Saturday, August 30, 2014

all my parts...

On Tuesday, I was stricken with back pain. I've had occasional back pain over the last thirty years, but this one was unusual: it started when I was sitting in my chair at work, and, after several days, it hasn't yet completely passed (although it's much improved).

I couldn't reach the lower shelf of the dishwasher. Putting on pant and socks required strategy. I've been walking with a cane (I have a small collection of them), which has generated some interest and sympathy (and I'm a sucker for both; I may decide to carry the cane occasionally. Ahem).

I can't get ONTO the bike, but if I could, I know that what would really improve things is a brisk metric century. By next week, I'm hoping to be able to do that (but by that time, I won't need it so much!).

As I so frequently say, all my parts are as old as I am.

Friday, August 29, 2014

how are the mighty fallen

I have, with great reluctance, been forced to go with online delivery of all my financial statements. Postal delivery has simply become so unreliable that I can no longer depend on the service. We regularly get mail for neighbors, and sometimes they bring mail to us (and I suspect that sometimes they don't). Bills have gone unpaid because they were not delivered. This can't go on.

It makes me sad. The United States Postal Service was once a great institution. The first Postmaster General was Benjamin Franklin, and the United States Postal Service can trace a line back to royal postal service in Britain. The Pony Express served to cement California into the union as a free state.

Postal costs, especially for letters, have always been high, because the USPS had to guarantee delivery throughout the country, even to places with difficult access, and to make up for this, the USPS was given a monopoly on the delivery of this kind of mail. Other delivery services have looked with avarice on getting the parts of this business that would be most profitable; because of this (I suspect), there have been moves toward privatization and the removal of the monopoly. A 2006 law required the USPS to pre-fund retiree benefits on employees that it hasn't hired yet. This has led to many of their financial problems.

I hate the idea of a private postal service. The USPS, when it works, is one of the actions of a great nation. I remember, in my early teens, being awakened in the middle of the night to see a grainy picture of men walking on the moon. In the ensuing days and weeks, I thought about what an honor it was to be a citizen of a country that could do that.

It would have been no such honor if the men in the film clip, instead of wearing US flags on their suits, were wearing the logos of General Motors.

I am sorry that this once-great institution has been so gutted that it can no longer perform its function. It is another sign of the slipping of American from our sense of being able to do anything, from our sense that we were all Americans, into venality and self-interest. I am reminded of the wail of David, when his mentor Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in battle:

The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. (2 Samuel 1:19-20)

Monday, August 25, 2014

i already have

Do you go to Postsecret.Com?

I will be turning 60 next spring, and in some ways, I already have.

But check out Postsecret.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

disappointments and unexpected pleasures

This weekend was one of those three-day weekends I get (I get every other Friday off). On Friday, I had planned to spend a lot of time at the Social Security office, because I was unable to set up an online account, and one way to get past whatever lockout I encountered was to go to the Social Security office in person to get an access code. I work in a welfare office, and I know that some of our clients spend days trying to manage some comparatively simple task, so I got there early and brought a book. But they were taking names and giving places in line when I got there (about twenty minutes before the official opening), and I was called promptly (about five minutes before the official opening), and I was out, with access code in hand, and about half an hour (and the access code worked; I now have a login and password).

For the rest of the day, though, I had nothing much to do. The ups and downs set a tone which has continued through the weekend.

Yesterday was supposed to be Tom H's Lying Bastard ride, but Tom sensibly called it off when he found it was raining on the ride route (his fraudulent blog post notwithstanding). I had been looking forward to that ride more than I like to say, and, when he postponed it to the next day, I was jealous and disappointed that I wouldn't be able to go; I had a D ride scheduled. Friend Dave C invited us to his place to a ride that he would lead; Laura OLPH and I went, as did Shawn R for part of the way. We did this route, and, as Laura wrote in her post, it rained on us pretty much the whole way. I'm grateful to Dave for leading, and to Laura and Shawn for coming out... but The Excellent Wife (TEW) will tell you, I was not great company for the rest of the day when I got home; even buying her a present didn't lift my gloom.

Below: Shawn and Dave at the start of the ride.

Laura appears.

Dave brought out this Bianchi his wife got him; he rode one like it years ago.

On the road. We must have been crazy.

Today broke clear as a bell, and not too hot, so while many of my friends were calling Tom a Lying Bastard (grrr...), I led TEW and two others on this route (I forgot to turn on the tracker for the first mile-and-a-half or so; we actually did about 16 miles). In addition to TEW, two others came out: Matt, a fellow volunteer at the New Brunswick Bike Exchange, and Jocelyn, a new member of the Freewheelers. It was a good ride. We stopped at the new Better World Market, a project of Elijah's Promise. Better World has coffee (from Rojo's!), sweets, gelato, cold drinks, as well as local produce, sausage, meats, and other products; check 'em out.

