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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Weekend Tricks & Halloween Treats

It's Halloween and I'm just getting in from taking the kids trick or treatin'. Our 9 month old was dressed as a bumble bee. When she raspberried, we said she was a buzzin'. The 7 year old was Harry Potter w/cape, glasses, lighning birthmark and a truly irritating magic wand (that sounded off with every touch & turn) too. Both had fun and we came home with lots of loot. Too bad our 9 mth old has no teeth; I guess mommy & daddy will have to eat her candy...

Halloween with the kids was a nice change from the sadness which consumed my weekend. On Friday, I got a phone call that a good friend had died. Fr. Tarantino, Pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church, had a massive heart attack the day before and passed away. He was just 60 yrs old.

Fr. Tarantino and I became friends due to the Jazz Mass that he fostered at Holy Rosary. I loved the way in which the jazz music added to the celebration of the mass and wanted to broadcast the masses online. We never reached that stage; however, over the years, I managed several websites representing various ministries of the church. Every so often, Father would ask me over for lunch and we always had great conversations. Father saw me through a divorce, annulment, 2nd marriage and even baptized 2 of my children. I will miss him.

On Saturday, my brother called. He had tickets to the Saint's football game and invited me to attend. Given Fr. Tarantino's death, I wasn't really in the mood to go; however, I wanted to spend some time with my brother so I agreed.

As gorgeous as the weather was Sunday, I had to get a ride in before the football game so I bicycled down to the Superdome. About an hour before kickoff, I got on the bike and hit the lakefront trail. A stiff breeze out of the Northeast slowed my progress along the trail and I had to divert at Clearview due to trail closures associated with the rebuilding of the hurricane levee.

From Causeway Blvd, I was back on the trail all the way to the end at the Bucktown Coast Guard station. I stopped once at the top of the levee and noticed salt marsh mosquitoes flying all around me. Apparently, they were in the grass and I had disturbed them; these mosquitoes are persistent too.

I rode the 17 St. Canal bike path to Veterans and through the desolate, Katrina ruined streets of Lakeview. I took Canal Blvd to the Cemeteries. Traffic was light so I ended up riding Canal Street all the way into town. I rode to City Hall where my dad's car was parked, folded up the bike, placed it in the trunk of his Crown Victoria and walked across the street to the Dome. The football game was just beginning and, in no time at all, the Saints were behind 14-0. Things never got better but the endorphins released by bicycling didn't wear off until at least the second half of the game; thus, the Saint's embarrassing defeat really didn't bother me.

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

$656,000 Approved For Bike Trail In Chicago Suburb

"Work will proceed on the DuPage River Bicycle Trail, a project that has been in the works for about five years, thanks to a state grant announced Monday.

The Plainfield Park District will receive a $656,000 grant through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program -- about half the amount the district requested from the state earlier this year and was denied."

Plainfield, Illinois is about 30 miles Southeast of downtown Chicago.

The Full Story

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Upstate New York Bike Trail Gets Funds For Completion

The long-awaited recreational bike/pedestrian path between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake is back on track. Thanks to a $1.43 million boost in funding, trail construction will push the trail forward from Averyville Station to Union Depot. (An exhaustive trail study conducted back in 2001 by the Bikes Belong Coalition that compared the costs and benefits of the then proposed Saranac Lake - Lake Placid Recreational Path to 61 other rail trails concluded that the trail was feasible and would become a significant enhancement to local recreation and transportation.)

Bike path money connects Lake Placid, Saranac Lake

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The UK: An Ever More Bike Friendly Country

The UK is becoming ever more bicycle friendly. Across the country, more than 75% of the population lives within two miles of a National Cycle Network (NCN) bike route (Source: Sustrans). Many of the routes link to train stations which increasingly offer better bike parking facilities and bicycle rentals; folding bikes can also be taken on any train at any time without a reservation. As a result, it's becoming ever easier to travel to more places at least in part by bicycle.

