EIR Comment on CAHSR, from the desk of Keith Pelczarski
I have a request for California High Speed Rail: Please do a good job on the new train.
My house is adjacent to the track in Palo Alto close to Peers Park and I'm concerned about how California High Speed Rail (CAHSR) will change things here in my backyard.
One big concern is the sense of the unknown about the whole thing. How will the neighborhood change? How much construction noise will there be? How much noise will the trains really make? What about privacy? Will these changes hurt my property value? What about eminent domain, would that come into play on my property? If so, would I get fair value for property lost? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I can certainly imagine some worrisome possibilities.
Please do a good job on the new train.
I would like to ask that whoever is designing/approving the solution consider how they would want it to be if they were the ones living right next to it. As one of those folks living right next to it, I have a few thoughts on the concept video that shows the alternatives (http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/gallery.asp?s=alma-street):
Tunneling The most appealing option, especially if the right of way above it were developed into a nice bike/pedestrian path, with art and landscaping and whatnot. If the trains could be out-of-sight/out-of-mind, that would be excellent.
Open trench Seems better than having something looming over my house, but not quite as appealing as the tunnel. Some concern about sound, but imagine that it could be mitigated with trees or a wall or something. I'm not clear on exactly how wide the trench would be, but if it were too wide I'd have the question about eminent domain and what would happen to my property line/garage/etc.
Structure This is worrisome, with the train going by at the height of my bedroom. Feels like a huge blow to privacy. I'd wonder about what might become of the space underneath. Will it be haven for troublemakers/transients/etc.? If this option did come to pass, would there really be the bike path, art, landscaping, and whatnot that are shown on the concept video. Would they really have as many lights as the video shows? Still hard for me to get over having the train run at the height of my bedroom window. That's a HUGE potential impact that I don't think could be fixed with a screen of trees (not enough space), and a wall in the space at that height would be a towering monolith no better than the undesirable retained fill option. On this one I also have the question about eminent domain and what would happen to my property line/garage/etc.
Retained fill As I understand it, this is no longer under consideration in Palo Alto, which makes me relieved. Didn't like the thought of a big wall going through the middle of the city, especially not when it brings the train up to my bedroom window. My concerns expressed in my comment on structure would also apply here, except for the one about what would go on underneath it, obviously.
I am supportive of the work that CARRD (http://www.calhsr.com/) has been doing to engage and educate people. Please work with them to make sure that concerned citizens continue to have a voice in the development of this project and that things are done in an intelligent, respectful way.
Please do a good job on the new train.
Keith Pelczarski Palo Alto, CA
cc: CAHSR City of Palo Alto Planning Division CARRD Joe Simitian Anna Eshoo
:: Keith 23:51 [link] :: ::
As many folks out there may know, this year I've been swinging a hammer as a regular volunteer for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. It's been a fun and rewarding experience and I'm looking forward to continuing to help build homes for people in need. Toward that end, I recently volunteered with GRID Alternatives, a local nonprofit that installs solar panels for low-income families, empowering communities in need with renewable energy and energy efficiency services, equipment and training.
On September 12th I will be participating in a GRID Alternatives event called Solarthon 2009, where teams of folks from around the Bay Area will be installing 16 solar electric systems in Habitat GSF homes in Oakland. This one-day event will help raise money and awareness for community solar power, help fight global warming, and bring energy savings to low-income families who need it the most.
Ill be working directly alongside members of these families as they put their own sweat equity into helping secure energy independence and protect themselves from future spikes in the cost of power. Im asking that you join me in this project and consider sponsoring my efforts by making a tax-deductible donation to GRID Alternatives using this link:
My fundraising goal is $250. Please consider helping with a donation of $5 or $10. Of course, donations of any amount are appreciated very much. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. (If you don't have my contact info, my email address is my first name at my last name dot com.) You can get more information about GRID Alternatives and their programs at gridalternatives.org. This video offers a good overview of what GRID Alternatives does:
Thanks for reading, and thank you for your support, Keith Pelczarski
:: Keith 22:54 [link] :: ::
:: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 ::
A is for Aardvark
Aardvark (http://vark.com) is a relatively new question-answering service that taps your extended online social network to get answers that can't be easily found with Google or other search engines. The question answering works both ways: not only do people answer questions for you, but you can help other people with their questions.