After that ride, though, I felt like I needed to get another one in. I decided to do my Coppermine from Home route. I should have planned better; the only food and drink I had was my morning coffee, an iced coffee from Better World, and half a big cookie. As I was going up Coppermine, two things happened: I bonked, and I felt a rub in the rear brake. I stopped to clear my head (and the brake), and still got up Coppermine at good speed; my average was above 18.5 when I got to the bottom of Old Georgetown. And then I felt like I was bonking again; I went slower and slower... and was passed by a guy on a hybrid. On a hunch, I checked: the rear brake was binding again. I opened it up, and got zipping along as if  knew what I was doing, and got my speed up to 18.2 by the end of the ride.

At home, I threw the bike on the stand to fix the brake (and give it a cleaning; it was filthy from the rain yesterday), and no sooner had I done so than a little Indian girl from the neighborhood appeared, asking if her dad could bring over a bike for me to look at. Shortly after that, the dad, the girl, and a few other hangers-on were watching me patch a tube, then adjust a brake on another kids bike. One of the neighbors asked about the bikestand, and if he could get the Nashbar one instead; I told him we'd had two at the bike exchange, and both were broken in less than two years. Then I pumped up the tires on the bikes and had the kids ride the bikes around the back driveway where I could see that things looked like they were working OK. My bike wrenching has become something of a neighborhood institution (and a neighborhood entertainment). And that's not a bad thing.

But I'm really sorry I missed that Lying Bastard ride.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Slow ride with Bike Exchange 8/24

Hey, all. I'm sorry for the mixup on the time, but I'll be starting the ride at 9am, rather than 10 am as in some of the announcements.

We'll do about 16 miles, starting at the Bike Exchange in New Brunswick - go to 90 Jersey Street in New Brunswick, and go around and look for us on the Sandford Street side. We'll go through some of Franklin and some of North Brunswick.

We'll stop at the Better World Market, a project of Elijah's Promise; the market has gelato, coffee, munchies, and stuff.

As usual, no attitudes, lots of stops, nobody dropped, and only three lectures: safety, a plug for the bike exchange, and my rant about mirrors. There will be a couple of places where you can get your speed on, but we'll all collect at the turns and stops.

At this point, weather looks good. If there are changes, I'll post here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

cycling glasses

It's too early to tell yet whether this will be a "stuff that works" thing.

Ever since I returned to cycling about ten years ago, I've been baffled by cycling eyewear. Some pair cost hundreds of dollars, and I can't imagine that they provide that much added value in improved visibility. On the other hand, I'm continually flabbergasted by the amounts of money some people will pay for style. (Like, diamonds? Have they any real use? Have they any resale value?)

I've been using these DeWalt safety bifocals, clear and smoke, for years.

I've been getting 'em here; they're about $12 plus shipping. They are available with various bifocal levels in the lower part, and the upper has no prescription.

Lately, though, a few things are coming together to tell me I need real prescription glasses for cycling. Like, it's been getting hard for me to read street names on signs.

Then I read this post on Dave Moulton's Bike Blog (Dave claims no relationship to Alex Moulton of the folding bicycles). Dave is a former custom framebuilder who folded up shop in the 1990's; he's an amiable curmudgeon with a host of opinions about which he holds forth on his blog. His syntax and punctuation are, at best, idiosyncratic. But his posts are good reading.

In his post on glasses, he said:

...I cannot understand why I didn’t treat myself to a pair of these glasses before. Like many other cyclists, I spend money on all the right equipment. Clothes too, shoes, helmet, my comfort is important... And yet all these years I have neglected the vision part, which is important for my eyes, my safety, and is just one more thing to make my cycling experience just that much better... Like many aspects in life, ignorance is bliss, and I never knew what I was missing until I tried something that is a vast improvement.

Well, all right. But he only got one pair of glasses, with fairly dark lenses. I like to have dark lenses for bright sunlight, and clears for cloudy days, or when I have to read the GPS or a cue sheet.

Then I remembered seeing some riders with sunglasses with inserts behind for the prescriptions. Can you get these with replaceable colored lenses?

You can. Serfas has four models. I like the Gladiator (in black, of course).

But how to get the prescription lenses installed? I called four opticians: three didn't want to do it at all, and the fourth wanted almost as much to install lenses in the insert (that I would provide) as I paid for the (trifocal) glasses I'm wearing now.

