Saturday, July 25, 2009

Riding In Dallas

Somebody said in an article that Dallas is amongst the worst cities in the nation for cycling. Personally, I really enjoy riding in town. Drivers are curteous and respectful and seem to tolerate riders well. I think the complaints were more because Dallas planners have not provided any bike lanes on the roads. Personally, I am more drawn to the vehicular cyclists point of view on this matter. Bicycles are vehicles just like any other, they are no different from motorcycles and cars. And I really can't put my commute on hold until the city adds bike lanes (which, given parks and recreations paving and connections of bike trails, I don't really see much motivation for).

Of course, people should use some common sense. Bikes are slower, and don't really belong on interstates or high speed highways. Inner city streets though are slower, and bikes can keep up with traffic well. I especially enjoy passing gridlock on a bike. The article had unkind words for the high speed roads and 'crazy drivers' but doesn't seem to evaluate actually riding in downtown Dallas. I think it's downright pleasant.

My complaint, which is new, has nothing to do with drivers in town or speeds of traffic, but with the quality of roads. They are terrible. Today, I intended to ride to my office and back to warm up for working out. When I was pulling into the West End from Market Street, I hit a pot hole that I did not notice. Though I did not fall off the bike, I did hit my rear hard on the bike seat. Even as I type, it hurts to sit. I'm not really a fan of Obama, but after today I can get behind a shovel ready stimulus project to fix these damned streets.

In Texas, it is the law for cyclists to stay as far to the right as practicable. Well, as crappy as the pavement can be, that may be to the middle of the lane or further left. Moral of the story: Watch for pot holes if you don't want to break your ass.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bike Riding

So day one of the bike riding is over, and I have some thoughts to share. First, if you are going to ride in a large city, plan ahead. I planned a route over the weekend and even drove the route in my car to see if I thought that it would be relatively hassle free.

The ride to the office in the morning was great. It was nice and cool outside, and there wasn't too much traffic. The cars that were on the road were giving lots of room when they passed. In fact, there was only one instance where the cars were passing too close for my comfort, and that was at the intersection of Live Oak and Pearl Street. I think that the reason that this happened is because I was too far right. Although in Texas, bike riders are treated like any other vehicle, they are asked to move as far to the right of the lane as practicable. By taking a third of the lane, I think that drivers tend to give more room. Other than that, I chose roads that I knew wouldn't be too busy, and even if they were, there were plenty of stop lights to keep traffic slow enough for me to keep up.

Though I absolutely detest LEED, it is LEED that is responsible for my company putting showers and changing rooms in the building.

When I left, I knew that there would be an uphill portion to the return route (different from the morning route because most of the streets in downtown are one way). However, I was not prepared for how heavily travelled the route I chose is, and so I was forced to ride on the side walk until I could turn onto Liberty Street from Ross.

All in all, I felt way safer riding here in Dallas than I ever did in Baton Rouge. This is due in part to the abundance of lanes with slower traffic in the city. They have room to get around and I have room to pull over and share the road. Compare this to Baton Rouge, where you have several small two lane roads (Perkins, Broussard, Claycut, Goodwood etc.) where there are no shoulders or any room. Cars don't slow down and respect your presence as a vehicle.

The other thing that Dallas has is a wealth of bike trails, literally hundreds of miles, though none of these fall along my route to work.

Public Transportation and Its Role in Weight Loss

Since December, I have been losing weight. I know it't not nice to brag, but really it seemed to happen almost by accident. I had seen a physical therapist in late November and early December and was assigned certain back strengthening excercises. I performed them dutifully, and one day in February, I noticed that I looked a little thinner! I hopped on the scale and realized that I had lost a whopping 20 pounds!

However, physical therapy is not the only thing to blame for this success. I had also started walking to the nearest train station, which is about 1 mile from our house. I would hop on the train and ride to the West End where my office is.

I don't beleive that there is a one-size-fits-all diet and excercise plan that is great for everybody. However, I do beleive that there are three basic componets to losing weight the right way (rather than lipo-suction or starvation). When I lived in Louisiana, the Department of Health and Human Services started an ad campaign to combat obesity, which is a growing problem (pun intended). They called this the Louisiana Two-Step, and consisted of 'Eating Less and Moving More.' Sound simple enough, right? I have no doubt that this is a great way to live healthier and generally feel better, but I look at it slightly different.

