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The blood stirs…

2 Dec
Hartsel, CO

Hartsel, CO

I haven’t even looked at a bike in over a month. Other than when I head to the washer/dryer, that is, but then only peripherally. I believe there was maybe one or two rides in October, on top of that.

It’s okay and there are some okay excuses as well. Partly it’s burn out, partly it’s that darn Burke-Gilman closure which just makes the commute such a bummer (way more shaves with cars going the alternate route than I like). I caught the start-up entrepreneur bug pretty hard and had a close call with the big time. Then on top of that I was offered a new job at my current company, one I’m super excited about… plus I get to work with my old pal KonaLad!

Also this November I participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge, like last year. In itself that month-long writing slog is like a day-long riding slog, the mental challenges being equal to if not greater than the physical ones. There were some nights I was just tapped out and couldn’t muster a measly sentence. Other days I was on fire, churning out close to 5000 words in a case or two. However I stuck with it and it’s done and I’m immensely proud of myself, and it! I intend to self-eBook-publish it, as well as last year’s Tandem! novel.

[Literary aside: I’ve crafted this book to be a mediocre American’s homage to Raymond Queneau. It’s kind of a hoot wrapped in a farce wrapped around a kernel of semi-serious philosophical over-pinnings. I even manage to include a special appearance by Barbara Wright, as herself, as she helps foil the bad guys, naturally. This book is a keeper. I had a ball just inventing stuff on the fly, those flecks of mud that whistled up through the best-laid plans proving to be the best parts of all…]

[Donation aside: please consider going to NaNoWriMo and donating to a good cause, I’ve done so both years because I so appreciate what they’re doing!]

It’s good to take some time off of two wheels in the sense that, when I return to them, I’m sort of starting from scratch. I’ve definitely added my November/Thanksgiving weight gain (I tried going to the gym several times a week, but… it’s really not the same thing). I can feel muscle tone disappearing.

But then tonight I watched the Ride the Divide documentary and could feel the old bike blood running warmer and warmer. I feel like an old bike chain has been coiled around inside me and seeing that scenery tonight and just watching those riders, those pedal motions, those cadences, those roads, has inspired me, given me a few drops of chain oil to get the mental kinks out. (Ray was the mental kink, btw, but Dave would be okay with that). The picture above is of the Hartsel jailhouse, taken on our recent road trip. I was reminded of this pic as I saw that same building from a different angle in the Ride the Divide documentary tonight! Driving through Colorado this past September already prepped me for seeing Ride the Divide and now that I have I’m more than ever convinced I want to do that route… at a touring speed fo sho.

Turning over a new... mile

So with the November writing challenge done I’m going to take some time off from the computer and spend some time getting my hands dirty nursing the bikes along for a nice bit of winter riding. The current plan is to keep the La Cruz, put some aluminum VeloOrange fenders on it, some nice Panasonic Pasela TourGuard tires (same as what SurlyLady has on her Casseroll) and convert it to be my main commuter rig. Then I’ll take that nasty rack off of the Vaya and let her remain true to her all-purpose, off- and on-road roots, to be my main adventure bike. I’ll take the Woodchipper bars off of the Cruz and put on a spare set of Short and Shallows. I think I’m also going to butcher the brown B17 saddle, put some drill holes in it and sew it up a wee bit. Then I’m going to put some new wheels on the Sarthe, the Schwalbe 25c tires and rewrap the bars… and start to think about riding it this spring and summer to prep for the High Pass Challenge! As of today I’m officially in training mode!


Spada Lake, then Lake Roesiger

29 Aug

Last Friday I decided to go on a wee adventure ride… not too long, maybe 40 miles or so, as I was planning on a ride with JamisLad on Saturday, around the Snohomish area, and then Sunday the Discovery Trail over on the Peninsula with KonaLad (which I wound up bailing on).

