Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's just so pretty....

What a beautiful day today! Gotta love spring. I took the Bilenky out to the QM and took some pics. I noticed some wild flowers on the ground and thought they'd make a great framing device in the foreground. Shot with my point and shoot (Canon G10), not known for a narrow depth of field, but if you stick something RIGHT in front of it you can get a little foreground blur.

Kindling for the fire...

The contest, for better or for worse, has really made it clear to Laura and I that we want to travel in a big way. Even if it doesn't pan out with this way, we're going to go. We had an official brainstorming session last night on how to make it happen. The decision has been made to go. In my head were the words of Lyn and Larry Pardee from Cruising in Serrafyn:

"The decision to go is the hardest part of the whole project. There always seem to be so many reasons not to go:children, aging parents, a business or job you've worked so hard to develop...But if you are determined to go, you'll analyze each of these factors and probably discover that each problem can be solved. If not, it may be just an excuse to hide your fear of heading into the unstructured existence that a cruising life seems to represent."

The spark has been lit, not here's some kindling...

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” - Jack Kerouac

“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” - Moorish proverb

“When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” - D. H. Lawrence

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” - Freya Stark

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” - Martin Buber

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” - Bill Bryson

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” - Lao Tzu

“Not all those who wander are lost.” - J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, March 30, 2009

101! But more to go!

We broke 100 votes! Awesome! Thanks so much to everyone that has voted and left a word of encouragement. It means loads to Laura and I. Special thanks to EcoVelo, Team Potter Cycling, Cycleicious and Bilenky for putting something up on their sites!

We've still got a ways to go, so if you haven't voted yet, then click HERE!

And if you want to post about it on your respective site/blog/tweet, then that's just more awesomeness!

A video!

Haven't made one in a while. This starts with the only footage I took from my Flip camera in Joshua Tree (battery died), but it makes such a great intro :)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A minute on the soapbox...

My comment to a piece in the Press Telegram regarding a cycling friendly Long Beach.

I applaud the city's interest in making Long Beach bicycle friendly, but there are also lots of very simple, inexpensive ways in which this could be quickly accomplished that I think are being overlooked.

It is no mystery that a lot of conflict that occurs between cyclists and motorists stem from a misunderstanding of where it is bikes belong. Hence motorists incorrectly yelling at cyclists to "get on the sidewalk" and that "roads are for cars." In the California Vehicle Code, it is stated that bicycles have all the rights and responsibilities of other roadway users.

Simply put: Bicycles have the right to be on the road.

Truly bicycle friendly cities support this basic right from the TOP down and make it clear in unequivocal terms that bicycles are an accepted and valued roadway users.

What does this mean for Long Beach? I would like a statement from Chief Batts that he has his officers understand and will help protect this right of cyclists. I would like to see similar statements from other community leaders and this newspaper that bikes unequivocally have rights to the road that should be respected.

Why is this important?

While the occasional new bicycle lane or bicycle facility when well designed is welcomed, that improvement affects only that very specific area. It does nothing for the cyclists in other parts of the city who may never encounter the new improvements. However, a powerful blanket statement from our top brass and an aggressive bicycles belong campaign makes every mile of Long Beach more bicycle friendly, not just those select few blocks.

The challenge of making a city bicycle friendly is not just an infrastructure one, but also a cultural one. In this way, bicycle rights parallel civil rights. Though cyclists have all the rights of other roadway users, they are marginalized and treated as 2nd class citizens. They are verbally harassed and threatened everyday on the streets, yet there are no actions to stymie this sort of behavior.

My fear is that if the city promotes these separated facilities, WITHOUT simultaneously asserting the rights of cyclists on ALL streets, it will give the impression that cyclists must only use these facilities and are not legitimate roadway users. This happens now at Hartwell Park where there is a cycle path near a roadway. I have ridden there and have been harassed and told to use the path, even though it doesn't serve where I want to go.

I'd like to challenge the city to not only look in terms of infrastructure but roadway culture as well, when they take on the task of making Long Beach cyclist friendly.

Cargo Bike with Drops!

Getting ready for an epic tour (still time to vote), I decided to switch things up with my trusty Bilenky cargo bike. I have been really enjoying the cockpit of my Surly on tour. Aside from the obvious multiple hand positions to get out of the wind, I find that I'm most comfortable climbing with my hands pulling on the flats while spinning up a hill.

The Albatross bars that I had been using don't quite have enough usable flat space to do it comfortably. The A-bars do excel however in letting you stomp up a hill with lots of hand support. They're also overall really great at letting you steer a heavily laden bike.

I was trying to imagine what it would be like to do a long tour with the Bilenky cargo and I concluded that the multiple positions and more stretched out posture of putting drops on the bike would be preferable.