The 'Two-Step' is really diet and excercise, which I think is way too broad to be effective for weight loss. I envision it as a tripod, with one leg being diet, the other two being cardio/aerobic and resistence training. It seems that when these three are put together, there is a greater chance for weight loss.

So, the physical therapy handled the resistance training. What about the diet and cardio? Well, if you're like me, you probably hate taking extra time out of your day to perform cardio. I decided that public transportation would play a central role here. Because I live in Dallas, a relatively large city, it's easy to get to transportation hubs. Since driving or riding would take me 20 minutes, why not just take an extra ten and reap the benefits of walking? I don't really lose any time out of my day, and I still get to work on time, so why not? So every day I was walking about 2.5 miles, and I would work out on Saturdays, so cardio six times a week.

And for the proper diet? My wife and I have found that cooking our own meals, even if not the healthiest and most well balanced, are a great step forward from eating out all the time. While we were planning our wedding, we ate out a lot and there were times where we would stress eat. Since then, our lives have become more relaxed and less stressed. We like to cook our own meals for the most part, and we think that cooking is fun, especially with easy recipies that taste great. We particularly love Sandra Lee's cook books. We tend to make smaller portions than we would recieve in a restaurant, so even if the meal is high in fat or calories, there are fewer of them on the plate.

So there you have it. Now, what kind of catchy dance has three steps instead of two? A Texas Waltz? No, I think not. But it is working and working well. To date, I have lost nearly 30 pounds and though the progress is slow, it is steady. Lately I think I am running up against a plateau. Personally, I think the way to beat it is to keep on track, and take the excercise up a notch. So to that end, I will start riding my bike to work, 4.5 miles a day round trip.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Updates

Well, it's been a while since I posted an update to this blog. First, I have discovered a group on Flickr that is dedicated to photos of people getting arrested on DART. Coincidentally, most seem to be at the bus transfer station in the West End. Check out my profile, user name tjsbocaj, on flickr to find the group!

Onto other news, I had a North Texas moment a couple of weeks ago on the train while riding to work. Normally as I approach the Pearl Street station, I happen to catch a red line train coming in from Plano and ride southbound to the other side of town. However, I was running a little late (like 5 minutes) and instead of the red line, a blue line train pulls up.

Now normally, I like to ride the blue line trains because they are less crowded and the people are nicer. I guess Plano people have a bad attitude. I would to if it was standing room only on a train north for thirty minutes! The train isn't too crowded, true to form, and I spot a bench about midway up the car. All of the other seats had single occupants and I think it's more polite not to unnecessarily crowd them. I take the seat and set my bag down to the side. As I look up, there is a rather heavy set, bald gentleman sitting in the seat in front of me. He seemed out of place because of his casual dress (jeans and a T-shirt if memory serves me right).

When I ride, I put in a pair of sound blocking headphones that look like ear plugs and go into the ear canal. These are wonderful for blocking out unwanted noise. Regretably, they could not block out unwanted light. This guy turns and begins to stare at me as we pull out of the Pearl Street station. For three stops, he offers an unflinching stare, never looking away. In my effort to avoid looking directly into his face, I spotted an unusual insect that looked like a wasp, but wasn't. Sort of like a flying cockroach.

It was flying around the car and swooping down on unsuspecting ladies' hair. People were moving about the car to avoid the insect. As we pull out of the Akard Street station, the insect comes to rest on a vertical grab bar across the aisle from the fat man. The lady in the seat with the bar was blissfully unaware of the insects presence.

As I glanced back in front of me, I noticed the guy taking off one of his shoes. Without telling anyone, he swung as hard as he could at the bug. The impact scared the daylights out of the woman in the seat who I am sure thought she was being assaulted. All of the other passengers that were in the car must have thought the same thing, and began a stampede for the car behind us. Just as this was happening, we were pulling into the West End station, and with a grin I slowly disembarked from the train, knowing that a call to the DART police was sure to ensue.