Thursday, December 31, 2009

This time tomorrow. Where will we be?

I said I'd ride today, and I did. We are going to the Dallas World Aquarium with my sister, mother, grandmother and the little girls this morning, and I had a few things I needed to take care of before I shut it down for the year. It was a cold, damp, fairly solitary ride this morning, and I like that. New Year's Eve is a time that I really do some navel gazing, and I like it to be kind of nasty when I am particularly introspective.


Train station. 7:18 AM


Fairly empty train approaching Citiplace.


Up the escalators. I'll see you in a few minutes, Whataburger worker.


Citiplace in the grey sky. I had a friend that used to come to Texas to be depressed and live on my couch, and he once wrote a great song called "North Texas Grey". I had a copy for a very long time, but it didn't survive the switch to digital music. This is what that song looks like.

I'll be off to the aquarium in a few minutes, but I look forward to sharing more rides on the train, and whatever other rides we take together. See you in 2010 -wow, that sounds even more science fictiony, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year resolutions

Like most people, I try to use this time of year to make goals and plan for the upcoming year. More than anything else, it is also a time to stand on the scale and say "two twenty? Jesus." and immediately begin berating myself for not sticking to part of last years goals and resolutions. Sometimes, however, my resolutions stick. I'm very proud to say that I have not smoked cigarettes for a little over two years now. So in the spirit of some of these sticking, here are my New Year's resolutions.

1. No more fast food. I hate it but I love it so. I try to eat it "well" - in that I only have a burger and no fries, or a kids order of nuggets - but still I eat too often. I'm going to allow myself one double cheeseburger a year. At the core, this is a resolution to pack my lunch.

2. I have already started one of my resolutions, which is to keep my house cleaner. I have taken over the kitchen cleaning duties, and I plan to devote a couple of hours a week to the rest of the house too.

3. Ride the train at least once a week. This is kind of a biggie for the blog. I'll admit that while I do ride my bikes (though too little in the nasty cold; hence 220) I have not been getting on the train. As that is the premise for the blog, I guess I need to deliver.

4. Blog likewise. As work gets busier, it's harder for me to find time to do this - but then again, I always seem to find time to do other stuff. Therefore I will post once a week. I may do more, but there will be something new here at least that often. I will do my best to make train stories, but it may be something else. However, it will be 2 wheel related, at least. Probably.

5. Enter and complete at least two "real" bicycle rides - like an MS 150, or a century. I'd like to do 2 this year. That means longer weekend rides to train for whatever ride. I'll keep you posted.

I could really do this all day, but I think those are the ones that I'm going to write down. If I keep going, it'll just end up a "to-do" list and I'll be asking you guys to come help me move my washer and dryer.

My Falcon frame is home, and stickers and lug lining are applied. The lug lining looks ok from a few feet, but terrible up close. The stickers went on very well, and the frame looks fantastic. I'm going to strip off the lining tonight and start disassembling the donor Fuji. IF anyone reading this is an artist, or does pinstripes, I'd be interested in talking to you. I'd love to have the lugs lined, but I think that it's beyond my abilities as an artist.

I was out getting some small parts the other day, and I found a shop quality repair stand for a ridiculous price. The build should be much easier as a result, and much more photogenic, so look froward to a couple of photo heavy posts about that.

I hope to write one more entry tomorrow, weather permitting. Otherwise, I hope you have a happy and prosperous 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to build a bicycle.

I have been teasing this for a little bit, but the wheels are finally in motion on my Falcon bicycle refurbish, so it's time to start showing you what is going on.

This summer I bought a Falcon San Remo bicycle off of Craigslist. The bike was a nicer bike in its day (probably 1968-69) with highish end components and a very nice hand brazed Reynolds 531 steel frame. While the bike was all there, it (and the components) had all seen better days. There was no real damage, but the frame looked as if it had spent at least a few summers out in the Texas sun, with some spots faded almost to the bare metal. I suspect the paint in the sixties wasn't all that fantastic to start with, and the years had not been kind.


This isn't a great picture, but it's the only one I have of the bike in its original build. It was a wierd mishmash of Campagnolo and Shimano parts, with a no name cottered crankset (that was super wobbly) and sew up tires. I tuned it and rode it for a week or so, but I don't care for downtube shifters, so I decided to take all of the shifting gear off and run the bike as a fixed gear. While it was set up as a fixed gear, I rode the bike just about every morning in the summer and grew to love the way it rode.

I agonized for a little bit about keeping it original and putting it back together as it was built, but then I realized that life is short, I like this frame, and it's just a bicycle for Chrissake. I decided to modernize the frame by refurbishing the frame itself and putting on a modern STI group. If you aren't a cyclist (or haven't ridden in a long time) you are probably unaware of modern shifting - the shift levers on your downtube are gone, replaced by levers integrated in the brake levers. When riding with STI, you don't need to remove your hands from your handlebars to shift. I'm late to the party, but it really is fantastic.

