Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Eh, it's more purply."

That was the reply I got when I asked Juli, "Not so bad for a pink bike, eh?"

Hopefully that'll be the end of the arguments about the frame color.

As you can see, Juli and I finished (sort of) her bike last night before she went off to bed.  I spent a bit more time thinking about what to do about the rack that I'd butchered, rendering it useless for the time being, and scheming solutions for my own carelessness.  But first, the bike.

I've talked about Juli's little Schwinn before, and in truth, the bike has been rideable for a couple of months, now.  Missing until last night were a trio of accessories, and a day warm enough to coax Juli outside for a spin.  It wasn't warm today, but it was warm enough for coaxing.  The water bottle cage and holder went onto the handlebars in mere minutes, as did the bell.  And so equipped, Juli swung a leg over it and made a single lap of the driveway before scampering back into the warmth of the house.  She paused long enough before setting off to smile for the camera.  Note the dandy cycling shoes, and the frame-matching piping on her fleece jacket.

Most of the work last night went into trying to fit a Pletscher CS rack to the rear of the Schwinn, in much the same way that I'd fit one to the Fuji -- by shortening the struts so that the rack would sit level on the small frame.  Unfortunately, I didn't test the brakes while positioning the rack and marking the struts for cutting, because while the location of the rack with the short struts is low and level, the straddle cable doesn't clear the rack in that position, rendering the rear brake both stiff and weak.  Not good.

The bike doesn't need a rack to be ridden, of course, so it's now out in the barn, ready for warmer days.  But Juli wants a rack, and I found it handy for her to have one on rides to the state park for a kayak or swim last year, so I do, too.

I tried splicing ends back onto the struts, sweating the strut and the severed end inside of a quarter-inch copper pipe.  Sadly, my pipe-sweating skills are nearly as feeble as my dancing skills, and it didn't work.  So I ground off the pivot rivets, and removed the struts from the rack altogether.  I'm going to pick up some long struts for a Nitto rack, plus their hardware, and use those instead.  That retrofit will definitely work, and I won't have to throw the rack away.  I'd have felt badly about wasting a classic (even if I recycled it), though the cost to replace the rack is roughy comparable to the cost of the struts.  Oh, well...

I have only a few bike purchases planned for myself this year.  The rear tire on my Motobecane is looking perfectly serviceable for the coming season, so I'm not going to swap it like I'd initially planned.  That leaves me with a need for just some toe clips and straps for my Moto and Schwinn, and a new helmet.  Easy!

Next up is my friend Carol's bike.  It needs a repack of all of its bearings, and today I picked up the balls I need for that job.  It feels good to be wrenching again, after a few months' hiatus, as did the 15 miles on the rollers this morning (21 average), after a weekend off at the canyon.

All for now.


Sunday, April 10, 2011


I'm not really what you'd call an outdoorsman.  It's not that I don't like the outdoors, mind you -- cycling, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, tree climbing, exploring... there are tons of things I like to do out there.  But as I said in my last post, I don't have one of those hiking goals you sometimes find among people you know, and back when I was a scout (I was a Cub Scout of the various grades, and a Webelo, but punched out of the Boy Scouts after one meeting), I never really went for the whole camping thing.  I enjoy an occasional night in a tent and with a camp stove, but you won't catch me out there every weekend or anything like that.  I don't like having stuff stuck to my feet, maybe -- sand, evergreen needles, etc.  Think what you will. 

That aside, as I was discussing (virtually) with a friend of mine, today, I do appreciate the diversity of the landscapes of our planet -- or even just the continent I call home.  Coming from New England, I've found the dry hills of northern California, the flatness of Florida, the glaciers of the Canadian Rockies and the deserts, buttes and canyons of the American southwest just fascinating.  And I've had the chance to see some amazing stuff out west -- Bryce and Zion, Moab and Sedona, Yosemite and the Columbia River Gorge.  And twice, now, the Grand Canyon.

It's an incredible place, if you haven't been.  I've posted a few pictures, here, rather than try to describe it.  Its vastness is impossible to comprehend through photographs.  Most of the big features in any of these pictures are miles away.  Even stuff up close is out of snowball's reach (I checked that).  And a hike to the bottom on the Bright Angel trail you can see in these shots is something like 17 miles.

This week I spent a fair bit of time thinking through some letting go I need to do -- really painful stuff that I've tried hard to avoid for a year.  And I've got more coming in the next few months, which I mostly haven't been trying to avoid.  All of it necessary to getting on with life, none of it easy, and some of it impossibly hard.  I'd like to be able to tell you that the trip to the canyon made everything easier -- that the vastness of the place and the geologic time scale made all of the hard stuff I've been wrestling with seem unimportant.  But I can't lie like that.  It's an incredible place that inspired awe over and over again, simply by shifting my location or casting my gaze in a different direction.  But it's just a place.  It doesn't make things go away, and it doesn't make them easier or hurt less.  Even so, it's good to get a dose of awe, and a pair of 3-hour hikes equals six useful hours of thinking time.

The last time I was at the canyon, I hiked to the bottom with my ex, and it was a good and memorable experience.  This time, the canyon received snow just before my arrival, which lent the south rim a different feel than it had the last time.  I didn't have the right gear to hike down in, or enough time to get very far, so I just hiked the rim, in both directions from the Bright Angel lodge -- one per day.  It would have been nice to get down in there, but my only real regret is that I didn't have someone to share the experience with.  Rather than swapping impressions, I spent last night reading Hemingway.  Good, but not as uplifting.  Maybe next time.

Back to bikes next week -- I promise.  I'll be finishing the fitting work on Juli's Schwinn, and doing the overhauling work on my friend Carol's Fuji (possibly with her husband and son), and hopefully(!) getting in some outdoor miles on the Motobecane.  Maybe Juli will even get to test out her new bike?  Time will tell.

All for now,


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Living in Service

The kitchen will be done today, and the roof wires will be back on the roof where they belong.  The kitchen looks fantastic, by the way, in red and white.  Then the house will go on the market, again, next week.  I'll still have to do the pantry, and replace and prime/paint a few rotten boards on a fence gate.  And if I were to get started on a list of "shoulds" for the house, the list starts getting pretty long.  And that's just indoor stuff -- by May I'm going to have to start cutting the grass again.

I'd kind of lost sight of how home ownership essentially means living in service to a building.  That's no way to live, and it's something I have to be more vigilant about.  I grew up working and watching my parents work around their place rather than getting out and exploring, and that experience is definitely part of my core.  Just look at my last post:  It's about painting and finding the bright side of something that that I know full well is devoring time I should be spending doing other stuff.  Bad habits.

While I was priming molding this morning, I realized that I've never really had a lifestyle "dream".  There are things I like to do, yeah, but I don't have a "climb all 10 peaks higher than X feet in North America" sort of thing that's guided my path.  Most of my goals have been centered around stuff, or work.  Apart from my kids, cycling is probably the closest thing I have to a lifestyle locus.  It's a good one, but it's not clear to me that there's a path to personal exploration and growth that stems from bicycles.

So what do I do about all of this?  Getting out of this house will be a great start, and with any luck I'll be moving this summer.  From there, I'll need to make time to explore new places and spaces, both with and without the girls, to see what feels right.  The potential for fun is tremendous, of course, but the challenge feels strangely daunting, too.  Habits are hard to change, after all.  But it seems really important that I focus on this one.

I had 7 resolutions this year, and I'm doing pretty well against them.  They weren't unimportant or minor things at all, but given the realization this little post is wrapped around, it feels like I missed a pretty important one.  I guess it's never too late to add -- or maybe just reaffirm -- an eighth.

All for now,