I drove (guiltily) up to Sultan, WA with the idea in mind of parking in the little downtown area and riding up to Spada Lake, with some rambles around the forest service roads in the environ. I wrote guiltily because really I could have ridden out to Sultan from home, it just would have taken a lot longer time, and left me more tired than I needed to be. However, it would make an awesome out-and-back ride some day: Mountlake Terrace, Kenmore, Woodinville, Paradise Lake Road/Maltby, Monroe (pronounced Maaawn-Row) and over to Sultan on the Mann Road; from there up to Spada Lake and then, lickity split, back home.

Boy was Friday hot. Oy! Even at a relatively early hour, when I got started, I was feeling the heat. In town I’d noticed on Google Maps a green line indicating a bike trail, looping off from a school or similar, up at the terminus of Eighth Street. I cruised along said street, spotted the gravel and dirt path and then, whoa! was off to the climbing races. That was a very steep start to the day. It definitely got me huffing. My quads were feeling it from the Iron Horse ride the day before. But damn it felt good to be alive… riding in dirt, on a road bike, on a sunny day in August, when most other folks was off at work, me getting to play at being a kid again.

Sultan Basin Road

Soon enough I was on Sultan Basin Road, a lovely shelving climb up into the hills, surrounded by placid farms populated by even more placid horses, munching underneath crackling powerlines. I wish I’d gotten a picture of how it looks coming out of Sultan… a definite “whoa are we really going to ride up all that elevation” as this road goes off straight up into the distance. But don’t get me wrong, it was so lovely, hardly any traffic, nice surface condition, lots of shady trees and again, pastoral views everywhere. This stretch strongly reminded me of Tennessee, just without the August heat index of 114.

Soon enough you’re out of the farm-urbs and into more of a managed forest, state parks feel. The road becomes swoopy with rollers and fun curvy berms. There are lots of creek crossings:


And then you’re more and more under the trees. Soon enough, after maybe 10 more lovely miles of winding, deserted road, you come to the end of the pavement and are faced with several miles of seriously steep gravel:

Made in the shade to make the grade...

This was a definite leg burner hill. The few cars that passed, likely weekend campers, gave me astonished looks as I spun along. I almost turned around, feeling a little tired, but I hate giving up on things so I plugged away and soon enough, after ignoring all the intriguing-looking side roads I finally came to Spada Lake:

I tried to capture the cool little whispy clouds gathered on those peaks...

The main south shore access road was closed for construction which meant I wouldn’t be able to follow along the lake east- and northward as I had planned. Oh well. At least there was a nice bathroom facility nearby:

Much better than a Honey Bucket.

From there it was mostly downhill back to Sultan. My hands got tired from gripping the brakes coming down those gravel hills but oh man it was so much fun overall! Loved it. I think there may be a loop you could put together with Kellogg Lake Road, with only a dip or two onto Hwy 2. Add that to a close-to-circumnavigation of Spada Lake and you’d have maybe a 50-60 mile ride along some very quiet backroads with nice scenery. I particularly enjoyed the way the road up to Spada Lake followed a creekside path. And then of course Spada Lake itself is amazing, with a very nice blue shade to it. Best of all, once you hit pavement again all that uphill you put sweat equity into earlier pays off; there are several sections where you can cruise at 17mph while barely turning a pedal. Overall a very pleasant day.

The next morning JamisLad picked me up at 6:30 am (whose idea was that anyway!!!). I hadn’t slept very well. I’d had all kinds of good work ideas the evening prior, fueled in part by the meditative qualities of the Spada Lake ride. So I started off a little rough, with legs that felt out of it and a groggy brain that definitely was. We parked in Snohomish and took off north on the Centennial Trail. Perfect! It allowed me to warm up and wake up a little. By the time we got to Granite Falls I was feeling bonky so we stopped at the grocery store and I got a chocolate donut. Which, as JamisLad pointed out, probably wasn’t the best idea, it sure put some carbs in my tank because we lit out of Granite Falls at a good clip. In fact as we rolled up to Lake Roesiger JamisLad was chugging along so hard that at one point I pulled up next to him and asked, “Was this *the* hill already?” Turns out he was just as surprised. He’d been saving his energy to go all-out on the hill, but we’d already done it! I think that’s a good sign. I honestly had been wondering when the climbing was going to start. Maybe I won’t totally suck at High Pass Challenge after all, ha.