I ordered my replacement stickers from a guy in New Zealand who makes restoration stickers for all of us bicycle nerds and started dissasembling the bicycle. Once stripped, I documented where the stickers were on the frame, cold set the droputs to accomodate the new drivetrain, and sent it off to the powdercoaters.
I just got photos back and the color is almost an exact match to the original.
Unfortunately, in the process of taking these photos, the powdercoater managed to chip the frame coat.Since he is out of that color, I will have to wait another week to have the frame in my hands to start the next steps. In the meantime I'll wait for Santa to bring me my new buffer so I can polish some of the pieces that are going back on the frame.

Here are the photos of the freshly coated frame.
Entire frame

Headtube w/ lug detail.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

To all the girls I've loved before.

Here are some photos of bikes I have built over the past 12 months - just about every bike was purchased from Craigslist, and I taught myself how to build, fix, and paint. If you see just part of a bike, just click on the picture and you can see the whole thing.
1987 Schwinn High Sierra - this was the top of the line mountain bike for Schwinn in 1987. The finish on the frame is a gorgeous "black chrome" that is really eye catching. I bought this one as a frame only, and built it up with mostly new old stock parts.

A 1980's Suteki Japanese frame - it no longer looks like this, as it is now a fixed gear. A great bike, one that I put several hundred miles on this year. I bought this as a complete bike that was caked in grime; I dont' think any part of the bike had been wiped down in at least 10 years. All Shimano 600 group.

A 1974 Schwinn Suburban. This is my go to grocery bike - my great neighbor gave this one to me, and I love it. Sometimes it pays to be the old bike guy. All I did to this one was adjust the cables and oil the chain - I plan to clean it up this winter and have it shining by spring.

This is a 1970 Ross Central park 3 speed cruiser. I found this one at an estate sale, bought it for $20, put another $30 in parts into it, and ended up selling it for $160. I liked this bike, but it was just too small for me. The guy who bought it was height challenged, and it fit him perfectly. The 3 speed stick shifter was pretty sweet.

This was probably an eighties Huffy Monterey cruiser. I kind of bought this one by accident for $60, painted it and put tires on it, and ended up selling it for $120. I still see this one around sometimes, as I sold it to someone in my work neighborhood. This is a good solid bike, but just not to my taste. The girl who bought it thought it was super cool, so we were both happy. I painted this one with BBQ paint, so if her house ever burns down, the finish on the bike should be fine.

This was the first bike that I bought when I returned to cycling after my long hiatus. This is a 5 speed Dahon Boardwalk. I paid $100 for this one, rode the heck out of it, and ended up selling it for $175. I also used this bike to learn how to work on bikes - I had to repack all bearings and replace tires, tubes and cables. Truly, $100 wasn't much of a deal.

This is the bike that replaced the folder above. This is the ultimate commuting bike - built in pump (in the seatpost), 7 speed internally geared hub, chainguard, rack, and fenders - and it folds. I sold my Kia sedan in order to buy this bike - at $700 this is certainly the most expensive bike in the stable, but it is probably the most fun as well. Those little wheels make it very flickable. Sometimes when I barbeque, I'll ride this bike around my driveway.

I have a couple more bikes, but I don't have photos on this computer - when I get them, I'll put them up here as well so you can see exactly how crazy I am.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This blog has had 400 views.

And only about 375 of them are mine... pretty good.
In celebration of this milestone, Please enjoy these photos.

A pair of giant thrift store underwear. The hand is an adult male hand, placed there for size comparison. Price? $1.48

A woman waiting for the train with her dog. Dogs are not allowed on trains.

This guy held that cigarette butt in his mouth for the entire time he was on the train. There are what, 2 drags left? Throw it out man.

My hipster riding gloves. I think they are cool, but deep down inside I know they are very nerdy.

My brother on my clown bike.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All aboard! All aboard!

We are kind of train obsessed around my house; we live close to downtown Plano, which is right on the DART line, so when we go downtown to eat, we see the train, and Anna loves to say "Hi Train! Here it comes!" while waving frantically. We also watch a lot of a PBS show called "Dinosaur Train" around the house. I originally thought that the show was a documentary, but once I got a couple of episodes in, I realized that it was historical fiction and was able to deal with some of the inconsistencies presented by the storylines.

