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April 20, 2011

Tour de Stooges is almost here!

Filed under: bicycle rides — Tags: , — Roger @ 10:43 pm

I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t been blogging much in April. One of the reasons, as you might imagine, is because I’ve been working hard on the 14th annual Tour de Stooges on Saturday, May 7, in Highland, Ill.

The St. Louis Cycling Club/Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating is thrilled about putting on the 14th annual Tour de Stooges.

There’s still plenty of time to pre-register for the ride. You can sign up for the Tour de Stooges through or mail in your registration. Online registration is open until the morning of May 4, while mail registrations must be postmarked by April 29. You also can register on May 7 at Lindendale Park in Highland, but you’ll save money by pre-registering for the ride.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Tour de Stooges, it’s a recreational ride through Madison, St. Clair and Clinton counties in Southwestern Illinois. We have routes of 17, 22, 31, 42 and 64 miles. After the ride, enjoy lunch — which is included in the cost of the ride — and all the slapstick comedy you can stand!

So bring your bicycle built for three — or two or one — to Highland. I hope to see you there.

There are a couple of other reasons I haven’t posted much later. In addition to my job as design editor at the Belleville News-Democrat, I’m also teaching a publication design class at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville this semester. This is the second time I’ve taught the class, and things are much smoother this time around.

And speaking of SIUE — my alma mater — congratulations to fellow SIUE grad Paige St. John, who this week won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigating Reporting for an extensive series about Florida’s property insurance industry. Paige is one of many longtime friends I’ve stayed in touch with over the years, and she is most deserving of the award!

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September 19, 2010

Odds and ends

Filed under: bicycle rides,Illinois,Missouri,trails — Tags: , — Roger @ 4:44 pm

Thanks to a line of thundershowers that lingered in the St. Louis area, I didn’t go to today’s Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society Donut Trail Ride. I feel bad for all five groups in the St. Louis area that planned rides for Sunday morning.

However, the rain gave me the opportunity to do some reading about bicycling and other topics:

Fall riding in the St. Louis area: Lisa Eisenhauer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had an interesting look at the best bicycle trails for viewing fall colors in the St. Louis area.

Not surprisingly, the article highlights the Katy Trail and the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail along the Great River Road between Alton, Ill., and Pere Marquette State Park. Those trails are the most obvious and most scenic choices for fall cycling in the St. Louis.

But the story also takes a look at the extensive Madison County Transit trail system, Grant’s Trail in south St. Louis County, the Al Foster Trail in Wildwood, Mo., and it mentions guided rides of the Katy Trail and of the countryside between Columbia, Ill., and Ste. Genevieve, Mo. offered by The Touring Cyclist bike shop.

Here are some tips I would offer for the Vadalabene Trail  and the MCT trails:

  • I prefer riding the Vadalabene Trail during the week rather than weekends. The ride is more peaceful — fewer cars and noisy motorcycles on the Great River Road — during the week.
  • My favorite sections of the MCT trail system include the Schoolhouse Trail in Horseshoe Lake State Park, the Schoolhouse Trail between Collinsville and Maryville, the Quercus Grove Trail between Edwardsville and Hamel, and the Watershed Trail. The Heritage Trail between Glen Carbon and Marine is enjoyable, too, other than the oil-and-chip surface between Glen Carbon and Silver Creek.
  • The article says you can cross the McKinley Bridge and take some streets in Madison and Venice to access the Schoolhouse Trail. Do your homework and carry a map; a wrong turn in Madison or Venice can put you into some pretty dicey neighborhoods.

Finding love on a bicycle: Today’s Post-Dispatch also tells the story of how Garmin-Transitions’ Ryder Hesjedal found love while racing in the Tour of Missouri. Hesjedal, a native of Victoria, British Columbia, is engaged to Ashley Hofer, a graduate of McCluer High School in St. Louis County.

They met 2007, when Hesjedal rode for the HealthNet team at the Tour of Missouri. Hofer, then a senior at the University of Missouri  was working on the race’s economic impact study.

“I saw her the next to last day at the finish,” he old the Post-Dispatch. “She was hard to forget. I asked, ‘Where has she been all week?’”

Love didn’t bloom until August 2009. Hesjedal was riding in Spain and by chance saw Hofer at a cafe. Everything else fell into place after that.

MetroLink Bike Trail: St. Clair County significantly trails its neighbor to the north, Madison County, in bicycle trail mileage, but work is under way on a 0.9-miles extension of the MetroLink Bike Trail from Belleville to Swansea. A overpass is being built to carry bicyclists and pedestrians over Illinois 159 in Swansea. Next year, the  St. Clair County Transit District will begin work on extending the trail another 2.2 miles from Swansea to the MetroLink Memorial Station.

