Sunday, February 24, 2013

Don't Follow Me. I'm Lost.

We went out on our bikes today. Basically we wandered around the area, testing streets and checking out the sights. Miami is an easy city to get around. "Streets" go east/west; "avenues" go north/south. "Courts" run north/south between the avenues. "Terraces" run east/west between the streets.

Wandering works for me right now. We need time to adjust to city biking. And our area of Miami seems perfect for this. Pocket parks are everywhere. Murals, wonderfully creative commercial graphic designs, and excellent graffiti abound. I'm always surprised at where these gems are found. Most are in pretty un-fancy neighborhoods. This is artwork to be enjoyed by regular people, not the fashionable tourists.

We are still busy with the new place. We will be doing a total remodel of the kitchen and bathroom in a year or two. So our current job is to make them look good and function well without doing any major changes. We're 90% done with that. So it's time to slow down, live with the unfinished areas and get out and get back to biking. So every day we'll be heading out -- and getting lost...

Mural in a pocket park under an expressway interchange on a quiet street near  the Miami River.

Mural on a commercial building.

My always helpful  biking companion.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Small Home Living: The Bicycle Space Puzzle

Six bicycles in a 602 square foot living space. Everybody but Al said it couldn't be done. He's lived with me in 3 other small homes, and he knows that there is always a way. Bicycles are great art for any room in our opinion.

The trick to living in an open-space loft is learning to define living spaces with the stuff in the room. I got busy and ordered Thule's free-standing stands. Two of them. That will hold the road and mountain bikes and function as a "wall" between the entry and the adjoining "room".  The length of the bikes is perfect as a "hallway" into the main living space. There's even space left near the door for the traditional entry pleasantries: a small mirror, a shelf for small items, and a place for hats and keys.

The other two bikes are the folders. No problem there. Folders are at home in any small space!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

If you can't see the bright side of life, polish the dull side.

Success. We have completed the move into the Miami Mansion. All 602 square feet of high rise loft living. Our 18 year fling at rural living is history.

As a retired career bureaucrat, I am in awe of the paperwork and clearances required these days to buy and move into a high-rise residential building. The CIA probably issues security ratings with a less intricate review process. They stopped just short of fingerprinting and a DNA sample. But only by a hair. At any rate, I wish to tell you that buying a house is a walk in the park by comparison.

But, at last, we jumped through all the hoops, moved our meager possessions into our new home, and began the process of furnishing it and connecting it to the world. That meant (gulp) dealing with the cable installation people, IKEA, and a host of specialty stores. Two trips to IKEA later, we had dishes, organizers, lamps, and some furniture ordered. Both trips were on a weekend. The experience of visiting IKEA alongside gazillions of families with small children, hipster young professionals, and clueless college students may be among the most arduous endurance events Al and I have ever participated in. Then two days of telephone calls and waiting produced working TV and WIFI in our little home. Connected to the world again! In a few days, we'll even have place to sit down. (Maybe. If things are delivered on schedule...)

Our bikes are parked everywhere around the place. Organizing them and the bike and touring gear is my next project.

But we are settled in Miami. It is home. We live in the neighborhood called Brickell (pronounced BRICK-uhl). Brickell runs along Biscayne Bay from the Miami River, south to the Rickenbacker Causeway that leads over to Key Biscayne, and stretches maybe a half mile inland. The biking is very, very nice...

The Miami River in Brickell

Sunday, February 3, 2013

98 and 3/4 Percent Guaranteed

And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed)
(Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!)

I spent a day working on our mountain bikes. They needed cleaning, lubing, and general tender loving care. They also needed to be made better for general city riding. These are the bikes we also use for touring. Mountain bikes are a lot slower than road bikes, but they are sure footed, comfortable, and nimble. Perfect for our style of touring. Perfect for riding in a city.

Mountain bikes are my secret pleasure for city riding. They lack the panache of fixies and the "cute+practical" aspect of European-style city bikes. But they have amazing gearing. Our puppies are designed to pedal up and down scary inclines on paths that appear appropriate only for mangy wild goats. In the city, particularly a Florida city, we rarely need all those gears. But for some reason unknown to common man, cities are filled with unexpected bicycle challenges. When confronted with an unreasonable incline (I think some garage structures were built for 4-wheel drive vehicles), on a mountain bike you simple downshift and pedal upward. Curb? No problem. Gravel, sand, or crumbled pavement? Pedal on. And, oh yeah, don't forget the nice suspension on a mountain bike. My front suspension fork once was set to handle landings after moments of being airborne. Now I have it dialed to handle potholes, cobblestones, and uneven road patches.

After the clean and lube, my to-do work list for the bikes was easy. I needed to make them more visible in the twilight and dark. For a variety of reasons, reflectors, lights and blinkies were previously all attached to our touring gear. Now I needed to put some lights and blinkies on the bikes themselves. I also needed to add more reflective surface to the bikes, which I accomplished by wrapping the crowns and outer tubes of the front suspension forks in white reflector tape. (OK, it is fair to comment at this point that I am not a bike snob or fashionista.)

My original plan was to put narrower handle bars on the bikes. Narrower bars would look great, but, in the end, I left the bars alone. The wider handlebars make the bikes handle better. And that is one of the reasons I like these bikes so much.

We are still living with one foot in rural Lake Placid and one foot in urban Miami. But not for many days more.

That's 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.