Do you have snow tires for your bike?

Last week, I was asked twice if I had snow tires for my bike. The short answer is no. I don’t need snow tires. My bike actually handles the snow pretty well. That’s important because it snowed all night last night, and I may or may not ride my bike to work this afternoon. (If I don’t ride, I’ll take the bus then walk home tonight after work.)

Yesterday, I rode to and from work, twice. I usually ride to work, then ride home for dinner and then back to work. When the weather is bitterly cold, as it was a couple of nights last week, I take the bus (and brown bag it) to work then hitch a ride with a co-worker headed in my direction. I did walk home Friday night, as no one was headed in my direction. It wasn’t too cold; the wind was at my back most of the way.

When I left for work yesterday, the snow was just starting to fall (snow was supposed to start falling after 1. It was after 4 (I waited until the Packers-Cowboys playoff game ended before leaving home), and the snow was just starting. When I came home for dinner, a few hours later, snow was coming down harder, but there was almost no traffic. Then for my ride back to work, it seemed to be raining a light icy mist. If there is one thing I dislike, even more than a cold wind, it’s ice. Snow was falling again as I left for home about 1 a.m. this morning. The main street I rode home on had seen a plow or two, but it was slow going. Fortunately, there was little traffic at that time. Except for crossing a bridge, I rode without incident. I decided to walk across the bridge as it seemed icy.

The side street in my neighborhood had not seen a plow, and I used a lot more energy to ride those last few blocks than at anytime on the way home.

So, no, I do not have snow tires for my bike. It rides well in the snow, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more snowy rides before the end of March or early April, whenever the last snowfall of the year occurs.

Today is Jan. 12, and we’re nearly halfway through Janathon. I’ve tweeted (@carfreerunner) but haven’t done much blogging. I think the only day I didn’t get out of the house and do some form of exercise was last Tuesday. On all the other days, I’ve either gone for a walk of more than a mile or rode my bike. As of this writing, a few minutes before noon, my only time outdoors was walking a few blocks to the bus stop. Today’s walk or bike ride will come later.


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A new year dawns

2015 is here, and there was nothing we could do to stop it. My family and I celebrated New Year’s Eve by watching It’s a Wonderful Life, the James Stewart-Donna Reed classic, on DVD. We had popcorn, crackers, celery sticks and a vegan cheese ball that I made using a recipe that I found in one of Lindsay S. Nixon’s Happy Herbivore cookbooks.

When we realized it was just about midnight, we paused the DVD, flipped the TV and found Pitbull in Miami celebrating as if it were already 2015. Our kitchen clock said we still had a minute or so till midnight. Fireworks started going off on TV, my wife and I check our cellphones, and the both said 12:01. Oh well, we toasted and kissed.  As I said, there was nothing we could do to stop 2015 from coming.

So here 2015 is, and what are going to do this year? We set our family goals. Some are financial — things like being better stewards with our money. Some are travel related — saving to go Europe, getting passports, go bike camping. Some are more personal. We posted our list on the wall in the kitchen where we can check on them on a regular basis.

We also set personal goals. I need to sit down and write out more than just train for and run the HUFF 50K ultramarathon on Dec. 19, 2015.

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I’m signed up for Janathon. I rode my bike to and from work on New Year’s Day. I also took the dogs for a short walk. Our German shorthaired pointer, who’s usually go, go, go, has been feeling under the weather lately. When she saw the leash, she was off the couch and ready to go out. Instead of pulling the entire time, she was walking real slow, and we ended up just going around the block.

I plan to go for a short run, about 3 miles, this afternoon before I go to work. The sun’s out (freezing rain is in tomorrow’s forecast), so I need to take advantage of the sun.

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Another attempt at Janathon

Two years ago, I discovered the Janathon challenge. I think it was at Fit for 365 where I first read about Janathon.

The basic premise of Janathon is to get out and exercise daily during January and then blog or tweet. I’ll probably tweet more than blog (@carfreeruner). Much of my exercise during January often tends to be my daily commute to work (by bicycle) or walking the dogs. In 2015, I hope to run more in January. I have a June half-marathon that I’m signed up for and I want to be at the top of my game come June.

In 2014, our part of Indiana was hit hard with polar vortexes, a phrase I had never heard before last January, and we had one of the coldest, snowiest winters ever, which limited my outdoor exercising through late March. I walked home from work or got rides with co-workers. (The city bus stops running at 9 p.m. and I work until 1 a.m. most nights.)

I don’t know what the long-range forecast for January looks like. Usually, it’s the coldest month of the year. Today (New Year’s Eve), the high is supposed to be 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Tomorrow, New Year’s Day, the high is supposed to be in the mid-20s (F).

