04 September 2010

The Mad Scientist

I'm still working on making my night bikey shots like my drivey shots.

The problem I'm having is getting the camera stable enough. My carbon-fiber tripod, strapped to my rear rack flexes too much (I'm guessing the zip-ties attaching it aren't of much help either...).

When I was in Junior High School, I won the "Most Likely to be a Scientist" Award from the Science Department. I guess they were as close as could be expected - I mean, I doubt they have a "Most Likely to be a Mad Scientist Creating Arty-Farty Digital Imagery on a bike with a tripod zip-tied to the back." or "Most Likely to be a Mad Scientist Creating Arty-Farty Digital Imagery in a bike with a tripod jammed into the backseat."

I love coming up with an idea (or usually half and idea based upon some silly inspiration I had while out riding... or driving to work night after night...) and then playing around with it (experimenting, if you will) until I find the right formula (f-stop, shutter speed, ISO, camera angle, etc.) and then playing yet more.

So I guess, in a way, those science teachers were right.

Now I just need to figure out a way to mount the camera to the bike the way I was able to mount it to the car. If it's securely attached, the bike will remain in focus better than it has.

Stay tuned...

30 August 2010

Another bikey weekend

go daddy go
Originally uploaded by Nikki McLeod
Hey guess what?!

We rode our bikes this weekend!

On Saturday, we rode over to HUB for the Biketobeerfest, a fund-raising, beer-drinking good time. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the beer was yummy. I'm not sure which I liked better; the Totally Radner, a 70% beer, 30% lemonade concoction, or the Gayle's Pale, the first fresh hops beer of the season. The fund-raising was done on behalf of the BTA and Sunday Parkways.

I've been thinking about trying cyclocross for a while now, so yesterday, I raced in the Kruger's Kermesse, a "segway" into cyclocross season. It's on hard-packed dirt roads without any obstacles, so I figured that I could race it on my road bike.

I was wrong, so very very wrong.

In order to deal with the vibrations from the dirt road, I lowered the pressure in my tires, but I think I took out too much air. About 100 feet into the second lap, I pinch flatted-out.

I hopped off my bike, thinking that I'd quickly change the tire. My hands were clenched from a combination of vibrations and nervous energy. So much that I could barely grasp the tire irons. As I sat there, I began to realize that this may be the best bad situation that I could have asked for. If I put that tube in and continued to ride, I'd most likely do more damage to my beautiful, faithful road bike.

I also sat there really, really pissed off, because I had just had a blast riding that one lap and wanted to get back out there.

So my friends, it appears that I'm in need of a new bike. It's time to start looking at cyclocross bikes. I'm thinking that I want a single-speed, but I saw a sweet CX bike at Biketobeerfest that only had one ring up front and 6 or 7 speeds in the back. I really like that set up.

In addition to my participation, Liam raced in his very first bike race! And he finished. All of the cyclocross races have races for the kids, and Liam says he looking forward to racing some more.

Bring on the cyclocross season!

24 August 2010

Portland Century 2010

On Sunday - August 22 - Bryce and I rode the Portland Century. It was the second time I had ridden it and the first for Bryce - not only that, but he had just (as in, less than 48-hours prior) returned from a month-long family trip that saw far more gin & tonics than bike rides.

We started off feeling good and riding fast. The new pavement on the Springwater is niiiiice. We got into a nice rhythm and were moving along having a great time when we were joined by some guys that I guess really wanted to get into a draft train. They wouldn't pass and kind of pushed along behind us.

We rode like that for a few minutes, with me in front, until finally there was some oncoming traffic, some confusion and I got dropped off the back. I hung back about 50 feet watching Bryce lead the train. He was hauling ass, and seeming to enjoy himself, so I didn't want to shout something like, "hey, wait for me!"

I found myself riding alongside this dude named Carl. He was a nice, outgoing guy who's buddy had bailed on him so he was talking to everyone (particularly women) that came into sight (he also was totally jacked on too many shots of espresso). We rode along talking as he cheerfully greeted everyone that we passed.

As we approached the first rest stop, there was a couple walking in our opposite direction. I was riding to Carl's left, so I slowed down to drop behind him. As I did this, I glanced down to grab my water bottle and heard Carl very cheerfully say, "Good Morning!" I looked up, checked to make sure I was clear of the couple, looked up the path toward Carl  - who was now in front of me by about 15 feet and a bit to my left - and watched as he flew up in the air and over his handlebars!

At some point, I threw my water bottle and grabbed my handlebars in order to avoid Carl, who had landed on his head directly in my path. Fifteen feet may sound like a lot, but at 15 mph it's roughly three-quarters of a second. I narrowly avoided both Carl and his bike, screeched to a stop, and hopped off my ride, expecting to be dealing with a broken collarbone or some other horrible, maimy-type injury. Instead, Carl was up and staring at the source of his problems; a steel divider post (the kind to keep cars off, but can be removed for emergency vehicles). He had clipped it with his left crank - which, along with his right brake lever, was not looking all that great.

