this sign. She posted it with the note: "I hate it when there's a liquor license on the loose! #englishteacher #wrongword "

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

It's gotta be the shoes

I've been using the same clunky but sturdy Shimano shoes to commute in for many years. I saw Giro Grynd Cycling Shoes on sale — and in my size — online and bought them. They have recessed SPD cleats that don't click on the floor, and the look almost like regular shoes. I think I'll like having an alternate pair to wear.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Adventure Cycling photography and bonus photos

The 2016 Adventure Cycling catalog has a full page photo of Tricia! We really love these folks, who are cycling advocates as well as wonderful tour operators. We've been on six of their tours and plan to do more. Plus, they often display excellent taste in photography.

In unrelated news, I check in on the Facebook group "Look At My Bike Leaning Against Stuff" and occasionally post. Here's one of my contributions. Really, it isn't my bike, or even my beer.It's daughter Erin's.

One more. Because I think the dryer is too hard on bike clothes we line dry all our bike stuff. Today I was at it as the sun came up.
A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Flats and tubes, buy stuff, repeat

I patch, lord knows I patch. But sometimes, when the patches have patches it's time to replenish. It seems like overkill, but just look at the Instagram photo below. That's not a hand full of tubes, that's one tube. So I ordered a twenty-pack of tubes.

Plus, here's the important part: Tricia likes new tubes. So, new tubes she shall have. At least for the week or two it takes us to puncture all these.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ten Thousand Miles on the commuter bike

I turned 10,000 miles on my commuter bike riding home from #losmedanoscollege tonight. #bikecommute

On my way home from work Thursday night my little Cateye computer informed me I'd ridden 10,000 on my commuter bike. Almost all that is commuting to work. My Subaru gets to stay in the garage, safe from the dangers of the road and parking lot, safe from being worn out on a short drive every day. Here's hoping that car will last a long long time.  And that's just one bicycle related bonus. Getting to start and end my day with a bike ride is a treat I'm grateful for every time I do it. Even riding in the dark, the cold or the wet has a certain "I'm alive!" delight that driving never has.

 I got the bike in May, 2012 and set it up with panniers, fenders and lights. It's slowly evolved but remains a Motobecane Fantom Outlaw. Here are some early photos.

clean bike

This is it pretty much as purchased, still with cross tires and the original saddle.

Motobecane Fantom Outlaw commuter bike

Added fenders, changed crankset and saddle, added coffee and lights.

Ortlieb and RackTime rack on Fantom Outlaw commuter
With new Ortlieb panniers.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tricia on the Bears

We went out on the Bears for a bit of a ride. It's always fun coming down Papa Bear. I have no idea why some folks ride in the middle of the lane oblivious to people behind them.

If Tricia looks fast here, it's because she's pushing 40 mph.

Here's a bonus overdone Instagram photo of her on the way up.

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

East Bay Regional Parks Police and the Delta De Anza Trail

I was pretty darn thrilled last week to find East Bay Regional Parks Police Officer Josh Harrington patrolling the trail exactly where I was assaulted.  When I stopped to chat with him he said the department had only recently heard of my attack (thanks Antioch Police for not ever forwarding the report like you said you would) and that he was here just checking things out. He said he knew who I was right away by the wound on my knee that's still rather impressive.

It was so comforting to see him there. Here's hoping for an increased presence along that part of the trail. Who knows, it may even contribute to fewer broken bottles, and wouldn't that be nice.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Delta De Anza Trail and Los Medanos College connected at last

Ken Alexander commutes on the new connector between LMC and the Delta De Anza Trail
— Photo by Joey Delano
Los Medanos College now has a paved connector to the Delta De Anza Trail on the South East side of the campus. It's been a long time coming, but with a few student voices and the support of the college president it now exists.