I’m looking forward to getting outside and exercising. I’ve been motivationally challenged of late. Yesterday, I slogged through a three-mile run with my dog. My legs were sore when I finished. I don’t know why.

Tomorrow is a new day and a new year.


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Europe calls

One of the beauties of being a homeschool family is the wonderful new interests our child has. In recent weeks, it’s been Europe. A month or so ago, my wife brought home a Rick Steves DVD on Spain. In it, Steves does a program on the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, a walk pilgrims have been making across northern Spain since before the Middle Ages.

Sometime ago, I read Along the Way, a book co-authored by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez that grew out of a movie (The Way) they did together in which the father (Sheen) walks the Camino after his son (Estevez) dies in France. After reading the book and seeing the Sheen-Estevez movie, I decided that my son and I should walk the Camino together after he turns 19 (he was 9 at the time). My son is now 11, and my wife decided to bring home that DVD to give us an idea of what the trip involves.

Since then, nearly every DVD on Rick Steves’ Europe series has entered our house, which has given us all a new look at Europe and has us thinking of how we can possibly go across the pond in two years or so. His guidebooks fill our shelf of library checkouts. I’m about halfway through Steves’ book Travel as a Political Act, a fascinating look at the differences and similarities of Europe and the United States.

I am the only member of our family who has been to Europe (unless you count the time my wife sat in a plane on the tarmac at the Amsterdam airport en route to Amman, Jordan, from JFK. I lived two years in Germany during my days in Uncle Sam’s Army in the late 1970s. During that time, I traveled to Italy, Austria, France, Spain and the Netherlands as well as spending time traveling around Germany to such places at Munich, Rothenberg, Nuremberg, Garmisch, the Rhein River. Then in 1993, my brother and I went to Switzerland for three weeks. We stayed with a cousin and her husband.

My son would like to go to Scandinavia. Part of that is growing out of the movie Frozen. Part of it, I think, is growing out of the pure beauty of fjords.

Now the only thing holding us back (besides expired passports) is a lack of funds. We need to start saving so we can make it happen. I’m also trying to figure out a way to make money by traveling to Europe. Maybe write a travelogue for someone willing to pay for it.

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Bicycles are menace? How about cars?

I sometimes wonder if drivers realize they have a potentially deadly weapon at their disposal every time they get behind the wheel.

A few days ago a letter to the editor in the newspaper where I work appeared that struck a nerve with me. The letter writer wrote of a bicyclist who was weaving in and out of traffic and nearly caused an accident.

I wrote a response.

Then I got an email from my friend Jeff today. He wrote: “I am pretty certain that I was the cyclist that that woman who wrote the letter to the editor encountered downtown on November 3.  I remember it vividly and her version is NOT what happened.  I was going to call the cops myself but she was long gone and I could not recall color/type of vehicle because I was so shaken up.”

Jeff said the driver tried to hit him without hitting him.

I ask again: Do driver realize every time they get behind the wheel they have a potentially deadly weapon at their disposal?

I am not interested in a war with cars. I want those who drive to realize there are non-drivers out there: bicyclists and pedestrians. American cities for too long have been car-centric. It’s time that city leaders realize that cities are for people, and streets should be designed with people in mind, not just cars.

A few weeks ago, our local columnist wrote of a ghost bike. This particular ghost bike is a reminder of a teenager who was killed crossing a street on his bike. The columnist mentions there was nowhere to cross the street. That’s right. The street’s a menace of high-speed traffic with no island or crosswalk or anything that would allow someone to cross safely. The nearest light is five or six blocks to the south, and there is no sidewalk in that stretch of street. This is an example of a road designed with cars, not people, in mind.

It’s time to demand that roads be designed with people in mind.

I’m interested in hearing what others think. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

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Winter already? Say it ain’t so

So here I sit on the 15th of November and the temperature isn’t supposed to get above freezing today. Up to an inch of snow is supposed to fall within the next few days, and on Monday the temperature isn’t supposed to reach 30 degrees F. Another season of polar vortex?

A typhoon hit Alaska last weekend, and that was supposed to unleash an Arctic blast that was supposed to blanket the upper Midwest.

When you’re car free and ride your bicycle to work because no public transportation runs after 9 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on Saturdays (the buses here don’t run at all on Sundays), you think about the weather. I don’t worry about the weather. I know this blast of cold air is temporary and we’ll get warmer weather again before the end of the year. I can’t change the weather, so I try not to fret too much. Anyway I’d  rather ride in the cold than in the rain.

One thing this recent blast of cold weather had done is taken away my motivation to run. I want to run but I don’t want to. So I haven’t. I’ve been sleeping in and then not running. I need to get my arse off the couch and onto the road, running.