Luckily, we were right at the very first rest stop, which had a mechanic. But no Bryce.

I wished Carl luck and got back on the road, hoping to catch Bryce - while sending him a text saying something like, "hey, wait for me!" Bryce said that he pushed along at the front of that train for a while before realizing that I was no longer in it. He said that he then rode along slowly waiting for me to catch up, and finally stopped when I sent him a text telling him about Carl's accident.

It was somewhere after the first hill, but before the second rest stop that we encountered Carl again. He said that the mechanic was able to get his bike going, and that he had a little road rash, but was feeling fine. His helmet had a nice ding in it.

We rode with Carl to the second rest stop. I think it's my favorite. They have strawberry shortcakes. But then again, maybe the one at Fireside is my favorite. They have all the fixin's for a beautiful ham & cheese sandwich on Dave's Killer Bread. Just what I needed at that point. However, the pizza at the Blue Lake rest stop was not what I needed. I thought it was, but then I walked over and saw them pulling a glistening pepperoni pizza out of the oven. At that point, I had ridden almost 75 miles. Pizza was not an option. Especially if I was going to ride another 25 miles!

The watermelon at Smith & Bybee Lakes was awesome and exactly, exactly what I needed.

So yeah. They have the foods at the rest stops pretty dialed in. In addition to the strawberry shortcakes, sandwiches and pizzas, they also had plenty of bananas and other fruits, granola bars and energy bars, as well as water and Gatorade and Heed mixes.

There was a decent amount of climbing. I think somewhere around 6,000 feet - which feels about right for 100 miles. Anything less would be flat and boring. Right?

It rained a little, enough to cool things down, but not enough to be truly wet, but enough to make roads slick. Some of the windy roads would have been fun to scream down (a little faster than I did...), but I really had to keep my speed in check. At one point, we came across a guy who had wiped out on a hairpin turn. He had about a dozen people with him and looked OK (he passed us a few miles later...) so we kept going.

We also had a fun encounter with that 1%. You know, the 1% that want to kill someone someday somehow. I was ahead of Bryce on a downhill moving along at 35-40 mph when a car passed me at what felt like a crazy-close distance. Had I been startled, I would have wiped out. Instead, I fixed my eyes on the road and kept riding. Now that I try to remember, I really can't even recall the make, model, color or even what state the car was from. I think it was a beater blue mazda - but I really don't remember. All I wanted to do was survive!

Bryce later told me that the car also passed close to him, but he didn't realize how close until it passed me. From his perspective, the car missed me by about six inches (or less) - and that's not including the dog who's head was hanging out the window. Bryce tells me that had the dog moved, he would have hit me.

Do people like that understand that making someone wipeout on a bike at 40 mph is potentially fatal? My guess is that they don't. These are the same people that get all road ragey. They have absolutely NO idea of the deadly, destructive force that they wield when they get behind the wheel of a car.

Oh well. I survived, and on we rode. Up and down. Up and down. And around.

I had a "clipless moment" in front of a crowd of about a dozen at an intersection in Troutdale. I stopped, went to clip out, couldn't, reached my had out, and actually caught myself on the sidewalk! I was then holding myself up with one arm at like a 45-degree angle, while attempting to clip out. Finally, I clipped out and was able to stand - to the applause of the crowd!

We were about 60 or 70 miles in when my right knee started to creak. And hurt. And hurt.

At around 75 miles, we ride along the mighty (windy) Columbia - and my pore knee didn't get a break. The headwind is so strong that in order to standstill, one must pedal. There is NO coasting. Bryce and I tried to draft off each other, but at some point I lost him (his knee was also hurting, but hurt less when he pedaled less hard - my hurt no matter what, so I figured that I'd get the pain over with faster if I rode as fast as I could). Luckily, a couple on a tandem dropped in behind me when I passed them, only to give me a break a few minutes later.

By the time we got to the last stop at Smith & Bybee Lakes, I was ready for beer (after inhaling three watermelon slices), but I had to make it through downtown Portland first. I've really come to love city riding over the past couple of years and even get all Kevin Bacony in it sometimes, but not when I've just ridden 90 miles, my knee hurts like hell, and I want beer. traffic lights and the pedestrians were all laughing at me as I rode through the obstacles, determined to drink all the free Widmer beer that I could.

After a weird ride along the Naito Parkway (I think I would have preferred Broadway) and up one last hill we made it across the finish. Luckily, the Widmer tent was about twenty feet away.

