Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A past home...

I have been watching the news the past week as I've been laid up sick at home, and have been feeling thankful that we no longer live in the Red River "Valley".  The poor residents up there are experiencing the yearly apocalypse the region is known for, and it's been particularly ugly this time.  I'm sure you've seen the flooding on the news, as it's hit the national venues.  I've even seen people I went to college with during Katie Couric's nightly news.  I have no interest in living any additional years in an area where you can see record flooding combined with blizzard conditions.  Seriously.  The state closed I-29 because if you slide off the icy snowy road, you can end up submerged in 7 feet of water.  There are severe weather phenomena that can be associated with adventure and sometimes even some level of fun, but I see nonesuch experience in the flooding/freezing of an place where people are already tired of a long winter season.  Give them a break, nature.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


A couple other "bummers" eluded my memory when writing this mornings post.  I failed to mention that I've worn out both the rear rim on my LHT, and the crankset on my KM.  Both Surlys are hurtin'.  Life of a commuter.  The LHT rim, a Bontrager Maverick, is cracking at many eyelets, and should get replaced before my ND tour (which I'm thinking may happen late-May/early June).  The KM's crankset, a Race Face Evolve, is just not settling correctly.  I've had problems with it ever since buying the bike used last year.  It is a new-school 2 piece set up that relies on the appropriate amount of spacers to ensure that one, the bottom bracket bearings operate smoothly, and two, the crank arms are not loose.  I think the guy who had it before me did something stupid the first time he built it and wore down the crank splines, because nothing works to make it smooth now.  It is adjusted in 1mm spacer increments, and between 1mm, I either have significant play in the drive side crank arm, or I bind the bb bearings.  Not cool.  So I need to keep an eye out for a new crankset/bb setup while I continue to ride/destroy this one.  And the rim on the touring set-up; I'll have to do some research and decide on a beefier rim that can actually handle the touring/commuting the bike is designed for and either build it myself or have it done by one of the very skilled wheel-builders found at a couple different Twin Cities shops.  We'll see.  I'd like to stop wrecking expensive bike parts, but I know it wont stop.  It's the lifestyle.  And bike parts are cheaper than car parts. 

And a tour update- I've been pouring over the ND Atlas & Gazetteer by DeLorme, and just can't decide on a route so far, but I'm working on it.  The Badlands/National Grasslands region is stumping me, for three reasons.  First, I want to see as much as I can since it contains the most impressive scenery in the state.  Second, many of the roads are gravel and don't go anywhere.  :)  It's hard to find a long road to get through the area without taking a major highway.  And third, I need to make sure I have plans to either have somewhere to obtain necessary water, or simply plan to carry a ton of it, which I'd rather not do but will if I have to.  The regions water sources are notorious for clogging water filters due to being extremely silty/muddy.  Yum.  I'll keep you posted as the trip continues to formulate...
You may have already seen this on the Surly blog, but if not, it's worth a view:


Ups and downs

The past week and a half has been back and forth for me, with great spring moments and a couple of "bummers" mixed in.   I'll get the "bummers" out of the way first.  I'm home sick for the third time since Christmas.  I was teaching class yesterday, and my voice quit working, and my temperature started coming up.  I found another instructor to take over for me, and when I got home I went to sleep very uncomfortable with a 101 temperature and no voice.  But whatever, I'll get over it.  In a way it's nice to get a break from teaching, just not this way.  And the other bummer:  taxes.  This was the first year that Alison and I really made any money in our lives, so while I'm used to getting returns, we got to pay this year.  And not a small amount.  Bummer.  But again whatever, I'll get over it.  And I'm happy to support our country as long as our government uses my money wisely.  I can't say they always do, but I think it's going to get better.  
On to the good.  Spring, despite the past couple days has been showing up after many months of darkness, cold, and boredom.   I managed to get out on my road bike (first for 2009) this past weekend, twice, to cover about 65 miles, and took a long city exploration ride the sloppier but still nice weekend before last on the Karate Monkey.  The road rides were through the Highwood Hills area of St Paul and out to the St. Croix Washington County area.  The only bad part of it all was on the second ride, when I tried to explore a new route that came back through Woodbury, which ended up like most suburban bike rides- crappy.  Most who know me understand my distaste of most American suburbs.  They are generic, car-centered, cycling-unfriendly places to get bored.  How's that for an over-generalization.  :)  But they do suck to ride in.  
My city exploration ride on the Surly was from my apartment in STP to downtown MPLS along the Missississippi River.  It was very wet, as the snow melt made the bike paths a mixture of mud, water, and pavement.   I probably should have covered the Brooks, but it dried out.  Fun ride.  

