Sunday, August 30, 2009

What A Royal Newb I Am

One of the great things about this life we live is that you are free to throw yourself into something totally new and make a fool out of yourself at any stage. Take me, for instance. I'm over halfway through, and this weekend I lost my bike camping virginity. I hope that I still have the desire to bust out of my comfort zone way late into my life, because that's where all the fun is and I don't see why young folks should have it all to themselves or why you should ever stop trying new stuff.

My first sub-24 hour overnight bike camping trip (S24O, for short) is in the bag. It was the John&John&Pat&Patrick show. Every time anyone said "John" or "Pat", half the group would turn around.

I hate getting all serious, but I need to, just for a minute. Our destination was Badger Lake. It's a spot and a route that John developed from scratch and has refined over time. Like all the best stuff, it didn't fall out of the sky. It came about as a result of John getting on his bike with some gear and a half-assed plan and some faith and ending up as the only guy with a bike and a tent in an RV park full of generators and satellite dishes, and having a local whipser in the ear of this guy who stood out like a sore thumb about a spot that might be more along the lines of what he was looking for. I can't speak for him, but my sense is that it panned out way better than anything he could have imagined. And so John, being who he is, would naturally want to share this sweet bike find with other bikey people who would appreciate it, but not shout about it. I felt privileged to be invited. Okay, enough with the sappy shit.

Here are the Johns, as we head out the Columbia Plateau Trail . . .

John, John and Patrick, peeling off the beaten path. The notion of a "closed road" is ridiculous, when you think about it . . .

So okay. All the way out, I'm am painfully aware of what a dipshit I am . . . hauling half my house on my bike. Here's Patrick's setup - how it should be done . . .

The other John, my fellow newb, brought his Xtracycle and 4/5 of his worldly possessions. Because he could.

I would love to cast the first stone, except for the fact that I brought panniers packed to the gills. I was ready for a 7-to-10 day stay. In comfort. Dork squared.

You know what? Although we would do things differently, it didn't really matter. What did, was the pot at the end of rainbow.

We discovered that if you blow up your spare tube and double it up and stick it under your butt, you have just enough flotation to keep your head and your beer from going under.

These next three pics pretty much speak for themselves . . .

You know all that bullshit about how fast I am with my hammock? As John was tying the last knot, I was still figuring out where to set mine up.

But what he didn't know was that I had technology on my side, which meant that I would be way more comfortabler than he was.

Meanwhile, the other John had been making a lot better use of his time prior to the trip and was setting up his own hammock with salvaged scraps of material and was making me look like even more of a fool for spending all that money.

Insanely confident that we each had the best solution, we relaxed for the evening meal. (Patrick, by the way, is the only one who doesn't buy into this hammock nonsense.)

Finally it was time to turn in. I had all my shit hanging off the ridgeline, where I could reach it, in the middle of the night. My plan was beautiful and I had everything I needed should a blizzard develop and I be forced to spend several days and nights in my hammock.

Let me tell you, there was a helluva lotta tossing and turning and trying to get comfortable and pulling my sleeping bag out of the crack of my ass and then the whole hammock would rotate and the bug mesh was on the side instead of the top which gave me plenty of time to look at all the crap hanging off the ridgeline and I can tell you here and now that I understand hammocks about as well as I understand women, which is not at all and then "WHAM!". Sometime between maybe midnight and 4 am (who really knows), the rigging that I put my heart and soul into let go of the tree and slammed me against the earth. How rude. I battled my way out of the fabric prison, strung the SOB back up, tied a coupla extra knots and tried my best to go back to sleep.


In the morning, I got up after everybody else. I dicked around with coffee. I filtered water. Everybody else was packing. I was still dicking around. It was time to go. I was still dicking around. S240 etiquette had eluded me.

Many years ago I raced stock cars and one night I did something really stupid and caused a crash. One of the veteran drivers came up to me afterwards. There was a lot more vitriol involved, but the jist of it was this:

Do you know you just did?
Ever going to do it again?

Years later he would tell the story over and over, because at least "I got it" and most guys never would. So at least I have that much going for me.


The weather was not totally kind, but we made it into Cheney for breakfast, albeit a little damp.

Here's the new, "improved" Fish Lake Trail. They were hauling equipment in as we were sitting there, so it looks like they are paving this week.

When I got back, I weighed my bags - 21 lbs. Holy shit. And that was on the way back, after shedding a bunch of the weight that I hauled out. Insanity, but it's a place to start.

I put everything that's staying in the box, and everything that's going in the pile on the right, so there's a little progress.

