Freakbike Militia’s Choppernite 30

Dec. 15,2010, was the West Palm Beach Freakbike Militia Choppernite 30 holiday ride. Riders were asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to the Salvation Army. (I noticed a pretty big pile after the event was over.)

This has been an early winter for South Florida. We’ve already had at least two hard freezes. The temperature for the night of the ride was going to be around 50 degrees at the start, and dipping lower as the evening went on.

The nap magnet had captured me late in the afternoon. I was all snuggled up under warm blankets enjoying the sleep of someone who has a clear conscience when a phone call woke me up. I looked at the time and realized that I had a decision to make: blow off the ride and stay all toasty or try to find my bike stuff that was still scattered all over from my trip to Missouri.

Decorated bikes

When I got to the start of the ride at Southern and Flagler, I was glad I opted to ride. The wind was calm and it wasn’t as cold as I had feared. Seeing all the familiar faces and decorated bikes warmed my spirit, too.

Problems cleared up

I missed the June ride because of my high school class reunion, and we were in Missouri for my mother’s Birthday Season in October. The last Choppernite ride I was on was last year at this time and I raised some serious safety concerns.

I’m pleased to say that Wednesday night’s ride was a vast improvement over last year.

  • Most of the bikes had lights fore and aft. Those that didn’t were generally tucked securely in the group.
  • Helmet usage was up and the organizers encouraged their use.
  • Riders were more disciplined: they stayed within the lane and generally rode responsibly.
  • The “corkies,” riders who would block the intersections so the ride could go through as a group, were dressed with reflective vests and did a great job of engaging with the motorists. I heard several of them explaining what the ride was all about and thanking drivers for their patience. I didn’t hear any of the impatient horn honking that happened at last year’s Choppernite.

I did another holiday ride the next night. Look for those photos and videos in the next day or so.

Video of Choppernite 30

Other Freaknite events

Here are some links to other Freakbike events I’ve covered:

Summer of Love ride

Halloween Choppernite XXV

Friday the 13th Ride

First Aid, Freakbike Militia-style

Kenny Prather has a manly kickstand

Hurricane Katrina on a Bicycle

Bicycling into the heart of the flood: A Hurricane Katrina remembrance

Hurricane Earl missed us

Hurricanes Earl and Fiona missed us this year, but there’s a regular conga line of waves coming off Africa.

Folks in South Florida who got hammered in 2004 and 2005 keep one eye on the weather channel in September and October. We’ve checked our battery supply, loaded in some extra provisions just in case pruned the trees back and stockpiled extra water.

Dove after Hurricane Francis in 2004

Bicycles and hurricanes

These journalist from New Orleans make the good point that your bike may be the best way to get around in the aftermath of any natural disasters. Keep those tires pumped up, it ain’t over yet.

Droid Incredible, a Bridge and a Blader

Reader Pam Henderson sent me a question the other day, “Know what the grade is on Lake Worth Bridge?”

Lake Worth Bridge

I told her I’d have to dig out some old GPS tracks to calculate it, then I realized that I have on application on my brand-new Verizon HTC Droid Incredible that emulates a level. When I looked at the options, it allowed me to turn on angles and pitch.

Magic Droid Incredible Bubble Application

Osa called and said she was ready for a short ride after our LOST Full Moon adventure, so we headed to Lake Worth and the bridge. I set the phone up on the bridge railing, which appeared to be parallel to the bridge deck and saw that the angle was somewhere between 3 and 4 degrees, with a rise of about one inch of climbing for every foot of horizontal travel.

The photo also shows that my Glo Gloves are beginning to come unraveled.

Roller Blader Lynn Pohl

While mucking around with my camera and Droid, a roller blader whizzed past me on her way up the bridge. She and Osa were chatting at the top of the bridge when I got there.

“How fast do you go DOWN the bridge?” I asked.

“Pretty fast, when these walkers get past us, but I don’t know exactly how fast,” she replied.

20 mph down the bridge

I paced her on the downstroke, calling out speeds as we went along. Two-thirds of the way down, she hit  20 miles per hour and held it for some distance. Unfortunately, I pushed the wrong button on my video camera and missed capturing her descent.

At the intersection of A1A and Lake Worth Road, she turned south onto the multi-use path that parallels the road. I decided to follow her to see how fast she could go on the flats. She rarely dropped below 11 mph and frequently topped 15, for an average of about 14.4 mph.

A1A Trail between Lake Worth Road and Lantana

Lake Worth Community Bike Ride

how to learn italian

margin-bottom: 10px;” title=”Lake Worth Community Bike Ride 05-26-2010″ src=”×328.jpg” alt=”” width=”500″ height=”328″ />I’m not very good at keeping up with Event invitations that come into my Facebook account. Most of them are for things I have no interest in going to. That’s why I didn’t notice one for the Lake Worth Community Bike Ride and Bicycle Safety event until about two hours before it was going to start.