Four beers and a whole lot of yummy salmon and asparagus later, I was ready to head home. My super-smart wife (who rode the half-century) had brought the boys and the car. I piled in, crawled out at home, took a shower and went to bed.

The end.

p.s. I woke up Monday morning feeling a bit sore but not in any pain. By Monday evening, I was fine. Not like 2008 when I had a horrible - HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE - case of chaffing. This year Chamois Butter saved my ass (that should be their pitch-line, "Chamois Butter. It'll save your ass!").

20 August 2010

MTB boy

On Sunday, the boys and I rode the bucketbike in the Southeast Sunday Parkways. At Col. Summers Park, there was a MTB skills course set up which drew Liam like a magnet.

He watched as people rode, and I could see how much he wanted to ride it. Moments later I got a text from Shetha saying that she was on her way over, so I asked her to bring an extra kids bike.

And she did!

Liam then proceeded to spend the next 30-45 minutes riding the skills course; through the mud, over the bridges and his favorite, the see-saw.

Thanks Shetha!

14 August 2010

We did it!!

proud of their mommy
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
Nikki graduated from her program today!

We arrived in Oregon two years, three months and two days ago so that she could attend grad school at Pacific University to achieve her Masters degree in Science and a certificate to practice as a Physician Assistant.

In the past 824 days, the McLeod family has seen a lot of joy, a fair amount of frustration, more tears than we'd like to admit, bittersweet separations and a whole, WHOLE lot of change.

But here we are. What didn't kill us made us stronger.

We've come away from this experience a better family. My boys are incredible. The amount of change that they've dealt with over the past 117 weeks (which, by the way, is a huge chunk of their lives to-date!) would be enough to discourage most adults.

Nikki is a rockstar. She worked her ass off. It's hard to be a full-time student and incredible mother and an amazing wife. But she did it.

And now she has a Masters Degree, her P.A. Certificate.... and a killer job (at a hospital right here in Portland - so we get to stay in the place that we love!)!

See more pictures from graduation here.

10 August 2010

My Bucketbike just kicked your "swagger wagon's" ass

Call it what you will, Swagger Wagon, minivan, whatever. My Bucketbike is still way cooler.

I've written on my love of the Bakfiets, so I won't get all misty and stuff, but seriously, I love this thing!

I carry the boys and our groceries in it. I get exercise. I get to be much more a part of the boys' conversations (as opposed to when they're in the trailer or on the trail-a-bike).

And everyone smiles at us when we go by.

You know what pisses me off?


Bear with me

Sorry for the crazy changing blog design!

Bear with me here people. 

I'm playing around with design templates and styles. I kind of liked that bike background, but ultimately did not keep it due to two reasons: 1) I didn't take the picture - while I enjoy selling stock photos, I don't like using them, and 2) it made the page busy and hard to read.

What do you think? Do you care?

I had pretty much forgotten about this blog until Travis Wittwer (blog, blog, Twitter, Flickr) linked to it on his Facebook page. I took a look and felt a bit embarrassed, but also a bit excited (I like writing - it's time I get back on it!) and decided to commit time to my blog again.

So that also means that I obsess over design and style - and look and feel... and all that stuff.

So please. Bear with me.

09 August 2010

Scooby Doo: The Mystery Begins

"Big FIGHT on the bus"
Last night we rented the regrettable* Scooby Doo: The Mystery Begins, which of course, the boys loved. It's the story of how the gang met each other. In live action.

Yes. It's like ten times worst than it sounds.

But Liam can't stop talking about it - so this afternoon he decided to put his thoughts on paper and draw his version, which I think is WAYYY better than the movie. Like at least ten times.

Of course, being the digital dad that I am, I scanned his story and posted it to Google Docs.

Here it is, for your enjoyment

*especially so if you grew up in the 70's and watched Scooby Doo every Saturday morning

Scooby Doo: The Mystery Begins

Page 1
Big FIGHT on the bus

Page 2
The school bell rang. The school bus will soon arrive. (Sorry this word is spelled backwards)

Page 3
Shaggy thought he saw a ghost

Page 4

Scooby snuck on board the school bus

Page 5

The gang ran from the ghosts

2010 Providence Bridge Pedal

Yesterday - Sunday, August 8, 2010 - we rode in the 5-bridge Providence Bridge Pedal. It was the second time we've ridden the Bridge Pedal.

Something like 18,500 other riders took part, making it the second-largest community group ride in the U.S. (I saw that somewhere and now can't find the link - the largest community ride in the U.S. is in NYC)! However, much to the credit of the organizers, it really isn't very crowded. In addition to our ride - which had a staggered start - there were also 7-bridge and 10-bridge rides, as well as a special kids ride.

The only place it was really crowded was at the finish. I'm not exactly sure why people think it's acceptable to stand RIGHT on the finish line and have group hugs and photos. People. There's like 10,000 people behind you, also trying to cram across this line in the street! Just move a few feet to the side. That's all I'm asking...