I guess if I were just wanting to check it out, this would have been satisfying enough. But I'm afraid that I'm in deep enough that I need to have the experience of going solo, because as grateful as I am for the intro, I'll never really "get it" without some self-reliant experience. Maybe someday I can contribute something half as great at Badger.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On The Move

Jacque's headed to the Emerald City. She's been planning and now the time is almost here. I can't blame her because Patty and I headed over there in '91 for exactly the same reason - opportunity. We lasted 10 years. Part of me is a tiny bit jealous because Seattle's a pretty vibrant bike town. But overwhelmingly, I'm so glad to be able to live here because our quality of life is so much better than it was there. If you can make a living in Spo, you've got it made as far as I'm concerned.

Everything about her move is right and she'll bring that sad, congested city to its knees, but not without a couple of bikes. So you can figure out what my job is this week.

This one is staying. Super-small apartment, no room for anything but the practical. It has a little flair, but it's mostly a goofy damn bike, IMO. We'll store it at Ma and Pa's. For a while.

So she'll be taking her fastbike . . .

. . . which is good for getting places less slowly in good weather and when you don't have to carry a lot.

And she'll be taking her citybike . . . which she'll need on those rare occasions when it's raining in Seattle and she needs to actually carry something. (Pics in a minute.)

The citybike is a Novara Buzz that I bought after we moved back to Spokane. 2000, I think. It was a little too small for me and slightly too big for her. Whatever, it has worked for both of us. One night early in its life, I got a 6-pack and some reflective tape and went a little crazy. It's kind of hard to miss at night. Ahh, the lasting effects of beer . . . that tape is really hard to get off.

It only has a coupla thousand miles on it, but they've been hard miles. I won't say "beat to shit", but it's been beat to something just slightly less. A few weeks ago, when she was working at Sacred Heart, she had it parked out front in a high-traffic area and some bold douchebag came by and tried to steal it. He wasn't smart enough to break the lock, but he managed to destroy it in the process and I guess he was determined not to go away empty-handed because he stole the chain (I am not kidding) and the pedals (not kidding again) and smashed up whatever else he could. Total bottom dweller. The computer is stopped for good, like a broken clock. From here on out, there's no record of anything.

Jacques's old enough to be way independent, but you never stop worrying as a parent and so I put some time into getting it ready for it's next phase. She's going carless as long as possible - I will love hearing how that goes. I don't want to get all nostalgic on you guys, but it struck me that this is probably the last time I will ever work on this bike. Novara does some out-of-the box stuff, in my opinion. It has a 1 x 9 drivetrain, before anyone else was doing that kind of thing. Smart bike. Could use more tire clearance, though.

Speaking of tires, I threw on the original 26 inch slicks. Appropriate that they should end up where they started out, I think. Those suckers will outlast the bike, give her great flat protection, and way better traction in the rain than the Tom Ritchey slicks that she's been riding. Rock on, mighty Armadillos.

It has a rack now. Because racks can be highly useful. And a pannier grocery bag that Patty donated. When Jacque was younger, we could solve all kinds of problems for her. Now this is the best we can do.

Flash off . . .

. . . flash on . . .

Good luck, Jacque. I'd like to offer you one last piece of fatherly advice: "Force and speed are proportional. Don't hurt yourself." (No, that is not original.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Sad Life

I've been marching to the beat of this tyrannical drummer:

Oh, you think I'm a freak??? I think you are a freak! Whatever, dog. At least I have a life. You should seriously try getting one.

Anyway. As promised:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Toonin for the Re-Union

The annual family reunion is comin' right up. Last year we introduced bikes and it was a hit. This year, I don't want to be presumptuous or assumptuous or expectational - I just want to plant some fun and functional bikes amidst the fam and see what happens.

Maybe last year was a one-and-done. But just in case it wasn't, I'd like to add a third bike this year and maybe my bike freak nephew Eli might bring one of his, which would make four. We could almost have the makings of a family biker gang.

So anyways, along with a bunch of other stuff, these latest days have been about getting the right equipment configured and adjusted and lubed. Can't wait to see what happens.

Tonight I got some un-loved bikes ready for some hopefully major love and also got ready to haul them into the love zone.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Calgary Canada's Cousin Colleen Comes Calling

She's stateside for a visit, along with her bike, and wanted to take a ride with Patty.

Before they left, she asked me to take a quick look at her bike - she's been having some trouble with her chain skipping on the smallest cog. I figured it was just a derailleur adjustment. That is, until I noticed I could spin the cog with the wheel completely stopped. Uh-oh.