Anna is just about two, and not too long ago we got to actually go on the train; as a family we took advantage of Dart's new green line and rode down to the State Fair of Texas, leaving our car parked comfortably at home. Anna was very excited, especially when we first boarded the train. Luckily, we were able to secure a seat, and I was able to get a couple of pictures of her. We went at snacktime, so she does have food on the train. Anna is a rebel, and I explained to her that you must live within the rules if you want to succeed - but she ate her cheddar bunnies in defiance of the no food sign.


She spent a lot of the trip into Dallas looking out the window and standing up on the seat, but once we got into downtown Dallas, the trains got much more crowded, and she went into her stroller for safety. The fair was obviously very exciting for her but we didn't stay long, as it was the last day and it was very very very very crowded, and it was really no fun. We left around 8pm, after Anna got to go to the petting zoo and watch some pig races.

Getting on the train for the ride home was brutal. Obviously since we had a stroller we were at a disadvantage, but a DART employee saw us at the station and put us in the right spot to get on the low floor train car. We thought that standing right in front was the key, but we were surprised to find ourselves being edged out as the train approached the station; someone even stepped right in front of the stroller. Being tired, and since it was the end of a long day, I asked her not so politely to stop jostling the stroller, and wait her turn. I may have offered to push her under the train, on that I'm not clear. She moved, we boarded (luckily we ended up on the red line, which took us directly to Plano) and were on the way. Anna got her second wind and stood up in the seat next to me the entire way, looking out the window and hollering "All aboard" at every stop, just like they do on the Dinosaur Train. It was a fun ride home with our little conductor, and she got lots of waves and smiles from her passengers as they entered and exited the train.

Sargeant Shultz

I have seen nothing! I have ridden miles to nowhere.

Twenty minutes on the trainer feels like an infinity. I said I would be on the trainer three times this week, and last night was the first of 3. I had to smoke a brisket for my lodge holiday meal, so I was puttering around in the garage getting my smoker ready, and when the meat went in I remembered my promise to my faithful reader(s) and decided to roll up my pants leg and get to work.

I slipped off my Texas Rangers Crocs (double Idiocracy!), rolled up my right pants leg, slipped on my riding shoes, and off I went. I was smart in that I placed my trainer setup right next to my beer fridge, so I was properly hydrated for the entire ride, at least. I rode in silence, with only the whirring of the trainer and the hickory smoke drifting in from outside to keep me company. I feel like I got a reasonable warm up workout in, but I realize that 3 x 20 minutes a week is going to do approximately nothing for me, other than burn through my beer supply. I'm going to stick to these goals, but I'll up my sessions a little. Next week I'll shoot for a night and morning workout.

My Falcon is at the powdercoater, getting a candy red 2 step paint job. I spread the rear drops to 130 to accomodate the modern hub I'm going to be using with the STI brifters I'll be installing. I hope to have the frame back from the guy by Sunday, and then I'll be ready to put the stickers on the bike and start putting it together. The Suteki is coming together as a fixed gear, but I need to lube the chain and do some part polishing before it goes too much further. I have a neat lugged stem that I'm putting on, but it needs some polish, as does the SR seapost I have. I also need to get a freewheel for the other side of my flip/flop hub, so that I can run the bike on the paths around my house. I wouldn't want to run a fixed gear on the paths, becasue you never know what's coming around the corner - though I wouldn't think the paths are quite as busy when it's this cold outside.

I have a couple of leftover photos I'll put up from my train riding days very shortly. I had a couple of posts in the hopper when I had to alter my plans - though I promise I will ride at least once before the end of the year, and I will post a train blog when I do.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I will make a resolution to decide to think about riding a bicycle again. Maybe.

It's the coldest day of the year, and I have been very lax, driving to work every day. I am currently in the midst of a couple of winter bicycle related projects; I'm rebuilding my fixed gear Falcon classic frame into a full modern sti geared road bicycle, and my Suteki is getting all of the fixed gear gear bolted onto it. I am adding a freeweheel as well, so I can also throw some pedals on and cruise around the neighborhood, should I feel the least bit athletic. My Mom loaned me her indoor trainer, and I have used it a couple of times, but I'll tell you that 4:15 in a very cold garage is no place and no way to ride a bicycle. I'm doing wuss intervals, just trying to build back some fitness. It's supposed to be nice next week, so I will get in the garage at least 3 mornings.

My bicycle projects and indoor training are really the only bike related things going on now. I do have a new tiny bike, and I will leave you with that and a couple of other photos until I come back again. I haven't forgotten this blog, I've just been trying to figure out what to do with it. At the very least, check in every once in a while.

Here is a photo of the Falcon ans I brought it home. The bike is getting a complete repaint and new decals. It's a very nice frame, built in the late 60's in England.
I've currently got everything but the crankset and bottom bracket removed, in anticipation of getting the frame set to accomodate a modern drivetrain, and getting the paint put on.

