Saturday, December 24, 2011

WOW, it is not beginning to look like Christmas!!!

It is the day before Christmas and all through the house.....forget the house, there is still no snow and the high will be around forty degrees; I am going outside.  I did some much needed maintenance on the El Mariachi this morning thanks to the the last time I rode it at Sylvan Island Park and rammed the bash guard into some foundation (the same thing that ruined my $100 XT chain ring) which caused my eccentric bottom bracket to shift a little causing the chain slack.

It looks like the weather will hold for the rest of the week.  I wish there were some more options for mountain biking, but in the spirit of the season I will be happy with receive.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Love Your Life

I cannot believe that it is 19 December.  The temperature was in the mid forties and the sun was out.  I took the opportunity to get in what I suspect to be the last day of mountain biking this year. 

I went to Sylvan Island, which is a fun place to ride.  It is not great for distance but where else are your obstacles chunks of foundation, bricks, random chunks of steel, and the occasional piece of broken glass.

My intent was to get some great photos of Sylvan Island or at least great for a lousy photographer like me.  I stopped to get a photo next to a random concrete wall with some graffiti.  I was somewhat annoyed by the fact that my battery was about to die and the sun was so bright that I could not get a decent picture of my Giant.  Then it occurred to me, 19 December and the sun was so bright that I could not take a picture of my bike!  How could I not love my life.

Though I didn't get the pictures I was hoping for, I don't think I could have taken a better one than this.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Long Shadows

Fall is my favorite season to ride!

Winter is closing in quickly.  This week we got a lot of rain, a pretty decent snow storm, and virtually non-stop wind.  I thought that was going to be the end of mountain biking.  It is a courtesy not to ride when the trails are really muddy.  It tears up the trails and who wants to wash all of that Mississippi mud (I am convinced it could marketed as a really good adhesive) out of all of the nooks and crannies of a dual suspension mountain bike.  Today was a special treat, BOB (big orange ball) was out and it was a balmy 60 degrees even though the wind was whipping.  I am not so concerned about the wind with mountain biking because I rarely have to fight a head wind for long.

I normally try not to do anything that takes effort on Sunday (physically or mentally) but I could not resist.  I added some air to the tires of my Anthem X 29er, loaded it into my Trooper and moved out.

When I arrived at Sunderbruch Park the sun was starting to dip a little and the shadows were long.  BOB is already riding a little low and I noticed as I rode along a ridge that my shadow was tracing my path on the other side of the draw.

 Not so long shadow near the middle

    It was nice to have company on a ride for a change

Speaking of company, when I got home I had plenty.

 I am not sure how that is comfortable, but he didn't want to get down?

I am not sure if Thomson Stems or Salsa designed the 2008 El Mariachi or for this.  Of course I am parent of the year based on the fact no one has a helmet on!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Selling You Stuff You Don't Need: Thanks Camel Bak

A while ago I wrote about companies trying to sell you stuff you really don't need.  While shopping for cheap parts for a new bike I will be assembling over the winter I came across this.


Admittedly, I buy stuff that I don't need.  After all, I am about to buy a frame and build another bike when I have four in my basement.  I like hydration packs, I have had a couple in my day, it has never occurred to me that I need something to tell me how much water I have left.  If you are concerned about how much water to carry, fill it to maximum capacity, so what if you carry a little extra weight.  I have run out of water on hot days, a device telling me I have 0 ounces of water left wouldn't fix the problem in the middle of nowhere.  I certainly have never needed a device to let me know that I am thirsty (hydration goal feature).  I am not sure why someone would even want to spend $20 on a device that requires yet another battery.

I think a good product would be a "gunk" meter to tell me when that nice layer of algae is growing on the inside of the reservoir or in the hose.        

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I want to do something great

I am stuck in a rut. I suppose that is life. There are a lot of people out in the world doing amazing things. I did some great things on a few occasions.  I don't think I have ever done amazing things.  It seems as though I am past that though.

I get up early and go to work. I usually spend 10+ hours staring at a screen. I work in the middle of the building and some days 4 or more hours go by before I realize I haven't looked outside. I change the font, add a cloud or a gear shaped text box, push print and hope that someone will say "wow that is a really pretty power point slide."

Then I go home. Exhausted! I quickly get ready for the next day and entertain children. About 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. I can squeeze in an hour for myself. But let's face it, by then I can barely get the motivation breath, let alone think about going out and doing something great.

I guess I am like most people, I just want to do something great. Maybe even amazing (at least to my standard as I am not sponsored by RedbulI). I just lack the time thanks to the amount of effort it takes to be mediocre at work.

I have decided that this winter I am going to build a bike that represents my desire to do something great. I want to build a Surly Ogre, a touring bike capable of going places most touring bikes can't go. I will call it the "Dream" or something like that. I will pull out the thesaurus.