We chewed up the miles, anticipating the massively steep hill leading to Oil Well Road. It’s the one we’d encountered earlier in the year that had dispirited most of us, and had excited JamisLad. That was some serious steepage but we made it, deciding at the top we didn’t need to go back down and re do it. Soon enough we were back in Snohomish, procuring choco milk on our way out of town. It was a great training ride, and the weather just couldn’t have been nicer.

As we rode Saturday I was reflecting a little bit on work, and on this year’s biking mission. For the work stuff I realized that, for years, I’d concentrated on finding the ‘ideal’ job. This had been a fallacy. Even if my company had an ideal job title I’m pretty sure I’d be frustrated within a matter of weeks because of the environment. With that line of thinking it dawned on me — rather than simply changing jobs, I needed to change the environment. It’s a precondition for all the other things I want. For instance, I don’t want to be a Project Manager in an environment where I’d be working on a project that has (literally) two other Project Managers each representing different bureaucracies. I don’t want to be in Requirements meetings where there are 10 manager-level participants and only three knowledge workers. As far as Golden Ratios go, we’ve got that one backwards. If anything it should be reversed; more ideally, it wouldn’t just be 10 knowledge workers to three managers, it would be the three-to-five knowledge workers self organizing the hell out of the directive handed down by the one manager. There’s a lunacy at work at my work and I don’t want to join in as things are currently structured. Instead I want to change the system, for the better, possibly from a different vantage point of leverage. Then I might consider jumping back in the PM circus or, perhaps, looking at other companies.

As for bike training, I haven’t been a very good PM at all. I’d blown off STP thinking I’d focus on RAPSody. Then RAPSody decided not too long ago to forgo their one-day option. My Flying Wheels ticket was spent on the 25-mile option riding with my pops. These were all choices I’d made. Clearly my priorities are different than they were last year. To rationalize it, I’ve been taking this viewpoint: last year I met and exceeded all my goals. I coasted through the 200 miles of STP; I struggled but survived RAPSody; and then I came in for a silver finish at HPC; each successive month I was expanding my horizons, surprising myself with what I was capable of. It was a grand summer, one I’ll never forget. This year, I met my weight goal (under 170 pounds, wearing size 32 Levis) and am proud of that, but in a way the horizons I’m expanding are at work. I’m having a ball, creating brainstorming sessions with diverse groups, coming up with crazy huge ideas that are going to benefit the company in substantial ways, coaching and mentoring lots of folks and seeing some of them attain successes and moving to dream jobs… hearing from someone I’m mentoring via IM “Guess what! I got the job!!” is as exciting to me as hitting some long bike ride.

Here’s the perfect sign: my bike computer on the Poprad hasn’t worked in a while. I’m not even sure I’ll do anything about it for High Pass Challenge. Now, that’s detachment!

Sleepy time...

John Wayne Training Ride

25 Aug

(By the title, what I mean is I rode with what seemed like a bad back masked by a certain saucy insouciance, a grave gravy even, eye patch, six shooter and sweat-rimmed hat.)

Dewy... Beats True... Grit

Oh I love the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in the Iron Horse Park starting from the Cedar Falls trailhead! Especially when I ride it on a PTO sunny day in August!

I dropped off the SurlyLady in downtown Seattle, mountain bike gloriously sticking up from the back of the pick-em-up truck to jealous-ize the worker bees, KEXP 90.3 blasting out the windows. Headed East (old man) past North Bend, scooted on along Rattlesnake Lake and got geared up. This 36-mile ride, to the tunnel and back, is such a fun cardio workout. I got into a nice rhythm in the middle ring, gradually ratcheting up the speed as I warmed up; I daresay I made my personal best time today. ‘Twas flying along. It’s a straight shot rail-to-trail gravel grade, half in the sun and half in the shade. I carried the iPhone in my shorts pocket not so much for pictures as for the voice memo app — I must have recorded about half an hour’s worth of ideas for work.

At the other end of this tunnel is a penitentiary. Awkward!