Really, this announcement is a touch premature, but I'm so excited I want to post it anyway. It's early because there are still 10 feet left to pave — the space between the college fence and the trail is still dirt. East Bay Regional Parks gave their blessing, but the Contra Costa Water District owns the property and hasn't given it the green light yet. Apparently there is enough paperwork involved that building a sky scraper wouldn't take any more.

But I don't care. It will happen some day, and in the mean time the remaining trail is a delight.

I hope when it's finalized there is some appropriate entrance signage, but even if there isn't, it's wonderful.

Here's a link to my original advocacy video
Here's the story that appeared in the Los Medanos College Experience newspaper

Monday, September 07, 2015

Tarantellas, Retail Therapy, Recycling and More

Sometimes embedded Instagram images are painfully slow to appear. I have no idea why. But they're worth the wait. Have a coffee, come back.  Or try reloading.
A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

It's Tarantella season on Mt. Diablo. Though I've ridden there for years this is my first sighting. I understand it's not unusual, but it's still exciting.

Tricia and I had decided to tackle the ride up to the junction and loop back through Danville to see how I was recovering and so I could try out my new retail therapy IAM Cycling kit.

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

I'd purchased this kit through the Chinese web site for about $40. Yep, $40. I wasn't expecting much, maybe just a "costume" quality kit I'd be willing to ride 5 miles in. Instead, I'm pleasantly surprised. I bought a large, with is ever so slightly too big, but if I slip and gain a couple of pounds it will be fine. The fabric seems first rate. The chamois a fine. There is a very small, odd triangle of white where I assume they made a printing error. How can this all be so inexpensive? I can guess they don't pay licensing fees, but still. Maybe I should be asking why nice bib shorts can cost well over $150. Though I don't see myself buying more of this stuff, it is a fun kit, even if it did take almost a month to arrive.
Why IAM Cycling? They're a Swiss-registered UCI WorldTour cycling team sponsored by IAM Independent Asset Management SA, a Swiss investment management company. I don't care about any of that, I just like the kit, and IAM Cycling sounds so cool.

Tricia, from a screen grab of my rear-facing Fly 6 video camera.

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

On our way home we stopped by Sports Basement to drop off some old tires for recycling.  I tried to tell the sales clerk we were returning them because every one wore out after only a few thousand miles. He was mildly amused.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Death of a Schwalbe Marathon Plus

The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire is well known for being darn near bullet proof. Even though I live in the land of broken glass and thorns and get tons of road bike flats with "normal" tires, my Schwalbe Marathons have been flat free. Until now. Apparently there are limits after all.
I, thankfully, didn't have far to go on my commute to get home when my tire stopped holding air, but I wasn't happy about losing a pricy tire at all. Then I started wondering what the heck this pointy thing in the tire was.  It wasn't a nail, or much like anything I'd seen before. 

After being mugged while commuting by bike just a few weeks before, my paranoia level is pretty high. I started wondering if this was some sort of projectile, perhaps from a nail-gun like device, and wondering if someone had shot it at me. No one I asked knew what it was, which further fed my fears.

I eventually posted on AskMetafilter, asking what it was. The helpful folks there had the answer. It wasn't a projectile, it was a center punch tool, but missing the handle. Somehow I'd managed to flip it up riding over it just exactly wrong so it would puncture my tire. I'm rather relieved I wasn't a target. I have a new Marathon installed already (Thanks Amazon overnight shipping) and got to enjoy installing it. Read about how much fun that is.

Of course, the all-knowing Facebook thinks, based on my research, that I now want to buy a center punch. They've started putting ads for them on my feed. Yikes.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Photographing the Moon and bicycles

Tricia and the almost full moon v2
In honor of the full moon, a photo assignment I'd given my students, and just for fun, Tricia and I went out with bikes and cameras to make art.

The top photo is from the day after the Full Moon, when it rose 20 minutes after dark. I needed to use electronic flashes with radio triggers to light Tricia. It was all good until I discovered the darn radio triggers didn't have the range I needed and, when I lay on the ground for my best angle, the signal got lost entirely and would not fire the flashes. Tricia saved the evening by "holding" the Moon, or as I termed it, playing with the props. I got closer and it all worked out.