The only complicating factor (not a small one at that) was that I would require two kinds of road brake levers, one with the standard amount of pull for the rear canti and another with more pull to actuate the front disc brake (Avid BB7). Or another option would be to get standard road brake levers and put in a travel agent on the front one. I've used travel agents before and found that they worked, but for me, they were an undesirable addition. I frayed a lot of cables working with them. This concerned me because 1) the front brake needed a less common tandem length cable 2) the front cabling already had a lot of twists and turns to redirect the cable to the calipers.

I opted for two different levers, both made by Tektro. I used the Tektro R100 for the rear and Tektro RL520 on the front. Side by side, the are noticeably different. The RL520 came to a point at the hood and the actual brake lever arm was noticeably larger and longer for the purpose of actuating more cable on a pull.

So far in use, the brakes work fine but are a touch squishier than using the mountain levers on the A-Bars. They don't snap back quite as fast which takes a little adjusting to. However, they appear to provide the same amount of braking power.

Overall, the position is a lot more comfortable than using the A-bars for me. I'm in a bit more stretched out position, that seems to engage larger muscle groups. The multiple positions of the drops also gives me lots of options for ducking out of the wind and climbing. Surprisingly, if I don't look down at the front of the bike, it almost feels like I'm on my Surly. I've been able to match the cockpit dimensions that well.

In the drops, controlling the bike with a large load is a little unwieldy. That is the biggest sacrifice. However, it's too early to make any definitive judgements since I may grow more accustomed to this set-up. For small to medium loads (about what I think I would take on tour), it handles really really well.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sunset Magazine!

Flickr friend cyclotourist, posted a snap of the Sunset Magazine profile I was in. Awesome! I actually haven't seen the magazine in the flesh or in color until today (except for a photo copy..thanks Ghost!). It seems like the March issue skipped Long Beach, at least all the bookstores and supermarkets I went to.

I need your help!

I've entered a competition for a "Dream Photo Assignment." Here's my submission below. Please click on the link and VOTE today! The contest ends April 3rd. Not much time!

I would like to ride a bicycle through North and South America on an ambitious portrait project, photographing the work of community leaders and activists who are striving for a more sustainable planet.

I am a freelance photojournalist in Long Beach, CA and I travel to all my assignments and shoots with a specially made cargo bicycle, able to carry up to 400lbs of equipment.

I have done this day in and day out for the last three years. In this time, I've come to realize that the environment will be the crises of our times. We've become trapped in a circle of consumption that fills our air with smoke and our lands with trash.

There is hope however. There are people around us that are working for a more sustainable way of life in large and small ways.

In the spirit of the work, I want to ride my bicycle across the country and document the work of these people in multi-media portraits combining stills and recorded audio.


I will bicycle every mile of the journey, making it the first zero emission multi-national photo assignment.

I will seek out local environmental advocates and celebrities, park rangers, bicycle commuters, leaders of co-operative markets, small organic farmers and tell their story.

This is important.

People need to know that there is hope, that around them are others who are working in ways no matter how small or large to make our lives better.

The work will culminate in a website with a series of downloads of the stills and multi-media stories.

It will be the most ambitious zero-emission paperless photography assignment to date.

Let's make it happen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

LBMA After Dark

I shot another After Dark event for LBMA, one of my favorite places to shoot in Long Beach. If you haven't seen their latest exhibit, the David Simon sculptures, you MUST go. The sculptures are haunting and their presentation at the museum is awesome. It's dark and womb-like and really adds to the effect of these floating disembodied sculptures.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back from the desert!

We're back. Exhausted. Laura and I did it. We pedaled through the big expanse of Joshua Tree! What an adventure. Lots to write about, but for now, some pics.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Going to Joshua Tree...without a car

Well, it's 5:16am. Ouch. I didn't know this time actually exisited. Our bikes are packed, our gear neatly (as neatly as I could get it) organized in our panniers. 6 days of riding on our crazy adventure from Long Beach (Metrolink to San Bernadino), San Bernadino, Pioneertown, Joshua Tree, Salton Sea, Palm Springs, San Bernadino and back to Long Beach.

For those that don't know that I keep a bicycle touring blog, called Epicurean Cyclist, check it out! It details all my crazy bike touring adventures.

I've turned my email auto-responder to "on", the 21ist century sign for the self-employed of flipping the Open sign to Close. See ya'll in 6 days.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Riding in the rain....

On the rare occasion that it rains in Los Angeles (like this morning), I do still go out on shoots. Here's my bike loaded up this morning and properly dressed for the rain. I was shooting some sculptures at the Long Beach Museum of Art for their upcoming show (I think my bike is the first to ever be allowed into its inner sanctum).

On the bike I have my Pelican case with camera and lights, a 5 foot seamless background paper, 3 light stands, 3 umbrellas and a 3031 Manfrotto tripod. Not bad for a bike, eh?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Long Beach to Pasadena

Laura and I took a nice long ride out to Pasadena today to go to Lucky Baldwin's for their Belgian beers. Truth be told, I was pretty pooped by the time we got there (it was the heat!) and just had two tasters (both from Craftsman). All in all, a great day. I've put our route on Bikely for those that are interested.

Tired but happy.