Like most riding, for me today was all about mechanical meditation. An eccentric bottoming out racket. Viscerally I was overjoyed, the smell in the air (is that a hint of Fall?), the smell of hot sun on gravel, grasshoppers flitting around, all of these in isolation drowning out for me the roar of the nearby I-90 traffic. I had sooo many good ideas today. Several ‘thunderbolt’ moments. Several clarifying moments (I’m my own worst editor). One of the things I like to do that’s both virtue and fault is I play out future scenes, like a scriptwriter with tracking on in a DTP program. I imagine what so-and-so will say. How they’ll react to a point. How they may not react. I play out these dialogs and try-alogs over and over. It’s almost like an alternate universe role playing predictive analysis exercise. The odds are usually not too bad, either; I bet 25% of the time I’m right on in my predictions. And even when I’m wrong, I’ve usually already anticipated this wrinkle or, if not exactly, I’m adept-ified and can handle the new wrinkles on the fly.

The thing is, at work, I’m on the verge of something HUGE. It’s like everyday my horizons are expanding. I’m filling up notebooks with ideas, compiling my own knowledge management engine to house my knowledge management engine proposals because so much of what I’m doing is recursive lately, and it’s in that recursive area — or a sort of vertical causality — that I have the most fun.

Mr. Blue Sky... (start dancing)

Speaking of vertical causality, I’m glad I got some climbing cardio in today, but I hope to get more tomorrow and then even more on Saturday. In fact my biking dance card is totally full this weekend — four fun days of biking! Times like these I’m glad I have arranged such a carefree, kids-free life. Heck even the dogs feed and clothe themselves. Hold on. What’s that Coop? Sure, that ascot looks fine… no, it doesn’t make you look too fat. (Whisper… he’s such a dapper little fellow, but damn sensitive!)

Goldilocks Engineering

18 Jul

At work there’s been a lot of talk about a new wind of change blowing through the building. The hermetically sealed, white noised, climate controlled building that expressly keeps out any breezes. All about how we’re not going to gold plate things any more (I have to admit to not being party to very many projects where we had the luxury of gold plating… usually it’s a mad scramble to put in the plastic prototype). About how we’re going to be more Agile and Lean. A bunch of Scrum Bums. Which is fine with me. Rather than fail spectacularly, you can fail much faster, on a smaller scale, and correct for it. This is however difficult in an organization that abhors anything smacking of ‘failure’ the same way nature abhors a vacuum (cleaner after going to work on a dog house carpet).

One thing I’ve personally learned over the years of shifting methodologies, seeing the sea changes of “we need checks and balances ergo decentralization” back to “we need integration for optimized throughput and synergistic cohesion”, is there exist some basic, ineluctable truths behind successful software project management. These stay the same no matter what methodology you’re using.

One of them is to properly scale your engineering solutions to fit the problem. You don’t, in the words of one of my Infosys developers, want to use a cannon ball to kill a mosquito. (Oh the idioms in project management kill me!).

This is related to bikes in the following way. I picked up some spare spokes in various sizes to take with me on rides in case I have another spokesplosion as happened to me on 7 Hills. I started noodling on how to carry the spokes. I’d once heard or read on an online forum that some bikers keep spares inside the seat tube. Ah! What a lovely idea. But how to prevent them from knocking around in the seat tube, making rattling noises? I had a stroke of genius. I’d take two corks, drill out a smallish hole in each, pass the spokes through, carve out a dimple for the hook side of the spokes, and then zip tie the lot in the middle for that ‘cohesion’ we were talking about. I was too drunk from polishing off the bottles of vino to make much progress the first night but, eventually, voila:

Over engineering.

The only problem was, in itself it made sense. When I held it up to the bike, and considered dropping it down the seat tube, suddenly the context seemed all wrong. It was stupidly over-engineered. Maybe putting the spokes in the seat tube works for the skinny roadie type who carries a cartridge, credit card and banana in their pocket and not a speck of storage anywhere else. But in my case, even the smallest Carradice bag in the stable fits spokes just fine. To make sure, I engaged a team of architects to do a scoping study. After ~300 hours they returned an answer, in the affirmative:

Just right engineering.