Well, that would not do. But in my stumblings around the internet, I found LensesRx. These folks will put lenses into your frames, for what seem to be reasonable costs. I emailed them asking if they could put the lenses into the insert for the Gladiators (with a link to the frame) if I sent my prescription, and got this response:

As per our opticians who have inspected the pictures you provided us with, we can work on your items and fill it according to your requests. All we need is a copy of your prescription.

So the Gladiators are on the gift list (probably Christmas; The Excellent Wife [TEW] and I start our Christmas shopping ludicrously early), and I'll send 'em off to LensesRx with the prescription.

Further developments as they arise. Watch this space.

... but I could never ride it

It's beautiful...

...but I could never ride such a thing on real roads.

Original, and more pictures, at Cycle Exif.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

mung in the doin's

Laura OLPH had an early-morning responsibility today, so she couldn't do a ride at the usual times, and there wasn't anything that interested some of us in the book for today, So Laura asked about a ride starting at about 10:30. By that time the rain had (mostly) passed, but still, only Joe M and I showed up.

We did this route.  Laura had emailed me the route to put in Mr. Garmin, my sometimes-reliable GPS. We wanted to do a flat route at a moderate pace, but the pace crept up a bit (my fault, I'm afraid).

We stopped at the excellent Bruno's Bikes & Chocolate (what a great idea! If they sold computer parts, I'd never leave). Just before that, Laura had been unable to shift down to her smaller chainring; we played with the derailleur, but couldn't get it to work reliably. Since we were right there, we gave her bike Kermit to Mr Bruno, who lubed up the derailleur, then blew out a quantity of dirt from the moving parts. "Hrmph," I said, "Too much mung in the doin's," which Laura thought was just too picturesque.

Well, we aim to please.

Then back into a headwind. On the way back that front derailleur began to act up again, so I gave Laura some ideas on how to clear it out. She may find herself wrenching one day, willy-nilly.

At the start:

Joe's bike is a Bridgestone RB-1, the ancestor of the current Rivendell bikes:

I'm completely unreliable at these over-the-shoulder shots.

The excellent Jim Bruno, among his impedimenta.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

beaker's maiden voyage

Visitors to Laura OLPH's blog will know that she got herself a lovely, lugged Italian frame, which she has had made up into a bike she has named Beaker. She bought it from Michael over at Wheelfine Imports, and had Ross at Hart's build it up (after all, he had her Guru measurements). It was ready yesterday.

Laura had a ride in the list for today, and her blog post describing it said:
A retirement party in Jersey City on Saturday afternoon means that I can't lead a long ride starting far away on Saturday morning. Add to that the impending Friday taking-home of Beaker (brake-arrival-dependent) and we have a recipe for a moderately hilly, local-origin, breaking-in ride of an almost reasonable distance (something like 45 miles)...
Marco B and I did a few extra miles with Laura, and, in Hopewell, met Peter, Blake, Bagel-Hill Barry, and another Mark (he's quite tall; I am resisting the urge to call him Over-The-Mark or Measuring-Up-To-The-Mark, but my resolve is slipping). Laura had the idea to go to Sergeantsville, but then thought she wanted to show off the made-up Beaker to Michael at Wheelfine... anyway, we did this route, complete with doublings-back. On the way up, Barry lost a bottle, went back to find it, and while he was looking, ran into a desk that was in the road to be picked up as trash. He hurt himself, but not enough that he had to stop riding; he completed with us. (He admitted that, although his leg hurt, his pride hurt, too.)

On we went to the Sergeantsville Store, which has been taken over by an Indian family (although there's still a Far East Asian woman of some description doing some of the cooking); there was the most engaging little Indian girl working the counter! (But when I tried to get a picture, she was nowhere to be found.)

In order to get back to Wheelfine, Laura broke one of her own rules, and we went back almost exactly the same way we came in. We got to Wheelfine, and, while Laura was showing off the made-up Beaker bike to Michael, a few of the rest of us went inside the store to marvel at the glorious chaos inside. I'm not going to describe it; go see it yourself.

Then back. On the ride, we passed a few of the oxen of the Hopewell Valley Stampede, an art project; watch Laura's blog for an upcoming event. Laura had been told about a must-see piece right at a blind curve at Woosamonsa and Poor Farm (yeah, don't YOU wanna stop there?), but we weren't impressed; I got a picture... but there are better oxen; we saw a number of them.

Then back to the ride start, and then back to the car. On the way, we passed a garage sale with the most complete collection of lawn mowers and snowblowers. I wonder what the story of that might have been?