When you sign up, you're asked to offer up a few categories in which you have special knowledge. These might be things like your hometown, your job, or a hobby. They also give you the option to link to your Facebook account not only for building your network of people who can answer your questions, but they also use your Facebook profile to determine what some of your areas of expertise are.
When questions are asked, Aardvark labels it with a particular topic, which is then matched to see who in your network knows about that topic. Those people are politely asked over IM if they would be willing to answer a question about that topic, and given the chance to answer, skip it, or refer it to someone else (who may not even be registered with Aardvark yet). Interaction with the IM commands feels a little bit like playing Zork, which shouldn't be a problem for nerds like me who actually played Zork, but for people who don't know what I'm talking about it might take a little while to get used to. There is a web interface for asking your question, but it punts over to IM straightaway. I can understand wanting to stay focused on that channel, but some pretty cool things could be done with the extra flexibility you can get on the web.
Depending on the nature of the question, you usually receive an answer within five minutes, often multiple answers. Aardvark tells you who answered your question, and you can follow up with them by replying to Aardvark. It's a pretty neat system, which will grow in utility as the network of answerers expands and the system gets a chance to see who really answers questions about which topics.
I would encourage you to sign up and try it out the next time you're looking for recommendations or obscure knowledge that would be to hard to query from Google. I would also encourage you to answer questions from other people. It only takes a moment, and it's a satisfying feeling.
Got myself packed up and made a reservation at Hertz. When I arrived with my rig at the airport the Hertz agent helpfully suggested that I might be able to get by with a smaller, cheaper SUV. He even took me out to check it out. Turns out that everything fit great in the Nissan Murano:
Went over to check out Cape Arago, which was indeed a fair distance out of town. It was beautiful in a windy, foggy way:
As it turns out, the road out of Cape Arago that shows on the map is a private, gated road. I would've had to double back quite a bit.
Once back on 101, I was struck by several things: very few signs of civilization, almost no phone coverage, and jaw-dropping scenery:
I pulled into Josh & Jodi's house in Eureka just in time to catch Ben before bedtime. He was sporting a sweet cape:
We had a nice evening playing cribbage and catching up. In the morning the three boys took a bike ride around Eureka. Ben has a great seat:
Ben fell asleep by the end of the ride:
So that's it. I'm headed home to Palo Alto. A few closing thoughts on the trip:
Huge thanks to Kerah and her mom Brenda for taking care of the kids while I was away.
I'm also quite grateful to all the friends and family who supported me from near and far. Particularly helpful on the journey were Mark, Eric, Kurt, and Jeff. Y'all were very gracious and I really appreciate all you did for me along the way.
Thanks also to all the kind strangers along the way. There were so many super nice people along the way. The folks at Morning Glory Farm on Rte 126 were particularly great, and I'm very thankful to Ray and Cathy for reuniting me with my iPhone.
Bike touring is a very fun way to explore. You have time to see the world around you as you move down the road, but you can also cover some decent distance.
The road can get very lonely. I'd recommend having a buddy if you go for a tour longer than two weeks.
Rest is important. Allow for downtime to give your body a chance to recover.
Before attempting a long tour, take a couple short trips. I had never taken so much as an overnight tour before embarking on this trip, and there was a lot of learning on the fly.
500 miles is a long way to pedal. I feel good about what I was able to accomplish on my first time out. I learned a lot about touring, and really enjoyed my time in Washington and Oregon.
Finally, thanks to everyone who has followed this adventure online. Your comments on FriendFeed and Facebook were very much appreciated.
Alright, time to get some more rest. Tomorrow I'm back home with the family!
Legs were sore waking up. Definitely need to take a rest day. Luckily, North Bend and Coos Bay are nice towns to kick around in. I got on the bike to get some breakfast at the Humboldt. I pored over my maps and Pacific Coast bike touring book, and considered my options. I also checked into alternate options like car rental or flight. My next friendly stop is in Eureka, CA, well over 200 miles away. I thought it would be a good idea to rent a car to get down there, but neither Enterprise nor Hertz would do a one-way rental for less than three days. Oh, and Enterprise didn't have any cars.
Scott, the guy from New Zealand I met at Honeyman had said that California was worse than Oregon as far as hills and traffic. He also said that the sketch factor increased, too.
Given my tiring legs and growing homesickness, I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that while I've had a fun adventure, maybe it's time to head home.