More Info:

Larry Lagarde
Ph: 504-324-2492
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

$349 Folding Bike Including Carry Rack & Bag

If you're in the market for a folding bike, here's a deal that's hard to pass up:

A 20" folder that rolls when folded for just $349 including rear carry rack, carry bag & free shipping!

The folding bike is the Giatex BICI 660, a bicycle that's quickly becoming popular with families because it adjusts to the size of most riders - from kids to adults. As a result, a child can continue to ride the same bike even as they grow. Also, since most families don't ride all at the same time, there's no need to buy a separate bike for each family member (more room in the garage, dads).

As standard equipment, the Giatex BICI 660 comes featured with a 52 tooth chainring, quick release front wheel, alloy wheels, stainless steel & painted steel frame, alloy seatpost, Shimano derailleur, folding pedals, kickstand, fenders, bicycle bell and more.

At this price, it's worth buying a folding bike and keeping it in the trunk of the car just for emergencies. If the car breaks down, just zip it out of the carry bag and go for help.

By the way, the Giatex normally retails for $478.99 with the carry rack & bag or $399 without so snag this deal now while you can!

Learn more about other folding bikes starting from $309

Larry Lagarde

Monday, October 16, 2006

CLIX™ Bike Wheel Skewers Safer & Faster

Almost a century after the invention of the quick release wheel skewer by Tullio Campagnolo, a new system will soon be available that instantly locks bike wheels to the fork on installation.

Invented by Montague Inventive Technologies (a company known for their full size, performance mountain bikes that fold), the CLIX™ attaches and releases bicycle wheels safely, quickly and free of guesswork. Unlike the standard, two-sided quick-release system by Campagnolo that requires adjustment on both sides of the skewer to lock, the CLIX™ releases from the frame with a strong push on one side of the hub. When attaching a wheel to the bike frame, the CLIX™ makes a "click" to signal that the wheel is securely in place. Even if a user forgets to lock the CLIX™ skewer into the closed position, the wheel will not fall off.

The CLIX™ received great reviews from Bicycle Retailer, Bike Europe and at Interbike. Also, Pacific Cycle Inc. is installing CLIX™ skewers onto many of their Mongoose bikes for 2008.


Cycling Sacramento's American River Parkway

If you're in the San Francisco area and would like to spend a day or weekend riding a paved bike trail, here's a story about cycling Sacramento's beautiful American River Parkway (a.k.a. the Jedediah Smith Memorial Bike Trail) via Amtrak & returning to Sacramento via light rail.

The Story:

About The Trail:
Wikipedia's Jedediah Smith Memorial Bike Trail

Other Useful Info I Found:
Photos Of The Trail
Mountain Biking On The American River Parkway
Riding A Century Using The Parkway
Accessing The Trail Using Sacramento's Light Rail
2002 Travel Article @ Sacramento & The Trail
Amtrak's Capital Corridor Service (San Jose to Sacramento)


Larry Lagarde

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bike Trails I'm Researching

The baby's screaming bloody murder right now so I'm about to sign off the Net for the day; however, you might be interested in these trails I was researching before daddy time was requested...

  • Indiana: The Millrace Trail, Cardinal & White River Greenways, Rivergreenway, Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage, Nancy Burton Trail, Zionsville; Monon Greenway, Whitewater Gorge Trail, Richmond;
  • Ohio: Wabash Cannonball Trail, Waterville; MetroParks, Akron and Cleveland; Blackhand Gorge Trail; Little Miami Scenic River Trail, Cincinnati to Yellow Springs; trail from Xenia to Dayton;
  • Michigan: Kal-Haven Trail, Kalamazoo to Grand Haven; White Pine Trail, Big Rapids; Pere Marquette Trail, Reed City; Hart-Montague Trail, Montague;
  • Kentucky: Riverwalk, Louisville;
  • Pennsylvania: Youghiogheny River Trail;
  • Wisconsin: Elroy-Sparta Trail; Sugar River Trail; LaCrosse River Trail; Great River Trail;
  • Illinois: Illinois Prairie Path; Fox River Trail;
  • Florida: Trempeleau Trail;
  • California: Beach Path, Los Angeles

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Let's Go Bicycling!

