Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rocktober CAMBA trip

It's been a while so how about a happy post: I've been Mountain biking! This is an annual trip to the beautiful trails in the Chequamegon National Forest of northern Wisconsin:

Friday was a nice ride on the new Makwa trail before the temps. really started to drop. Saturday we woke to snow sticking to the ground and 26F. The morning ride at Hatchery Creek Trail was just plain cold.

I changed my gear for the afternoon and I was much more comfortable.
Here is the deluxe cabin the seven of us stayed at:
Here is my steed hiding in the shadows of Rock Lake Trail on Saturday afternoon right before Tim saw a vampire:
We were trying to finish the ride before sunset (since none of us had lights and were getting pretty tired) when we came across two other bikers on a cross trail. They were chatty and with the sun racing for the horizon they did their best to keep us talking.
That was when Tim noticed the HUGE incisors on the bigger guy and realized this guy was a vampire trying to keep us in the woods until it was dark and he had his full powers. His diminutive friend also had a certain Renfield look to him so we ended the convo abruptly and headed back for the trail head. There was a strange feeling of reluctance at leaving these two, I think it was some sort of mind trickery!
Here is the steed all iced and snowed up after the morning ride:
Here is the gang of seven from left: Tim, Rob, Bob, Steve, Charlie, Mark.

None of us managed to get shot by any of the youth hunters out this weekend. When I did come across some deer I yelled at them at the top of my lungs to get out of there because I didn't want to be anywhere near them with the hunt in full swing.
Saturday night we ALWAYS have a big meal at the cabin and it tends to be spaghetti. After we were finished I threw Young Frankenstein in the DVD player and with a couple of beers in us it turned out to be the funniest movie any of us had ever seen.
There was also some kayaking and Fisher hunting involved, but I've got to get back to my books. No one got hurt, everyone had fun, and that's what counts.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The cat came back

You know that song "The Cat Came Back?" Here is one version: http://podcast.thisamericanlife.org/316_songs/Nedelle.mp3

My wife is in Africa for a few more weeks and that is pretty tough. I miss her something fierce. Then there is a bunch of stuff breaking around the house and just when it seems like I've got it all under control something else happens...like that cat coming back.

Speaking of: the cat has now bled on our one "good" couch and I can't get the stains out. He has also chosen another couch to be sick on AND to do it in such a way that his puke has run down between the cushions. The litter box has become more of a suggestion and he continues to bald himself by pulling out his own hair (until his little paws bleed). I sure love that little guy.

There is some good stuff. I've been biking a lot until the knee started hurting. I managed to replace my dishwasher with a new one and hooked it up all by myself. It rained yesterday.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Crotch of Iron

It's been a while, you're just gonna have to deal.

Short version: laid off on January 5th, looked for job A LOT until I landed a bike mechanic position on April 6th.

I've been biking some this winter and spring. My commute to work is 36 miles round trip (to work 12 hour shifts mostly). I'm going to put a light, rack and basket on my bike this week to make it possible (Thanks http://3speedblog.blogspot.com). So I've been biking more this week and today I rode the annual Iron Crotch in Wisconsin.

This is an "alternative" ride to the Iron Man ride which is a popular spring ride in MN which involves a boring course, lots of car traffic and lots of inexperienced riders (and costs $30 more than the Iron Crotch). The Iron Crotch ride if you haven't guessed already is a gorgeous course through the countryside of Wisconsin, has much less car traffic, and the riders tend to be more experienced...and there is a lot less of them: 175 limit versus 1000s- billions depending on whether Greg Lemond shows up to give a grumpy pants speech or not.

Today's 60 mile ride was punctuated by rain. One of my fellow 8 riders had a leak in his camel back which got his backside wet right at the beginning of the ride. Turned out not to matter one bit. I'm not adverse to riding in the rain, but when it warms up to 43F that makes for some cold riding.

At the 1/2 way point some of my fellow band of riders were tempted to quit as they took in the warmth of a coffee house, but thankfully our fearless leader http://planetary-gears.blogspot.com/2009/04/long-distance-cycling.html talked them into continuing (props to Jim for riding 35 miles to the start of the event and then back, at least I hope he made it back, somebody with more energy should really check on that).