At a minimum it will be set up to face the challenge of Davenport and the Government bridge to the island.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Like Fall

I think that fall is by far the most beautiful season.  Spring still has the hangover of winter; it is not quite green, and is a little grungy and muddy.  Winter, though beautiful has the challenge of being cold which complicates outdoor activities.
I can't put my arms down!

Summer has nice long days but it has bugs and heat.  When it comes down to it, fall is probably the best season for riding or any activity.  I love the sound of the leaves crunching under my feet or tires.  I like it when a leaf becomes lodged in bottom bracket region of my bike and rubs on the tire creating a sound that reminds me of using a playing card and clothes pin to make motorcycle sounds on my BMX bike as a kid.

Here are some pictures from Sylvan Island, my new favorite location for Forced Family Outings (FFOs).  Though it doesn't provide a ton of mountain biking trails, the random nature of them coupled with the industrial obstacles makes it fun.  It is amazing how nature can reclaim itself.  While "scars" still exist from a steel mill, Sylvan Island still provides a healthy dose of nature.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why Do I Like to Ride? A Great Question!

There I was lying in a heap, my XL bike frame tangle in my legs, my shoulder throbbing.  My shin was bleeding after being grated across the shifter and brake lever of my handlebars.  Fortunately the steep embankment from the stream bed I was riding through/across prevented me from flying too far.  As I got up and brushed myself off, I asked myself "why do I do this?"  Bicycling causes the following conditions:

1.  Sweat
2.  Sore muscles:  During and after rides.  Mainly during the ride.
3.  Fatigue:  Mainly after riding
4.  Sore body:  During and after, especially if there is a crash.
5.  $$$:  I just bent some teeth on what has turned out to be a $100 Shimano XT chain ring trying to clear an old building foundation on Sylvan Island.  I think I will just stay with the middle ring for now.
6.  Sweat

Considering these six conditions, I am not sure why I spend so much time riding or dreaming about riding.  Maybe some day I will figure it out.  In the mean time, I will take some ibuprofen to get rid of the pain from today's outing.    

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tailwind Century

Based on my amazing performance at the Heartland Century, I decided that the Tailwind Century would be a great idea. You can read about it here. Based on the website it sounded like a fun ride. The ride organizers determine which way the wind is blowing. You put your bike on a truck. You get on a bus. One hundred or so miles later you get off and ride back. In this case we started in Byron, IL. Here is the cue sheet. Please take a look at it and imagine trying to decipher this while pedaling down the highway.

My preperation strategy was the same as before.

1. Ride as much as possible: The Heartland was on 10 September. The Tailwind was 1 October. I did not ride a bike more than about 10 miles during that time period. This ride as much as possible strategy doesn't really work when trying for pain free riding!

2. Get a good set of tires: Used my Gatorskin tires by Continental.

3. Drink a bunch of water: having learned from the last century drank at least 32 ounces of water in addition to Diet Coke. I might learn someday

4. Shove my jersey pockets as full of Jelly Belly Caffeine Sports Beans and Pearson's Salted Nut Rolls: This time I made it to the bike shop to purchase Jelly Belly Caffeine Sports Beans. After several hours of riding, these help with a little extra brain boost. I do not like to put Gatorade in my water bottles because green stuff eventually grows in them. I went out to the garage where I keep a big box of Salted Nut Rolls. To my dismay, it was empty. Turns out the kids like them after swim team practices. It also turns out that my body stores many of the candy bars I eat, however, that does me little good when I am a.) hungry, b.) trying to fit in spandex, and c.) spending 6+ hours on a little seat. I would also like to add that I watched a guy eat one on the bus, which goes to show that my theory about them is correct.

As you can see, my preperation was terrible, which is how I felt about 30 miles in. The ride was great. We started at Byron, Illinois which is on the Rock River and is home to this:

One of the more challenging aspects of this ride was deciding on clothing. The temperature was about 45 degrees at the start, if you figure in shady areas and wind chill, it was very cool, however, the afternoon high was 60 degrees. I wore arm and leg warmers which peel off easily (and it never really warmed up enough for those to come off) and a light hat under my helmet.

The group was hesitant to start, I guess nobody wanted to be the first to misread the cue sheet. We quickly headed down the road, 104 miles home. My main concern was getting lost, in the middle of Illinois so I found a group that was going at a comfortable pace. I stayed with them until one of them threw a chain on hill. I then began to crank hard to catch the group in front of me.

They were too fast for me and worked a paceline well. I didn't stand a chance.  I ended riding with two others that were familiar with the route.  

All was well until I left my water bottles at the SAG stop.  It just so happened that this was the section with no convenient stores for 30 miles.  I basically rode on the 8 oz mountain dew I drank at the SAG.  At the end of the day, was ready to be done.  I am not sure if we got a lot of assistance from the wind.  It certainly didn't feel like it.  

Notes for the future:
1.  Eat breakfast
2.  Drink water before the ride (don't leave bottles during the ride)
3.  Ride a little before a century.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vance Rockin it on Sylvan Island

Diga and I did man things today. We drank root beer and had burping contests. He ate some candy and then we hit the trails. He rode some technical stuff and did not get frustrated. He ate dirt a couple of times. I should buy a small decent video camera. I could get some great shots.

