Bicycling 45 miles around North Atlanta

Bicycling North Atlanta: Exploring 45 Miles

I recently set out to route several long distance, bike-friendly routes near and around North Atlanta to support my urban Atlanta training for a 100 mile century. Google Maps painted me a hopeful picture with clusters of miles upon miles of green bike-friendly trails, roads, and even dedicated lanes around the metro Atlanta region. The reality? I was pleasantly surprised.

In all, I was able to patch together a 45+ mile mostly bike-friendly course starting in Brookhaven, heading north towards Roswell, turning back through Vinings, then heading east through north Buckhead to end back in Brookhaven. Let’s start with the positive.

3 Best Things about Bicycling North Atlanta

1: 60% of dedicated bicycle lanes

North Atlanta has come a long, long way in terms of dedicated bike lanes in the past decade — it was surprising to see how many miles of road had designated bike lanes, and signage to “Share the Road”! Sure, all of the bike-friendly sections required traversing some not bike-friendly roads, but Atlanta must have been in a good mood today because I only had bad encounters in one area (You suck, Vinings).

A tip of the hat to Lower Roswell Road — not only do you have well-groomed, designated bike lanes running both directions, but you have a sidewalk and wide asphalt pedestrian path. Remarkable, Roswell!

Bike-Friendly Lower Roswell Road

 


 

2: Bob Callan PATH trail

Just north of Vinings was a two-mile scenic surprise with the Bob Callan PATH multi-use trail. It meanders along the Chattahoochee River and Rottenwood Creek waterways. It ends/starts in the Paces Mill / West Palisades park; I recognized starting ‘Shoot the Hooch’ tubing here as a kid.  The PATH was plenty hilly, and even had two “speed ramps” one one hill, which I used to joyfully ramp my bike into the air, hooting and hollering like a kid again. I plan to return to walk the trail and take some of the hiking trail spurs.

Bridge across Rottenwood Creek along the Bob Callan PATH trail

 


 

3: Mt. Paran Country Store

As we cycling along the neighborhood-heavy Mount Paran road, out popped this old looking wood paneled building. A sign out front read “Mnt Paran Country Store, Established 1906″ — and boy did it feel like something out of the country! Outside were two gas pumps — I didn’t see the price per gallon. I headed inside and refreshed myself with some soda water and shared a peanut chocolate bar with my wife while we talked with a neighborhood lady about our shared fondness for Buddy scooters, one of which she had parked outside.

Mount Paran Country Store

 


 

3 Worst Things about Bicycling North Atlanta

1, 2, and 3: Vinings

What is wrong with the drivers in Vinings?  After 45 miles of road time, I had multiple bad experiences with drivers around there. The worst was coming up a Paces Mill Road SE, which is a challenging but short hill with no shoulder or sidewalk on the uphill side.  Car after car whizzed by us giving us what felt like one foot. I responded by taking up more of my lane — a legal action — to which cars would illegally pass around blind bends in the road (see photo below).

Vinings sucks for cycling

Even as we drove away from Vinings down Paces Ferry Road — again, no designated bike lanes — the drivers would speed by without giving the legal three feet. Vinings, you suck for not having bike lanes, and many of your drivers are douches. 


 

North Atlanta Bicycle Route (45 miles and up)

Linked below is the route I took. You could modify it to easily and add hundreds of mile by taking Lower Roswell across to Big Creek Park, which connects to a protected greenway that extends 25 miles north, ending just shy of Cummings, Georgia. Or, you could head west to connect with the Silver Comet PATH and cruise 90 miles into Alabama.

45 mile North Atlanta route on Mapmyrun

100 mile century

The Holy Quest for Bike-Friendly Routes Within Atlanta

I am determined to attempt and complete my first bicycling century this year. That’s 100 long miles of nothing but my fat frame atop my bike wheel’s inflated to 120 pounds per square inch … and many, many hours of asphalt.

I’ve made an attempt before, but was only able to finish 86 miles from Atlanta to Athens before sorely admitting defeat.  I literally hobbled home. Mathematically, the difference between 86 and 100 is a mere 14 miles, or a tortuously slow hour of pain. The prior 5-6 hours, however, can not — nay — will not be forgotten.