Since the weather forecasts all week said there would be rain today (90% chance when I checked again this morning) I brought my rain gear. I even had plastic bags for my feet (stick them around your socks, insert socks into shoes: works well for about 20 miles or so which I learned the hard way today). Next time I will try tucking them into the tops of my socks instead of just under my biker-tights ( I have no idea if that's the right term and I'm too tired to look it up right now so there).

To my amazement hardly any other riders showed up with rain gear???!?!? Even fearless Jim who was staring down 130 miles over the course of the day was wearing all wool?!?! When he started shivering I told him if he started taking off his clothes (one of the last things people with hypothermia do before they perish) I was going to tackle him and hold him down until the others got his pants back on.

It was a fun ride in that I got to spend some time talking to good folks. We only managed 13.5 MPH average, but it was more fun chatting than trying to stick to some sort of speed regimen. I have a much longer ride planned for later this summer so this was a good start for some of those base miles.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A dog's day

I know I'm not supposed to be on the couch, but neither is Harold. Maybe if I look down you won't see me:

OK, now I'll just start flicking out my tounge and scare you out of disciplining me:

Stop pretending you can fly Harold! I think it's working:

Ewww! Get away Harold!

tobacco jerk

Last night I was driving in California at about 70MPH when a guy walked in front of the car which was in front of me and tossed a cartons worth of tobacco into the grill of the car! I was pretty angry that he would do that to someone.

When I got to him he tossed more tobacco into my side window! Road rage took over and I swerved at him. He must have been pooned (see the novel Snowcrash) to something because I couldn't hit him and he appeared to be just floating or running at 70 MPH!

When I got to my destination restaurant he walked in after me and was challenging me to a fight. He was at least 6' 7" (my roommate is 6' 5" so I have a good feel for height estimates these days) and built like a tank!

I told him I was calling 911 and he responded by calling 911.

Then I started to worry that throwing tobacco into people's cars wasn't as bad as trying to run them over in revenge. This jerk was going to win!

Then, thankfully, I woke up.

Friday, February 6, 2009


As my friend at http://planetary-gears.blogspot.com/ has pointed out: this story is making the rounds on the local blog scene: http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/29/cities-top-ten-lifestyle-real-estate_0129cities.html

So for those of you living in the sunbelt or on the coasts please take note: it's TERRIBLE here in Minnesota! You have it figured out and are totally right so stay where you are.

The winters are so excruciatingly painful that folks who grew up here talk in very brief sentences (e.g. we use folks instead of people: one less letter, one less syllable). People think we are dull here, nope we have been frozen so many times we can't risk the extra energy to use more words. Same goes for outward expression and dancing. Why do you think this blog doesn't come out very often for gosh sakes!

You are probably thinking you'd like to visit in the summer if at all: bad move! Summer is when most people are killed here like the 213 people two July's back when a blizzard took everyone by surprise. Most of those people were out in the endless woods we have here and weren't found until the following June when it finally thawed out.

There are also hordes of mosquitoes here which carry diseases like West Nile Virus, Malaria, Herpes, and the big ones have been known to transmit bird flu. During our very brief summer we Minnesotans spend our time running for cover from the incessant thunderstorms and totally random and unpredictable tornadoes all the while covered from head to toe on even the hottest of days (it can get as high as 40F) to try to keep safe from the mosquitoes.

I had a friend when I was growing up who rode his bike to the store on a completely clear sunny day only to be swept up by a tornado and dislodged two counties over! We never found his limbs, wolves probably got them.

Heaven forbid you don't get all the mosquitoes out of your house in the fall. When one of those pests gets into your attic for the winter it can lay 1000s of eggs and all it takes is one warm spell (20F or warmer) and your house now has a horde of infection raining down on you and your children.

You just have to live with it until spring (usually in June, sometimes later) when you can finally get out of the house, raze it , and re-build before winter comes (usually in August, sometimes sooner).

Play it safe people: stay away!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Bolivian Shepard makes a statement

Nothing to see here. I'm cool with this stylish Elizabethan cone thing you guys have me wearing.

No, as a matter of fact I DON'T KNOW how this thing came apart! Maybe you should have made it sturdier you silly man!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

more about those bike balls

This is from that clever Bike-snob in Brooklyn:

....and I was delighted to read that the XTR hub will actually "cradle the balls":If you've been looking for an excuse to upgrade, here it is. The XTR hub is a huge step up from the XT model, which merely cups the balls, and a significant upgrade from the LX hub, which kind of mushes them. I don't even want to say what a Deore hub does to the balls, but suffice to say unless you want to replace your balls on a regular basis you're better off walking. Actually, you might as well put the balls in a vise. On the other hand, if you want to experience pure bliss, try adding the Shimano's Yumeya aftermarket kit. Suki desu ka? Hai, suki desu! The balls will say domo arigato gozaimasu.