The Surly on the Stone Arch Bridge, MPLS...

Now that's a soggy Brooks...whoops....

Looking out over the Mississippi...

Another fun moment of the past couple weeks was heading out with Alison to the Como Zoo here in STP.  The animals are also pumped for Spring.  The gorillas were out throwing snowballs- if you've never seen this in person it's time to go check it out.  :)  The wolves were out pacing the perimeter of their edge of the zoo cage watching the locals walking their little tiny edible puppies.  :)  And the African Hoofed Animals section had a comical Scandinavian variation to the entrance sign:

If you're Northern you'll get it.  :)

The last thing I have to comment on now is a curious new behavior of Mullet.  When we are gone, he's gotten into the habit of carrying one of Alison's slippers into the bathroom and setting it in the middle of our rug by the radiator.  Our theory is that he's using it as a pillow, because he's often lays in front of this heat source for his afternoon laziness.  We can only wonder though; we've never seen him carry it in person, but almost every day now we find a solitary slipper laying in the bathroom.  Just another tick on Mullet's odd behavior chart.  :) 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

a shift.

I've owned and ridden a singlespeed bike for many years now, basically since the second year I was in college.  The only real exception was my brief time living in UT, because it was too painful to ride one gear there.  So it comes as no real surprise that I've just spent another winter commuting 34x19 in the snow and deep cold 18 miles a day (for the most part (minus 25 sucks)).  I've put my time in, and can call myself a veteran singlespeed rider.  But this past weekend I decided to make a shift, literally.  I geared my Karate Monkey, and it's now set up as a 1x9.  The long slow plods weren't doing it for me anymore, and I've decided for at least until summer, I'm going to leave this bike geared and set aside singlespeeding.  It was nice getting to work faster and not feeling the "pump" and fatigue after each commute.  Efficiency is not a bad thing, right?  And there wont be that much more maintenance.  If anything, I'll go through chains less often too.  I know, it's odd that I'd choose to switch when riding is only getting easier, but I'm just getting sick of the slowness.  Anyhow, the one speed thing will come back, but for now, I'm enjoying picking my cadence again after many many months of following the familiar strange draw of one-speeding I've often chosen.  

Friday, March 06, 2009

Dividends are here...

Every March we REI members get a little ansty because we know we're about to receive yearly dividends, which means free gear. Yes. Due to the fact that I use an REI Visa, my dividends the past couple years have been seriously fat, which of course makes me pee myself with excitment, knowing that it's time to get stuff I normally can't afford. :) This year among the list of "free" stuff, is some new cams. A number 5 Black Diamond C4 has been on my wish list for a while, as I need more big pro and it is so very expensive. I will protect up to a 5.85" crack, which is big and painful. BD makes a number 6 that will go to 7.68", but I'm not an off-width monster so I don't know that that will join my rack unless I suddently move to southern UT where that kind of drama is neccessary. :) You never know... The number 5 is huge enough for now, just look at it's wingspan next to another purchase of the day, a number 1 Metolius TCU, my current smallest camming unit:

Or use my laptop for reference....big.

Intrigued for now....face will be more stretched in a mixed combo of happiness and agony when placing in a real wide crack....

It does feel crazy to own a single piece of rock protection that equals the cost of a craigslist fixed gear bicycle though...puts the cost of trad climbing in perspective.