Here is a nice photo from an afternoon hooky ride in the fall.
The wheels and drivetrain are coming off of this bike and going on the above frame.

I don't have much more to share with you - my mileage is pitifully low, as is my fitness level.

Until next time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Welcome Back?

I finally got back on the bike again today, after a very long absence. Before school started this year, my daughter's nanny volunteered to come to our house to watch her during the day, as my wife was teaching at the same charter school where her kids were going. Stephanie was going to drive the kids to school while the nanny stayed and watched Anna all day. It seemed like a win/win for everyone - the nanny wouldn't have to drive her kids into Dallas for school, Anna got to hang out with the nanny she already knows - awesome. 4 days into the first week, the nanny flipped out and told my wife "I just can't do this - I can't do this." Needless to say, we were a little surprised at the sudden change of plans. I called and asked her if she could see any way she could do it for one more day, and then made lots more phone calls to daycares in our neighborhood, educated myself about daycares and their prices, and found a place for my daughter.

Once a place was found, I had to drive her to daycare for the first few weeks, because she has now learned that the best way to get to Mommy is to cry as if the world were ending; when I took her to school, she would take her lunchbox and stroll in with a casual wave and a "goodbye, Daddy" over her shoulder. When Stephanie takes her, she is all tears and "Mommy, please, don't go, Mommy". Needless to say, I ended up taking her for almost the entire first month.

Once everyone was settled with the idea of going to daycare, I started thinking about ways to transport Anna and still ride the train, as her school is only a block or so from our house. I do have a trailer that I pull behind one of my bikes for our trips to the park, but I didn't have anywhere to store the thing once I dropped her off. The only option would be to store it in the daycare play yard, and as it is made of canvas, and I live in Texas, I knew that it would look terrible very shortly, so I had to figure something else out.

After extensive research I decided to get a bike seat for my mountain bike - I have built a really nice bike out of a top of the line Schwinn frame from the 80's, and it is a killer street cruiser. I put the seat on, mounted a rack on the front to carry her lunch box, and after a few practice rides around the neighborhood we were ready to bicycle to day care - until the flu hit. Both my daughter and wife have had the flu for roughly a week, so they were home and I was tasked with taking care of bringing dinner home when I came home from work, so my new rig had to sit for a while longer.

Today everyone was well, so we got a chance to ride to school, and it was great. I loaded Anna into the seat, bungeed her lunchbox and diapers to the front rack, and away we went. She spurred me on by shouting "faster, Daddy" as we rode, and once I got up to speed she spent a few minutes trying to get me to slow down with her "woah, Daddy". I pulled right in front of the line of cars dropping kids off and made my daughter an instant celebrity - in the morning, everyone is in a kind of holding room with floor to ceiling windows, and all of the kids withessed our grand arrival. When we went inside, several of the older kids came up and told me how cool it was for her to have a dad who brings her to school that way. Once again, my daughter was too cool for school and gave me a casual wave goodbye as she went to hold court among her very impressed peers. I took the seat off, dropped it in the directors office, and rode the 2 blocks to the train station. Unfortunately there was nothing happening on the train that is worth writing about here, so my adventures in child transportation will have to suffice.
I plan to bicycle at least 3 days out of the week while the weather holds, so I'm hoping to have some stories for both of you that read this blog.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sleeping Beauty

Now that I have taken a break long enough to separate the real fans from the casual readers (and I see I have some real fans that check this blog pretty regularly) I will start posting again.

In reality, I have seen some interesting stuff since we last spoke, but I haven't had time to put together a post - I guess I could do it at home, but it's much more satisfying to write these at work, on someone else's dime. I have a little backlog of stuff to write about now, so you can look forward to some stuff over the next few weeks.

I am generally on the train at 7am - most days. To some of my readers (especially my brother) this may seem like the crack of dawn, but by the time I'm getting on the train I have already been up for roughly two and a half hours. In that time I have done a morning bike ride, showered and shaved, snuggled my wife, dressed my daughter, and shared cereal with her. Then I ride down to the train station and go to work, surreptitiously snapping photos of fellow train riders and making mental notes for my blog. I don't tell you all of this to make myself sound good, but just to make the point that when I get on the train I am UP - as are most riders. After all, the day has started, and by the time you are on the train in the morning it is time to be awake and ready to face the day. I do expect to see a few people with their eyes closed in the morning, but I rarely see full on sleepers. I say rarely, because I do see them sometimes, but they are never as spectacular as the woman I saw the other day.

She got on the train the same time I did, sat down, and was immediately asleep. Not just asleep, but snoring like one of the Three Stooges. I don't think I sleep as soundly at home as this woman was sleeping on the train. She didn't wake up the entire time I rode, from downtown Plano to Citiplace station in Dallas. I do wonder if she missed her stop or not - or if she was just riding to the end of the line.* I guess if you are tired, you are tired, but I will never understand how people can expose themselves like this in public. There are few things as intimate as seeing someone who is in a deep sleep. That's why I like to peep in windows.