In the lost item department, I realized that my bike computer was gone. I had taken it off when I parked my bike for dinner. It was in a loose front pocket, and I think it fell out on my ride home. I looked by the roadside a bit, but no dice. The road gods apparently weren't happy that I had snatched back the phone sacrifice. Unfortunately, that means that I lose the exact mileage count, but I know I was over 500 miles by a fair bit.
I tooled around Coos Bay for the afternoon, then had some sushi for dinner. After dinner, I caught a free showing of "For All Mankind" at the Egyptian Theater. It was showing to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. The images and recollections of the desolate nature of space travel reinforced my own feelings of isolation. Watching the film I decided that I would go to Hertz the next day and rent a car to carry me, Silver, Tonto, and Wilson back home.
I rode back over the hills to North Bend, and found some amazingly blue hydrangeas:
I headed back to the Humboldt for some pool and music, and then turned in for the night. Tomorrow, a car!
Honeyman State Park was really nice and pleasant. I awoke at 8 and had some breakfast. The legs were still pretty tired, though, so I took a little snooze. Here's what my campsite looked like:
The wind was blowing hard over the tops of the trees, which sounded really soothing. After a bit of rest I packed up and hit the road. Today the legs were sore from the start. Started thinking that maybe I would need a rest day in North Bend/Coos Bay.
The road from Florence to North Bend was pretty busy, with a fair amount of traffic and more than a fair amount of wind. The route ran through the Oregon Dunes park, so some of the scenery was spectacular:
Stopped for lunch in Reedsport. Called to try and talk to the kids since phone coverage was getting pretty spotty. No dice. The homesickness is getting really tough. If I had someone riding with me, it would probably be easier to take, but at this point it's been over two weeks, the longest I've ever been away from them.
Back on the bike, I hit North Bend as it was starting to get a little dark. There's a big steel bridge on the way into town with a really narrow shoulder and powerful crosswinds. The ride over that was pretty harrowing as cars and trucks squeezed by me.
Once in North Bend proper I pulled into Safeway where I asked about the campground at Cape Arago. I was told that it was still a good several miles down the road. With the wind howling and legs burning I decided that it would be better to lay up at a motel and rest. I had posted another 54 miles on the day.
I rode into downtown North Bend for dinner at the Humboldt Club Restaurant, where people were super friendly, the pool was free, and the jukebox had Frank Zappa, Johnny Cash, and the Blues Brothers. I chatted with folks about the road south, and learned that it's every bit as uninhabited as it looks on the map, with minimal phone coverage, and lots of wind and fog.
Hurm. I started really thinking about whether to press on or not. North Bend is the last place for hundreds of miles that has any kind of transportation options like airport or car rental, so this was the last chance for a graceful exit. I told myself to sleep on it, so that's what I did.
In a bit of a "Groundhog Day" moment, I set out from Eugene again, with a different route out of the city and a very similar route after that.
Up the NW Expressway, out on Clear Lake Rd, I went back out near Kirk Park, where I picked up Tonto's case from Ray. He lives at the top of a crazy steep hill, which I hiked up to find that he had called me offering to meet ne at the bottom. The view was worth the hike, but in my tired state I neglected to get a picture. Let's just say that Ray and Cathy have a beautiful house with a commanding view of the lake.
Ray's account of where Cathy and the dog found the phone left more questions than answers, but I'm just happy that Tonto is back by my side, happily esconced on his case.
The pedals cranked for another 20 miles where I stopped to return Sandy's cell phone. I told the story to Sandy and Gerry, thanked them for their help, and snapped a picture with their bees:
Headed down 126, which was nicer than people had said. Passed through a tunnel that had a warning light for cyclists:
It was downhill through the tunnel, so I flew through at 30+ mph. It was pretty good rolling from there, and I got to Mapleton pretty quickly. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful, but I don't think the camera did it justice:
Kept on cranking, and made the next 20 miles or so into Florence. I got some supplies at Safeway, then set out for Honeyman State Park. It was a nice campground, with good accommodations for hiker/bikers. I met a Kiwi named Scott who was headed east on 126 the next day. I gave him some tips on the ride that way and he shared some knowledge about the route south.
I got a hot shower and bought some wood from the rangers, but when I got back to camp all the bikers had gone to sleep. I made a fire and sent some tweets with the tenuous connection I had. The wind was howling over the tops of the trees, but the campground was pretty still.
71 miles covered today. The road has started to get to me a bit. I named my bike Silver and my phone Tonto. I also started talking to Wilson while I sat around the fire. More on the loneliness of the road tomorrow.