Sometimes, bicycling is more fun when riding with others.

Let's go bicycling!Although there are lots of bike sites online, I haven't found one designed for bicyclists to freely share information about any upcoming cycling events anywhere. As a result, finding cycling information on the Net can be frustrating and time consuming.

Sites such as Del.icio.us, Digg & StumbleUpon prove that the web works best when users can easily contribute knowledge. With this in mind, I've created a web 2.0 style social networking site devoted to bicyclists.

If you're interested in promoting or participating in a group ride or are simply looking for someone else to ride with, I invite you to check out this site. Together, we can enjoy cycling even more and encourage more people to discover how much fun riding a bike can be.

Here's the url for the site:


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Photo of the Day: Chicago's "L"

Today's Photo of the Day are street views of Chicago's "L". If it reminds you vaguely of chase scenes from the original Blues Brothers movie, it should as this is where it was shot (other movies such as The Fugutive, The Sting, Ocean's 11, While You Were Sleeping, etc. had similar views too).

The pic is from my September bike trip to the Pacific Northwest. To enlarge, click on the photo.

Due to time limitations & weather, I was unable to do any cycling in the Windy City; however, I'll be back to try again...


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bicycling the American Discovery Trail in IA & MO

In my quest for a route to bike from the Northern Tier of the American Discovery Trail in Southwestern Iowa to the Southern Tier in Western Missouri, I contacted Caryn Giarratano (the bike/ped coordinator for the state of Missouri) for suggestions.

Today, I received some helpful info from Caryn on this subject. Since others may be interested in doing something similar, here's what she suggested.

"Thanks for keeping me informed. In order to plan a route to connect to the
Katy Trail, I would recommend that you use the Missouri Bike Maps based on
traffic count at this location ...

My contacts for bike route info in the KC area are Aaron Bartlett and Brent
Hugh. Aaron is the bike/ped coordinator for MARC and Brent is the Director
of the Missouri Bicycle Federation. Be very patient if you ask for their
help. They are extremely busy!

Go to the MBF website for great bike/ped info, especially here ...

Pedaling happily, Caryn"

Thanks Caryn. I'll let y'all know what Aaron or Brent have to say.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Bicycling Photo Of The Day: Shelby Forest, TN

Today's photo of the day depicts the Shelby Forest General Store located near the entrance of Shelby Meeman State Park (just North of Memphis, TN). A large parking lot across from the store, it's proximity to the state park as well as several road bicycling routes on the Mississippi River Trail make the store a focal point for cyclists.

On just about any Saturday morning, the general store is also the scene of these veteran porch sitters. Some live nearby & others used to. Regardless, they come to socialize and watch the stream of bicyclists, campers and recreational fishermen coming into the store to buy provisions or eat. The store has a popular deli and also offers breakfast. If you want, you can even purchase a pickled egg out of the glass pickle jar.


Bike Facilities Increase Commuting By Bicycle

Results of a recently completed study by the University of Minnesota suggest that constructing bicycle facilities increases bicycle commuting.

According to Charles Pekow, a Washington, DC writer and bicyclist, 168 urban bicyclists were asked to estimate the time they would spend riding a route based on the bicycle facilities offered on the route. Regardless whether the bike facility was a striped, on street bike lane or a paved, off street bike path, the results indicated that cyclists were willing to spend more time commuting by bicycle on routes that included bike facilities.

The Story
On-Street Bike Lanes On Mark With Cyclists


The Study
Tools for Predicting Usage & Benefits of Urban Bicycle Network Improvements


Friday, October 06, 2006

Bicycling Photo Of The Day: Shake Rag, TN

Today's Photo of the Day is a shot of the Shake Rag Store & Bar.