Turns out the cog was broken.

Poor Colleen, she had a serious bike problem and her only hope was her shadetree hack of a cousin. And a damn Yankee, no less. But this time, procrastination, laziness and ineptitude would rule the day. See, the rear wheel I'd taken off my old Specialized Hard Rock when I did the Xtracycle conversion and have been tripping over for weeks because I never got around to throwing it away was almost an exact match. Whadya know. I was once again able to avoid any real work. So long old wheel, hello new-used wheel. A five-minute tire swap and the bike was on the road again, good as new and ready for Colleen to go into warp drive.

I don't care what anyone says . . . I'll take lucky over good any day.

And speaking of lucky, the gals apparently passed by the Rocket Market on their ride and Colleen decided to say thanks in my language.

Great to see you, Colleen. Hope you enjoy your stay!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Knot A Lot To Talk About

Same dumb shit going on at my house tonight as last night.

Other than that, I've been consumed for over a week with trying to pick out a sleeping bag, which is amazingly difficult. No end in sight. Good bags = serious coin and I can't afford to make a mistake.

(post #200 - yay. don't let the dark house fool ya - big celebration running through the night and into the wee hours)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bight Me

Whoa! Don't get all defensive on me, man - I said "bight", not "bite". Chill out, pilgrim! Seriously . . . BACK OFF . . . I am knot kidding.

Are we good?

If we can please talk now. I'm working on some Hennessey rigging because the stock system kind of sucks. Okay, it really sucks.

I used to know a tiny little bit about knots from my ski-patrolling phase, but that's all gone from my head. Luckily for me, Al Gore invented the internet a few years ago and I was able to go there to re-learn a few of the basics. One of the bad things about the internet is that you never really come up with anything on your own because it's so easy to find stuff to rip off, but whatever. I need a solution, not a guilt trip.

Somehow, I've become obsessed with setting up my hammock in the advertised 2-1/2 minutes, or preferably, half that. Tonight, relatively calm preparation. In the coming days, a frantic balls-to-the-wall timed, video-taped excercise.

Yes, this is still a bike blog. Take a deep breath and settle your ass down.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Brandy's Lame Adventure

Thanks to her dork master, the grand, overly-ambitious plan went all haywire.

Patty was out of town this weekend, which was my invitation to be irresponsibe and stupid. As always, I made the most of the opportunity.

This spring-summer I've become more and more interested in trying a little bike camping and specifically, a style called the S24O. It's a self-contained, quick overnight trip. John's done a number and appears to have them totally dialed in. My big plan was to try a first, mock, solo, shakedown, bumbling, stumbling, close-to-home S240. And since it would be so scaled-down, I'd be able to take my dog. Cool.

Hennessey Hammocks seem to be popular among S24O enthusiasts. I've known from first sight that I must have one and finally got around to ordering it from REI a coupla weeks ago. I signed up for their free store delivery, which I think is done by stagecoach, and it finally got here last week. I guess having it in my hands made me feel like I was fully S24O-qualified. Wrong.

This is not car camping. Trying to figure out the hammock setup and sort out the gear and bike and how to haul it all and juggle that with everthing else I had to do on Saturday . . . it became clear that this wasn't happening. But I wasn't willing to totally scrap the whole damn thing. So it devolved into a short Sunday morning trip - haul the hammock out and set it up. And even thought it's too dry to use a stove, I'd pack one, along with some other cooking gear and food, just for the practice. Pretend games - just like a 4-year-old with an easy-bake oven.

We finally headed out . . .

With the loaded bike and semi-slicks the going was slow. Better safe than sorry.

But you also have to have some fun sometimes, so I cut loose and bunny-hopped this log. Cleared it by probably 3 feet. You should have seen me, I was utterly amazing.

We arrived at our fake campsite and fake-unpacked. This is the Hennessey Hammock. You'd never know it by looking at the stuff sack.

Laughing my ass off . . .

I guess we grow our trees extra big around here . . . the strap wasn't anywhere near long enough.

The cord would go, but not with enough length left to tie off.

Maybe the easy-bake oven was a little bit over my head. I decided it was time to throw in the towel head home to find the toy where you put the right shapes through the right-shaped holes. With some extra cord and in the comfort of my own front yard, I finally got the SOB strung up. (The dog spent a bewildered weekend of watching and tagging along on this wacked-out series of events.)

This is from inside, looking through the bug mesh. There are clips and a mesh bag that slide along the tension line for hanging your stuff. Haven't figured out yet where you're supposed to keep the beer.