And if cycling 100 miles wasn’t enough of a challenge, my wife and I recently welcomed a 10 month old daughter to the family. My training time is limited, so I don’t have the leisure of packing my bike and driving out to my favorite long distance bike-friendly routes around the outskirts of Atlanta:

As you can see, these routes all require at least an hour commute; some require more than two hours of drive-time. I’m a slow cyclist, so I don’t have the luxury of adding such long commutes to an already 3+ hour training ride. So here is my challenge — how can I get my miles in the saddle while keeping my daughter’s father intact?

I have to look elsewhere; I have to look within the mean streets of Atlanta.

Atlanta Bike-Friendly Roads: Green Means Go
Google Maps Bike-friendly Roads in Atlanta

A search for bike-friendly roads in Atlanta displays a beautiful green tapestry of squiggly-lined options. The dark green means “trail”, light green means “dedicated bike lane”, and green dashes mean “bike-friendly”.  My starting point is the blue dot, which is where I live in Brookhaven, GA.  My routes all need to start, and end here. In theory, this looks easy. But when was the last time you noticed miles of bike-friendly let alone dedicated bike lanes while driving around Atlanta? The answer is never.

As I finish my bike-friendly Atlanta routes I plan to capture them here in my blog to share with others. In the meantime, do you have a favorite bike-friendly route in Atlanta? Please share them in the comments.

Atlanta Bike Challenge

This week kicked off the Atlanta Bike Challenge — a 20 day competition to get people to try commuting by bike. Whether to work, or an errand, or to the gym, the challenge wants to get as many people, especially non-cyclists, to put a little fun between their legs for 10 minutes daily.

I started road cycling for sport over a decade ago while training for a then-impossible two day cycling event — the National Multiple Sclerosis Bike Challenge. I quickly had to learn about cycling on the roads of Atlanta; the first thing I learned was to avoid them. Cycling on Atlanta’s roads is a death wish. Drivers are usually distracted on their phones — usually one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a phone — focused on a radio program or conversation, or simply ignorant of and/or mean-spirited about road cyclist. All I had between these two-ton tanks and me was a dozen or so pounds of aluminum and a brain bucket of a helmet. The laws of physics inform us that when — not if — a collision occurs there will only be one survivor, and it won’t be me.

So I took to the concrete paths of Atlanta’s PATH Foundation. Every weekend was a visit to the Silver Comet, Freedom Parkway, or Arabia Mountain. But even there there were safety concerns. The paths are great for pedestrians to meander and enjoy but they really weren’t meant to be shared by flesh & bone walkers paced at 2 or 3 MPH, and a speeding missile whizzing by at 20+ mph. Again, the laws of physics tell you collisions will happen, and in this case there aren’t any airbags to protect anyone.

So what options were left for me to stay healthy, enjoy a nice Southern Spring or Fall day, and avoid hours sitting in traffic polluting the air? Commuting by bike! In the past decade Atlanta has clearly invested in creating more bike lanes for commuting. While patchy in most locations — you will often switch between bike lanes and obstacle-strewn shoulders — they are improving. Today, I enjoy a full 3 miles of bike-only lanes in Buckhead along Peachtree Road. It is an absolute joy to cruise along, enjoying the weather and passing all the rush hour commuters sitting alone in their cars. While plenty have a face of anger that I, a lowly commuter cyclist, am passing them, in others I see a glimmer of hope. They want to be out there with me, too.

So, I challenge you to come join me. There is plenty of room to share and enjoy.

8 More Weeks: A Father’s Letter to his Newborn

father-baby-hand

When your mother and I were training for a marathon — yes, your parents once completed a marathon — 8 weeks seemed like forever. That’s two full months, plenty of time to train and prepare. But as your mother and I move into our final 8 weeks waiting for your arrival, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to prepare for you.

Do you know how much you are on our mind? We haven’t even met yet although I can tell you that you respond to food with joyful kicks — you get that from me. And you like to gently kick around 9 or 10pm, but not when I’m touching your mother’s belly. Will you be shy?