When five o'clock rolls around, it generally finds me on the way home, usually in much more crowded conditions than in the morning. I don't know how it works, but going home is usually always way more crowded than heading in. Where do all of these people come from? Evening is prime napping time, much more so than mornings. That I understand a little more than morning napping, because you have done a hard days' work, presumably, and can easily doze off on the train, as this gentleman did.

Unfortunately, he is wearing a dark suit, so you cannot see his bulk - he is a giant among men, and was taking up two seats. Now, he didn't have to take up both seats, but when he fell alseep, he kind of spread into the other seat. As you can see from the number of people standing around this was a very full train, and his seat was sorely needed. He was sleeping like a baby and in fact readjusted several times, each time expanding a little more. Sleep well, sweet prince. That old lady can stand just fine, thank you very much.

* When I was in the Navy, I visited Hong Kong a couple of times. Hong Kong is an island off of the coast of China, and there is a ferry that goes across the bay to connect Hong Kong proper to the Kowloon side (if I remember correctly, it's something like a 10 minute ride one way across the bay, and costs under $5). There is a lot of nightlife in Kowloon (or was, I haven't been back in quite some time), and as a sailor and keen observer of the human condition, I felt it was my duty to check them out. I took along a lab assistant along and visited several establishments, being sure to rehydrate myself at each one. When we were finished, we boarded the ferry to take us back to the Hong Kong side of town, where the ship was moored. It being a late night, however, we both fell asleep, and woke up on the Kowloon side - we had made a round trip. We told each other to stay awake "this time" as the ferry left the dock to head over to the Hong Kong side. Again, we woke up as the ferry pulled into the Kowloon pier. This happened several times, and each time we would wake up and curse at each other for falling asleep. Finally we disembarked at Kowloon and took a $50 cab ride back to the boat. The thought of the sleeping woman missing her station reminded me of this incident, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Steady as she goes.

There are a lot of things in life that I choose to be ignrorant about; basketball, reality television, how life insurance works, and lady stuff. For instance, if I am watching television and a commercial for a feminine product comes on, that's generally the end of my television watching - I'll go find something else to do. (Part of the reason for this is that if a commercial like that comes on, I know I'm probably watching a show intended for an entirely different audience than I thought.)

It's not just feminine products though. I'm also willfully ignorant of makeup. I know that most women wear it, and I know that there is a process of putting it on, but I have never watched it done. My wife wears makeup, but I couldn't tell you exactly what or how much, or even what brand. I can confirm 100% that she wears lipstick, because I have seen her putting it on in the car. Other than that, it's all a mystery to me, and that makes me very happy. I don't have a problem with makeup, but I do believe that some things in a relationship should remain a mystery. If you ask my wife, housework is also one of those things that I choose to remain ignorant about, but that is a blog with a different name:

How does this all relate to the train, you ask? I was given a crash course in makeup application yesterday. I got on the train a little late, which generally means more people, and that leads to a better chance of wierd behavior. This older (mid to late 40's?) woman got on the train, sat down, and proceeded to unfold this rag and put it on her lap.

I wish my phone had zoom, because you lose a lot without seeing exactly how the rag looks - it's covered in blue, black, pink, and brown stains. It's a lot like a shop rag, but much more colorful. She then proceeded to lay out her working tools. Several compacts came out of her bag, along with several different brushes and tubes, all of which were laid out on her rag. She started by applying a basecoat of something over her entire face.
This took a couple of coats of different stuff, and about two train stops to get things just right. You can't see it in the picture because I didn't have a good angle, but the woman next to her was also applying makeup at the same time - she was yapping away on her cell phone the entire time though, and not taking it as seriously as our the woman in the brown shirt. After the basecoat came the eye makeup.
This took a couple of different things from different compacts. I believe she ended up with two tone eyelids at the end of the entire process, which took about 3 train stops. After the eyeshadow it was time to curl her eyelashes. I've seen one of these tools in the bathroom before, but I've never seen it used - I had no idea you had to squeeze your lashes for 5 or more minutes each. It was very surreal watching someone do this in public. At this point, her seatmate was finished and had already put away her makeup kit.
After using her lash tool, it was time to apply mascara. I didn't get a good photo of the mascara process, but I'm sure most of you are familiar with that. It was the next step that really made this whole process worth writing about. After she put her mascara away, she got out a safety pin and proceeded to separate her lashes with it. On the train. That bounces a lot.
If you look closely at the photo, you can see that her mouth is open in an "o" shape, I guess to enable her to open her eyes even wider. I don't have any pictures of myself at this moment, but I can guarantee you that my mouth was making the same "o" shape. I, however, was making mine in shock as opposed to trying to keep my eyes open as wide as possible in order to wave a giant safety pin around them. I could not believe it. In fact, in writing about it now I am getting a little shiver down my spine. The DART train is a rough ride - I can't think of any part of the ride downtown that is smooth enough for me to even let go of the handrail I hold onto, much less smooth enough to comb my eyelashes with a sharp metal instrument designed to poke holes in stuff.
After she finished her daredevil stunt, Lady Steadyhands put her makeup in the bag, shook off her little rag on the floor, and proceeded to read the paper, as if nothing was out of the ordinary. I have 2 questions about this woman; 1. Is it really that important to sleep that extra 25 minutes, so important that you are willing to share the intimate process of making yourself up for the day with a bunch of strangers? 2. Are you a brain surgeon with hands that steady? If not, you have the wrong career.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sleepy, Dopey, and Stinky

