Tag Archives: pensacola

Big (old) Dog vs. Great Blue Heron, pt. 2



We don’t take Dolby out to the beach nearly as often as we used to. Back in the day he’d follow us up and down the shoreline as far as we could go, chasing after crabs, taking a dip in the water here and there, sniffing after weird stuff washed up on shore, and running pell-mell after errant pelicans, seagulls, and Great Blue Herons.

But Dolby is nine years old now. He’s slowed down quite a bit in the last couple years and having arthritis in his hips hasn’t helped that. Some days, just seeing him trying to get into the car is a painful thing to watch. So we’re more selective about when we take him down to the beach where the shifting sand makes walking more difficult.

We took him to Pensacola Beach with us this past Thursday. He walked maybe 30 yards one way, then 30 yards the other with us, but finally took up residence on the beach blanket while Lise went hunting for shells and I went hunting for perspective.

The sun was already near the horizon and was shaping up to be a very nice sunset. I noticed a Great Blue Heron had landed 30 yards away from us, so I mounted the camera on the tripod, turned myself around, and took a few shots. I asked Dolby who it was that was down the beach from us, and he got his excited-puppy look on his face, his ears perked up, and he searched the shore for what intruder I might be inquiring about.

I watched him for a few seconds, determined that he was more than likely not going to move, and went back to zooming in on the GBH and getting a few more shots.

Now, I noticed the heron quickly turn its head, but I didn’t realize why he’d done it. UNTIL. Until the fuzzy black butt of my dog appeared in the frame of my next shot. He didn’t get as close as he used to, and he was more bumbling than running, but he gave it a good try.

And of course I have a series of shots to prove it and an overly long story to tell of our sweet old boy.

Anticrepuscular Rays

One thing about Pensacola sunsets that has blown my mind since we moved here is this optical illusion known as anticrepuscular rays. It’s not an everyday thing, but it’s frequent enough that I’m not surprised when I see it. IMG_2751sq This shot is from Christmas Eve just as the sun is setting. Because of how those rays appear, one might think that this is looking due West, after the sun has actually set. This is not the case, however! This view is to the East, and the point where the rays converge is the exact opposite of where the sun is setting in the West.

Quoting the website “Atmospheric Optics” (atoptics.co.uk): “They appear to converge towards the antisolar point, the point on the sky sphere directly opposite the sun. Like crepuscular rays they are parallel shafts of sunlight from holes in the clouds and their apparently odd directions are a perspective effect. Think of a long straight road, it converges towards the horizon but turn around and it also converges to the opposite horizon.” IMG_2753sq Sometimes I get so focused on the sunset itself that I forget to turn around and see if this effect is in play on that night. Thankfully I did, as this is one of the most amazing displays of anticrepuscular rays I’ve seen yet.

Still waiting for Hurricane Isaac

In the week+ since we were warned that a tropical storm was brewing down south and looked to be heading towards Pensacola, we’re still waiting for the effects. Heck, we’re still waiting for just about anything from this system that doesn’t look like any other day on the Gulf Coast / Florida Panhandle.

On Sunday night our school district cancelled classes for Monday and Tuesday. I hopped on the bike that night and went around taking pictures of the clear skies and beautiful sunset down by the water.

Monday night, Lise and I went out and took more pictures – what a contrast! The clouds and strong winds are about the only thing that tell you that there’s a hurricane out there, but the difference between the top and bottom picture, taken almost exactly 24 hours apart, is striking!

Still waiting, Hurricane Isaac!

Stormy Skies: A Study in Contrasts

It’s difficult to explain the enormity of some of these storms that pass through Pensacola and the speed at which they develop. A panoramic might be the only way to show it, and even that won’t show it correctly. This sucker is moving over the top of us right now. I saw it in the distance, jumped on the bike, went to the closest decent vantage point near the house (2 miles away) and shot a few.

Being a Yankee from Ohio, I’m used to slow developing storms that, when they hit, they envelop the entire area and take all damn day to move through (if not longer).

Here in semi-tropical Pensacola, scenes like the picture above are commonplace. One section the sky is blue, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, etc. etc. and a half mile away, foreboding storm of death, doom, and destruction.

Ain’t complaining. Personally, thunderstorms are my favorite things to sit on the front porch and watch.

2011 Bianchi Camaleonte Uno

I’ve been dreaming of getting a new bike to use for commuting to work. Yeah, my Klein Aura V is a sweet ride, but she’s been difficult to work with, being very stiff and inflexible (And no surprise! She’s a racing bike, not a commuter!) . I needed something with a bit more weight, something that could handle having a rack, wider tires, fenders. I needed something that I wouldn’t be afraid of banging up too easily.

The answer?

2011 Bianchi Camaleonte Uno

Mark, at Truly Spokin’, told me that this would be an excellent bike for what I was looking to do. This is the 2011 Bianchi Camaleonte Uno, a hybrid bike (“hybrid” meaning sporty, but also practical – road bike & commuter bike in one). I tested his faith back in July 2011 by asking if I could test ride this bike for 3 days, and with only raised eyebrows and a curious look, he said, “Sure. Come get it Friday, bring it back to me Monday.” It was a great 3-day test ride! Rainy, windy, sunny, warm, calm – the whole shebang. I took that thing out and rode it all over and in all weather conditions because I wanted to make sure.

I test rode 4 other bikes as well (among them, Giant & Torker) but none of them quite had the ride that the Bianchi did.

