Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Clear and cold

The trail is beautifully clear, at least through Arlington Heights, and the ramps are not.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Out with the old

All the links on the right here are tested and working. I can't find Clear The Trail anywhere and I don't know what's happened to winter trail-clearing in Arlington. Friends of Lexington Bikeways look active on their main site, so I'm linking to that instead of their four-years-stale blog. I updated the links for Walking in Arlington and the Skate FAQ. The latter has some timeless content about learning, technique, and skills, which is fortunate because their front page describes the 2006 Disney Skate Expo/Marathon as "coming up". Dilatory as I've been lately, I'm timelier than that.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pretty Pictures

It was just insanely nice this morning. So no skating, no running, only strolling and taking pictures.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

No Hurd Field Parking Monday June 10th

From the Town of Arlington Notices:

On Monday June 10th the parking lot at Hurd Field will be closed to allow the Town to perform required bi-annual maintenance of the lot. Work will be performed between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon. To ensure that the lot is free of vehicles the lot will be closed at dusk on Sunday June 9th and will be re-opened as soon as the maintenance is completed.

Today: 2.4 miles (running). This year: 177.5 miles (skating, running, walking).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Flex Brake on Kickstarter

A friend pointed out the Flex Brake project on Kickstarter, pointed out to him by an Inline Club of Boston announcement. The product is an add-on braking system usable on most four- or five-wheel inline skates. It can be installed on one skate or both and is activated by pulling on a strap. If you're comfortable crouching over your skates, the minimal version's strap passes over your laces. For the less flexible skater, there's a leash you can clip near your waist and pull while standing.

Do I want this? I'm not sure. I'm usually skating on a good surface where the standard heel brake works well. Crouching to pull the brake strap might be awkward and the leash might look dorky. On the other hand, better brakes could give me more confidence in the occasional tricky situation.

Watch the videos, read the blurb, and make your own decision.

Friday, May 17, 2013

MeCam (Updated)

I've had a few bad encounters with motorists in fifteen or so years of skating on the Minuteman Bikeway. I reported one scofflaw to her employer. I've filed the RMV's Complaint of Improper Operation form (PDF link) three times and gone to two RMV hearings. I complained to the Lexington police about a driver who threatened to kill me, both by his bad driving and in a crazy outburst. The problem with these efforts is that the driver only has to lie to get away clean. The nut job told police that I misheard him, that he didn't really scream "I'll run you over, you fucking weirdo!" The RMV never tells complainants about outcomes. And the delivery driver's employer promised to look into it, but wasn't sure which of their drivers might have been where I saw her. It's hard to make a complaint stick.

For drivers, a dashcam is the modern witness to accidents and incidents. For cyclists there are helmet cams. I wanted something smaller, lighter, and cheaper, so I bought a MeCam.

The MeCam is minimal video camera in a flat, round case about the size of a several dollar coins stacked. (I mean Eisenhower dollars, not Sacajawea.) The built-in battery charges via USB. For $50, $60, or $70, your MeCam comes with a 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB MicroSD card in your choice of color. Those memory cards will hold about 1, 2, or 4 hours of video. No matter which one you get, the battery only promises 80 minutes of recording. My hopes were that a MeCam would shoot adequate witness video, the battery would last through a typical outing, and the controls wouldn't be too frustrating.

The clip below demonstrates MeCam's cellphone-like video quality. That's no surprise -- it certainly has a cellphone camera inside. You can see the traffic lights, the walk lights, the traffic flow, and every twitch of my head in the sample. (The camera is stuck to my helmet with Velcro.) Leaving the camera to run itself out, I got about 78 minutes of video before it quit. That's enough for my purpose and pretty close to the advertised 80 minutes.

The controls are MeCam's worst feature. These are three tiny buttons set unfortunately close together on one side of the case. Turning the camera on or off or starting video recording requires holding a button for several seconds and watching for feedback from an led set into the top of the case. Bobbling the controls means accidentally taking a still photo or a useless video fragment. One incident corrupted the memory card and annoyed my Linux desktop. Another incident left a corrupt video fragment that freaked out iPhoto. If you're not comfortable poking into the memory card's file system, these could be big problems.

The brief instructions supplied with MeCam weren't written by a native speaker of English. They mention some way of timestamping video which I don't understand. They don't mention how to set the camera's clock: all my videos show file dates in 2007. [Update: see below, after the video.] Despite these minor problems, I think it was a good choice.

Crossing Bedford Street

Update: What I misunderstood as instructions for adding a timestamp were really explaining (or trying to explain) how to set the camera's time. Write a plain text file named time.txt with contents such as 2013-06-03 13:12:00 into the root (top-level folder) of the camera's file system. Shoot a video. The file will disappear and the camera's clock will be set.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 159.4 miles.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Detour Deluxe

I've avoided the detoured portion of the trail between Woburn Street and Seasons Four this week, expecting that the detour consists of being dumped out on Mass. Ave. Not the case. Well, sort of the case, except that a lane's worth of Mass. Ave. on the north side has been marked off with construction barrels to keep the cars out and make the detour reasonably safe. It's way better than I thought.