Last year’s bike rodeo was fun

I had a good time covering the city’s bike rodeo last May, so I got my act together and made it down to Lake Worth just as the event was getting started.

Sheriff’s deputies offered safety tips

To be honest, I thought there was a bit too much emphasis on wearing helmets and too little emphasis on vehicular cycling. Deputy Rafael Duran DID mention that it’s important not to ride against traffic, but I would like to have had some other topics mentioned:

  • Taking the lane when the roadway is too narrow for a vehicle to pass you safely without crossing the center line.
  • The legal and practical reason for equipping your bike with lights and reflectors.
  • The importance of being predictable: riding in a straight line; signaling turns and obeying traffic control devices.
  • How to properly position yourself on the roadway.

In fairness, they did provide Bicyclists Must Think Like Drivers, an excellent brochure by the Florida’s Pedestrian & Bicycling Safety Resource Center, that covered all those subjects and more.

For the record, I’m not anti-helmet. You can hear me toward the end of the video recounting the experience my riding partner had when she crashed without a helmet on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail. You can read about her crash here and track her progress three years later here.

A stop at a Ghost Bike

Sgt. Enrique Ponce told everyone at the start, “It’s gonna be a fun ride.” He was right, but there was one somber moment when the group stopped at a white-painted Ghost Bike to place flowers on the memorial to a cyclist who was killed at that intersection.

Video of Lake Worth Community Bike Ride

It was a ride worth doing. I’ll have to watch my Facebook events a little closer in the future.

Last Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis

My youngest son, Adam, and his mother own a computer network managed services company, DedicatedIT. He decided it would be fun to take his employees and their families up to Cape Kennedy to watch the last launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on May 14, 2010. After all, they’re geeks, and there’s nothing geekier than rocket science.

DedicatedIT ready to go if called

Connectivity on the road

There’s been a lot of discussion on the bike lists about how to stay connected while you are on the road. The security advisories to get into the Space Center are pretty daunting (but the actual security search was cursory). Adam called to ask if it was possible to bring a laptop with a Verizon Wireless air card on the property so he could keep up with his clients. Authorities said it would be OK, but he was warned that there was no guarantee that he could get a signal.

MiFi™2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot

Coincidentally, I had upgraded my wireless card to Verizon’s new MiFi card. Essentially, it is a standalone air card that acts as a wireless router capable of supporting up to five devices. That sounded perfect for these guys, so I turned it over to Adam.

It worked great. I could pick up a signal two rooms down in the motel. It had a faster connection than the business-class hotel provided. (You need the WEP to connect, so it’s reasonably secure.)

UPDATE: my kid sent me a comment below with some additional info. It’s important enough that I’ll add it here.

The MiFi, he points out, is encrypted with WPA2. He found a site that warns that the default password is somewhat vulnerable to brute force discovery and advocates changing it (which he did).

Weak signals at Space Center

I don’t know if authorities at the Cape do something to kill wireless signals or if there aren’t carriers beaming into that area, but coverage dropped off as soon as we got close to the visitor center. ATT phones went dead, but my Verizon Wireless phone worked fine. Speeds on the MiFi card ranged from slow to nope. We ended up forwarding any trouble calls for DedicatedIT to my phone. Fortunately, it was a slow day, so it was fairly quiet.

Killing time at the Kennedy Visitor Center

We had several hours to kill before and after the launch, so we played tourist, looking at exhibits, eating expensive junk food and taking photos of each other and helping tourists shoot each other.

Jake and Ben try out Apollo capsule

Jake wasn’t sure he liked the idea of flying on his back.

Finally it was time for the launch

Tried to avoid traffic

I’ve written before about our experience with traffic leaving a shuttle launch. There are only a limited number of roads and they become massive (barely) moving parking lots. We decided to hang out at the visitor center for about three hours to let things clear out.

Nope, it still took us about 2-1/2 hours to go 30 or so miles.

iPad and Google Maps Traffic was cool

Joe had an iPad with him. I’m not a big Apple fan, but I was very impressed with how well Google Maps Traffic showed up and how accurate it was. If it showed a clear road ahead, it was clear. It was accurate within a few hundred feet when it showed a slowdown, as well.

My Verizon HTC Droid Incredible will do the same thing when it comes in, but the display on the iPad was very nice. If it was $200, I’d have one.

There are only two more shuttle launches left, but I think I’ll watch the rest of them from my front yard in West Palm Beach. You can’t feel the ground shake, but I don’t have to spend hours stuck in traffic.