Do you know how much we think about you? Our calendar is filled with doctor visits, Confident Childbirthing and Breastfeeding classes, hospital and even daycare tours. When we aren’t investing these hours learning about you we are spending the other hours preparing for you. Your nursery is ready; we selected a jungle theme because we didn’t want it to be too gender-specific. That may sound weird now but once you get to know us it will make more sense. Figuring things out on your own and sharing experiences with others is kinda the whole fun part of life for us. Will you be as curious as us?

But really, we started “nesting” and preparing for you several years ago by buying a house — the house you will probably grow-up in. We even started a college savings fund for you, something that will take nearly two decades for you to appreciate. We just finished a house project in which we built our bedroom; your nursery is our old bedroom. So before you start complaining about how small it is realize that we had half the closet space and double the people in there, sometimes with upwards of three dogs, too!

Do you know how nervous we are? We have been forewarned about the changes that will be required in our lives when you decide to make your grand entrance. We currently enjoy our evenings together making meals — we are trying this pescatarian thing right now. Or we walk the dogs; every once and awhile we enjoy a show or movie on the TV. Your mom plays in a community orchestra and I’m currently taking improv classes. We understand that a lot of this will have to change as we focus our attention and energy on you.

Speaking of the pups, how well will you get along with your fur-siblings — Paprika and Watauga? Those are the two puppies in the photo in your room. Paprika is the one with the really soft velvety fur you will love to pet and Watauga is the one that will stand, well, lay guard with you all day and night long. We have so many adventures planned for you all. Will you remember them?

Do you know how scared we are?

We are told we shouldn’t be — your mother is as healthy as can be and you are the pinnacle of normalcy when it comes to prenatal tests! Let’s agree and not be so normal later when it comes to other tests, OK?

Besides, worrying now won’t change what has already been set in motion. We’ve done nearly all our homework; we are ready for this next challenge — “the hay is in the barn.”

See you in 8 short weeks.

Center for Civil & Human Rights: A Special Preview

Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta

I attended a special preview of the Center for Civil and Human Rights yesterday. My digital marketing firm, SHERPA global, proudly designed & developed the Center’s website; our team was granted a special opportunity to preview the Center with key stakeholders.

The Center is far more than a museum, which would merely capture and catalogue artifacts. Rather, the Center is an interactive, immersive experience of the region’s fight for civil rights, and mankind’s continued struggle for human rights. I predict it will be Atlanta’s landmark exhibit for the world — both for its visual elegance and inspirational content.

Get ready to be inspired, world.

A Landmark for Atlanta

The 43,000-square-foot Center for Civil and Human Rights is located in Centennial Olympic Park, rounding out the nearby museum options for trivia-filled infotainment (World of Coca-Cola) and immersive education (Georgia Aquarium). The Center’s tagline “Inspiration Lives Here” is brought to life juxtaposed on this campus of options. Luckie Marietta District has something for everyone; it is truly a “must-see” place for Atlanta tourists and natives alike.

The building appears firmly rooted in its place, made elegant yet bold with modern lines and organic materials and colors. The design reminded me of a slightly metallic albeit wood-textured shell surrounding or protecting something important but ethereal inside. Design architect Phil Freelon and The Freelon Group and Atlanta-based architect-of-record HOK said the design was based on “a concept of unity.”

The current design evokes the image of two cupped hands holding and protecting something precious: respect for human dignity.

rendering of the Center for Civil and Human Rights
Original rendering of the Center for Civil and Human Rights

Once inside the building — unfortunately photos were explicitly forbidden — you are put at ease with white, rounded surfaces and clean lines from dark brown wood floors. While the stories of civil and human rights are harsh, filled with the violence & death that can erupt from the inequalities of dreams deferred, here the the environs promote reflection and hope. In short, it puts you in the right mind as you prepare for what will most certainly be an emotional journey.

A Landmark for our Times

Upon its grand opening this June 23, the Center will exhibit four galleries. I was only able to visit two of them.