Sylvan Island is an amazing location. It was once home to a steel mill and had no vegatation on it and the novelty of it is that the obstacles are foundations, bricks the occasional piece of tire shredding rebar. With no recognizable terrain or order to the trails. It is an all day event.

Diga did an amazing job.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Heartland Century

It has been a couple of weeks (ok more like a month) since the Heartland Century. It was a nice 107 mile ride (supposed to be 104 but I got lost) through Illinois farmland. The county roads are amazing, paved, clean, and most important minimal traffic with polite drivers. The high was about 80 degrees and the morning started with a nice cool mist. For my first century I performed well beyond my expectations and the personal goal I set (8 hours). As for my preparation:

1. Ride as much as possible: I rode as much as possible (which was not nearly enough).

2. Get a good set of tires: I did not flat (not sure if that had to do with a good set of tires or the reasonably clean roads).

3. Drink a bunch of water: I did a lousy job of hydrating for the several days before the ride. It turns out that Diet Coke is not a water substitute (shocking I know).

4. Shove my jersey pockets as full of Jelly Belly Caffeine Sports Beans and Cliff Bars as possible: I never made it to the bike shop to purchase Jelly Belly Caffeine Sports Beans. Recent studies show that caffeine is a great for enhancing athletic performance, I was mainly trying to stay off withdrawal due to lack of Diet Coke. Fortunately the "continental breakfast" consisted of energy bars and gels so I used the Caffienated Clif Shot gels (nasty) at the sign in table. I ate about 3 or so Pearson's Salted Nut Rolls (240 calories apiece) during the ride and a standard Clif bar (240 calories).

As for getting lost I would like to point out that I am not from the area and this part of Illinois is like a giant maize maze. I am anti-GPS (for use as other than a speedometer and odometer (mine is basic no road maps, just data). The cue sheet that was handed out was long and without a map, missing a turn or missing a mileage mark translates to lost. To make it easier, the Quad Cities Bike Club paints a bright orange heart on the pavement with an arrow. But I missed a turn in the small town of Erie, Illinois where I took a few mile detour around the down town area.

For this ride I chose the Basso aka "the Mistress." This was a comfortable choice, however, it is high geared and is limited to 16 gears. I bought some new Continental Gatorskin tires in a 25c for the durability. Aside from the gearing and limited choice of shifting, it is a great bike and for being 16 years old it does an amazing job.

Below are some super high quality pics of my ride stats. If you need to, turn your monitor sideways to view the pictures.

This is clearly a picture of the trip odometer for the ride.

Moving Time was 6 hours 31 minutes. This did not calculate the time I spent eating at the mid point SAG. Average speed is 16.5 MPH

As you can see, the map feature is fairly detail free, there are no road map features. If someone would like to get me a Garmin Edge 800 for a gift I could probably upload really cool ride stats and profiles instead of using a camera. I have a feeling that for $500 I will continue with my camera and old GPS.

I would like to add that while rides like this are not about racing, my family blood does not permit me to participate in anything without it becoming some sort of competition in the end. This quality is both a burden and a blessing which ultimately allows a person like me to survive in a world of intelligent and talented people. I found myself racing some people who started before me, did not get lost, and did not sit and eat/drink as long as I did. At one point I found myself working hard to catch a man that was about 1/4 mile ahead of me. After several miles of relentless pursuit I caught the man. As I overtook him I gave a friendly greeting of the day. To my surprise, it was a woman. To be clear, I was not surprised a woman was "beating" me in a "race," that has happened plenty in life. She just looked like a man!

I quickly shook that off and began my pursuit of another "man," as I got closer I was assured of this based on the fact that facial hair was present. What shocked me about this guy was that he looked as though he would be better suited for bowling or low endurance activities such as watching NASCAR. To my surprise, he could pedal.

I guess that is what I like about bicycling, anyone can do it, regardless of age, gender, or shape. Though it does help to be young, fit, and prepared.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I have done quite a few 30 mile rides during the last few weeks. During that time I have been been making a lot of adjustments that will make longer distances more comfortable.

The Basso is set up for racing and has a stem that drops a little more than I would like. Not that I spend a lot of time in drops but it is nice to have a variety of riding positions, this helps kinks in the back and arms. I moved the stem up a quarter of an inch. We will see if that helps.

I also picked up some Continental Gatorskins in a 25c. I have heard great things about them and the larger size will help reduce some of the road chatter.

The other day I had to pull the bottom bracket and grease it. Apparently the grease had broken down as it sat for 15 years. I couldn't take the creaking anymore. That was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I initially planned on taking into the LBS, however, the guy said it would be cheaper if I did it. So far so good.

I also bought a box of Pearson's Salted Nut Rolls. This is one of the best candy bars ever. They have as many calories as your standard energy bar but better tasting. I plan on loading my jersey pockets with them for the century.