Belleville News-Democrat redesign: I haven’t been blogging or riding as much the past couple of weeks because I’ve been focusing on the redesign of the print edition of the Belleville News-Democrat. As design editor of the paper, I’m responsible for making sure the page templates are in working order so we can successfully launch the redesign for the Sept. 21 edition of the paper.

This is the first redesign of the paper in 10 years. The most obvious changes will be on Page One, the page I design five nights a week. I hope our readers will appreciate the changes we’re making.

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April 15, 2009

In defense of bicyclists

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Roger @ 11:38 am

Last week, I wrote about Zack Colman’s anti-bicyclist column in The State News, the student newspaper of Michigan State University. Today, I point out a rebuttal column by State News copy editor Scott Myers that was published Monday.

Myers’ column is written in the same style as Colman’s original column. For example, here’s the opening salvo:

White 2009 Motobecane Fantom Cross Uno.

That’s the bike I ride — and if you’re a motorist on the road and plan on running me over, I hope you have a good lawyer, because I might sue you.


Because you see, with all these dangerously inattentive motorists on the road nowadays, doing things like changing songs on their iPods, sending text messages while driving or falling asleep because they can’t get enough sleep to function on the same schedule as 90 percent of the rest of the world, I’m tired of getting run over.

And, considering I’m exactly where I should be, I’ll win the case.

Not surprisingly, Myers’ column got a lot of praise from the cycling community, at least judging by the comments. It also got a lot of comments from the anti-cyclist crowd, complete with the stereotype that all cyclists disobey traffic laws because a few do. While some cyclists do disobey traffic laws, so do some motorists.

As for the original Colman column, word about the column has spread far and wide. The League of American Bicyclists even has included Colman’s column in its Trash Talk feature. “In what we can only hope is a sorry attempt at satire, the author says that bicyclists should get off the road. If they’re not in bike lanes or on sidewalks, Colman promotes distracted drivers running over bicyclists with “big, people-killing cars” to show who rules the road,” LAB pointed out.

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April 11, 2009

Bicyclists need to stay on sidewalk

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Roger @ 2:18 am

I’ll give Zack Colman credit for one thing. At least he has the courage to put his name and photo to asinine comments about bicycling.

Unlike most of the clowns who post comments anonymously or under fake names on newspaper articles about bicycling, Colman didn’t hide his identity in a recent column that appears in the State News, the student newspaper for Michigan State University. Here’s what he said about bicyclists:

Black 2001 Saturn SC2. That’s the car I drive — and if you’re a bicyclist on the road but not in a bike path and you see my car, I hope you’re wearing a helmet, because I might run you over.

Maybe not intentionally.

But you see, with all these things I can do in my car nowadays, such as choose a different song on my iPod, send a text message while driving or fall asleep at the wheel because I had to wake up for a worthless 8 a.m. biology lab, I might not notice you.

And, considering you are where you should not be, I might hit you.

Not surprisingly, the column has drawn a lot of comments. Mary Dougherty of the League of Michigan Bicyclists is urging people to e-mail Colman and set him straight.

In the column, Colman is under the mistaken idea that bicyclists should ride on sidewalks rather than streets, where they have a legal right to be in Michigan. In many Michigan communities, it’s illegal to ride a bike on sidewalks. It’s even illegal to ride bikes on sidewalks on Michigan State’s East Lansing campus!

Here’s another choice nugget from Colman’s attempt at writing a column:

Bicyclists on the road are a driving hazard to people in automobiles, since many bicyclists make turns without using hand signals and ride too close to other vehicles when there is no designated bike path.

For example, I was driving to work Tuesday when a bicyclist pulled up in front of my car in the right lane on Farm Lane going northbound where it intersects with Shaw Lane. There is no bike path at this portion of the road, and I needed to be in the right lane to avoid the left turn only lane, but the bicyclist was in the way.

Some will say I could be more patient on the road.

But roads are for cars, not bicyclists. The bicyclist should not have been in the car lane.

Some people have come to Colman’s defense, saying that it was intended to be satire. If it was, it was a pretty poor attempt. I speak from experience. I once attempted satire while I was still a college student writing for the Southwestern Journal, a weekly in Brighton, Ill. I failed miserably. Satire is a difficult form of writing to master, and satire clearly isn’t one of Colman’s strong suits.

I hope Colman learns from his mistake and grows up to be a responsible columnist.