I don’t want to ruin your own visit with spoilers of the actual exhibits but I can share my thoughts on my experience.

Rolls Down Like Water

“But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” – Amos 5:24

The title of this exhibit is based on a biblically-inspired quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.. This exhibit is, however, far more than just the story of one man; it captures the many stories behind the brave fight for equality in The American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s — from the brave, young teens called the Freedom Riders to the 253,000 that peacefully assembled for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedoms to the many heroic, and not so heroic, politicians and figures of power & influence.

When you first enter the exhibit, look left and then look right. Listen to the sounds of the TV’s in the first room. Don the headphones and see if you can withstand the vile, hate-filled words that saturated our society but a few decades ago. These are the sights and sounds that served as the roots of the Civil Rights movement, and Atlanta was key to that story. As you make your way around the exhibit’s rooms, take the time to take in what will be visceral experience. When you make it to Three Hymns prepare for your heart to be moved.

Curated by Tony Award–winning theatrical playwright and film director George C. Wolfe of Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk fame, this exhibition has all the elements of exceptional theatre. Be prepared to be both infuriated and inspired by these many stories.

Spark of Conviction

The Center advises 75 minutes when visiting the Center. But by the time I got to the Global Human Rights exhibit I was already too drained. I was filled with so many emotions — anger, frustration, hope. I had a lot to digest still so I purchased a membership pass to the Center, which provides unlimited free admission for one year.

Instead, I went out for a late dinner nearby to talk through the experience with my colleagues that attended.

Verdict: Inspiration Lives Here

The Center for Civil and Human rights declares the following purpose:

to create a safe space for visitors to explore the fundamental rights of all human beings so that they leave inspired and empowered to join the ongoing dialogue about human rights in their communities

Without question, the Center serves this challenge well.

There was room for improvements. I would have enjoyed a place within the building to rest between exhibits and share experiences over a snack or drink. While there are plenty of options nearby an option for “take-it-all-in” respite would have been appreciated. Also, in this modern day of social networks I really wanted to capture & share my experience with photos; photography was strictly prohibited, unfortunately. I think there is a huge opportunity here for the Center, especially if it hopes to teach and inspire the younger generation of how much came before them, at what costs, and how future change will only come through their own individual courageousness.

The Center has a vital story to tell about us all; it shares it with brave elegance.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights opens to the world June 23rd with a celebratory opening at 10am. All are invited.

Look Up, Look Down. Look All Around.

Enough with the technology hate already. Social media is a tool; it is the use of that tool that is the problem, not its entire existence. Need proof? Consider this: social media…

  • rekindles and strengthens relationships with friends, family where proximity and physical boundaries limit you. This is probably reason enough to value social media, but not for the dreary author of this video.
  • connects you to like-minded individuals. If you are not living in a tolerant, urban location, this is critical to happiness.
  • helps you find a life companion. 20 % of current relationships are estimated to have started with online dating. These relationships are arguably healthier ones, too as they are based on shared interests, not just sexual attractiveness from across a room. For they shy or socially awkward, the value is immeasurable. For this author, apparently soul mates are all walking about in London.
  • provides a venue for artistic expression. Consider what this isolated, lonely World’s Greatest Dad did for his son. What a sad life that kid has with such an inattentive father.

It is not lost on me that the video’s author, complaining about how terrible social media is, used social media to share his message. And people are sharing it on social media. Some, like me, are seeking to discuss it. Why did we do this, when we could have been, as the author puts it, productive reading a book (so social), painting a picture (again, is this normally a group activity?) and exercising? Don’t we realize that no one is listening? We are all too busy reading *other* social media posts, I guess.

The issue is when we, while in the moment with someone, engage with social media instead of that person. The desire to share that moment is understandable. It is, however, possibly poorly timed. This all comes to social media etiquette. Let’s teach and promote that; not the absence of social media, or how isolating it is. Because it is not.

Also, if you have 422 “friends”…maybe the issue is that you consider 422 people “friends” rather than the count you are making them. Maybe consider a “reset” of your Facebook account.