Although it was a pretty collossal disaster, some good things came out of the weekend. At least I know what I don't know. Bike camping takes lots of practice and refinement, that much is for sure. I'll keep at it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Brandy's Big Adventure Looms

This is Brandy.

She came into this life as a runt on a farm. She hung out by herself and never got the chance to properly socialize and then she went to what we think was a pretty abusive environment. There was a Russian mail-order bride involved. I am not making this up. Patty and I adopted her out of that when she was two. Even though we knew better, we thought we could love her back to normal, but her first coupla years did some irreversible stuff and I don't like to lie to my dog, so I've had to explain to her that she's brain damaged. The way she looks at me lets me know that she understands. It's just a fraction of a hollow-eyed second and then it's "whatever, dumb human . . . game on, can't we just get on with what's truly important": her one and only focus in her sad dog life is to chase what I throw and bring it back so I can throw it again. With some head games thrown in. So I throw and she chases. And we go all crazy trying to fool each other. It seems to work for both our pea-sized brains and amuses us both endlessly.

When she's not chasing, she's a cuddler, a sweetheart. Even though she smells funky and her coat gets all ratty and the USPS is on the verge of cancelling our mail service forever because she charged a carrier and had to be pepper-sprayed, she's hard not to love. We watch Dr Phil together and listen as best we can and he's taught us both not to focus on the painful past. Thanks to his wisdom, we have come to accept that the only thing we can control is what lies ahead. Patty and I chose her because she needs to move and we want to move and she makes us feel bad and lets us know when we don't move enough and hopefully that guilts us into getting out and moving more because moving is essential for her and way good for us.

She chose us because anything is better than being yelled at in Russian. Like all relationships that work, everbody gets something they need.

So that's a long intro, but I think you will be happy that you wasted this time wandering into my dog's psyche, because she spends a lot of time waiting for her humans to do something and she is in for a surprise because tomorrow they are, and as well as you now know her, you will want to be along for the ride. The bike ride, that is.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Black Magic

Ever been around a 10-year-old boy who just discovered the power of electrical tape?

I recently acquired a few rolls of cloth bar tape and a quart of shellac. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about and have several hours to kill, watch this video.) I'm a few notches past excited and would be very happy to wrap and slather anything you own. I desperately needed an outlet tonight and hit one of my own. You probably think it looks like hell. I can't stop staring.

Just to be clear - although my dad had the killer high-quality electrical tape, the kid was not me. Honest.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bike Things That Matter

Most of my extracurricular life is just moronic riding and moronic thinking-about-riding, but tonight I got blind-sided and overwhelmed with meaning.

SRV put on its last race of the season.

Although we're relatively new to this, we're getting better and more efficient, but it still takes a lot of effort and energy and man-woman-power for us to put on a race. We watch Baddlands and how many races they do and how efficient they are. We want to get there and we'll keep working hard.

But after the race tonight, it went without even saying that it was time to tip a couple back. The sun was down and Mike, Sarah and I were the last ones in the parking lot and everything had gone down on schedule and nobody got hurt and (mostly) all the racers went home satisfied. All of the multitude of volunteers that make it possible had come together to do their job for one last time this season. So we sat on the deck at Benneditos and toasted them and us and the state of SRV and the state of bike racing in Spokane and vowed to keep it going. (I wish I had pics, but I was too dumb to go get my camera. Maybe it's a blessing!) And because we know each other so well, we laughed a lot. And we ate pizza. And the only reason we ever got to know each other and were there at that moment is because we like bikes.

The Spokane bike community is already more huge and diverse than any of us realize, and it's just getting wings. Mine is an extremely small part, but being able to contribute in some way is huge to me.


The other thing that happened at the races tonight is that I ran into a couple of guys I rode with at the Midnight Century - Theo and Tom H. We had all spent time riding together. None of us finished. I think I can speak for them when I say that all of us wished we would have, but none of us let the result define the experience. The experience was the experience, no matter the outcome. Yes, the table at Marron looked sweet. But there's a whole rich non-finisher sub-culture. We had some dramatic stories and surreal, weird, early-am stuff going on as we bailed from the middle of nowhere and tried to find our way back home. Tom told me he went with Glen because he didn't want to let his friend ride the CT at 3 am by himself. I can completely understand that because I was freaked and adrenalized by riding through EC Spo by myself in the wee hours. Talk about being in a weird and vulnerable place. I guess I've decided you don't have to finish the MC for it to majorly affect you.

I don't know what it will become in the future but for right now it's a *really* cool, fringe bike event. I live for this kind of shit.