You know what they say, "no pain, no pain."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The High Cost of Riding Bikes: Money and Pride

It has been a rough and fairly expensive week of riding. It started with a weekend mountain bike ride. Though not great for long distances, Sunderbruch Park provides some technical riding with some decent climbs. Great for busting lungs and chains. I was cranking hard up a steep climb when I heard a metallic ping sound and the sudden spin of cranks with no resistance. The side plats had come right off the rivet. I have broken chains in the past but usually part of the chain goes flying. I was close to a walking path and decided to coast back to the car vs. spend 1/2 hour fixing a chain that wouldn't shift right because it would be short. I went to the LBS and it was determined that the best fix would be mediocre and since the Anthem X 29er is such a nice ride it would be sad to spoil it. It turns out that there is no such thing as an affordable option for a 10 speed chain. The best price I could find was $50.

Monday I took the Basso down Duck Creek Parkway with a nice addition of Wisconsin Ave, which is a nice stretch winding through corn fields for a total of 27 miles.

Tuesday morning brought a major thunder storm. It dumped rain so I decided to take good old reliable out for a spin that afternoon. I bought the Salsa Las Cruces (Spanish for "The Cruces") while I was in Iraq and it has been the most carefree bike I have ever owned.

I have ridden thousands of miles on it and all I have had to replace are tires, tubes, a seat, and the handlebar tape. I rode from the house to Duck Creek Parkway. The bike was a good choice because some sections had close to a foot of water on it. There was some mud on the asphalt in some places where dirt had washed off slopes so I took it pretty easy. There are a few places where the bike path intersects roads which have crosswalks and lights that change on demand. I had just crossed the road when a couple approached to front of me, I moved to the right to give them a little room when my front tire slid off the bike path. The slight drop coupled with the soft earth caused my tire to slide and I felt my body skid across the asphalt.

At this point I would like to briefly discuss Lycra. It has pros and cons.

Pros: Less wind resistance and does not flap in the breeze on long rides. Helps keep you cool by allowing for quick drying.

Cons: Not flattering unless you are sculpted out of the finest Italian marble. Tends to draw negative attention from small town hics and Southern rednecks.

I would suggest however, that it is very practical material and that athletes from many disciplines wear Lycra for its benefits. Here are a few:

Speed Skating


The Skeleton

And of course the most manly sport ever, football

However, there are some times when Lycra is not practical. Mainly when your upper thigh/lower buttocks are skipping across the pavement. I felt my entire left side become one with the ground as I heard the scrapping of my bike (still attached to my feet) for about 6 feet. Now, this is certainly not as bad as pulling a "Coop" or Hoogerland, but it still hurt. I quickly sprung to my feet, looking to my left an old lady nicely asked if I was "ok." The same came from the couple. Holding back tears I said in my most manly voice "nothing hurt but pride!"

But that was not true, the entire left side of my body hurt. I looked down and saw the redness of my shin. I was afraid to look at my thigh/buttock for fear of what I would find. My ankle was on fire and bleeding. I knew if I stopped for long I would stiffen up, so I made the climb home.

The cost:

1. My left Crank Brothers Candy, which was probably due for an overhaul anyway. Aside from the cosmetic damage, it doesn't like to spin and has a squeak. It may just need to be retired.

2. A shredded Salsa "Rasta" sock from 2006 (x-mas gift from Coop)

3. A scraped up Salsa "Rasta" rear skewer (brand new, never ridden before) which Salsa doesn't make anymore. I think it is just cosmetic but no one likes scratched up skewers.
4. A raging case of road rash on the upper thigh/buttock region. I will not show you a picture of that.

5. Pride. I don't have much left.

While it was a bad day for the Salsa Cycles Rasta motif, my Pearl Izumi Lycra survived unscathed (which is weird considering my flesh was not). My Specialized shoes got a small scuff, they won't die! If only my body was made out of the same stuff as my Specialized shoes.

I am going to ride the Great River Trail on Saturday to get some miles in. Hopefully I don't have the same problems.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rockin' By the River

The year was 1992. I was 16 years old and I had just completed my first year at Helena High School. I spent the summer mowing lawns with my brother and cousin. We cleaned up, it was amazing. I flew to New Mexico to work and backpack for a month. I drove a 12 year old 1980 Dodge D-50. I was an orange piece of crap, but I didn't know any better. I had a Sony Discman and I used a cassette adapter to listen to my few compact discs. It was an amazing summer.

Fast forward to 2011, 19 years later. I am alive! I have lived in Davenport, Iowa for two weeks. My wife drives a minivan and I drive a 10 year old SUV. She still uses a cassette adapter but for an iPod, I have a new stereo that allows me to plug into my iPod that has thousands of songs. Some of those songs are from CDs I bought in 1992. One of those CDs is the Gin Blossoms. They had reasonable success. Now instead of misadventures with my brother and cousin, I am drag my kids around to what I hope will be fun events.