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November 9, 2008

Own a piece of history — and an example of my handiwork!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Roger @ 3:28 pm

The Belleville News-Democrat, like an overwhelming number of U.S. newspapers, sold out Wednesday because of the election of the junior senator from the great state of Illinois, Barack Obama, as president of these United States.

In response to that, the News-Democrat is selling commemorative items to mark the historic election.

You can download the Nov. 5 edition of the News-Democrat, including the historic front page reporting Obama’s win, by going to the News-Democrat E-Edition. For $1.50, you can download the entire Nov. 5 edition, but that offer is only available through Tuesday, Nov. 11.

You can purchase a commemorative item showing the front page of the paper reporting Obama’s win by going to The BND Store. Posters, sweatshirts, polo shirts, baseball jerseys, bags, cups, even beer steins are available — for prices as low at $11.99, and each item will show the front page reporting Obama’s historic election.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I designed the front page of that particular edition. While a lot of papers went with big, impressive poster fronts, which you can view at Newseum’s front page archive from Nov. 5, we decided to put other stories on our front page that were important to our readers in addition to the big news about Obama. I was happy with the page.

And in case you’re wondering, no, I do not get a commission if you buy one of those nifty commemorative items!

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June 23, 2008

Back from the Katy Trail

Filed under: bicycling,Missouri — Tags: , , — Roger @ 11:51 am

As you can see, the Missouri River keeps on rolling along — albeit a bit higher than normal — along the Katy Trail.

Yes, I did ride the Katy Trail last week. I hope to have the full article up on the Web site later this week, but here’s a brief summary.

In some ways, it was the kind of ride where everything that could go wrong did. For example, I wasn’t happy to find out that when I got to Hermann, Mo., last Monday that I had left my towel and comb at home. Ugh.

At our final camping spot in Liberty Park in Sedalia, a heavy thunderstorm blew through town and knocked down my tent, drenching everything in it.

And yet, it was a rewarding ride. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources does a first-rate job of supporting cyclists, and it’s hard to top the Katy Trail for scenery in this part of the world. The bluffs near Augusta and Rocheport are very scenic, but I also found the rolling plains between Sedalia and Clinton rewarding as well.

Flooding on the Missouri River did force a couple of detours, as I expected, but the flooding on the Missouri is nothing like the flooding on the Mississippi right now.

I really didn’t have the opportunity to find Internet access during the trip, and that was a blessing in disguise. I found I really needed to take a break from the Internet, e-mail and blogging. I spent way too much time on this computer this spring because of organizing work I did for the Tour de Stooges and The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery Bicycle Ride, and it was great to spend time on a bike!

My mountain bike made it through the trail OK, although I probably would have been happier on a lighter hybrid or at least with less-aggressive mountain bike tires on the crushed limestone surface on the Katy Trail. I do now have a name for my mountain bike, a Raleigh — Behemoth!

Another reason I was glad I didn’t access e-mail or the Internet last week was because the parent company of the Belleville News-Democrat, McClatchy Newspapers, announced that it was eliminating 1,400 jobs nationwide through layoffs, voluntary departures and attrition. The News-Democrat will be cutting 12 jobs. I am grateful none of them are in our newsroom, but I feel for those who will lose jobs in other departments.

It is discomforting when you think about the troubled state of the newspaper industry. Recently, fellow bicycle blogger and journalist Jill Homer reported in her Up in Alaska blog that her newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, is indefinitely cutting retirement benefits.

Yes, a week away from reality did do me a lot of good!

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February 24, 2008

My ‘baby’ sister in the news

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Roger @ 1:43 pm

About a week and a half ago, I gave kudos to my older sister, Teresa Parod, for her new Web site featuring her artwork. Now it’s time to give some props to my younger sister, Karen Brooks.

Karen’s picture was on the front page of Sunday’s edition of The (Alton, Ill.) Telegraph. Photographer Jim Bowling caught my sister in the act of tying balloons to hand out to visitors on Saturday afternoon for the Toddle Towne Learning Center’s 20th-year reunion on Humbert Road in Alton. Karen has been a nursery teacher at Toddle Towne for 14 years.

Anyone who can put up with preschoolers eight hours a day for 14 years deserves a lot of credit in my book!

It’s the second time that Jim has taken a photo of someone in my immediate family, and it’s the second time the photo was on Page One. Back in 2005, my mom, Jean Kramer, attended an event honoring Charley Kevilus, an Alton man who has cerebral palsy, but makes a living collecting aluminum cans in the Alton area. Both my mom and Karen, collect cans for his business.