I have had a very long week - I closed on my home refinance, conducted the last stated meeting of my Masonic year, lost power in the great storm of aught nine (and as of Saturday, I am still without power), and just kind of generally have had a wierd week.

I rode my motorcycle most of the week, except on Thursday when my wife was kind enough to chauffeur me to the office during the morning monsoon - though I am sure that having no power in the house had something to do with her decision. On Friday, though, I got to ride the train. It was nice to have a little bit of normalcy in an otherwise out of control week and it's even nicer to visit with you all and share my experience.

Even though I needed it, I didn't take my mountain bike to do my normal long ride home on Friday. I just took my folding bike instead, and I actually got a seat. I'll admit that since I had no power I did leave a little earlier than normal, so I took the 6:45 train instead of the 7:10. While it was nice to have a seat, I was a little disturbed when this woman sat next to me 2 stops into the ride.
I'm sure that most of you who know me are aware that I used to be a smoker. I happily puffed away for almost 18 years, and finally quit for good when my daughter was born. I must admit that when I smoked I was blissfully unaware of how much I stank; now, especially after having this woman sit next to me, I know exactly how much I stank. I do like to think though that my breath was a touch better. I don't know what you have to eat to have breath as bad as hers - breath so bad that at times it overpowers the reek of stale cigarette smoke that surrounds you like a cloud. I wanted to breathe through my mouth, but I really didn't think it'd be too much better to eat her odor instead of just smelling it.

Thankfully, I was a little distracted from the noxious cloud next to me by this guy getting on the train - not the guy in the khaki shorts, but the guy with the nice white high tops and shorts that really aren't. If you notice, against the wall is a large old school boombox, jambox, or ghetto blaster, whatever you wish to call it. The kid in the white sneakers and almost pants got on the train carrying his sound system with him (thankfully not on, as I'm pretty sure our tastes would not be the same) and since he was too cool for school, he just stopped in the middle of the entrance.
However, he wasn't the last person trying to get in that door. He just decided that he was going to stand in the doorway (as we have discussed here before) and stopped getting on. There were two people behind him, and in the true doorway stander tradition, they became the jerks who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was not moving, so both had to physically push past him and his silly radio in order to get on the car. Keep in mind that while you see people standing around him, there were still several seats available on the train when he was boarding, and that the people pushing past him found seats immedately and sat down.

On the afternoon ride home, however, there were no seats open - I caught the 4:30 train, and that one fills up pretty quickly. Well, I say no seats were available, but there was one that was not being used fully.
This woman feigned sleep from Citiplace station until we reached Galatyn Park station in Richardson. Looks comfy, doesn't she? I had a seat for part of the ride, but I gave it up when this woman got on.
I don't know if she was pregnant or just portly, but it was very obvious that she wanted to sit down - she kept gazing longingly down the car at all of us lucky folks who were able to take a load off on the way home. I waited for a minute to see if Sleeping Beauty would put her feet on the floor where they belonged so that this woman could take a seat. She did not. I hopped up and gave her my seat, bumping the sleeping woman's feet purposely as I walked by. She did not move. I know that if she was sleeping, my bump would have certainly awakened her, so I know that she was faking, and that she was just more important than anyone else.
I wish I was that important - I might be able to get my electricity turned back on.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The things I do for you.

This is probably going to be a sparse week for posts, as I took yesterday off, and I am going to be riding my motorcycle for several days this week. Sorry everyone!