I did, as you’ll notice, keep the zip tie.

Finding Thrills on Blackberry Hill

5 Jun

After the ride yesterday (see next post) we enjoyed a very pleasant Saturday — me running errands, including taking the Stan’s 340 Alpha wheelset to Perfect Wheels for repair and then SurlyLady’s CrossCheck to Bicycles West for a new triple treatment, then on to a Craigslist find of an old steel barrel. The ‘Lady redecorated the bedroom with a spring makeover, i.e. down with the heavy curtains, up with the brightness.

Then I spent some time in the lower 40 backyard clearing out the blackberries. Again.

Blackberries, iPhones, Androids...

I say again, because I’ve done this twice before. The second time I was proud of the barren, battle-scarred expanse; I had sheared and shorn the entire lower yard. No ivy, no blackberries, no tree/shrub/scrub things. The only problem was, regarding the blackberries in particular, I hadn’t done the full job. It wasn’t until a year or so ago when the SurlyLady and I volunteered for an REI work party that I finally figured out how to truly eradicate (or come very close to doing so) blackberries: you gotta pull the root balls out. At the time, and inspired, I purchased a claw hammer style mini tiller dealio like the ones we’d used at the REI party, and then infrequently would dig out a few bits here and there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t comprehensive or soon enough as it seems over the last several weeks the lower yard has exploded with blackberries and a new scree of tree-like brushy plants. Oh man, starting all over again sucks! But you sighs, you wishes you had goats, and then you gets started.

I started in the corner near the potting shed. Soon the rhythm took over and this, along with the snazzily dappled (snappled) afternoon sun on the dancing blackberry stalks got my mind into all kinds of philosophizin’. Quite like mowing the yard, that sense-to-sensibility arc. I began by ruefully ruminating ruminant-like on the errors of my previous gardening ways. This led to an easy leap, connecting the blackberry dot to my job, i.e. in software support and management, the predominant aim of which at times is getting to the root causes of problems. If Sherlock Holmes has a thing for deductive reasoning, software teams are similarly rooted to focusing on the ‘root cause’ of errors and then, in the vast majority of instances, completely ignoring those root causes. Just like this blackberry patch, and my former attempts to clear it.

But what about problems (and their roots) that aren’t system specific? For years I worked in a department that had some definite process- and people-related challenges. Since I was a bootstrap manager, having previously been a developer, sys admin and sys analyst, I therefore had a very naive sense that everything in the department, whether managing projects or teams or servers, was just a matter of getting the configuration and the parts right. One plus two equals three, is kind of how I approached thingsā€¦ the innocence of relying on the obvious. Blackberries need clearing? There’s only one right way to do such? Then do it the first time, in the right way. Black and white. Or, black and green.

I developed a whole new set of muscles adapting to different managers over the years. Like a big dummy I kept running my mouth off about what I thought needed fixing. Eventually I was told to shut up about the damn root balls… and so I did. The final year in that department however I did find a measure of success. I roped off a small corner of the department yard and did things my way. No, I still didn’t have the leverage to tiller out old root balls, but at least I was able to arrange the gardening teams so they got along very well and chopped down the stems on time and under budget and preemptively prevented new root balls from forming. I went out on a high note.

Today things are radically different. I’ve been transferred to a different department. There are no blackberries here. Period. There are occasional weeds, but everyone laughs as they pull them out almost absent mindedly. I don’t have a pager, there hasn’t been a single emergency, no black eyes that can be seen by the whole company, nada, zilch. In fact the team is so high performing there’s almost nothing for me to do. It’s been disconcerting. I went from doing the work of multiple roles and having a crucial part to play to being a periphery flag lieutenant doing mostly ceremonial and clerical work.