Bianchi Camaleonte Uno

(“Camaleonte” is Italian for Chameleon. I admit to having more than just a passing love of the chameleon on the top tube. It makes the bike just a little bit more fun, a bit more out there.)

After paying a little bit here, a little bit there, since July for the bike, I was finally able to pick up this sweet thing on 11/11/11. Obviously, I’m quite excited about giving her a run on the commute this coming week!

Things I like about the bike:

  • It’s slick looking. Sexy. Sleek. Truth is, though, most of Bianchi’s bikes are slick.
  • It rides well. It’s not like the Klein, but it’s not meant to be! It’s got more weight to it and the steering is stiffer (a plus).
  • It’s got a shorter top tube. It’s going to take some getting used to, but it’s not as much of a stretch from the seat to the handlebars. It’s more of an upright position than I’m familiar with on my previous bikes.
  • The flat handlebars. I like ‘em. The shifters & the brakes are easy to access and quick to respond. I’ve been riding on dropbars for the past year, so my arms are a bit stiff from the different position, but it’ll be a good change.
  • An adjustable stem. The handlebar stem is adjustable so that it can drop or rise a pretty significant amount. I’m going to play with this a bit, but it was definitely a selling point!
  • 32mm tires. I started off with 25’s, then went to 28’s on the Klein. These fatter tires make a big difference when it comes to dealing with carpal tunnel in the wrists.
  • Mini-V brakes. When I hit the brakes, this bike stops, even when it’s wet. I’m impressed.
  • Racks & Fenders! It can handle a rack on the rear & front, plus there’s plenty of space for fenders for the wet Pensacola commuting days. I’m having a rack installed this week – I’m getting too old to carry a backpack full of books, a laptop, and all the other stuff I need to teach!
  • Good handling in various conditions. With the Klein, I’m afraid to do some things (riding in the rain, banking turns hard, going over particularly rough patches / railroad tracks, etc. at higher speeds) but with the Bianchi, I’m a lot more confident of  its ability to handle these conditions.
  • It’s just a fun ride. Seriously.
Bianchi Camaleonte Uno

Will I eventually go car-free? I dunno. I’ve been working towards a reduced-car existence for the past year (and with over 2600 miles on the Klein since November 2010, I’d say I’ve gotten a decent start). This bike will help me increase my bike commuter miles, and reduce my carbon footprint, not to mention continue a healthier lifestyle and influence others in myriad ways. I’m excited!

Ask me questions, or stay tuned for more on this bike!

“I can’t go out & ride – it’s raining!”

Silly me.

It’s been raining the last 4 days off and on. I’ve been doing a test ride of a 2011 Bianchi Camaleonte Uno this weekend and wanted to get it out as much as possible. This morning, sitting dejectedly in the living room watching the continuing rain, I thought, “I can’t go out on the bike and ride! It’s raining! I’ll get wet! The bike’ll get wet! I’ll look silly! Dang!”

At some point, I started thinking, “Hey, dumbass! When you were a kid, did the rain stop you from wanting to go outside & play? What’s wrong with you? Are you gonna melt? Is the bike gonna break? Don’t you remember the fun of riding your bike through the biggest puddles? Good lord, what’s happened to you?!?”

Riding the Bianchi in the rain

That was about as much fun as I’ve had riding a bike in a long, long time.

I’m reminded that there’s nothing wrong with childlike thinking.
There’s nothing wrong with getting wet.
There’s nothing wrong with getting dirty.
There’s nothing wrong with doing things with abandon.
I don’t need to worry about what others think.
I don’t have to color inside the lines.

This may seem like a stretch for a guy who already pushes the envelope as much as possible, but even I get into a rut. An hour out on the bike in the rain, careening through puddles, feeling the water against my face, not worrying about my clothes, the bike, my hair, what others might be thinking… that was a refreshing reminder.

#bikeschool question

this is an email i sent earlier today to the teacher / mod of tonight’s #bikeschool tweetchat – this doesn’t give all the issues or details i’m dealing with, but it’s the thrust of the problem. posted here for background for the #bikeschool crew.

Darryl -

Long story to a short question:
I bought a great road bike (2004 Klein Aura V) back in November with several intentions, the main one being commuting the 7.5 miles from home to the high school I teach at here in Pensacola.

After 6 weeks of commuting (and loving it) I come to find out that I’m being targeted by a local gang that several students in my school belong to. A teacher at the school next to mine was severely beaten, bike destroyed, money, laptop, etc. stolen 2 years ago and left for dead in this neighborhood during his morning commute.

The problem: to go around this neighborhood makes it a 14 mile ride (one way) and takes me through an even worse neighborhood to the south. To the north is I-10. This neighborhood is bottlenecked through this gang’s territory and there’s no way around it.

I’ve searched high and low for sites with info on how to physically protect yourself while riding, but have found little to nothing on the situation I’m facing.

My wife, the school-based gang expert, the school-based sheriff’s deputies, and my vice-principal are all telling me not to ride to work. The teacher who was beaten two years ago says he’ll never ride to work again through that neighborhood. The guys at my local bike shop say a) carry a gun (no thanks) b) carry a knife (again, no) c) get pepper spray d) ride really fast and stop for nothing. (I should mention that being a high school teacher, it’s illegal for me to have a gun, knife, or pepper spray on my person on school property).

Dude – is there a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve not riding the bike to work?

Seriously, this has been breaking my heart.