Getting a Schooner for Greece (Day 3)

Today’s Santorini adventure started early as we sailed via schooner around the islets of Santorini.

Jessica: When will the boat get to the island?
David: Schooner or later.

The islands of Santorini are a result of a final volcanic eruption from 3,600 years ago – an eruption that is theorized to have caused an evacuation by all civilization on the island, caused a 90 foot tsunami that hit Crete several days later, and even leave ice core particles as far as Greenland.  And I thought when I got a flat tire I was having a bad day.

The inner islets of Nea and Palea Kameni are relatively new – 430 years old – and recently active as of 1950. We saw (and smelled) some sulfur gasses near seismic monitoring equipment. We also swam in a “hot springs” that was more like a lukewarm mud pond. It required us to jump off the schooner and swim a bit in the chilly clarity of the briny Aegean.

These islets were forming via submarine effusions as early as 1600BC; the Greek geographer Strabo noted their surface emergence in 197 BC.  It is exciting to stand on ground that was so relatively new and yet still connected to ancient times.

After we stopped by for another coffee – freddo espressos are my lifeblood – we joined a friend and colleague for a final day sunset dinner. If only the dinner was as enchanting as the view. Every dish was…unique…but the kicker was a “stuffed kalamari”. I’m not sure what we were expecting but a  latex ballon filled with dry, chalky cheese was not it.  I never imagined dill to pair well with calamari; I still don’t.

Alas, we drowned our meal-time sorrows in local white wine – Assyrtiko – and ouzo – a slightly sweet anise-flavored (think liquorice) apertif.

Coming this September 2014

I’m a digital marketer. And now I’m going to be a father!

That can only mean one thing….I only have 6 more months to raise awareness of the new Fall product line of Felfoldis with an ad campaign.

The “Felfoldi’s Little Apple” Campaign

Everyone loves Apple; they are revolutionary. And everyone should have an apple a day as they are tasty. And a baby is the size of an apple around week 15. Such was the inspiration of the the “Felfoldi’s Little Apple” social media campaign.

We took the simplicity of Apple ads, combined them with the tastiness of food, and sprinkled in a few zesty puns.

Now it is your turn to help; here’s how:

Vote up the most deliciously amusing announcements with “LIKES” on Facebook and you’ll inspire our next creative creation. Vote as often as you’d like!

How To Master Your Email Inbox

Boomerrang Gmail

Inbox zero is a fantastical goal; a mythical mirage that is desired by many but acheived by few. After nearly two decades of battling, and losing, to my inbox I almost admitted defeat. I simply allowed the “unread” number to creep up into double digits while the “read” emails stored in inbox soared into triple digits.

But then two years ago I found Boomerrang, which has become my secret to inbox victory.

Email As Water Metaphor

I’m the type of person that is easily persuaded to check my email constantly throughout the day. Responding to an email makes me feel productive, when in reality it was the busywork of moving some (virtual) pieces of paper around. In my quest to avoid the stressful feelings associated with an overflowing inbox, I invested hours every day trying to keep my inbox clean and tidy. Many times, this would overflow into the night while I lay in bed. I would even start my days responding to emails, often while still in bed, trying to “get ahead” of the mid-morning email surge.

That’s when I realized that email behaves like water. When you make space, more will flow in. Some books on email management state you should respond to emails ASAP but this is terrible advice! The faster you respond to emails, the faster people will respond to your emails, often resulting in a type of ping-pong instant chat via email. And the more you process emails, the more emails you will receive as others realize this is the most effective way to get your attention.

But if you invest all your time doing the busywork of responding to and processing emails, when do you have time to focus on actual productive work?

My Email Secret Weapon: Boomerrang

How do you stop an inbox flooding with emails? Simple: you block the flow of emails.