Today: 8.4 miles. This year: 146.4 miles.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Burn Rate

I've searched a few times to learn how many calories per hour a person uses for inline skating versus other exercises and I've found various answers. Last week it occurred to me that calories per mile might be a better measure. Googling that instead brought me to Phil Lenihan's In-line skating Calorie Usage Chart, which gives calories per hour for various body weights and paces. Phil credits "Rollerblade / University of Massachusetts Fitness Study" for the original data.

Plotting Phil's numbers made me think that Phil made some transcription or arithmetic errors. I haven't found the study he cites, so I reverse-engineered his numbers into a formula for my own spreadsheet. For example, if I weigh 140 pounds and skate 10 miles per hour (both of which were true today), I use about 500 calories per hour. I don't expect these numbers to be very accurate, just to be a general guide.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 118.7 miles.

Detour starting May 13th

The trail will be closed between Seasons Four and Woburn Street in Lexington starting May 13th for replacement of a failed culvert. Go around via Mass. Ave. instead. Work is expected to take several weeks. See Lexington DPW Contract #13-56 for details.

Time for new wheels

Today: 13 miles. This year 118.7 miles.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Count or be counted

Once again, the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization has asked the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee to survey Minuteman Commuter Bikeway use. ABAC will count trail users from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Saturday May 11th and Tuesday May 14th. Volunteer counters are needed for one or two hour commitments. To volunteer for counting in Arlington Center, contact Joey Glushko in the Dept. of Planning and Community Development (781-316-3093; or e-mail jglushko@town.arlington.ma.us) with your name, contact information, and the dates and time that you're available. To count in East Arlington near Thorndike Field, contact EALS (East Arlington Livable Streets) coordinator Chad Gibson at chdgibson@yahoo.com.

Today: 12.0 miles. This year: 90.0 miles.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bikeway Cleanup April 27th

From the Arlington Town Notices mailing list: "Please join the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee in a spring cleanup of the Minuteman Bikeway in Arlington. The cleanup will take place on Saturday, April 27th from 9:30am to 1:00pm. The rain date is Sunday, April 28th. For more information please visit arlingtonma.gov/abac."

Today: 7.4 miles. This year: 78.0 miles.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Comparative Trail Conditions

Arlington has cut and patched the worst of the root cracks. Lexington hasn't.

Update: Arlington west of Mill Street is good, but not between Lake Street and Linwood.

Today 9.0 miles. This year: 33.0 miles.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Midnight Marathon

A friend asked me today if I'd join him for the Boston Midnight Marathon, an event previously unknown to me. Sponsored by the Boston Societies of Spontaneity, this lark involves hundreds of bicyclists and "about three skaters" (says my pal) taking the 11:00 PM train from South Station to Hopkinton the night before the official Boston Marathon, then propelling themselves back to Boston along the Marathon route.

I declined. I don't think I'm good for 26 miles this early in the season and I worry about street skating in the dark, which I've never done. My adventurous friend pooh-poohed the second concern because he's got a headlamp so bright "it makes the bicyclists call out 'Car behind!'" It's too late to overcome the first problem, though.

Today: 8.1 miles. This year: 24.0 miles.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rise and fall

Google Earth shows Milestone I of the Minuteman Bikeway about 8 feet above sea level and the Bedford end of trail around 116 feet. In between, it peaks at 225 feet near Hancock Street in Lexington. When it's downhill both ways from Lexington Center, which way should you go? If you don't want one leg of the trip too much harder than the other, check the wind.

I skated east from Lexington to Frazer Road (elevation 127 feet) today. Downhill with the west wind at my back was easy. The return trip, much harder.

For the first time this year, the trail is both clear and dry. Snowbanks are gone, with only small and scattered patches of snow off the trail.

Today: 6.6 miles. This year: 15.9 miles.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Opening Eve

I might be busy for tomorrow's Opening Day, what with babysitting and baking #2 son's 21st birthday cake, so I took a little spin up and down the trail in Lexington today. The weather was warm, the snow was melting, and the root cracks were sprouting. Though clear and mostly dry, the trail is bumpier than last year.

West from Bedford St., Lexington

Today: 4.4 miles. This year: 9.3 miles.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Opening Day

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy declares March 30th as a nation-wide Opening Day for trail season. It might be nice or it might recall 1997's April Fool's Storm.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


In the past few years of bikeway plowing, the clear path often ended at Bedford Street in Lexington. I walked today from Camellia Place out to 128 and was pleased to find the trail clean, though damp, the entire way. As experience is my guide, the damp will continue until the snowbanks have melted away. With forecast highs around 40F every day, that could happen in the next couple of weeks.

West of Revere Street, Lexington

Opposite Lexington DPW