We were better prepared the day before, when the actual full Moon rises just after sunset. There was still color in the sky and enough light that I didn't need a flash. Unfortunately there were low clouds that turned the Moon into a rather indistinct blob. I still like the shot, but it's not what I set out to do. Maybe next month.
Tricia and the full moon behind clouds

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Retail therapy, bicycle version

The best way to speed physical and mental recovery from an unpleasant event, as everyone knows, is retail therapy, better known as "buying stuff." Following my unpleasant event I went in full tilt, and I'm not done yet.

I started with bike cameras. Though having a camera on my bike would have in no way prevented my event from occuring,  it might have been nice, assuming the camera wasn't stolen too, to have a video record of the whole sloppy mess. Plus, being as every automobile on the road is out to kill cyclists and it would be nice to have a record of those actions as well. To that end I recently purchased a Rideye front-facing camera designed for cycling and a rear-facing Fly 6 camera and tail light combo. Now I have still more stuff to keep charged, but I also have some powerful voodoo working for me. Actual reviews? Maybe next post. This is all about spending money.

 My demo video is only 90 seconds or so, and even if you don't like the camera or the action, the music I added is pretty cool.

Team Sky kit

I also purchased this Team Sky kit through the Chinese web site It was shockingly inexpensive. I don't know this for a fact, but it seems highly unlikely they are really Rapha bib shorts, or that they pay Sky a license fee.  It may be wrong to encourage this sort of thing, but I'm playing the injured guy card and asking forgiveness for my $40 potential ethical misstep. Surprisingly enough, the fabric quality seems high, and the pad in the bibs feels great. There are a couple of small missed details, but overall, not bad at at all. The sizing is defiantly Chinese. My medium is really tight, and I'd look better in it 10 pounds lighter. Still, what the heck. It's fun. Enough fun that I ordered another different pro kit, but in large this time. Photos when it arrives. Don't judge me.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Progress and petitions and Slow Pokes Ride

I've recently signed two bicycle-related petitions at I believe they're both important, and though I'm not sure how much affect they'll have I don't see a downside to signing. Have  a look and see if they support what you believe should happen.

Request a safety steps for cyclist and pedestrian along Delta de Anza trail. 
This one is close to my heart. It urges the East Bay Regional Parks police to put more energy into patrolling the Delta de Anza Trail, particularly near the area I was mugged. It's gained  a lot of signatures in the first 24 hours. Please considering adding your signature, and sharing the link on your social media.

Improve Safety for Cyclists and Drivers in Mount Diablo State Park by installing Solid Double Yellow lines on appropriate Blind Curves to reduce collisions between bicycles and/or motorists.
There are too many collisions and near collisions on Mt. Diablo, usually caused by automobiles passing on blind corners.  This petition urges the state park authority to stripe the lanes. Their Facebook page has numerous videos of autos passing on blind corners. Stripes and signs may not cure every instance, but I don't see a downside. Please consider signing it.

In much happier news, I am pleased beyond pleased to be able to report that I took my first spin on a bike since I was injured. It was slow, painful, and not very far, but it was a delight. I rode with Tricia and a group from NorCal in a "Slow Poke Ride" which was exactly what I needed. They were kind enough to ride even slower than slow so I could keep up. Thanks guys!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Lodi Bicycle Summit, Building Bicycle Tourism and the Path Less Pedaled

Laura and Russ of the Path Less Pedaled Lodi Bike Summit 047
We don't live in Lodi, but when we heard Russ and Laura, bicycle travel gurus, cycling advocates and bloggers at would be the keynote speakers at the Lodi Bicycle Summit we knew we'd be going. We'd been reading their blog forever, and much like you think you know your favorite TV star, we felt like we knew them, even though they didn't know us.