Maybe my lack of motivation has to do with a series of races I ran from the end of September to the end of October — the Fort4Fitness half marathon, the Army Ten Miler and the River City Rat Race 10K. And while I’d like to run a race on Thanksgiving, I haven’t signed up for anything yet. I have nothing on my race calendar until June when I’m planning to run a half marathon. And June is a long way off.

Today the sun is sort of out and we walked downtown to Parkview Field to go to the farmers market. We bought apples, potatoes, kale, radishes, arugula and popcorn.

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Veterans Day: Be a peacemaker

All day today on the radio I’ve heard thank yous to veterans. Before I write something cynical. I want to say “You’re welcome.”

I’m not sure what I’m being thanked for. Yes, I spent four years in Uncle Sam’s service. I enlisted to pay for college, not out of some altruistic need to serve my country. I tell people I served in Cold War. I spent the bulk of my time in the Army in Germany with the First Armored Division. On one or two occasions, I went to border between West and East Germany. I also went to border once between West Germany and  Czechoslovakia.  I also was stationed at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York, with a district recruiting command. During my time in New York, I once nearly ran over Walter Cronkite. Fortunately, I’m not infamous for hitting the “Most Trusted Man in America.”

I want people who say “Thank you” to veterans to mean it, and for me showing that you truly mean it is to work to keep our country out of war. Be a peacemaker. Next time the president is trying to whip up the nation to go to war, write your congressman or congresswoman and your senators and tell them, war isn’t the answer. We need to be more creative in how we settle our disagreements than to send our sons and daughters to places to kill or be killed. Be a peacemaker. Work for peace. Work for justice.

Finally, here is a link to a Mike Royko classic.

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Blogging hiatus over — for now

I had been on a blogging hiatus. I’m not sure why. I just posted my first blog in about six months when I joined a blogging link-up party and wrote about my four-legged running partner.

Since last blogging, I’ve run in several races, including the Army Ten-Miler, which started and ended near the Pentagon. Here is what I wrote about the race as it appeared in The Journal Gazette, the newspaper that employs me:

I also ran in the annual Fort4Fitness half marathon. A race I thought I had trained well for, but on race day struggled at the end with the hills. A new race I entered this year was the Runners on Parade 5K, the largest 5K race in Fort Wayne. More than 1,000 runners run a portion of the Three Rivers Festival Parade route the morning of the parade. I ran the race in about 29 1/2 minutes, about 20 seconds off my 5K PR, which I set in 2013 at the St. Patrick’s Day 5K race in Biloxi, Mississippi. Finally, just a week and half ago I ran the River City Rat Race 10K, perhaps my favorite event on the local race calendar.

As we approach another winter, my family and I are still living without a car. Last winter was tough, and if not for friends offering rides, I’m not sure I’d have made it. A report on TV the other night with an editor from the Farmers Almanac said that we can expect a frigid first 10 days of 2015 and a snowstorm in March. I think we can survive such a winter without a car.

Our four-month experiment has now surpassed two years.

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My running partner has four legs

Shuba, the sweetest German shorthaired pointer you’d ever meet, is my running partner. And yes, she has four legs, and what I like to call a baby tail.

Shuba came to live with us three years ago in October 2011. My dad had passed away in July and our other dog, Domino, was starting to slow down. For whatever reason, we decided it was time Domino had a sibling, so we went to the local Animal Care and Control website and found Shuba.

We went out the Animal Care and Control, met Shuba and decided to bring her into our home. But first, Shuba would have to meet Domino. Domino and Shuba met the next day at the shelter. They got along great and a day or two after that, we brought Shuba home.

Almost immediately, Shuba became my running partner. When I previously ran with Domino, he’d stop frequently to sniff and pee. With Shuba, it was go all out. Until it was time to pee. She’d stop in her track and squat to pee. She was like a boat anchor.

I found that by running with her my speed improved. She forced me to run faster than what I was comfortable with. The payoff came in 2013 when I set PRs in the 5K, 10K, 4-mile and half marathon distances.

Over last winter I ran less with Shuba. I was running on ice and packed snow and I didn’t want her pulling me over, so I left her home. As spring turned to summer, I ran with her less often. I found a new comfort zone that did not include Shuba. Well, I think I made a mistake. My 5K, 10K and half marathon times were all slightly slower than a year ago. Maybe leaving Shuba at home slowed me down enough that I lost what little speed I have. This fall, I’ve taken Shuba out more. She seems happy running again.  I just need to run in places where squirrels, rabbits and even deer are scarce.


If you want to read other blogs on four-legged running partners check out

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30 Days of Biking update

I commuted by bicycle Friday. It was cold and it was windy. I seemed to be riding in slow-mo as I went west. I barely had to pedal my bike as I headed east. My ride home was after midnight, so I’ve already got my ride in for Saturday.

30 days

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