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Poetry corner

This poem is by Megan Mendivil, daughter of my ALC cyclist representative, Russ Mendivil, who is the author of The Ride: How to Ride Your Bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles Without Even Dying.

It's the week before Christmas
All your shopping is done
You are ready for presents
You are ready for fun

During this season
You probably think
About all that you have
And how life doesn't stink

You might think about family
Your nino and nina
Your crazy aunt Mildred
And drunk cousin Tina

Or your mom and your dad
And your sisters and brothers
But have you considered
Doing something for others?

I have an idea
For you to help out
To make a big difference
Without any doubt

You could make a dontion
Help stop HIV
Help people with AIDS
Support ALC

I will be riding
My bike to LA
June 6th through the 12th
It's a really long way

Please visit my webpage
It's listed below
And make a donation
Give some holiday dough.

The $19 video show

I suppose it's some mark of progress that a reasonably full-featured color video camera is now sold as a $19 Disney-branded "toy." In my ongoing quest to chronicle the AIDS/LifeCycle experience, I recently plunked down the $19 to see just how far we've come.

The answer is that we've come quite far. This little box is smaller than a 3x5 index card and delivers full-size video with crisp color. It's not perfect (for $19, it's not expected to be), but it's certainly serviceable.

So, for a test, I attached the camera to my headlight bracket, mounted it on my handlebar, and took off for a short ride into nearby Shoreline Park and into Palo Alto. I've sped up the video by approximately 6x (and I've reduced the image size for uploading to YouTube, so don't try to watch it full-screen), so the lack of image stabilization is noticeable, but other than that, it's amazing what a tiny little box stuck to the front of a bicycle will do these days.

If you're from here, you can use this as a guide to navigate through the twisty mess of unsigned/unmarked trails in Shoreline. If you're not from here, this is an example of what's available just 1.5 miles from my front door ... and in mid-December, at that. Watch out for the ducks!

Ride report: Loop around the South Bay (12/13/2009)

Despite the light shower that moved through Mountain View right before ride-out time, we were extremely fortunate to be totally rain-free on today's 41-mile ride. The four brave riders who took a chance were rewarded with fresh air, low traffic ... and a small flood! The bicycle approach to the eastbound Dumbarton Bridge was under more than a foot of water, and we had to take a long walk along a very muddy levee to get around it, thus fouling our shoes and our bicycles.

Although the skies looked threatening all day long, we somehow managed to be in exactly the right place at the right time, as showers that were to the west of us magically disappeared and then reappeared to our east. But because of the wet pavement, our bicycles all were considerably dirty at the end -- I've already cleaned mine; be sure to clean yours.

This was my last official ride of 2009. I'll be back on Jan. 9 with the beginning of the Cat-3 Distance Training rides. Between now and then, I'll be planning those rides, and I might show up at some of the other rides happening around the area.

Ride report: Cupertino and Los Altos (12/12/2009)

We did it! Eight intrepid (and perhaps slightly crazy) riders completed 21 rainy miles this morning. We were all in such a hurry to get back into our warm vehicles that I didn't get to take a group picture at the end.

And, miraculously, nobody had any flats during the ride!

Remember that we will try to run our 41-mile loop ride tomorrow morning. Again, the weather is still iffy, but I'll try to make a ride/no-ride decision by 8 a.m. and post it here.

Jeyakumar (Kumar) Shanmugam, 1959-2009 (updated)

According to multiple reports on Facebook, ALC rider Kumar Shanmugam died Tuesday, although I have no information on the circumstances.

Kumar was a regular participant in Mountain View and Sunnyvale training rides. He was seriously injured in spring 2008 during a training ride from King City to Quadbuster and was unable to ride in ALC7, but he recovered and returned to training rides later that year.

He was the director of engineering at Cypress Semiconductor, and he was married. My condolences to Kumar's wife, family, and friends. I will miss his enthusiasm.

In memory of Jeyakumar Shanmugam, the memorial service will take place at 12:00 noon on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at First Unitarian Church of San Jose, 160 North 3rd Street, San Jose, California 95112. A reception will follow at a reception hall adjacent to the church.

Parking is available at the 3rd Street Parking Garage, located on the corner of North 3rd Street and East Saint James Street, If using lightrail, use the Saint James Park Station.

His wife, Jenifer, has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made online in memory of Jeyakumar Shanmugam to The South Asian Heart Center Fund http://www.southasianheartcenter.org/

A minor change to California law

And it's a good one, too. Bike Nopa has the details:
Last month Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a measure that makes legal what bicyclists have been doing all along: riding across Masonic Avenue on the Panhandle Path. No matter how carefully bicyclists shared the path with pedestrians and other cyclists and no matter that they only crossed the street with a green bike light before, they were still breaking the law. The problem was with the interpretation a law that governed use of the crosswalk. The previous wording of the law allowed an interpretation that cyclists should get off their bike and walk across a street like Masonic.

... Senate bill 734 (in pdf here), introduced by Senator Alan Lowenthal, rectified the problem by defining a "bicycle path crossing" as any portion of a roadway clearly marked and indicated for use by bicyclists. In other words, bicyclists have the right to use the bicycle paths designated for their use even when the path crosses a street that connects segments of the route.

Ride report: Saratoga via Mt. Eden (12/5/2009)

Go, riders!