Pictures:  Below, Peter is hiding from Homeland Security, or something.

Terrible pictures of Beaker, below.

Michael at Wheefine.

The "must see" ox, with brown armor and chain mail. Ho-hum.

Need a lawnmower?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

change your cables

On yesterday's ride, I got to talking about changing my cables and housing once a year. I normally do it in October, but I had a sense I needed to do it sooner; I've had problems with shifting onto the big ring and with spontaneous downshifts. So I changed the brake and derailleur cables and housing today after Ken G's ride today, and this is what I found:

That's a cut end of the old derailleur cable. Protruding from the cut end, you can see the longitudinal wires that are molded into the housing that make indexed shifting possible. They have worked their way out of the housing to a distance of about 7mm, more than a quarter inch.

THAT's why you need to change your cables and housing every now and again.

bad puns & bee sting ride

Ken G's been inviting me on his Sunday ride for weeks, but I've either had conflicts or wussed out due to weather, so today I made a point of showing up outside Hart's (his starting point) by 9. When I got there, I met Sterling, who wasn't sure if Ken was actually leading today, but I'd had email correspondence with Ken the nigh before and I assured Sterling that Ken was planning to come. Sterling left to get his legs spinning, and seconds later Ken rolled up.

Ken was looking out at the passing traffic at a small white sedan and said, "That's one of mine," and then looked dismayed when it drove on... to be followed about four cars later by an identical small white sedan containing John K. And when Sterling returned, we took off to do this route.

We spun through Lambertville, and up Alexsauken Creek Road in what I still think of as the wrong direction, before heading up toward Sergeantsville, on the way going up Pine Hill Rd (although Ken said he was more concerned about the hill on 695 than Pine Hill). Sterling took a look at Pine Hill partway up, and got demoralized when it went on higher than he expected, although he certainly spun his way up well enough. We passed the Sergeantsville store, and went on to take a break in Ringoes.

While we were there, we saw several contingents of the Major Taylor riders doing their long ride from (I think) Newark to New Hope; perhaps they were broken up by traffic lights. There would be a dozen, then three or four, then another twenty; a small group followed by a larger group, then another small group. John K, who'd been making puns all day, asked, "If a Major Taylor rider is doing the ride alone today... is he a Private Major Taylor Rider?" Groans ensued.

On we went. Shortly thereafter, John had a disagreement with a bee which ended in pain for John, but I think it was just his bad pun karma working out.

We did the hill at Wertsville Road, then Province Line, which Ken said was the last significant hill of the day... and a short time later we went up Hopewell-Princeton, which I guess was an insignificant hill, but my legs didn't think so, and I think Sterling agreed. And then a paceline back to Hart's.

Nice. Good ride.


I really like that one above.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

cheryl's last penna ride

Early in the week, Tom H sent out an email that he was thinking of doing a ride from Rocky Hill, but the answer came back that this was going to be Cheryl M's last weekend in the area before she moves to Florida. She wanted to visit the store at Carversville, so Blake promised a route starting from the Yardley Park & Ride.

My first problem was planning a route there for the car. I'm not much better at navigation when I'm behind the wheel than I am when I'm pedaling two of them. The only address I could find on Google gave a road name without the intersection... but the intersection came up on the associated map... but then my GPS wouldn't do an intersection... but then I found the directions on how to enable that feature in my GPS, and got it set up. (I know that in 2014, most people use their smartphones, but I don't have a real smartphone. It runs Android, but it's only got limited memory; it's not smart... I guess you could classify it a "dull-normal" phone.)

I got there early, and slowly, four more riders came in, trying to avoid the earnest, smiley young woman with the Christian literature. In addition to Tom, Blake, and Cheryl, Laura OLPH appeared. So we set off, and did this route.

Early on, I got to talking about a fix for a creaky thunk I had somewhere in the drive train; I thought it was the pedals, or the bottom bracket, or the torque on the cassette was too low, but it wasn't any of these; it turned out that the nut that held my rear hub together had worked slightly loose. I torqued it up yesterday, and it's been fine. We also got to talking about my no longer supported, but still functional Garmin 605. Blake had put the route up on Ride with GPS, and I had downloaded it into the device. Except for the two places where the route crossed itself, the unit successfully told me the route. Blake was a little nonplussed that I looked like I knew where I was going!