But despite that, I hardly recognized them when I saw them because in every photo I've seen of them they're out doing bikeish things, and today they were all spiffed up. They clean up real nice, as grandma used to say.

The event was focused on cycling in Lodi, and even more about how cycling can help Lodi. Russ and Laura's presentation was about how much difference bicycle tourism can make for the economy of small towns. Their presentation was filled with interesting videos, clever explanatory animations and their own interesting stories. You can see some of their delightful work on their Bicycle Tourism 101 page. It's cool stuff even if you don't think you are interested. Trust me, check it out.

Tricia and I realized how much of what they were talking about was what getting businesses and communities to target people like us. We've vacationed in places specifically because of their bicycle friendliness, and as we did, left money behind for local businesses. Heck, almost every time we've been to Lodi was bicycle related, and we sure have purchased a lot of wine there. Even when we didn't ride there, we went because of something we discovered while biking. We've planned trips specifically so we could stay in places like the tiny town of Wallace Idaho and ride Trail of the Coeur d'Alene bike path and the Route of the Hiawaitha, places we'd never have gone if not for their cycling infrastructure. I hope more communities get this message and give me the opportunity to visit them and leave some money there.

I'm impressed Lodi has the vision to realize that bicycle infrastructure will be good not only for cyclists, but for local business and the community as a whole, and even for residents who never ride themselves.

Tricia took part in a short pre-conference ride that featured numerous interesting bikes and people. I saw different types of child carriers, dog carriers, fat bikes, kayak trailers, road bikes  and on and on. I couldn't ride, so I chatted with Laura and Russ while they set up. It was hard not to kidnap and endlessly interrogate them about Bromptons, trailers, gearing, advocacy, touring gearing and all the zillions of other things they have experience with. I did manage to bother them enough to get some information that will help me in the future.

One of the many points they made is that cycling is mainstream and popular enough we see more and more cycling iconography used in media all around us. Surely enough, when we stopped at a winery on our way back there was a large cycle-oriented print for sale in an otherwise non-cycling environment.

Tricia with bike art at winery Lodi Bike Summit 058

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A stitch is out of time: More recovery!

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Progress! My stitches were removed last night at Kaiser Hospital. And best of all, removed by a current Los Medanos College nursing student. I wish I could get her extra credit points. She did a wonderful job.

The front-line staff at Kaiser are wonderful, but dealing with their infrastructure when trying to get paperwork through their system is downright Kafkaesque. Left hand, meet right hand, you two are obviously strangers. Still, through the work of those front line people, it eventually all worked out. My papers are all in order.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bicycling: Safety and cost

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on
Here's a surprise. I've been giving a lot of thought to cycling, and safety vs risk. In the past I've mostly worried about being run over, and it's still a concern. I'd also worried a tiny bit about dogs, but I'd never given thought to being attacked. But now that it's happened, I find something new for me to contemplate and deal with.

As usual, I have thoughts on both.

First the people-gone-wild side: If I ride the same trail twice a day for 10 years and get attacked once, what are the odds of that happening again? That depends on how much the situation has changed. Is it the same as it ever was, or is it more dangerous now? There's no way for me to know.

But I do know that not riding will make me gain weight, and be generally less healthy. There all endless studies about the physiological and physiological benefits of exercise. In the end, I'm not sure I'm willing to give up all that up. Of course, I haven't tried riding past my special spot on the trail yet.