Tough problem to have, I know. I’ve hinted to my new boss that I’m a little out of sorts, that this wasn’t what I expected. My new boss has been super patient, promising to find new challenges for met etc. But I’ve received these assurances with an increasingly critical ear. Then, yesterday, in the middle of digging out a particularly stubborn blackberry root ball, it hit me. WTF is wrong with me? I’m complaining because things are too good. That I don’t have enough to do. That I’m not getting pinged all day long. It’s time, I thought, to analyze my situation from a certain remove. Every success I’ve had personally and professionally over the last three years has been through an active sense of adaptation. This time, rather than constantly looking for the systemic problems what if I were to instead focus on what works so well, systemically, in my new group? What if I could figure that out, and then pinpoint the good behaviors, whether deliberate or accidental, whether a mix of topic/domain or people/culture and ask “What are these characteristics so we can study, copy and then perhaps scale them?” It’s a far different proposition than what I faced a year ago, and a much better position to be in!

7+ Hills of Kirkland

30 May

When mowing the lawn, especially our back one with its expansive rectangleness, my mind settles into a spirit of inquiry and review (or if we’re being a little less generous, unaccustomed thoughtfulness). Such a mood is encouraged by the orderly rows, the back and forth coverage as I vector from one one edge to the other barbering Mother Nature’s hair. In answer to your question, no, there isn’t any laspsing into a lisp and aksking how Mother Nature’s day went. Really, it’s like meditation-via-mowing (Meditation-upon-Mowing is a charming town in the Lakes District, or is that Cornwall?), with a set playbook of ritual the first step of which is to ask, “Couldn’t I pay someone to do this for me? Time equals money etc” until the final step which is accompanied by byproduct answers, such as “Time equals time” and “My, look at what you’ve accomplished. This is actually something tangible, visceral even, the mannered rows, the fresh smell of grass and various environmental flora.” When parking the mower under the back porch, one last thought: “Damn my legs is tired, but I’m glad I did this because the forecast is for BLEEPING BLEEP rain all week.”

Today’s bit of revealed-through-mowing pseudo wisdom came during the poop patrol that preceded the actual grass mowing. I came across several little piles that were of a very odd color and consistency. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about, I play a poop doctor on TV. Basically what I’d found were little turds made out of cat litter. This by itself would ordinarily be an enigma wrapped in a stinky jacket of mystery and irony except that I happened to know both the source and the culprit. Cooper pup! Last week he’d gotten into a bag of cat litter, the ‘natural’ piney kind, ‘Ride the Pine’ brand, not the grey and gravelly stuff, and had joyfully shaken the contents all over the den. It turns out, as he turned out, that he must have eaten quite a lot of the stuff while in the middle of the spreading the litter.

All of which went toward reminding me that you get out of life, or stomachs, what you put into it (or them).

We went on a ride today, the 7 Hills of Kirkland. Things were progressing very well. KonaLad and JamisLad showed up fresh and early so that we could ride to the Kirkland marina from our burgh in the burbs up here near Lynnwood (whose idea was that exactly? would be a common question today, mostly from me… the asker). It promised to be about 28 miles of bonus miles, tacked on to the nominal 38 miles of the main 7 Hills route. What made it especially special was cranking slowly up Juanita hill, going southbound, and seeing all the northbound 7 Hillers already well into their riding come flashing past the other way. Gotta hurry! I thought. It was a chill morning, with portentous clouds above, but Juanita hill warmed up the old circulatory system fine.

At the starting joint in downtown Kirkland we pays our money and we gets our wristbands and then we pees in the urinals and then we goes… back up to Juanita hill. In reverse, we took a left for Holmes Point Dr NE (always wondered what that would be like – very Mercer Island reminiscent). A lovely downward swooping was followed by the loop along the water and then an amazing set of climbing along an unpopulated gorge type setting, with a fairly steep pitch. I passed one lady, with an apologetic pant, and she said in answer to the unspoken question, “This is the worst hill of the day I think… it just keeps going on.” There’s something so human and inhuman about a charity ride, being surrounded by many laboring others on hills; you can’t exactly blow past each other, so it’s a slowmotion affair, each person having an interior monologue with their heart and lungs, too tired for any exterior dialoging of the usual biking jokes and comradery. We crested back onto the main Juanita line and gathered up our crew again before heading downhill past St. Ed’s park and onto the Burke Gilman. At the foot of Juanita Dr was the first red light running bicyclist of the day – but not unfortunately the last. What is it about charity rides that makes people feel suddenly the rules are all off? Man it pisses me off, and in a passive/aggressive way I took off after her but with no clear idea of if I was going to say anything. Eh. I’ll just trust in Darwinian judgment, I decided.