While riding the Mississippi River Trail with a group of cyclists from Memphis (see yesterday's pic), we stopped in front of the Shake Rag Store in Millington to rehydrate and gnaw on some trail bars. I shot the photo because of the unusual info on the marque of the store - a joke listing the population of the "town" at 44 1/2.

Although Shake Rag is a cross roads convenience store that sells alcohol & has a few barstools, there once was a town of Shake Rag; it was a mining community located on the Tennessee River. The town was abandoned in 1905 and was recently listed on the Tennessee Preservation Trust's top 10 endangered sites list for historic properties in Tennessee... but I digress.

I was disappointed that the area around the Shake Rag Store & Bar appeared deserted. I was hoping to learn whether the "1/2" in the population was a child, a dwarf, a dog or something else completely off the wall. (Map: Location of the Shake Rag Store)


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bicycling Photo Of The Day: MRT Bikers

I've been accumulating a lot of photos from all the bike trips that I've been doing so I thought it would be fun to create a Photo of the Day feature on the blog.

I'm starting the Photo of the Day with a photo I shot on the Mississippi River Trail on July 29, 2006. In the photo are some of the bicyclists that I rode with that Saturday morning. We drove up to a general store just outside Shelby Meeman State Park and rode a loop of approximately 45 miles.

The folks in the photo are all from Memphis. They ride pretty regularly and it was a joy to be invited to ride with them.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bike Tripping With Amtrak

Recently, I returned from several bike trips far from home. Rather than take the car or plane, I got to the trail by train. The journeys were far more enjoyable than flying or driving and I will be traveling by train again. When I do, I'll take the following tips to heart to make the trip even more enjoyable.

10 Tips For Traveling By Train With A Bicycle
1. Make your reservation by phone.
A bike trip is a special occasion. When booking your rail tickets, get your trip off to a good start by speaking with a reservations agent so you can be alerted to any potential problems that the agent may foresee.

2. Confirm that your points of arrival/departure are designated baggage stops.
For stops at some small towns, the train does not stay long enough to accept or offload checked baggage. When making your reservations, find out now if bags can be checked through to your station so you won't have a rude surprise later.

3. Look over your tickets at least a week before you go.
The only way to confirm that your booking is completely in order is to see your tickets. I booked my trips a month in advance but opted to have the tickets waiting for me at the station's ticket counter on the day of departure. Bad move; I almost missed my train - TWICE. Check your tickets & confirm that all is in order.

4. Pack your bike carefully.
I used an Airliner case for transporting my full size Montague MX folding mountain bike. It's pretty tough but one of the latches came open during transit. Gladly, I had carefully tied everything down inside the case. Small bits that were removed from the bike so it would fit in the case (headset, wheel skewers, tools) had been stowed in a zip lock bag in my carry on so I lost nothing. Had the other latch come open, it could have been a disaster. Next time, I plan to wind duct tape around the case just to be safe.

5. Weigh your checked bags before you leave home.
Amtrak strictly adheres to a max weight per bag of 50 lbs. If the bag weighs more, they won't take it. NOTE: My experience was that bicycles were accepted provided I let the handler know in advance that it was a bike.

6. Before you leave for the train station, call Amtrak to confirm your train is on time.
For some of Amtrak's routes (Crescent, Sunset Limited & others), problems beyond Amtrak's control can cause delays of several hours. Rather than wait unnecessarily, call the train station first to see if they have been told of delays for your train. Even if you still have to wait awhile, at least you did your best.

7. Get to the train station an hour before departure.
There were times when unforeseen proplems almost caused me to either miss a train or miss the checked baggage cut off time (30 minutes before departure). Do yourself a favor; get to the station with an hour to spare. (Photo: Looking down the hallway in my sleeper car.)

8. Expect a minimal handling fee for bicycles.
The handling charge for checking a bike is $5 (far less than the ridiculous fees charged by the airlines). If you have a folding bike, you may avoid a handling fee completely. Twice, handlers said they'd have to charge me because the case containing my full size, folding mountain bike weighed over 50 lbs; however, when I told them it was a bike, they let me slide (your results may differ).