This weekend was River Roots Live. A pretty amazing event located at a park by the Mighty Miss. They have a BBQ rib competition and back to back bands. They play on one stage while the other band breaks down and another sets up. Friday night The Gin Blossoms played and I wanted to see them. This event draws about 20,000 people, so the kids and I went early.

Ol' Man River

The Chick was less than impressed. She started to fade after the first band, which was really good. It was The Giving Tree Band. Then there was some bluesy band, I cannot remember the name, though they were good. The kids needed a snack and something to drink and it was down to business. Vance had a great time.

Vance drummed for about an hour. I was tired, so was he.

Drumming to the Gin Blossoms.

Monday, August 15, 2011

100 Miles With No Plan

When I found out I would be moving to Rock Island Arsenal, I decided to look into cycling activities. I found that the Quad Cities has a great bicycling club. I had one check with me in Pakistan so I used it to sign up for a century in September. My plan was to put a ton of miles on the road so I would be prepared.

I have never ventured much past 50 miles. It usually takes me about 4 hours. When I use my GPS my average speed is typically 17-18 MPH. That is on pretty even terrain without a lot of big climbs. Of course if there are any mechanical issues or flats, that adds time.

As it usually goes my dreams do not come close to reality. I cannot ride every day, nor do I have 3-4 hours a day to train properly. So here is the current plan to survive a 100 mile ride.

1. Ride as much as possible.

2. Get a good set of tires (avoiding flats=finishing in less than 8 hours).

3. Drink a bunch of water.

4. Shove my jersey pockets as full of Jelly Belly Caffeinated Sports Beans and Cliff Bars as possible.

It is not much of a plan. We will see how it works out. My goal is sub 8 hours.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Iowa Rocks

As I have said before, when I was 20 years old if you had told me that I would live somewhere other than Montana, I would have called you crazy. Well, now I am in Iowa/Illinois. This is the last place I would have considered living (purely based on geography and the amount of corn).

We have been here less than a week and I have to say that I love it. I will list a few reasons:

1. There are more than ample bicycling opportunities. I have merely dabbled but I can say beyond a doubt this is going to be a great couple of years. Work is the only thing that can get in the way of my fun. Here are a few:

A. Hennepin Canal Parkway which boasts a 104.5 mile bike trail, with grooming in the winter for ski/snow machine, and my new passion Snow Bikes. I don't have a snow bike yet, but it is in the works.

B. A few miles from my house is the Duck Creek Parkway. Very nicely paved with the opportunity to get 20 miles (round trip) on a nice path. I have riden this once and love it.

c. Sunderbuch Park has a 7 mile mountain bike park with some very technical riding and a couple of elevation changes that challenge the legs, lungs, and heart.

2. I had an amazing bratwurst with Boetje's Mustard (I know what everyone is getting for Christmas!) down by Ol' Man River. It is nice to have that "small town" feel, it reminds me of having a hotdog at the Last Chance Gulch in Helena or Higgins Ave. in Missoula.

3. I could only come up with two so far but there will be more to follow.

Iowa rocks, even though I have seen more corn than rocks.

Old Man River

Enjoying the splash park by Old Man River.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

UPDATE: Non-Bucket List: 7-11-11 Celebration

I thought you all might be interested (most likely not) in the outcome of my NBL Celebration that the 7-11. It was my starter. But of course you can no longer replace a starter, you must take apart half the engine to get the thing out. So for a total of $495 I am now wishing that I had taken the free Slurpee.

I have decided that life is flying at me in $100 increments.

Friday, July 15, 2011

These shoes were made for chewing: preferably by me

The other day I spent $100 on some new dress shoes. The sad thing is $100 doesn't get you $100 worth of dress shoe. I wore them for three hours. I took them off and about one hour later Emily's new dog had chewed them up.

After resisting the urge to shoot the dog, I decided that I am not going to buy another pair. I have no requirement to have a pair. I wear boots to work and I have really shiny shoes to wear with my fancy uniform. I am assuming that God is pleased that I go to church so I am not sure that he is overly concerned with the fact that I am wearing Keen sandals with my khakis, white shirt, and tie.

I had to take a Dremel tool to the soles of these shoes to grind away a little more clearance for the pedals. That was even hard.

It then occurred to me that my old mountain bike shoes that I have been using for everything from road, mountain, and commuting have sat within chewing range of a puppy for over a month. Why can't the rest of the shoe industry make shoes like Specialized mountain bike shoes.
I bought them in 2007 on sale for about $75 and they refuse to die. Not that I am looking for a reason to spend $100 on a new pair of MTB shoes when the ones I have are functional, but I would rather spend $100 on a new pair of biking shoes than some cheap feeling/looking dress shoes.

The weak link in front of the cleat where the pedal rubs on the thin strip where the cleat bolts on.

These shoes are well constructed and the weak link is actually the result of pedal design, not shoe design.

I would like to see how long they will go but my fear is that when they do, it will be some catastrophic, Youtube worthy event, in which the shoe breaks where the pedal has worn through to sole. This of course would happen when applying the most cranking power and my body would become a tangled mess with the bike. I would then have to do the walk of shame for many miles.