In general, the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride is lots of fun as it twists and turns through the same basic suburban domain; what it lacks in true scenery it makes up for in charming climbs, a homespun organizational feel and low rider density. This might be a keeper ride; coming at the end of May, it might be perfectly positioned as a good training marker.

The next notable moment was the next turn off my previous experience, this one Norway Hill. I loved that hill! I especially like winding, wending climbs with hairpins, where you can see bikeys ahead and back, strewn out so. At one point a very buff tandem pair blew past and I quickly hopped on their wheel, although usually I stay away from tandems on uphills. However, they had the special sauce going and so that was fun following them. It seemed very soon were were all three gathered up again at the one rest stop, I guess about in the middle of the course. Standing around munching cookies and getting ready for the next leg KonaLad pointed out that I had a broken spoke in my rear wheel? WTF? When did that happen.

For drummers it's duct tape, for bike mechanics it's rubber bands...

And now we’re getting to the full circle of my thinking here, but before we do, I’d like to make a quick departure about the nature of thinking, mine especially. When KonaLad pointed out the broken spoke I immediately thought of contingencies, possibilities, mitigations… basically I turned to the instincts I have to use all the time at work as a project manager. Rather than, I’m trying to say, actually looking at the problem and thinking about it sort of intrinsically, focusing on the immediate material problem all I could think about was the (honestly) immaterial inconvenience. There were a few seconds of mild panic and furious downstream decision making; I hardly seemed able to focus. Then I thought, I’ll check with the experts and wheeled the Poprad over to the nearby bike support tent manned by the nice guys from Kirkland Bicycles (where I got the Sarthe!). As I had feared, there wasn’t much they could do – once a spoke is broke that’s all she wrote. It can’t be trued or fixed, if there’s no appropriate spoke replacement (and they didn’t have one). I stood there and spun the wheel, noticing the huge wobble from the untrue-ness. I asked the mechanic what the worst case scenario would be if I continued to ride. “You’ll either make it fine or ruin the rim.” Hm. Time for cost-benefit analysis. Dammit, I don’t care. I wanted to keep riding! And so we did, but I only got about 20 yards into it before finding the tire was rubbing the fender far too much; even a few miles with that and those gumwall Jack Brown tires would probably be in bad shape. So, back to the rest stop and the mechanic, who helped me cut the zip tie holding on the fender. As I held the fender up, trying to imagine how I was going to carry it in the Carradice bag, the nice chap offered to hold it at his store for me! Sweet! I’m back on the road.

This time I got maybe 100 yards before suddenly the tire started seriously rubbing against the frame. The untrue-ness had just gotten a whole lot worse. Damn. KonaLad and JamisLad had continued on to the Winery Hill loop, and would look for me on the way back, so I had some time to think. I called the SurlyLady, half fearful she wouldn’t be home. But she was! And she offered to come get me ASAP. And, even better, offered to bring the Vaya so I could finish the ride. What a girlfriend! (and Happy Anniversary gift, yo!)

To close this circle, what did I put into these wheels? They were deeply discounted used wheels from eBay. I put in some research, sure, but I also put in some crazy, outsized expectations. Tires too big for the fenders, tires maybe too big for the bike, wheels with tapering spokes… at this point I’m not sure if I wouldn’t take the weight penalty of the handbuilt Velocity Fusion wheels rather than the chance of a breakdown, as I do know I don’t want something similar to happen to me out in the middle of like Mason County on RAPsody, where I may or may not have cell coverage. I’m going to take these wheels to an expert, get her/his advice on their basic soundness, and have them rebuilt with some stout spokes. Whether I keep them on the Poprad we’ll see. Other measures: I’m going to get some drive and non-drive side spokes for both front and back and put them in the seatpost tube for emergencies like this. Additionally, I’m going to take a wheel building class. Because if KonaLad hadn’t been there, or the bike mechanic stand (imagine if I’d been many miles away from the rest stop or, worse, barreling down a steep hill) I’m not sure what I would have been able to do on my own.

