December 27, 2013

Raise High the Floor Boards

An overcast sky looms above the waters of Barnegat Bay
Many shades of gray, a winter's day along the bay.

Bay Head Yacht Club building supported on steel beams and stacks of wood.
This Old House has run a series on the rebuilding process at the Jersey Shore. After watching an episode where they ever-so-slowly used hydraulic jacks to lift a home above its foundation, I had the opportunity to take a close look at a similar (but grander) project.

Overall view of the Bay Head Yacht Club building, raised above ground.
The Bay Head Yacht Club building was built a long time ago, at the water's edge (naturally). Hurricane Sandy was not kind to the structure, which now must be raised. But wait, you say: that building is at least a hundred yards from the water.

Not only did they lift that massive building, with its two brick fireplaces and chimneys—they shifted it north, onto the (former) tennis courts.

Crane and drill installing pilings at the water's edge.
With an enormous crane and drill, engineers are driving helical piles into the ground to create a new (higher) footing for the clubhouse.

Man may win this battle, but one day the sea will prevail.

December 14, 2013

Hazy Shade of Winter

Pasture and distant hills viewed from top of Altamont Road
Leaves are brown, no patch of snow on the ground. No patches of ice, either, though we were on high alert—especially when crossing the occasional wet streak across the road. Some higher stretches of pavement were white, as if they had been salted. Could it be?

Atmospheric conditions have been unfavorable for air quality over the past week; today was our seventh consecutive Spare the Air Day. Wood burning is prohibited, to keep the airborne particulate count down.

A handful of riders turned out for today's adventure, which was designed to be short and not-too-challenging. My day was carefully orchestrated: bike, donate blood, and complete a bunch of holiday-related errands with adequate time to get spruced up for a holiday party in San Francisco.

The frosty air warmed quickly to a more hospitable temperature. Climbing Moody Road was less painful than I remembered, and my body did not balk when my heart rate hovered around 180 bpm for an extended spell. The real treat was Altamont, which afforded a sweeping view of a small valley from the top. Although it runs nearly parallel to Moody, the road is completely different in character.

For the day, a short 20 miles with some 2,100 feet of climbing. Just enough.

December 13, 2013

Red Letter Day

Bronze quail statues with red scarves at Mary Avenue bike/ped bridge
On some forgotten day this year, I decided that a goal for 2013 should be to beat my previous record for number of bicycle commutes (34, in 2007). In the past three years, I had gotten lazy; most days, it is oh-so-easy to find a reason not to get up early and climb on the bike.

The more often I rode, the easier it became. It was habit-forming. There were a few weeks when I managed to bicycle-commute four days out of five, which helped to offset three months of slothfulness (not even one ride to work during the months of January, February, and March).

The least palatable way to get to work is to drive. In heavy traffic, driving can take nearly as long (or longer) as biking it.

Most days, I rely on a commuter shuttle bus. Door-to-door, that trip also takes nearly as much time as biking it; but it allows me to extend my day by getting some work done en route.

Today was a special day, and not only because I discovered hand-made woolen scarves adorning the California Quail statues.

Today marked my 52nd bicycle commute of the year. Some 1,895 miles pedaling to (and usually, from) the office.

December 8, 2013

'Tis the Season

Brown hills, green trees, mossy fence posts
Winter in the Bay Area hardly conjures up visions of Frosty the Snowman. For the past week, however, we have been in the icy grip of an Alaskan air mass. Pipes are bursting, delicate plants are turning to mush, and self-generated wind chill on a bicycle holds little appeal.

With the thermometer registering below the freezing mark, it would be an ideal morning to snuggle under a warm comforter. Except that I had gamely volunteered to lead a ride for the club.

Who would show up on such a morning? Perhaps no one, in which case I might simply declare victory after the first hill, and skip the next four.

Stone bridge, palm tree, Mt. Hamilton in the distance
Oh, me of little faith. Six people turned out for my ride; two left home early enough to bike to the start. In the land of palm trees and surfboards, there are some hardy Californians. Okay, it's not Minnesota ... but the weather is freezing and we all dug into our stashes of cycling gear for the heavy-duty stuff.

It was a day not to head for the Santa Cruz mountains, where the Christmas tree farms are bustling. I chose to head across the valley to the eastern foothills, for roads that were mostly well-exposed to the sun. We tackled the steepest climb first, followed by a series of mellow (mostly short) hills.

I was apprehensive about the cold; I have to admit, though, that it was really a pleasant day to ride. I have certainly been colder, on the bike. Whenever we stopped to regroup, my dark side chilled down fast. (Nothing that couldn't be fixed by a judicious pivot toward the sun.)

The little hills added up. It did not feel like I had climbed 4,215 feet over 36 miles. Cold therapy is good for muscle recovery.