I did take Monday off, and I took my non-folding big bike for a nice long ride out into what used to be the sticks - Wylie, Murphy, and Sachse. Unfortunately, it's no longer the sticks, and there are a lot of people out on the roads in that direction nowadays. I would like everyone reading to promise me that when you see a cyclist on the road you will either change lanes, or if that isn't an option, that you will at least give them plenty of room when you pass. I was buzzed about 4 times yesterday on roads that had plenty of room - once I was buzzed with two other open lanes beside me. Not cool folks, not cool. I get that you are in a car, and I get that "the roads belong to you" (an argument I have heard several times) but I'm not using much of the road, and there is plenty more for you. Just let me sweat out my miles in peace.

I know you didn't come today to hear me rant about assholes on the backroads of Texas - you came to read about goings on on Dallas' public transportation system, so on we go.
After I posted a photo of a woman in a sleep mask, I was told that I needed to blog what I see, and take photos. I'm happy to do that, but I want you to understand what sort of risks I take for you, my gentle reader.
I took a picture of this old guy because he had a little purse full of laminated schedules for the train, was checking his watch against the schedules at every station, and was visibly wincing when we were off. I ride the trains in a very Zen way, not really concerned with how late or on time I am, and I assume that the trains are not running like clockwork anyway. In fact, on more than one occasion my train has come to a complete stop in the middle of the tracks for several minutes with no explanation from the driver. This guy, however, was very serious about the trains being on time. That's not why I post the photo though. Please notice the large armed fellow to his left - the one staring at me while I take the picture. I guess that my clever ruse of "playing with my iPhone" didn't work, and he knew exactly what I was up to. I didn't notice when I was taking the picture, but I did notice when I got home and looked through my photos; it was kind of like finding a ghost in the picture you took of your Grandma.

I have been taking pictures on the train, and in the station, for a little while and Mr. Bigarms is the first person I can confirm has caught me. I hope he is the last, because while I can ride my bicycle pretty fast, I think that having to unfold my bike will slow me down a great deal. I'm not super worried about it because all of the DART police I have seen are pretty fat, but these signs seem pretty serious.
Though I don't know whose permission to ask. Bigarms?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lettuce Cup

I knew that as soon as I comitted to starting a blog about the strange stuff one sees on public transportation, said strange stuff would clear up. Well, that has come to pass, and the last few days on the DART rail have been totally without incident. I did see a lady with a goatee, but I couldn't get a clear picture of it because it was like the goatee of a 13 year old boy. Plus, I think that if she had caught me, her extra testosterone might have given her an edge over me in a fight.

Since the train has been fairly uneventful, I thought I would take a minute and talk to you about the way people treat public places. The train station at Citiplace is a modern wonder, in that there are trash cans all over the place - in fact, I would venture a guess that unless you are on the escalator, you are probably no farther than 10 feet from a trash can at any given moment. Some people, however, can't even wait that long to dispose of their trash.
These two cups sit between a set of trash cans. One sip earlier, or one step later, both of these could have been thrown away in the proper receptacle. I wish I had come upon the crime in progress, as I am notorious for picking up trash and handing it to people that drop it - I do it in my neighborhood all of the time, and have more than once shamed someone at the park into picking up the trash they have casually tossed on the ground. I have a voice that carries, and I make sure that everyone around can hear exactly what I think of people that have so casual disregard for the world around them.

There are two elevators in Citiplace station, and both are fairly slow, as elevators go. They don't have far to travel, but seem to take an inordinate amount of time to do so. I usually ride the escalators, because the stairs are very long, and I am as lazy as they are steep. I never ride the elevators except under great duress; not because they are slow, as stated before, but because they are slow and they smell of urine. The photo above might show the spot where someone (or several someones) take advantage of the slowness of the elevators and relieve themselves. I have ridden the elevators when the escalators are broken, but for me it is a convenience. I am healthy in limb and lung, and can just as easily carry my bike up the stairs instead of riding. The escalators were down the other day and I rode up with a wheelchair bound man, and I don't think I have ever felt so bad for someone. He has no choice - the horrible urine elevators are the only way out of the station for him. I did notice a Citiplace security badge clipped to his shirt pocket, so this is a ride that he takes every day. I'm no stranger to peeing in public places, but I'd like to talk to the person (or persons) that are fouling the elevators. Here is a photograph of another spot on the walls that I assume is stained by urine.
What is wrong with people? Is this really what we are devolving to? Elevator fouling litter machines that think "someone else will clean it up"? I certainly hope that my readers will follow my lead and call attention to people who treat the world as a giant garbage can.

I saw this guy the other day, and happened to have a package of ranch dressing and a plastic bowl in my bag. I couldn't help but get them out and ask him if he would bum me some of his lettuce. After all, he had twenty or thirty pounds worth.
He said no, but I certainly hope he is blogging about me on his lettuce blog today.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Manners and Money.