In these crazy times it's nice knowing he is there to brighten my day with his humorous pessimism.

Sorry I'm not writing anything myself but life has not been ueber-good these past two weeks and who wants to read about that shite, ken?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bike Maintenance:rear wheel

Authors note: I got spammed, so you are now going to have to jump through some hoops to post comments. Blame the bored, bloted teenagers with no lives and a fear of the world outside the grasp of their keyboard who waste society's time with spam and other things we could all do without: Britney, boy-bands, pants that sag, facebook/ myspace/ etc...

A friend of mine is replacing his rear wheel and asked about removing the cassette and free wheel from the old wheel to place on the new one. I've given him some advice and it may help you if you are in the same situation.

He has purchased a chainwhip and reported that it is too big. He also had an issue with bike nomenclature: "anyway, I took the long stick thing out and the old ball bearings are falling out. It's ucky in there."

Here is my response:

Don't worry about the chainwhip being too big: that's how they are made so that they fit every application: use black tape to hold back some of the links to make it small enough to work.

If you do go with the big bolt method all you need is a pair of vice grips and a # 7 iclono-wrench (IW): use the IW to hold the bolt and then take the vice grip to the IW and it's pretty easy from there.

It's kind of counter intuitive, but you need to store those bearings that fell out in salt water: they are not metal and without the original grease that they were packed they will actually expand if not kept in salt water (it's a weird bike thing, just do it!).

You should try to scrape out as much of the original grease as possible and save it because new grease will severely shorten the lifespan of the wheel.

I know one guy that used all new grease and because his bearings were allowed to sit out in the air for a couple weeks he had to cram them back in (I don't know how) and this caused the wheel to seize going down a hill and he lost his left leg when he slammed into a guardrail!

Of course you know me pretty well and I could be totally full of poo.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

kitty porn

Come hither:

Ladies he's got it going on:

Our cat gets really upset when we leave him alone for a few days, no matter how much love is doted on him by neighbors or relatives, he freaks out without his mama. Then he starts to pull out his hair in a form of protest.
It's definitely stress related, it might be allergies. At one point he was treated with hormones and HE started to lactate, (sorry no video available).
He has decided that no form of antihistamine is going in his body any more (the only thing that has helped so far). We are up to three different forms and no luck yet. Apparently cherry flavor is to cats as rancid flesh is to humans.
The Mrs. says it's getting better, I'm not so sure. Time will tell.
So what do you do when you have to keep your dog from licking a wound and she is flexible enough to get around the standard plastic head cone:

That's right: make it longer! She is not amused. She hated the original cone so much it became dubbed the cone of shame. She's one lucky puppy.
Hopefully she'll be healed enough by next week that she won't have to wear this contraption any more.

Monday, January 12, 2009

last post of the trip

I was starting to get tired on day three, but I rebounded on days four and five and was "in the zone."

Here is a mounty keeping track of the traffic:

This is after day four:

We made it as far as Weyburn tonight before forward progress was halted by snow.

Today went really well and while the original plan was to get to Minot tonight, this works out a little better to use up the rest of our Canada money.

Depending on what kind of weather we get tomorrow in Dakota and Minnesota will determine when we get home. I'm pretty sure we can get through as much snow as we had today, it just might be a long day (the roads were much worse the next day due to drifting, but once we crossed the border it was smooth sailing).

If we get good roads it will be a 12 hour day (turned into 14 hours).