The almost-winter chill definitely was in the air today for our intrepid group of 20 riders on our 33-mile ride. From the remote quiet of Stevens Canyon to the busy streets of Cupertino and Sunnyvale, we experienced a good sample of the many different types of riding we'll see on the event in June.

Special congratulations to those of you who conquered Mount Eden for the first time. That climb is typical of many of the intermediate climbs you'll find throughout the training season and in June. Everyone has their own speed; never feel pressured to keep up with anyone else. The same applies on the descent: Just because an expert hill master flies by you, don't feel the need to get in behind them -- especially if you're unfamiliar with the road. And if any climb is just too much for you for any reason (maybe it's just not your day), never be ashamed to walk some or all of the hill. Those of us who did ALC8 this year were faced with an extremely steep hill (which may or may not be part of the ALC9 route) outside Pismo Beach on Day 4, and many of us chose to walk. Always listen to your body, and don't needlessly put yourself at risk of injury.

Part of keeping your body healthy is proper nutrition. Now that our rides are more than two hours long (yes, even for the faster folks), you can't complete a ride without proper energy before, during, and after the ride. For morning rides, a good breakfast is essential, about an hour before ride-out. And it's important to take in calories during the ride, either at scheduled rest stops or on your own. Check out the guidelines on nutrition and hydration at the ALC website. And a quick note: Don't forget to drink, especially during winter. In colder weather, we're often less tempted to hydrate while riding, but the need is still there.

And as always, a few lessons were learned along the way today ... including by me.

One of our riders went down today, and we were very lucky that nobody was hurt. The bad part is that I was at least partially to blame. As we approached the tricky left turn from Quito onto Cox, I was leading a group of riders who were moving along at a rather strong pace -- about 18-20 mph. I saw the small "Quito Center" sign that was marked on the route sheet, and I called out, "Left turn!" The problem was that we were already at the beginning of the left turn lane, and there was a lane of traffic between the bike lane and the turn lane. I called, "Slowing!" and quickly made it to the head of the left turn lane, but I had failed to announce my intent early enough, and some of the other riders in the group weren't prepared to make the turn. One tried to come across -- and went down in the process at a slow speed ... but right in the middle of the through-traffic lane. Fortunately, the approaching car stopped! And also very fortunately, the rider was not injured. But my error was clear: I should have announced my intent earlier. And since I did not, the proper action was to continue past our designated turn to the next intersection, where we could have made a safe U-turn and returned to the route.

Another error I made today was at the intersection of Cox/Wardell and Saratoga-Sunnyvale. Our route took us through the intersection, and I correctly stopped behind the limit line and in the through lane (not the turn lane) ... but I failed to stop on the painted bike sensor to trip the traffic signal. In a situation like that where a bike sensor is clearly indicated and no car is already on top of the sensor, the proper action is to move to the sensor, which is usually in the middle of the lane. Thanks to the rider who gently reminded me of my error!

I was very pleased to hear lots of "Car back!" today. When you hear it behind you, always pass it forward in your line of riders. And if the car turns or stops before it reaches you, don't worry -- it's far better to have given an extra warning than to not have given one when there really is a car back.

What's next? Next Saturday (Dec. 12), we are scheduled for a 41-mile flat loop around the South Bay. The weather might have other plans for us; the storm that's approaching is already putting news outlets on high alert with phrases such as "biggest storm in the past seven years" and "the storm door is open" even to "these storms could end our drought." The current long-range forecast for next Saturday (which, of course, is more of a guess than an actual forecast) calls for showers throughout the day. However, the ride is "heavy rain cancels," which means that mere drizzle or light showers won't cancel the ride. (And because our route is almost completely flat, we don't have to worry about tricky technical riding in the rain.) Getting at least some experience riding in the rain is strongly recommended because rain can happen during the event in June, and we keep on riding unless the storm is of epic proportions (as it was this year on Day 6). Lots of things change in the rain -- how your brakes work, how your wheels grab the pavement, how well your sunglasses repel (or don't repel) water, how much water soaks into your saddlebag, and other things you might not have considered.

I'll post updates here as needed throughout the week, and next Saturday morning, I'll make a ride/no-ride decision as early as possible, hopefully by 7 a.m., and post it here. Details and RSVP are here.

Don't forget the ALC9 Northern California kickoff party, scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 24 in San Francisco. This is one of the major events of the season, and there's a new location this year: Mezzanine. Thousands of dollars in prizes are promised, which probably will include the usual assortment of new bicycles. Details and RSVP are here.

Thank you for riding today, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Probably our last year at Franklin and Evelyn

Venturing somewhat off-topic from the world of cycling, this report from this morning's Mercury News is nonetheless important because, if these plans go as predicted, we're going to lose our longtime meeting spot:
Addressing neighborhood concerns about a proposed downtown affordable housing complex appeared to be a priority of the Mountain View City Council on Tuesday, as council members discussed design plans for the 51-unit apartment building at Franklin Street and Evelyn Avenue.

Council members picked the city-owned site at 135 Franklin St. in 2006 to develop as low-income rental housing for families. Last year, they chose Santa Clara-based ROEM Development Corp. to build the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and operate them under a long-term ground lease.

... After several more public meetings beginning in February, final approval on the project is scheduled for May 25.

Housing is, of course, more important than parking, and I'm not saying it's wrong ... just that I'll need to find a new place for us to meet in Mountain View starting next summer.