I always wear my headphones on the train. Not because I always have music on, but because it keeps people from being suspicious. I can manipulate my phone (take pictures) and just generally become someone else who is in their bubble, rather than that nut with the folding bike checking everyone out. I didn't have music on on Monday, and I got to listen in on this woman.
She has a friend named "Sophie". Sophie's husband, or lover, or what have you, is cheating on her. How do I know? Because the train is loud. Very loud. This woman had to talk over that loudness; the clack of the tracks, the sound of the wind rushing by, and just the general loudness of the car. She also has some strong feelings about "that man" and is very very supportive of Sophie and her ability to find someone else. Her conversation went on at full volume for about fifteen minutes, and while I appreciate the support she has for her friends, I am not particularly a fan of being brought in to a telephone conversation as a spectator. Good luck to you, Sophie, and I hope that you wait until after work to call your friend again. It would certainly make the rest of us on the train a little more comfortable. (Except the guy sleeping next to her, who may be the most comfortable man on Earth. He didn't move once during her conversation.)

I have been riding the train regularly for about a month now; I just buy a pass and don't have to worry about my fare. In the time I have been riding, I have had my pass checked 3 times by fare enforcement. No one riding with me has gotten a fare evasion ticket in that amount of time, so I guess that random enforcement works pretty well. I feel that the fare for the train is set at a reasonable price, with discounted fares available for seniors and kids. A regular rider pays $3.00 for a day pass, and the discounted rate is half of that. A ticket for fare evasion is roughly $100. When I got on the train, I spotted this kid, mostly because of his conspicuous consumption; Sean John jeans, Timberland backpack, Ed Hardy shirt, and very white Nike sneakers. I also quickly spotted the $1.50 he had in his hand.
I watched this kid exit the car at every stop and walk from one doorway to the other, craning his neck up and down the platform in the process. It took me a couple of stops to realize that all of this was in order to save the $1.50 he carried in his sweaty little hand. He was exiting to make sure that there were no fare enforcement officers getting on the car, and that if there were, he would be able to buy his ticket and get back on. I would suspect that he has used this method before, and that by saving $1.50 at a time, he is able to buy his expensive clothes and accessories.
Maybe I should have arranged an introduction to Sophie - her man never had any damn money to spend anyway...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fridays I'm in Love

On Fridays I don't ride my folding bike, because the train tends to be a little more sparsely packed. Instead, I put on my special shoes and ride my mountain bike. Most days I only ride about 1.5 miles total, but there is a bike path that starts in at the Galatyn park station and ends at Renner road, so on Fridays I leave the office a little bit early and stretch my legs on the way home.

Riding the train with a full size bike changes things; with my folder I don't take up much more space than a regular standing rider. The mountain bike is obviously considerably larger (though not as large as my road bike) and as a result, I need to stand at the end of the car and move the bike back and forth as the train stops in order to let people in and out. As you can see, my handlebars take up a good amount of space in the doorway, so the movement is nescessary to keep the doorway clear.
Photobucket I don't feel bad about taking up the doorway, because I can move the bike as needed, and it's really only an annoyance to me. No one needs that extra space taken up by the bike to stand. There are plenty of seats available
However, some people (I guess) have a need to be in the way. This guy got on and stood in the doorway (where I needed to be able to go back and forth) for most of the ride. This guy is very big, by the way. Like 2 times as wide as the average human.
Every time we stopped and the station was on his side, he had to exit to let people on and off. Every time we stopped and it was on the opposite side, I had to crowd my bicycle right up on him to let people on and off. Every time, he would let out a disgusted sigh and shoot me a look like I was the one in the wrong spot. Once again, the car looked like this for most of the ride.

On the other side of the people curve, there was this woman, who appointed herself cruise director for the morning. As people exited and entered the car she stopped reading, looked up, and either welcomed them aboard, or wished them a nice day if they were leaving. It was a refreshing change from the norm on the train; usually everyone avoids eye contact, plugs their headphones in as soon as they sit down, and pretend that no one else exists. I think the world would be a better place if we all broke out of our self imposed forcefields and said "hello" to a stranger.
Thanks, lady.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

By popular request

My name is Justin, and I recently sold the car I hated in order to buy an expensive folding bicycle and utilize Dallas' public transportation to get around. I live and work close to the train line, so it seemed a natural thing to do - since my daughter was born, I have come to realize that it's time to get a little healthier than I have been, and to green up my life a little as well.

I am a people watcher, and have been since my father introduced me to the term when I was young. I am fascinated by humans, and people's actions never cease to amaze me, or incense me, as the case may be.

I can't tell you where this blog is going to go, and I can't imagine that I will come up with something good to post every day, but I will do my best to let you ride the train vicariously with me. Some days it is a beating, but some days, I see things like this:
And I'm going to have to share them with you.