9. Carry aboard your bike that folds at your own risk.
While Amtrak literature says you can carry on your bike that folds, the decision is up to the train's conductor. If the train is full, you run the risk that the conductor will not let you bring the bike aboard due to limited space for carry on's. This is less of a problem if you have your own compartment on the train but, believe me, you really don't want to be lugging a huge suitcase down the hall of a sleeper, let alone up the tight steps of a Superliner. And if you did, that big case will be sitting in your face the entire journey... (Photo: My bikes in the baggage car b/c there was no room to carry them on.)

10. If it's in your budget, get a sleeper compartment.
If you're on the train several hours & can afford the splurge, opt for a sleeper even if you're traveling during the day. For privacy, sleeper cars are typically placed away from coach, minimizing foot traffic past your compartment (for quiet, ask for the sleeper car that's furthest from the engine so you don't hear the horn blow at street crossings). Meal service in the diner is included in the surcharge for your compartment and beverages in your car (bottled water, juice & coffee) are free. More importantly though, you'll receive better service because sleepers are considered 1st class. Thus, if you're traveling with a bike, you're likely to find the staff to be more obliging to your special needs than if you were in coach. (Photo: My sleeper compartment. Seats face one another & fold down into a bed that's surprisingly comfortable.)

- Bring Your Bicycle Onboard Amtrak
- Amtrak's Baggage Policy and Information

Rune Monstad: Why He's Biking Around The World

This weekend, I learned about Rune Monstad, a Norwegian that's bicycling around the world.

While trying to make a phone call in Seattle, someone stole Rune's passport & money from his bike. Luckily, word spread about Rune's misfortune and the people of Seattle responded generously.

Whether or not you've been following Rune via his blog or website, here is some information you probably don't know:

Rune was born in Tonsberg, Norway (about an hour's drive South of Oslo) and is 33 years old. His epic bicycling saga began in Bolivia after completing a year there working with homeless children.

Since starting his trip 9 months ago, Rune's bicycled over 16,000 miles. Other than participating once in a triathlon in Norway, this is the first time that Rune's attempted a long distance, multi-day, self supported bike tour. This winter, Rune will be bicycling West to East across Canada. He expects his circumnavigation of the world to last another 3 years and plans to end the tour in Bolivia.

Rune hopes that his trip will increase environmental awareness, inspiring more people to shed their cars and get around by bicycle.

By the way, Rune's most rewarding experience has been discovering how friendly people are regardless where they live or how much money they have. Rune also has this wisdom to offer: if you're thinking about doing something BIG, don't think so much; just do it. You only live once.

Awesome advice, Rune.

In the future, I plan to publish more news from Rune. Meanwhile, if you'd like to learn more about him, the following links are all good.

- A great story about Rune in the Wenatchee World
- Rune's Current Blog
- Rune's Original Website


Taking Your Bike On A Cruise Ship

Two years ago, I set sail from New Orleans to the Yucatan on the Sensation, a cruise ship owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. I wanted to take my folding bike aboard in a suitcase so I could bicycle in the ports of call. Unfortunately, Carnival's policy at the time did not allow any bikes to be brought aboard, threatening passengers that disregarded the policy with confiscation.

Recently, I've been thinking about taking another cruise. I've discovered that Princess & Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) currently allow passengers to bring aboard folding bikes (NCL requires passengers to sign a waiver while Princess has no special requirements).

Do you have any recent experience regarding bringing a bike aboard a large cruise ship? If so, share it with me so other readers can learn from your observations.


MapQuest A Poor Resource For Bicyclists

A post today on Monkey Bites (a blog on Wired.com) titled "Planning a Bike Trip with Web Maps" suggested that MapQuest is the only popular mapping service that offers bicycle friendly route mapping solutions. I disagree.