I just wish I knew how many miles those shoes have seen.

Perma Dirt, I am sure if I scrub hard enough they would be blackish again. But why would I

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Single Speed: Why not?

When people walk into my house they see a family room full of bikes. The latest one doesn't really have a place on the wall. It sits on the floor below one on the wall. The Newbie has pulled it over on himself a couple of times, but I feel the house is mine and he needs to learn not to touch my stuff. I usually get a few questions regarding my bikes. Below are the top three.

1. Why?

2 Why?

and C. Why?

Each question is valid and I will explain them in detail.

1. Becuase.

2. Yes.

and C. Why Not?

That being said, it is something I enjoy, it is reasonably healthy (a matter of much debate based on some people who have been injured or died in the process of biking), and it gives me something to do instead of drinking, smoking, and kicking my dogs.

A few years ago, I bought a Salsa El Mariachi. I took a bonus from the "gubment" and figured it may land me in an exotic location with people that hate me, I might as well. It is steel, rigid, 1x9 gears, a pretty nice paint job, and really big tires. I really like fat tires. I have spent many quality hours on the bike and I have enjoyed it.

So when I bought a new Giant Anthem X 29er (I really love fat tires and Fox Suspension) I decided that I would transform the El Mariachi into a single speed. This answers one of the above questions, they are not all the same.

Salsa designed it with a Bushnell Eccentric Bottom Bracket so it could easily be run as a geared bike or fixed/single geared bike. Notice it says that when functioning properly it goes unnoticed. Well I can say I have noticed it before.

I also purchased a Surly singel speed spacer kit and a cog.

I ordered some Crank Brothers Cobalt grips of which I don't like the appearance, but they feel great.

Sadly, when I returned from Pakistan, I found that the face plate for Thomson Stem had cracked. Though it was an expensive stem, I got it as part of a recall for a defective stem made by Salsa. Thomson is a great company and they replaced it for me free of charge (even though it was probably my fault since my arm is not calibrated properly for specific torque specs).

I took some stuff apart. I found that the EBB lets a lot of sand and crap in through those little holes. I put some stuff together. Ignoring torque specs, I defaulted to 240 B/Lbs (Brent Pounds) of torque on everything.

I now have a very different bike. It has a clean cockpit with no shifters and extra cables. No deraillure or cables, and a very clean look.

I finally got the nerve to ride it (my work can be somewhat unreliable since I usually ignore instructions). I will write about that in the next post.

Non-Bucket List: Celebrating 7/11/11 at 7-11

For this post, I would like to tell you about another Non-Bucket List (NBL) achievement. For those of you not familiar with my Non-Bucket List, select the hypertext above. Basically, it is the list of things I have never wanted to do, but have had the opportunity to partake.

I am currently enjoying a bit of vacation following a long deployment without leave. I decided to run to my local bike shop (LBS) to knock out some of the various bike related tasks on my list. I needed to get some work done on a wheel that was "rubbed" out of true by Father Christmas a while ago. I also needed to get a replacement part for the roof rack on my car (I can only carry one bike right now and that makes it tough to decide what to take). After those tasks had been completed, I decided I would stop at a highly pretentious bike shop and look at stuff that I don't need when I passed a 7-11.

I am a big fan of 7-11, I wish they would resurrect their bike racing team. I needed gas and was thirsty since it was over 100 degrees and I was hot. I pumped gas and as I walked in I noticed that they were giving out free Slurpees in celebration of 7/11/11. The cups for the celebration were tiny and since this is probably one of the busiest 7-11s in the country (based on the following NBL observation), there was only one flavor that was somewhat frozen. I opted for a soda instead.

I pre-paid for my gas and my beverage and went out and watched how quickly $40 in gas was pumped. Here is where the non-bucket list celebration begins. I turned the key and got nothing. I turned the key again…..NBL 7-11-11 Celebration begins. I dug through my glove compartment for my all encompassing insurance/bank/motor club/California Home Psychic club card. Nothing but plastic fa├žades that used to be attached to certain adjustment levers on my car (I have been meaning to put them back on) and about one half of a lifetime worth of napkins. On a side note, I think I have an idea for a new business in which I will repackage and sell napkins to restaurants.

Did I mention that it was 100 degrees with who knows how much humidity?

So I called Emily for some SAG support…..nothing. I tried her cell……nothing. I called every 30 seconds for about 10 minutes. Did I mention it was 100 degrees? Finally Vance answered the phone; clearly the constant ringing interrupted his Wii video game time.


"Hey Vance."

"Hi daddy, where are you?"

"I am in Richmond, where is your mother?"

"Dad, what are you doing?"

"Nothing Vance, where is your mother?"

"When are you going to be home?"

"I don't know big man, where is your mother?"

"She is outside in the yard."

………Did I mention that it was 100 degrees?

"Vance please bring the phone to her!"