The boys and I rode all pirate-style in the mighty Revenge (although one of my crew members recently discovered reading, so he spent most of the ride huddled in the bottom of the bucket, voraciously devouring his new library books and ignoring the mayhem around him - I was one of those kids, lost in books, as was his mother, so I can't really blame him!), while Nikki rode my trusty Breezer.

I ride the Hawthorne and Morrison Bridges frequently, but it's a real treat being able to ride over the top decks of the Marquam and Fremont Bridges, two structures that generally see high-speed traffic (or really, really slow, bumper-to-bumper suckiness - that I never find myself in because I ride my bike to work) and are both way, WAY up above the river. Like hundreds of scary feet! The Ross Island Bridge was fun as well.

BikePortland's wrap-up story is here.

Watch a slideshow of my photos

05 August 2010

Reasons to love my bike commute

Rowing On The Willamette
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
I've been tweeting recently about reasons I love my bike commute.

My ride to work is just shy of five miles, with 3.5 to 4 miles (depending upon my route) of it on dedicated bike and pedestrian paths - The Springwater Corridor and the Eastbank Esplanade.

This morning, on my ride to work, I watched an Osprey dive down to the pond at Oaks Bottom and pluck a hapless fish from the muddy waters. It then flew right over my head with the fish grasped tightly in it's talons.

Yesterday I watched a Bald Eagle fight off some crows over the pond.

Another sight I see frequently is crew boats on the Willamette. Most of the time it's one or two-person sculls, but there are also the 8-person boats (as well as the twenty-something-person Dragon Boats, kayaks, canoes, jet skis, wakeboarders, stand-up paddle surfers and tug boats).

I like to race them down the river. You'd think 8 against 1 would be a bit unfair, but I totally kick their collective ass.

03 August 2010

living the velo life - a check in

When Nikki and I got married - a little over nine years ago - we said that we'd always try to be a one-car (or less) family. It hasn't always been easy, and for a while in the year after we got married I needed a car for the 60+ mile commute I found myself facing twice a day. I bought a beater Volvo station wagon for $800 and drove it for a few months before we bought our first house, which was a more reasonable mile from my work.

At that point, I bought the Breezer and really started my love of bike commuting, and bikes as transportation in general. At the time, we were living in Concord, New Hampshire, and most people riding bikes were doing it for exercise. A guy riding a bike loaded down with groceries, towing a trailer with an infant was a peculiar sight.

Fast-forward a few years (like, way past the two years I spent working 7pm to 2am twenty-five miles from Concord; but, because of my hours, maintaining the one-car family thing) and we've found our way to the bike mecca known as Portland, Oregon.

I ride the Breezer to work every day - roughly 12 miles roundtrip. Most of my ride takes me along the beautiful Springwater Corridor which runs parallel to the Wilamette River. I see Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Blue Herons and something like 150 other bird species, along with other bikers, runners, kayakers, tug boats and more.

We recently bought a used Bakfiets (Dutch cargo bike) and have used it for everything from grocery shopping to basic transportation of the kids all over Portland. We've owned it for almost two months now and have probably put a couple hundred miles on it. In that same time, I doubt that we've put as many miles on our car.

I've decided to keep this blog updated, so stay tuned. I promise that I won't let a nine-month lapse occur between posts.

02 August 2010

Springwater Corridor Closure

Are you one of the 2500+ people that ride the Springwater Corridor between Sellwood and the Central Eastside (or areas beyond) every day?

Me too.

When I first found out that the Springwater will be closed from 9am to 4pm on Thursday and Friday of this week (August 5th & 6th 2010) for the filming of a TV show, I was a little upset. It seemed odd to me that the city would shut down a major throughway just for the sake of a TV show.

But at this weekend's Sundae in the Park, I was informed of how the closure would work. Just the half-mile section from the Spokane Street entrance to Oaks Park is going to be closed, and Oaks Park Way - which runs parallel to the Springwater - will act as a detour. Trail users will use the ramps at Oaks Park to access the trail again, which will be open.

I made a little map to show how it should work. I hope that helps any of my fellow Springwater commuters!

View Springwater Closing in a larger map

02 July 2010


Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
I know, I know...... it's been like 9 months since I last updated this blog.


So.... we moved to Portland - Sellwood, to be precise - right next to the Spokane bike boulevard, to be even more precise....

Nikki is finishing up the first week of her last rotation. 5 more weeks to go! She's already been offered a job, right here in Portland!

I've been working at the Gartrell Group, doing GIS project management and other geeky stuff. I ride my bike to work every day - a twelve-mile roundtrip (unless I have to run home to get the boys, then it's 24!).

Oh, and we got a bucketbike...