|Why did I construct a giant changeable crossword on the top of my car? I like crosswords (as attested to here and here). I like fun things. And why not? If you can't do something silly every now and again, what fun is life?
A word about the process: first Della and I expertly* spray painted a white square atop the car. Then I meticulously divided the grid using a sharpie (and electrical tape for the outer border). The grid is 15x15, so standard daily size. Next, I bought some scrap magnetic material (from the nice folks at Chazzzam Signs & Graphics in Bellingham), like the stuff from those decal signs on the sides of construction trucks, and cut it into squares then painted them black. I used magnetic material for the black squares so that the grid arrangement can be changed to facilitate different puzzles. With the remaining magnetic material, I made the numbers.
The idea is that random passersby can collaboratively solve the puzzle using those little fridge alphabet magnets. I will post the clues on the window and provide a little step stool to reach the middle of the grid. I foresee it mostly being unveiled at festivals and other semi-controlled parking areas, but maybe airport parking lots, park & rides, and even right out on the street will prove feasible.
I wrote a custom car-themed puzzle to debut the project. The puzzle turned out pretty good, with only one answer I don't care much for. You can download the puzzle here (or .puz format here). Or you can stalk my car and do it in the wild!
And no good, fun, silly project is complete without a few glamour shots.
|Thursday September 25 2014||File under: games, transport|
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We were out in Colorado for a wedding (a post about that later) which just happened to coincide with the event. A group of us gathered up some bikes, donned costumes (complete with capes honoring the special couple), and dove into the chaos. Della and I brought along our Yippee and Ki-yay costumes, but with a twist. The twist: wearing nothing but undies underneath the chaps. Being out in public (a parade no less) dressed rather far outside of our comfort zones was an experience. But people loved the hilarity in it and we had fun.
The event was more than just a parade of costumed people on bikes. There was a festival awaiting particpants at the end with food and beer booths, music stages, crazy bike contraptions and more. And all the money raised went to support bike organizations int the Ft. Collins area. So neat!
Yep, the Tour de Fat was a super lucky coincidence for us and really added to our already great trip to Colorado. Who knows, maybe it'll draw us back some time in the future!
|Tuesday September 2 2014||File under: colorado, transportation|
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|After over 6 [wonderful] years of not owning a car, I decided it was time. Between housesitting at non-public transportation accessibly places, transporting building materials to the quarry, and always bumming a ride to trivia, the time is right.
This yet to be named steed is a 2000 Toyota Echo. I'm pleased to say that the buying process, something I haven't done in 18 years, went smoothly and there was very little run around. As long as the transmission doesn't fall out in the first couple weeks, I consider it a successful purchase.
The last 6 years of being without a car have been a wonderful experience, one that I wish many many more people went through. It helped me learn [and love] public transportation, develop a consciousness and deliberateness in transportation choices, and so much more. Someday I will have to write up some thoughts on my carless years to share all the wonderful aspects.
But for now, I get to explore what it's like to have a car again. Hopefully I'll retain much of my biking/public transporting tendencies. But I'm guessing that I won't be missing a trivia due to lack of transportation any time soon.
|Thursday June 20 2013||File under: transportation|
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|Never does everything go right on a trip. Every traveler knows that. But with some preparation, the number of hiccups tends to go down. This recent trip to Hawaii seemed to have more than its fair share of hiccups, at least from the get go, starting with a 6 hour plan delay that put us into Maui in the middle of the night, long after our hotel's shuttle stopped working forcing up to sleep in a homeless camp on the beach. But those things happen.
The big hiccup that altered our trip severly was one I never saw coming. We were quite rudely refused service on Maui Public Transit due to the size of our luggage(which I would have been happy to carry on my lap). So all the planning of figuring out the schedules/routes to get us to the frisbee tourney, to campsites, and back out to the airport was lost. I was stunned at the this rule and the rudeness with which it was enforced.
An inquiry to the transit agency after our trip was rather unhelpful as to ascertaining the reasoning behind such a limiting regulation. "The rules regarding luggage size are from City and County of Honolulu." I, personally, suspect that there is a more underhanded motivation behind the rule, to discourage tourists from using the service, instead pushing them to car rental to help boost the island's economy. Call me a cynic, I guess.