"Hey dad, I just beat Darth Maul in a lightsaber duel!"

"Great…just give the phone to your mother!!!"

Emily called the roadside service number and I got an automated message "assistance is expected to arrive at your location in about 40 minutes." Meanwhile I have watched about 50 cars come and go for gas and I feel a little bad that I am occupying a spot in front of the pump. Almost 40 minutes later a car shows up and hooks a battery booster thing to my battery and I crank it…..nothing. He hooks his car up and I crank it…..nothing. Before any words are exchanged he got in his car and drove off.

By that point I had been sitting at the pump for about an hour in the heat. I looked as if I just finished a marathon. I called Emily and told her I needed a tow. She called the roadside service number. About 10 minutes later I got a call "assistance is expected to arrive at your location in about 40 minutes."

I went inside and bought another cold drink and mentioned to the cashier that I was sorry I had been at the pump for over an hour. She said "Oh, I hadn't even noticed you." At that point I realized she was so busy dealing with people who were there for free slurpees that she didn't even care that I was sitting there.

At that point I went over and sat next to the sign that said "No Loitering!!!" and watched people. For those of you that are not familiar with the Carytown area of Richmond, I will do my best to describe it. It is a really trendy area that boarders a not so trendy, poor area of Richmond. Carytown has it all, poor people, rich people, trendy American Apparel wearing people, people who have a lot of money but dress like poor people, and tattoo covered people which fit into all of the previously mentioned categories of people. All of which came out of the woodwork to get a free Slurpee. I am glad to know that all walks of life can unite in a common cause.

I even got to ride in a tow truck for 30 miles. Believe it or not, that is also on my Non-Bucket List!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

I am back in the saddle again. After a year in Pakistan I am trying to get get my pedaling legs back. It doesn't help that the new wheels came stock with a different and painfully thin saddle. I knew it would take some getting used to and secretly I wanted to get the slightly more plush seat(slightly more comfy still means a lot less comfortable then....sitting on a couch). But I run into one small problem; it matches the bike and looks really great. 
That is the problem, bike vanity. A good set of biking shorts took the edge off, but it still took a while before I was walking around like I had not been roping cattle for a week.   On another note, it has been challenging for me to get distance in on my road bike (time and effort).  I used to be able to ride for hours, it seemed as though anything less than 20 miles was not a challenge. I can get about 10 miles at a time out of the mountain bike and about the same from the road (which is pathetic considering I have already signed up for a century in Iowa this September).  
The only thing that saved me from intense pain was the fact that Dan the Goose and I went to the gym just about every morning for a few months before I came home.   Full body conditioning is essential and thanks to that time spent cleaning up after others in the embassy weight room I found my neck, back, and arms have not had the same pain as my derriere.  While it is true that you never forget how to ride a bike, the body seems to forget how the bike rides.
I brought my Las Cruces to the beach, inspired by the Tour de France, I rode about 5 miles to the Krispy Kreme.  I felt great, not fully realizing that it was the nice tailwind helping me cruise down the road.  I think I actually burned off the entire donut fighting the head wind and the urge to drop into my granny gear (it is good to know I have a little dignity left).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Flash of Genius

I had an epiphany this morning. It was a flash of genius. I was thinking about how my life has changed over the past 15 years or so. The amazing thing is that very little has actually changed. I still love to ride bikes and fish and I still like my wife (a lot of people I talk to do not like their spouse but follow the adage “it is cheaper to keep her"). The major change is the four kids who make it slightly more challenging to do the above activities; with the exception that I like my wife and having the kids have had no effect on that. Although I love spending time with them it is still nice to have an outing on a regular basis.

By the way, a child being a challenge was not the epiphany, that is common knowledge. Before we get to the epiphany, I would like to start with with a caveat. Here is the caveat; my wife does not like it when I write about her however, this post is very complimentary, in fact it is downright impressive. She is an amazing woman who is tough and unforgiving (towards my stupidity). She is really amazing.

It is now for the epiphany. Several years ago while I was in Iraq communication was difficult. I had to wait at the morale center for hours to use the phone and internet. Because it was inconvenient and time consuming coupled with a 12 hour time change, I only called my wife a couple times a week. It worked well and I think my wife enjoyed hearing from me. I was gone for 16 months and everything was fine when I got home, though Vance was not familiar with the term “daddy” and neither he nor Olivia would respect my authority.

Now I have a cell phone that is provided for security reasons. Overseas calls are 2 cents a minute. I also have internet in my room! My wife has a cell phone and internet at the house. So naturally I call my wonderful wife every time I feel sad and lonely, which is most of the time. The dilemma is that she is not sad and lonely. In fact, she will not be lonely for a while with four kids in her face. So one day she answered the phone with a “what! Do you want, I just missed my exit!!!” and hung up. At first I was taken aback by the way she answered so I called another 6 or 7 times when a friend of hers answered the phone. I quickly wiped away the tears and tried to make my voice sound less quivery. It turns out she was making snow cones for about 200 kids. It occurred to me that just because I have nothing to do but work, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have anything to do.