My colleague and fellow cyclist Ken Alexander answered a comment on Facebook with what I thought was a pretty good reply:
I am naturally concerned, as Curtis' friend, colleague and fellow cyclist/commuter on that very pathway. Cycling is a choice that we and 1000s of others make every day. ARE we safer in cars? From random violence like this, probably yes. From accidents caused by stupid and aggressive drivers wrapped in air-conditioned, music-filled bubbles? Not so much.
As cyclist, we expose ourselves to these and even greater dangers, because in a confrontation with a car or truck, we lose. With dogs, we can sometimes outrun them. People? That's the wild card. Ironically, one morning after arriving at the College, I asked Curtis if he realized how vulnerable we were to some unhinged person on the trail, simply from a well-timed or spontaneous shove. I was not really thinking about being robbed, but clearly, that supplies a motivation for this method. He and I have talked about how to feel and what to do.
His injuries will heal... we've all left some flesh on the road, but we continue to ride, as I'm sure he will, probably sooner than his doctor advised. I feel the same regarding this "town" (Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood) but the practical matter of finding safety anywhere seems like a chimera to me. So, as we asked each other... do we continue to commute? Find another route? Always ride with a partner? Ride with greater caution (or paranoia) and turn around when we see anyone on the trail?
I have no answers for Curtis, but for me, the answer to the questions above is probably yes to most (riding with a partner is just too logistically difficult.) We have ridden that very trail, to and from the College, 4-5 times a week, in the day and night for 15 years. I'm no math whiz, I'm not particularly brave or foolhardy and not oblivious to my own sense of privilege and entitlement, but I'll probably cope, as I feel confident our friend will too.
— Ken 
I recently read another piece about cycling that includes thoughts safety and cost that I like a lot. The author may be overstating his case just a little, but generally I think it's spot on.

In Bicycling: The safest form of transportation by Mr. Money Mustache he claims, and has statistics to back it up, that if you look at time spent on a bike vs. time spent in a car you are less likely to be killed on a bike. It's very interesting. He goes on to point out that if you factor in health, riding a bike is an amazing deal compared to driving an automobile. While it may be over the top, I love his sentence "It is not an exaggeration to say that a bicycle is a money-printing fountain of youth, probably the single most important and highest-yielding investment a human can possibly own."

It's an interesting read. Check it out.

In the end, after all the philosophizing and rationalizing, it  sure looks like I'll be back in the saddle, both on the road and the trail, commuting, touring and riding just for fun, as soon as I possibly can. At least that's the plan today.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Channeling my inner-thirteen-year-old girl self

Pretend this is a tree or outer space. It's less gross that way.
I’ve been channeling my inner-thirteen-year-old girl and obsessing over how I’ll look to a group of dear friends I see very infrequently. Our gathering has been planned for months, and I’ve spent the last many weeks gong from 168 to 145. I’m really rather proud of my aging self. I don’t have six-pack abs, but I don’t look bad for an old guy.
Then I got mugged. When I was knocked from my bike I knew I’d cut up my leg and broken some ribs. But I just realized I was also badly bruised on my left side around the waistline. I’m very swollen there. So swollen that it looks like I have a big ol’ pile of ugly blue muffin top fat exactly where I just lost it. Sure, it’s asymmetrical. I’m fine on the right side. But it’s still enough to disrupt the delicate draping of my tee shirts and creates a less than ideal impression.
I want a custom shirt with an arrow pointing that to my waist that says "NOT FAT" or to have Tricia quietly explain to my friends that it’s bruising. She’s offered to say “Curtis wants me to say…” which isn’t exactly the effect I was looking for.
This being a thirteen year old girl is sure mentally exhausting.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Antioch Police respond to my letter, and a book recommendation

book and leg
Because I'm pretty much immobile I have plenty of time to meditate on my assault while bike commuting and even read a bit. Jennifer, a student from years ago and now a friend as well as an ace journalist, sent me a "recover-well" gift: The wonderfully interesting "Lanterne Rouge," a fascinating book about the men who come in last during the the Tour de France. It's well researched, well written, and a lot more compelling than you might guess. I'm enjoying it a lot.

I've also had time to write letters and emails. I wrote one to the Antioch Police Department with some questions about my incident and crime in general. I'll include it at the end of this post. Much to my surprise I got a response in the form a phone call from a Police Department representative.