I tested MapQuest on a ride I do regularly and the results were terrible. MapQuest does not recognize bike trails, paths or routes and there is no feature on Mapquest allowing a bicyclist to search for a bicycle appropriate route. Thus, when Mapquest is set to avoid highways, it routes the user on secondary connector roads.

Test Case
In my test case, I queried MapQuest for directions from the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, LA to the New Orleans Causeway's Southshore police headquarters. Both points are on the Southshore of Lake Pontchartrain where an excellent, paved bike path connects them in a direct line.

Test Results
Since MapQuest assumes that the user is requesting directions for a motor vehicle, it routed me South on Williams Blvd, East on West Esplanade Ave, then North onto Causeway Blvd. Besides the fact that this route is over a mile longer than if I rode the bike path, it also would be quite dangerous to attempt. All 3 roadways have high traffic volumes and no shoulders.

My Opinion
I highly recommend Dave Ploch'stweak of the Google Maps interface. It's designed so that runners and cyclists can map their routes. Dave's interface even contains an option to view USGS topo maps which show contour lines and geographical information not seen typically on any of the popular mapping sites. If you create a route with Dave's system, it will even generate a chart showing elevation changes along your route. Very cool.

- Dave Ploch's 2wheeltech.com Mapping System
- Photos: Southshore Bike Trail Along Lake Pontchartrain
- Monkey Bites Blog

Monday, October 02, 2006

Mountain Biking On The Mogollon Rim

While researching the Arizona Trail (AZT) last week, I came across a story in the Payson Roundup about the Fred Haught Trail. Developed in the early 1900's as part of the Cabin Loop Trail System (a series of cabins used formerly by the Forest Service to spot fires), the trail passes through picturesque forest atop the Mogollon Rim (a dramatic escarpment that towers 1000's of feet over the desert floor in spots & is over 200 miles long).

Since long sections of the AZT travel through hot desert country, the idea of focusing my AZT ride on trails through the Rim's forests sounded appealing. I contacted the editor of the Roundup to see if enough trails existed on the Rim for a mountain biker to spend a few days bicycling there. In reply, both the newspaper's editor and the writer of the Fred Haught Trail story contacted me. This is what they wrote:

"From experience, I can tell you that the 260 trail, which is part of the Highline Trail is one of the best single tracks around. The Highline is a 50 mile trail, so I'm sure you could make a weekend out of it."

Autumn Phillips, Editor, Payson Roundup

"There are any number of trails around the area where the Fred Haught Trail is that are accessible by mountain bike. I wrote one up in a earlier edition of the paper at Willow Springs Lake, which is farther south on the Rim from the Haught Trail. There is an excellent campground (Sinkhole) near the lake that is part of the Forest Service system of campgrounds located in this part of Coconino/Tonto Forests. There are also a number of campgrounds along Forest Service Road 300 (known locally as the Rim Road), which runs along the west face of the rim. Cabins and motels are readily available in Payson, Pine, and Strawberry, all of which are nearby the Rim. The Forest Service has a District Ranger's office for Tonto Forest located just outside of Payson and it has a great deal of information about trails in the area.

I can reccomend two books that may be of help. One is available at the Payson Ranger's office. It is "Day Hikes & Trail Rides In Payson's Rim Country", by Roger and Ethel Freeman. The other is the "Official Guide to the Arizona Trail" by Tom Lorang Jones, which can be found at any local bookstore. I also found one that is out of print and somewhat outdated, but still useful online through Barnes and Nobel. It is "Rim Country Mountain Biking" by Jeffer L. Stevenson. It was published in 1995. There were several copies available through various bookstores affiliated with Barnes & Nobel. I hope this helps you."

Monte McCord

Following are some links based on the comments from Autumn & Monte:
- Monte's Story On The Fred Haught Trail
- Highline Trail
- Willow Springs Lake: Cool water on the Rim
- Campgrounds In Coconino National Forest
- US Gov't Trail/Forest Service Maps for Arizona

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