Moreover, the other day I convinced her that we should skype again soon. She reluctantly agreed. Technology is amazing, however, what I realized was that just because I have the free time to concentrate on skyping, doesn’t mean she does. In fact every time I call whether it is skype or on the phone, she cannot devote the proper amount of time to the kids; which is to say that when she is on the phone the monkeys are running to zoo.

This is where the epiphany plays in. I have been here for about 8 months and it occurred to me that Emily has more than demonstrated that I am not needed accept for early in the tax season to provide a W-2 that she cannot access online (strangely that is the only e-mail I have received from her that was not a reply to one I sent her). In fact, I think that I may actually be a distraction when I am home because I rile the kids. Furthermore, when I do get home after 11 months of being away, the kids won’t listen to me anyway. One of them will not even be able to say “daddy” let alone recognize who I am and none of them will respect what little authority I do have (I realized a while ago that mom rules the roost). The flash of genius was bright, almost blinding. If I can leave a year at a time, why can’t I ride my bike or go fishing every day after work, Emily does just fine.

Additionally, since calling her several times a day is a major distraction we could casually talk for a few minutes in the evening after I clean up from my bike ride and before bed. I could help microwave French toast sticks in the morning and I will have contributed more than I am when overseas and I am not getting in the way or getting on her nerves like I normally do. As long as I remember to print my W-2 during tax season we would have the perfect relationship and I could ride bikes every day!

I am a genius!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

As the World Turns: So Are the Days of My Life

I am not one to take a calendar and cross out days. There are several reasons for this, the main one is that as time goes on I change the criteria by which I determine the end of a day. You would think that it would be fairly clear cut; Midnight is the end of one day and the beginning of the next. It is not that easy. You may wait until the morning when you wake up to cross out the day before? Or maybe you look forward to crossing out the day just before bed, satisfied that you have won the battle. Or maybe you are like me and consider the day over the moment the work ends. For instance, if I have something that takes me late into the night and into the next day, I don’t like to cross off the day because it is not really over.

Using the same logic, some days end early when I say “to heck with it” and throw in the towel. But that only works if I am not stuck at the office because I cannot actually go home at 10:15 a.m. when the towel is thrown. The best solution I have is an excel worksheet someone created titled “the Circle of Freedom.” This is an up to the day, second by second tracking device. If there is any question as to how long I have been here, I press F9. While it may seem that looking at time served by seconds may not seem like the best way to see time go by it is better than trying to decide when the day ends, especially this week, it could be just one long day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


A group of my friends and I were eating lunch on a mid-October day when I mentioned that we were rapidly approaching “Movember.” I have a reputation of being a prankster and making up random facts about history, so everyone quickly wrote me off. Later that day I sent them a link to the Movember website. The only problem is that mustaches are not held in high regard in the Air Force or Army; I am not sure about the Navy, but I don’t think anyone really is sure about the Navy. We agreed that we would all grow mustaches even if it meant dealing with prejudice in the form of supervisors harasing us about being out of regulation.

It was an instant success, with local Pakistanis and throughout the U.S. Embassy (at least at our level). In fact I think it actually boosted productivity. One of the participants G-Money (not his real name) stated that he actually looked forward to coming to work for once so he could see the progress. He then stated “Movember is the best idea we have had.” He even mentioned the utility of the mustache; it is something to fiddle with during long meetings. People I barely knew would say things like “hey, nice Movember” or “You are very handsome” (which was definitely due to the mustache, since I am not normally handsome).

I finally got my computer back from HP and went online to skype. Vance could hardly contain himself, he laughed and asked if I bought my "mushmash" or if I grew it. Which is a legitimate question in the region of the world where the fake mustache is an integral part of Bollywood.

One of the best highlights of Movember was the day that Billy (not his real name) was walking through the security check point. It is manned by Pakistani guards, many of who speak broken English. “Billy” was walking through the checkpoint when he noticed an article of interest in a newspaper sitting on a counter top. He stopped briefly to read it. He was suddenly drawn out of the article; he thought he heard someone say “Movember.” It was early in the morning and he knew he was the only American in the room. He turned around and the guard, who could barely speak English, was smiling and others were laughing at the new addition to his vocabulary. “Billy” even kept his through the middle of December so he could show his wife during Rest and Recuperation leave. Though I believe he had to dry shave in the airport as soon as she saw it.

The best thing about being in an organization that frowns upon facial hair is that it is obvious and leads to a very important question, “WHY?” Especially when we are clearly in violation of grooming standards (a mustache cannot extend past the corners of the mouth). This no doubt opened the door for the real message, cancer awareness. Many of the local Pakistanis we interact with regularly took notice and always commented on our mustaches (it is a cultural thing) and frequently would ask the question, which got the same explanation, awareness.

Although we had to keep them as close to tolerance as possible, in the end it boosted moral and awareness as we slug away through a year of monotony and frustration.