We went up Eagle Road, which I'd done with the fast boys a few weeks ago. Now, friend Dave C has been talking about Jericho Mountain for years, but I didn't know that Eagle Road crosses Jericho. When I heard the talk about Jericho, I grew a bit concerned (although the only hill I've ever really had trouble on with this crew was one a few years ago that was short - a few hundred feet - but so steep I couldn't keep the front wheel on the ground and wound up rolling across the oncoming traffic lane). So now I find I've done Jericho. Twice, as it turns out. (Not my favorite hill; it's challenging, but as soon as you're at the top, you're rolling down the other side, and there's no great view).

There were great views today, it was beautiful and clear, and not hot until late in the ride. We rolled into Carversville (I don't think I've been here before) to see an excellent minimalist bike rack; just a pipe on legs on which you catch the front of the saddle. A simple idea; picture below.

As soon as we left Carversville, though, we had another hill on Stover's Mill; not long, but tough enough after my legs had gotten wooden from the stop. The other tough hill on the way back was, I think, Cedar Lane. I think it was after that that I got to talking to Blake about bike noises, and promised him I'd include a link to Jim Langley's Bike Noises page, where I found an answer to one of my annoying noises. And now I've done it. (Jim Langley has a huge amount of neat bike stuff on his site; I've wasted too many hours rattling around it. If you're bike-geeky, bookmark that one and spend some time there.)

Only a few pictures. One over my shoulder of the rest of the crew:

At Carversville. I don't know who that guy is on the right, but he bears a resemblance to my father-in-law.

Below, Cheryl seems dubious about the Hill Slugs free coffee card. (Want to find out about it? Come out on a Hill Slug ride.)

Below: Cheryl using the minimalist bike rack/

Another of the minimalist bike rack. Those four bikes closest to you are all titanium.

Friday, August 8, 2014

spinning with sue m & tew

Today is another of those Fridays I have off, and for the past few days, The Excellent Wife (TEW) has been agitating for us to do a ride together today. We've had some weirdness (for example, her supervisor, who's just a few years older than I, died yesterday), so I thought it was a good idea, too. And TEW is developing a pal-ship with Sue M, so we decided to go on her ride today, at 8am from Bruno's.

Sue had led a fast B ride yesterday (I, for one, would have called it B+, with a 17mph average), and she was up for a slow ride today, as a recovery. And a C ride of this distance sounded like just the thing for TEW.

We did this route. It was hillier than TEW expected, and she had some complaints, but the hills were mostly in the early part of the ride (mostly...), and TEW was grateful for that. Sue is also enamored of horses, and we passed quite a few. I kept thinking, as I often do, "HOW far are we from Broad and Market in Newark?"

We stopped at the Wawa in New Egypt, where I got an apple fritter that just had Sue marveling at its size; you'll see it in a picture below (I used to get 'em at a local Dunkin Donuts, but new ownership, doncha know... and they were never as good at other stores). When the lav at the Wawa was unavailable, we went to see Mr. Patel at Scott's, and got to chatting with the fellow from the Max's bike shop next door. Sue has her eye on yet another set of wheels, I think.

On the way back, TEW was appalled that this would not have been considered a hilly ride; it was hilly enough for her! (and hilly for a C ride, I think). But by the end, her mood had improved. She's planning on going out on her own for a bike tour at Valley Forge soon!

Well, I, for one, am impressed.

Pics. Sue & TEW on the road:

One of the horses:

Look out! A giant apple fritter is engulfing Sue M!

Whew! Looks like Sue recovered. (Is that Sue taking a picture of me taking a picture of her?)

downhill dog

The star of this video is undoubtedly Lily, the dog:

I found it here:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

post event ride

Paul I invited me twice to his hilly ride today, but I demurred after several hours on my feet volunteering at the Event yesterday, and I think it's a good thing I did. When I got my act together, I went out on my own and did this ride; about 30 miles (the GPS didn't kick in for the first few) and about 1200-1300 feet of climb, and it was all I could do to keep an average of 16mph. On a short ride like this, that's not great; I'm sure I would have been dragging back Paul and the crew. I'm blaming the humidity (I was gasping for breath on the hills) and tired legs from standing yesterday, but it was probably just a bad day.

I lost the route a bit at College Ave near Rte 1, but got back on it, and when I get it together, I'll have a not-too-treacherous route that goes 30 miles from home and doesn't wind up in the dodgy areas of New Brunswick (this whole business is a lot easier for folks who aren't as geographically-challenged as I am).

In other news, part of Canal Road and part of Blackwells Mills are closed, but the Weston Canal crossing is reported to be open.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

pics from this year's freewheelers event

The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I were volunteers at the Robbinsville Park rest stop today for the Princeton Freewheelers' annual Event.

OF COURSE I got pictures. A few are below; you can see the rest on my Photobucket album for the day.