I was surprised when she told me that my case isn't an Antioch Police Department case. The Delta DeAnza Trail is not in their jurisdiction. It's under the East Bay Regional Parks Police. The Antioch PD officer who took my report was taking a "courtesy report." It's not an Antioch case, so there is no Antioch investigation or followup. I didn't ask, but I'll bet it doesn't end up as a violent crime in Antioch's crime statistics. She told me that the report was forwarded to East Bay Regional Parks Police. Being relatively immobile right now, I may have the time to write them and ask some of the same questions.

I asked how big a deal a robbery with a gun resulting in an injury assault was. Her careful response was that being as this isn't an APD case it won't receive any further attention from them. When pressed, she said this is not an unusual event for Antioch.

I want to be clear I have no complaints about the Antioch Police. I don't know what more they could have done. I'm more concerned that I live in an area where a crime like this is not noteworthy in any way. I don't need to be the center of attention, but I wish I lived somewhere that this was so unusual it warranted  a newspaper story, warning flyers posted along the trail and just a touch of public outrage. Alas, that isn't the case.

At least I have a book to read...

Dear Antioch Police Department 
I was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint on Wednesday, July 29 as I bike commuted on the Delta De Anza Trail behind Turner School. The encounter left me injured and required a hospital visit. At this point I am still barely mobile. Antioch Police officer Amel Sahnic came to the scene and took the report, case number 15-7492  For the record, I suffered three fractured ribs, a large wound on my knee that required stitches, an odd shoe-sole cut on my head as well as other cuts and massive bruising. I hope to be able to return to teaching when the semester starts, but don’t know for sure. 
As a “regular old citizen” of Antioch I have little understanding of police procedure or perspectives. I really don’t know how you approach your jobs, or even exactly what that job entails. I don’t have any complaints, but I have questions and I’m hoping you might have time to answer a few.
I’m not sure how to word this so it has the right tone, so please read this with an open mind. 
How big of an event is this for the police and Antioch? I know it is for me, but have we reached a point where having a 61 year old college professor attacked, robbed at gunpoint and sent to the hospital is hardly news? That crimes like this are common enough that this one doesn’t even stand out? I have no expectations about what you should do, but would like to know if it’s now something unfortunate that happened in the past, or is this case a continuing concern. 
I’d also like to know if I’m part of a trend. Have there been other robberies or attacks along the trail there? If there have been, does it appear to be the same people, or different perpetrators? 
Has APD been able to make any efforts to increase safety along this trail? As a bike commuter, I hope to get back in the saddle as soon as I heal. The nearby roads aren’t bike friendly. I’m looking for information that will help me make decisions about my commute. 
Does APD coordinate or share information about incidents like my attack with other agencies connected to the trail, like East Bay Regional Parks or Pittsburg PD?  
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and thanks in advance for any reply you’re able to make. 
Just in case you’re interested in my details, reactions and comments, I blog on my Curtis in Bicycle Land blog 
The story of my attack: 

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Assault updates and some happier news

Tricia was on a mission in July. She wanted to see if she could average 30 mile a day. Tricia managed to ride every day, and also rode, if not 30 miles, almost 30 and often more. By the time August rolled around she'd logged 1012 miles — 1628 kilometers for you euro-oriented statisticians. That's about like riding Antioch to Yellowstone National Park –  a long way. I didn't photograph her accomplishment at the end as I was busy being a lay-about do-nothing. She had to shoot her own selfie out on Empire Mine Road.

In less interesting news, I visited Kaiser Hospital for follow a up on the injuries I suffered after being mugged on my bike commute. It turns out my cracked rib is actually three fractured ribs. Somehow having a larger number, and using the term "fracture" rather than "cracked" makes me feel better. It means that all this pain is real, and I'm not being a total wimp. It just sounds more serious.  I recieved this information when I visited Kaiser's "Minor Injury Clinic." Minor Injury? Really? Why can't they call it the "OMG, That Must Really Hurt Clinic" or something a little more supportive. Think how cool that would look on their sign, or a business card.

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 three fractured ribs aren'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?