So where did that leave us, all transportation plans shot? At the whim of strangers, that's where. But luckily, we found quite a few friendly ones, specifically ones associated with the Maui Hat Draw frisbee tourney* who toted us out to tournament site and helped us find a nice campsite afterward. It also pushed us to the time-honored tradition of hitchhiking, something neither of us has done much but took too rather easily.
While in the end the trip turned out awesome despite the epic fail of the local transit agency, I can't help but have my faith in public transportation slightly shaken by the experience. If I can't believe in the bus, what can I believe in? Am I going to have to become a car-renting, gasoline-burning tourist like the rest of them? We'll see, I guess, as I've got another adventure just around the corner.
|Thursday March 7 2013||File under: hawaii, transportation|
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|Tall bikes seem to be the rage these days with young artsy types, esp. in the more artsy urban areas (I'm specifically thinking of Portland here). And while I've always thought they were pretty neat, I also thought of them as not very utilitarian*. I can't imagine riding through the streets of a city knowing that if I hit a red light, I'm pretty much toast. Well, while my utilitarian view of them haven't changed, getting a chance to ride some tall bikes was a whole lot of fun.
For those of you who don't know, tall bikes are much like what you would think: bikes that are tall. They range from slightly taller than your average bike to you-need-a-ladder-and-wing-man-to-mount-them height. The ones we got to try out weren't of the latter variety. (The largest one available was the one I am on in the picture to the left, which presented mounting challenges of its own.)
The opportunity to experiment with these mix of form and function was provided by the Zenga bros. at Bobland. And I must say they are fun. Riding around, so far above that which is around you is quite a novelty. And the looks you get from passers by just adds to the fun. So while I'm not about to go building my own tall bike (welding skillz and general bike repair handiness come in quite useful), I do have a newfound appreciation for this twist on a classic.
|Sunday September 4 2011||File under: transportation|
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|I've long been a fanboy of Amtrak. The slow pace and great scenery suit my travel style. In the media, there always seems to be some buzz on train travel, why it's not used more, how to improve it, and, lately, why high speed rail is the answer. After having my train to Montana cancelled yesterday (see Convenience below), I started thinking about what can be done to Amtrak better. I came up with 3 main categories which I see needing to be addressed to make this government-owned corporation a truly viable travel option.
Price: Amtrak isn't cheap. In many cases, it is more expensive than flying. The price structure is not simple, either. Different times of day cost more, prices go up closer to travel date, some discounts can only be applied x number of days before hand, etc. If ticket prices were lowered and/or the price model was simplified, this would definitely encourage more ridership which could help streamline things and lead to higher revenues.
Convenience: On this, Amtrak actually rates pretty well. Strong positive points come from the wonderful comfort afforded by rail travel (ability to walk around, dining cars, lots of leg room, etc.), less intrusive security, and more conveniently located stations. Points against include limited schedules (only leaving certain towns in the middle of the night) and extremely poor reliability* (for example: for the past 4 weeks, the train from Sacramento to Denver has been, on average, almost 1.5 hours late, one time being 12 hours late and another 7). Addressing this reliability issue isn't simple because of the ownership structure of the rails, but it is worth it in the long term for all the potential gains, not only in reliability but also as a way to address cost.
Speed: To spend 48 hours to travel what would take 3.5 to fly (Seattle to Chicago) is kind of a big deal. For those who have that kind of time, it can be great, but that doesn't describe a very large portion of the population. To broaden it's market, Amtrak could introduce faster trains (as proposed by the Obama administration), more direct routes, or find other time saving measures.
(My personal thoughts on high-speed rail: *)
I want to see Amtrak become a more feasible option for travel, but for that to happen, I see at least one of these three things needing to change. Faster trains at the same price and convenience, cheaper prices at the same speed and convenience, or more convenient trains at the same price and speed. (My vote is for optimizing cost, as it is the great equalizer, but that's just me. I am kind of a penny pincher.)
|Wednesday March 2 2011||File under: transportation|
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For more on alternative transportation in the area, check out the interview I did for Alternative Commute Pueblo.
|Sunday January 9 2011||File under: transportation|
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|Each time I ride the New York subway, I gain a little more respect for this vast vast system. At first, the grittiness and intimidatingly large stations and maps had me put off. But that grittiness and complexity are so very representational of the city that lies directly above it. And just as getting to know the city leads to more comfort with being in it, so it goes with the subway. You quickly learn that if you miss your initial transfer station, there's another route to get where you're going. You learn what time of day which trains will be packed and running behind and know which ones to take instead. You learn the pre-walk, positioning yourself in the correct car so as to most easily access the exit at your final station.