This is on the last day at the alleged geographical center of North America. It was so cold (the windchill finally got us that day) that it was hard to smile. I think I frost burned my teeth:

The last day took longer because we couldn't go diagonal across ND on 52 or straight south to Bismark and then over, but instead went east on 2 to Grand Forks and then south because of snow.
I got to show the Mrs. around the old stomping grounds although I don't recognize much of it anymore.
Here is after the last day:
We just got home. Today was a long one, but it's nice to be back. We drove through some pretty good snow drifts right before the Canadian border this morning, but the Saturn chugged right through.
At one point we had to share the one clear lane of the two lane road with oncoming traffic.
The parking lot wasn't plowed this morning at the motel, so we got stuck and I pushed us out onto the road after some effort. Lot's of people took the time to watch our struggles, but ironically no one stopped to help until we were already on the road.
I was happy to not have to use the tire chains this trip.
I was not happy being down 3 quarts of oil when we pulled into Devils Lake ND today. Sounds like it was caused by the extreme temps. because it's been holding oil since then.
We ended the journey by chipping out our garage door which had become frozen to the cement in our absence.
The next day:
We are starting to get used to me not having to scramble to get things done before rushing back to Anchorage. We are all unpacked and now it is on with the task of finding me a job.
The road trip went by quickly. I wish more of it had been during the day to take in the great scenery the first three days.
Here is a pix that shows all the stuff I had in my car:

The car is running great and we spent a little over $600 on the whole trip, so I'm glad I didn't sell it in Anchorage.

more from the big drive

So we did 3200+ miles in 5 days (we had to add some travel distance/ time to get around snow in North Dakota).

Check out those Buffalo that hung out near the road:

That is much of what we saw on days two and three because we didn't get much time driving in the day.

Here is the capital building in Edmonton:
Some stuff I wrote after Day 2 was done:

We made it to Fort Nelson. The car started just fine after a night at -33C. No problems today as the temp didn't get below -35C (that I know of).
Right now it is -33C and the overnight low is supposed to be -42C. It feels strange when you get out of the car somewhere and -10F doesn't feel that bad.
We saw a bunch of moose today, a heard of elk and had a wolf run along side our car for about 30 yards!
The mountain roads from Watson Lake to Fort Nelson were challenging (I have never longed for boring prairie driving as much as I did tonight).
It was dark and there was flurries the whole way so I couldn't use the brights very much. The speed limit is around 60MPH but we could only go 40-50 MPH for the most part.
That's it for now. Time for bed and then off to Edmonton tomorrow.
Here is a guy (I think his middle name is HARDCORE) biking at about -20F:

Here is the impressive border sign between provinces:

Here is what I said after the 3rd day driving:
We made it to Edmonton. It was not without challenge today: snow and black ice were the challenges of the plains, but we still got to travel faster which made us "feel" better.
We did go slow on the black ice so as to not join the 5-6 cars in the ditch lying on their sides and up-side-down.
One thing I did not account for: we've lost 2 hours in three days because of time changes. We keep trying to get up early to squeeze every bit of daylight out that we can, but we are working against the sun and will lose another hour tomorrow.
Not sure where we'll wind up tomorrow: original plan was Minot, but may stop short of there depending on how we are doing.
The time thing was really challenging. Basically we stopped for about 10 hours each night and about 30-45 minutes for one meal a day (except day two where we didn't have a place to stop for dinner).
The dinner stop was always at night so we didn't burn up daylight. But we were basically on a constant time challenge from the start and wound up simply driving later each day to make it to the next big town.
We could have spent less time driving each day, but we were trying to make it on a budget and lodging was our biggest expense...or was it gas?

Leaving Alaska

Well it's actually happened: the Mrs. and I have packed up my Saturn and drove from Anchorage back to Minnesota.

The weekend that we left was celebrating Alaska's 50th anniversary as a state. The fireworks were great, but it was hard to feel celebratory.

We got to listen to a couple of mediocre and one horrid bands, but one was really good: Bearfoot. They do blue grass the way it should be done.

It was so cold the shutter froze on this one:

So that was Saturday and we held off Sunday to start driving to avoid some snow (which it turned out was UN-avoidable.

Here are some Caribou along the ALCAN that Sara didn't shoot yet:

Here is a demon moose (you'll see it in her eyes if you click on it to make it big):

This is from the first day: Just got into Whitehorse (15 hours in the car) and staying at a backpackers hostel.

Drive was good, the frost heaves made it slow going at times. Had some snow and fog past Haines Junction but no big deal.

Got a little concerned when the clutch got stiff and sluggish but I guess that's what you get when you drive through -40 for a few hours (and colder it turned out). It's worked itself out.

I'm having to add heat to the gas because the gas tank door isn't keeping the snow out and some is getting past the cap into the tank..On to Fort Nelson tomorrow.

Much later in the trip this was the sign that I thought would impress my friend Allen:

Here are some of the splendid mountains we saw so much of the first three days (when it wasn't dark from 4PM to 10AM):