Fender mullet! Business in front, party in the back!

SurlyLady arrived super fast, with Fred Vaya in the rack, and in short order I was back on the road. I missed the Winery hill stuff (sounds like there was a bagpiper?) but there was still plenty of fun ahead of us… and this finish was so much better than the alternative, i.e. going home and DNF. I really, really hate the idea of DNF. We finished up at the Kirkland Marina, had our strawberry shortcake, then headed home… up Juanita Hill… again. JamisLad was amazing, blowing up that hill like he had just gotten started for the day — I think he and KonaLad officially did like 12 or 13 hills on the day.

(Adding concentric circles): As for these buddies of mine, I hope I’m putting into my friendship with them something equal to how cool they are to me – sticking around to make sure I got taken care of, providing company on a new adventurous ride.

As for girlfriends, not only did she instantly hop into the car to come save my day, but she made kick-ass walnut brownies and then got vanilla bean ice cream and fresh blueberries and made this for dessert!:

Brownie points!

I’m going to pay it back to all of them by coming up with an amazing ride through the Snohomish area next weekend, along quiet farm roads, swooping hairpin curves and amazing scenery. More details to follow…

Saturday Night Bench(mark)

28 May

Procrastinators like me can take awhile to get around to something, but once we do it’s like a terrier with a toy: we focus on it intensely for at least 5 minutes. Or, in other cases, 5 hours. Such was the case today as I was hell bent on cleaning up the bike room. I’d gotten a small start the other day, but today by golly was going to be the day!

Bench bench bench bench...

The bike room has been a mess ever since the water heater went crazy and flooded the back utility area and I threw all the bike stuff in boxes to quickly vacate the inundation. Add to that years of errant piling, idiosyncratic filing and plain old American laziness, and things was looking bad. Cleaning up and organizing the bike room was a big dream, and I knew the only way to tackle it was to start small, so I started breaking down the endless cardboard boxes. There’s a bit of my Grandmother’s Great Depression pack rat in me in that I will save cardboard boxes to save other cardboard boxes in. (There’s also a bit of my great Uncle’s rat packer in me in that I look like Dean Martin if he’d had acne problems and was from Illinois.)

So, first order, The Cardboarder (that would be my super hero name, if I was super and/or heroic).

Next up were those boxes which actually had contents. Wow. There were lots of bits and ends of things I’d forgotten I had. Old pedals, seatposts, parts for fenders, about three dozen plastic caps for presta valves, several empty bottles of chain lube (saving them for the next Great Depression!). Eventually I got everything out and somewhat organized while rocking out to Sonic Reducer on KEXP, enjoying such treats as Run, Run, Run, Run, Run by the Velvet Underground, something called ‘Toilet Love’ from a band I don’t remember and, best of all, Mongoloid by Devo! I think that was the first song I figured out on the old bass guitar! Nothing like cranking some hissy FM radio punk while piddling in the bike room. Piddling BTW, for you younger snappers, is what old people do when they appear industrious but in fact are just shuffling things around.

Aces over Dura

Speaking of getting rid of boxes, here’s a bit of seeming bling I was about to fling: Dura-Ace! The name sends shivers down the spine of most, and loathing among the Campy Italianate crowd. Before you wonder if I got a second mortgage no, these are the $80 bar-end Dura-Ace shifters, that I’ve put on the Vaya, or Fred (the old Trucker bar-ends’re going on the new La Cruz, or Tom).

And so I’ll soon retire for the night, at about the time I used to get ready to go see a punk show. Sigh. At least the bike room is cleaned up (relative term: it still looks like the spastic brain child of a pathologically reverse-savant) and ready for some La Cruz building. At least I can see a few square feet of the main bench, right? Before sleepytime, how about some dessert:

Old people dessert, with young people animal crackers as a sop to vanity.