For being such a vast system, it strikes me by how inexpensive it is. It's a one-far system, rather than tiered by distance (like D.C. or Tokyo). Just $2.25 gets you underground or there are all sorts of passes and extra deals for multi-riders. If you had just a day in NYC and only $2.25 to spend, seeing the city's underground might not be a bad option.
Of how many cities can one say that every one of its residents has a shared bit of culture? In New York, people don't not use the subway. It's not really an option. That culture—knowledge, etiquette, opinions—creates a bond between New Yorkers, one that I can't say I've seen in cities like Seattle or Denver. This wide usage also makes for trains full of everyone imaginable, from $900 suits to children in soccer outfits, the nanny with a double stroller to the guy just looking for a warm place to sleep.
I could go on and on about the variation in the modernity from one line to the next, the lonely one-line station vs. the mega transfer ones, the lore associated with the A-train for example, or anecdotes about the random people I see down there, but the only way to really understand is to get to know it yourself. A city's public transit says a lot about the city itself, and it is one of my favorite ways to get to know it.
|Tuesday November 2 2010||File under: travel, transportation|
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|I, for one, love craigslist rideshare. While it isn't always the most convienent way to travel, necessarily the most comfortable, or the surest travel bet in the book, the environmental perks, the cost savings, and the interesting people I meet make it my #1 choice for flexible travel.
To those of you who haven't experienced a ride via craigslist before, let me share a few tidbits fro my most recent ride. I caught a ride from Portland to Sacramento. While the train ride would have been 18 hours and $100, it only took us 9 hours and I paid $35. Not bad. The best party, however, was the peolple. Folks who are inclined to take a chance on a stranger are typically more interesting than most. In our [2-door honda civic], I met 3 good, interesting people; a hiker just coming off 4.5 months on the trail*, a world traveler who, conveniently, recently traveled to my next hopeful destination, and a no-traditional-job/lifestyle-for-me-thank-you-very-much free spirit. The great conversations made the miles just fly by.
The catch of the whole thing, however, is that I wasn't going to Sacramento. I had to cobble together transport from Sacramento into the Bay area, a task more expensive and difficult than you might think. But thanks to a couple helpful good people, I made it in time for juggle club at the Vulcan.
All in all, chalk it up as another positive craigslist rideshare experience!
|Saturday October 9 2010||File under: travel, transportation|
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|I'm proud to say that I've now traversed Vancouver BC to Portland OR all by public bus. Most of the territory is my stomping ground, as I do the Anacortes to Olympia, Seattle to Bellingham, etc. routes frequently. Earlier this year, Ma and I did the Bellingham to Vancouver route once (remember?) to prove that it could be done. Well, yesterday, in much the same "anything is possible" vein, I took 10 buses (and a street car!) and 12 hours to go from Anacortes to Portland, all via public buses.
This 250-mile route is one that I've been dreaming about for some time, kind of the holy grail of public transport in my eyes. I'd heard about it but could never find the info online. Recently, Lower Columbia CAP got their act together and posted their schedule, so I could now be well informed. But the only way to prove it could be done was to do it, so I did.
To summarize, it cost $12.00 (about 1/3 of Greyhound and 1/4 of Amtrak) and took maybe twice as long as either. I had no hiccups and had plenty of layovers to get something to eat, stretch my legs, etc. I don't know that I want to get into the habit of doing it every time around, but knowing that it is there is, well, really nice. For me, public transportation represents accessibility and sustainability. Seeing these qualities in action in such an extreme way makes me smile. Now it's just a matter of getting people to use them!
Oh, and for those who want to see the breakdown of how to get from Anacortes to Portland by public buses, here's the how it's done.
|Wednesday August 18 2010||File under: transportation|
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