  • Start your day first attending to productive tasks instead of the busywork of answering emails. Consider this a type of “pay yourself first” philsophy; invest first in your needs & committments before you attend to the new needs of others.
  • Instead of answering emails immediately upon arrival, only reply to emails during specific, time-limited sessions. Sure, this means you won’t get through all your emails, but email etiquette allows for at least 24 hours for a reply. If this lack of instant response causes you stress, send a quick reply that you have received the email and when you expect to be able to reply.
  • Control the flow into your inbox. Use Boomerrang’s Inbox Pause add-on module to control how often emails are allowed into your inbox. Personally, I only allow my inbox to receive emails at 10am and 3pm. The morning check is so that I can first attend to my day’s top priority; the afternoon check to allow me some time to process any remaining emails before I go home for the day.
  • Pace my reply. Boomerrang enables me to schedule my emails to go out early the next morning or another time I specify. Because of the delay in response, emails don’t devolve into ping-pong email chats. Also, the scheduled delivery ensures my emails aren’t time-stamped with my sometimes odd hours of reply.
  • Automatic email reminders. Boomerrang allows me to email myself reminders. Rather than trying to remember to follow-up with a prospect or client in 1 week, I can have the email added back to my inbox. What’s more, I can limit the “boomerrang” emails to occur only when the recipient doesn’t reply.
  • Schedule important emails in advance. With Boomerrang scheduling birthday emails in batches just got that much easier!

I can’t recommend Boomerrang for email management enough for both Gmail and Outlook. There is a free version, which includes up to 10 boomerrangs/month. If you want more, the current listed prices are $5/mo for personal Gmail, $15/mo for Google Apps (gApps), and $30/one-time for Outlook.

MARTA during Atlanta’s Snowjam2014

Atlanta's Snow Jam 2014

This is what Atlanta’s roads have looked like for the past 16+ hours. Thousands are still stuck in their cars after spending the night in sub-20 degree weather. Many have abandoned their cars on the side of roads, either out of gas or out of patience, and headed to schools, gas stations, and retail stores to sleep on the floor. SnowedOutAtlanta, an open group on Facebook, surged past 40,000 members as people tried to share their cold stories or offer warm assistance for those that could get to it.

All this makes me wonder: Where was MARTA during Atlanta’s #snowjam2014?

Well, Atlanta’s meager light rail system was just fine and dandy! In fact, it was perhaps a silver lining in the cold clouds that hung over Atlanta Wednesday and into Thursday.

Understandably, MARTA bus service was cancelled as the streets were a standstill, but rail service was operational albeit slightly delayed by 20 or so minutes. If someone could get their car parked within 1 or 2 miles of any MARTA station, they could have relied on the system to get them to any other MARTA station. They could have stayed at a hotel near a station, which there are many. They could have had a friend pick them up from a station that was accessible by car or walked home from that station.

This is exactly what several of my friends did. They ditched their cars and instead of spending hours in them through the freezing night, they walked to a MARTA station and had a family member pick them up.

Atlanta, we have to get over our obsession with commuting by car. A snowstorm shouldn’t make Atlanta look like a panic-stricken scene from the Georgia-based TV show The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead SnowJam Atlanta

Atlanta can only grow so big if we are tethered to the roads our cars can travel upon. Commuting by car everywhere and everytime is not a viable option for our city’s sustainable economic growth. Traffic jams cost every Atlanta driver over 44 hours and $1,000 annually and we aren’t even the worst congested city!

Atlanta traffic jam ranking infographic

Atlanta already has many commuting options; we just need to embrace them and make them part of our daily behavior.

I will not lie, it may be less convenient in the short-term. Being able to jump in a temperature-controlled car and be a few miles away in 15 minutes on a whim with no advanced planning or thought is a nice benefit. But is this really the case? Does it really only take 15 minutes to go a few miles when everyone else is doing the same thing? Do we really avoid advanced planning with our daily commute or do we already plan our commute around traffic jams and congestion? And is it really more convenient to sit idly in a car on a hot, humid highway when we could be sitting on an air-conditioned train reading a book, texting, talking on the phone, or watching your favorite TV show on your mobile device while speeding along to our destination?

Ultimately, Atlantans need to invest in Atlanta and make our city more connected. Below is a dream MARTA map. Imagine if this was an option for us in the next inevitable #SnowJam.

Future MARTA map

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the eyes of the world are on you.