Even though I’m a hardened veteran of the newspaper business — I can take it or leave it if my name’s in the paper — I still get excited when someone in my family makes the paper.
Way to go!

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February 13, 2008

Belleville dog is Numero Uno

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Roger @ 11:24 pm

Uno front pageThe world’s second-most famous beagle — sorry, Snoopy remains No. 1 — was bred and born right here in Belleville, Ill.

Tuesday night, Uno won Best of Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.

“We knew from the very beginning that he is a special one,” Uno’s breeder and owner, Kathy Weichert of Belleville, told the Belleville News-Democrat before the win. Weichert owns K-Run Kennels in Belleville. “He is the kind of dog every breeder dreams of producing. There is no other way to put it. He is what you strive for.”

The Page A1 I designed for the News-Democrat was a bit of a headache because the award wasn’t given until about 10 p.m. CST Tuesday. I’m supposed to have our first edition Page A1 out by 11:30 p.m. Plenty of time, right?

Not really.

We had one picture taken Monday already in the slot, but I was hoping for a photo from that evening to put in there. The photos from The Associated Press didn’t start trickling in until about 10:15. I had picked one of Uno howling after his victory, but I was hoping for something better.

The photo we ended up using came about 10:40, but there were a few problems. One, the original photo was a horizontal photo, and the photo had to be a vertical because I had no time to do a completely new layout. Two, Uno’s genitalia were clearly showing. Three, Uno’s handler had one of his hands very close to Uno’s crotch.

I took a few moments to crop the photo to what I needed and rushed it to our pre-press department for toning to make sure it reproduces correctly on our printing press. Many thanks to Jill Beiter for taking the late photo and working so quickly to get it right.

It took a few more minutes to make final crops to the photos and cuts to the stories to make everything fit. It was 11:05 p.m. before I could print proofs for my copy desk colleagues for our last chance to catch mistakes before they go to print. There were other deadline pages that also needed to be proofed, so I did let go of the page until 11:34, four minutes late.

After deadline, several of us had a late drink at the Blue Agave club in downtown Belleville. One of my colleagues, Dale Parker, seemed really excited about the beagle’s victory.

“They ought to put a statue of the beagle on the Public Square!” Dale exclaimed. “They should have a parade for the beagle!”

Given that it doesn’t take much for Belleville to have a parade and that they’re well-attended by the public — people chain lawnchairs to sign posts more than seven hours in advance of the city’s annual Shrine Circus Parade in June — I would not be surprised to see Uno atop a Belleville firetruck cruising down Main Street.

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September 9, 2007

Post-Dispatch Tour of Missouri preview

Filed under: Missouri — Tags: , , — Roger @ 10:41 am

Today’s edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an eight-page special section about the Tour of Missouri.

As an employee of the Belleville News-Democrat, it’s not every day that I recommend that you buy a competing newspaper, but you really should if you’re a cycling fan.

You can get most of the information in the special section online, but the print edition of the guide is well-designed and packed with lots of good information, maps and photos. It’ll be handy to have around as you follow the race.

Other Missouri newspapers also had stories about the Tour of Missouri today. These included

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January 30, 2007

Cyclists like safety push in bill

Filed under: cycling — Tags: , — Roger @ 1:53 am

This topic — the effort by California cyclists to get state lawmakers to pass a bill that would require motorists to give cyclists at least 3 feet of clearance while passing cyclists — normally belongs to the expertise of Fritz’s Cycle-licious blog.

But the reason I noticed this front page today was that a copy of it was hanging in the Belleville News-Democrat’s newsroom. We’re looking at front pages from throughout the country to get ideas for refining the look of our paper.

(For you newspaper junkies out there, there are slight similarities between the look of the San Jose Mercury-News and the News-Democrat already. That’s because the same person, master newspaper designer Deborah Withey, led the redesigns of both newspapers several years ago. The newspapers share a common tie, the GriffithGothic family of fonts.)

As you can see, the Monday edition of the Mercury-News has a graphic illustrating what the law means. Just click on the image to see the front page in more detail (PDF file), and then you can read the full story.

Several states have approved similar laws to what is being proposed in California, but the bill faces stiff opposition.

Opponents, including the Teamsters Union, worry that drivers forced to swerve around cyclists would place themselves on a collision course with oncoming traffic, especially on narrow roads.

“The bill puts drivers, particularly commercial drivers, in a very difficult place since you’re expected to keep a certain distance from bicyclists, and bicyclists are not required to keep a certain distance from you,” Barry Broad, a lobbyist for the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, told the Mercury-News.

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