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.