This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

This is exciting!

Really, it is.
   Last year after a failed attempt at tubeless conversion I decided to try Stan's sealant in my tubes.  I just found the selection of tubeless tires to be lacking any practical choices.  The ones out there are made for competition, in which I proudly do not participate, and were damned expensive.  Besides that, I would still have to carry a tube in case I was in SW Buttheadistan and had a puncture too large for the sealant to conquer, and my imaginary sag wagon was busy at the donut shop.  Anyway, tubeless doesn't make a lot of sense to the commuter and tourist market.
    Using Stan's sealant in the tubes worked out quite well last year.  I had a total of eight punctures that I know of, a number of suspected slow leaks and zero flats to change.   The most I had to do was remove a little wire or tiny piece of glass from the tread, add air and ride.  Easy Peasy. 
    This year I had a lot of tires to replace so I did a little research.  As good as Stan's product is, it has to be refreshed from time to time.  It will harden and congeal in the tube if you  don't.  I found another product called Flat Attack which is supposed to have a useful life of 6 years.  I bought some of their pre-filled tubes to use when I replace a tire.   I have replaced the tires on all my bikes now that it's August and am just as happy as I was with Stan's but look forward to leaving them alone until I change tires again.  I expect to add a new tube with each new tire in the future because the old tube will probably be glued to the old tire by the sealant, but hell I bought new tubes for new tires anyway.  These are a buck or two more expensive than normal tubes but if I don't need to replace them 8 times a year it's a net savings.  The sealant is also supposed to be environmentally friendly.  I feel all warm and fuzzy using it. 
    There is a bit of a learning curve to all this.  The one possible drawback is that you can get the sealant into the valve.  All you have to do to prevent it, is set the valve at 8 or 4 o'clock position (using your wheel as a clock face of course) so there is no sealant trapped in the stem or a pool of sealant underneath when you are filling it.  That's so simple even I get it. 

Lookee there!  Perfect form already, eight o'clock on the nose and no flats in nearly two years.   No, I don't know what the sealant weighs.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A roll through the woods

I've been all tied up with real world BS the last few weeks and think I should just give it all the finger and take time to ride to Anchorage to clear my mind.  Instead I decided to spend a few days in the Manistee Forest.   On the route from Paris to Cadillac I found the unfinished portion of the trail paved and nearly finished.    Each intersection was blocked with "trail closed" signs but I forgot to notice and virgin asphalt just begs violation.
The trip from Paris, Mi to Cadillac was a quiet and pristine experience as a result.  My jangled nerves were relieved by the silence swaying through the pines.
In Cadillac I stopped by the National Forest Service to pick up an annual pass.  Our government had words of wisdom to share, it's bureau speak for "take care of yourself and don't bother me."
It didn't feel quite like the end of July.  The temps in the mid 70's made riding a stress free experience, but the nights were a bit nippy and required a fire to keep the cozy spirits up in the evening.  I should have brought some long pants.
The morning ride from Cadillac into the forest is an inevitable trip down M 55 which is not bad.  It's got nice wide shoulders and the drivers are attentive but it does cross small mountains.  Slow going for a while but it got me into the secondary roads. where I discovered the Google bike route failure.
Most of the roads are scenic and quiet.  They make me wish I knew more about birds 'cause that's all there is out here.  Shady roads and quiet times made me realize I was a little off course.  There was also the motorcyclists who gave me the "Where's he think he's going?" look.  I was on a road to nowhere and had to consult the little blue Google ball on my phone.  Sure enough, I missed a turn, I went back to the "intersection" shown on the Google bike route and wondered,
"how could I have missed this!"  I felt such a fool.  Anybody could see a road there, all you have to do is crawl on your hands and knees under the foliage to see it.  Apparently there was a two track to service some power lines, but the forest has swallowed it and doesn't look like it's spitting it back out.
I finally did reach the Pine Lake campground and found a beautiful view and about 12 isolated and fairly private campsites.
The next day was back into the forest on the sandy country roads.  On this trip there was no attempt to prove anything.  Most days were relegated to slow appreciation of the countryside and 30-40 miles of nominal distance covered.  There were some necessary side trips for food and drink
as well as a brief stop at "Big M" where there are some expert quality mountain trails and I had a chance to rub shoulders with the normal cycling world which was having some kind of thing going on there.  It was pretty much a spandex deal and I didn't quite fit in without suspension on the bike and no diapers to wear.
So, I went back to the meditation the forest provides
where one runs across isolated lakes and day use areas in the middle of the forest.
The gem was reaching the Lake Michigan Rec area where the coastline was purely Michigan.   I've said before that nothing really eclipses the Michigan coastline.  I've seen the Atlantic from both sides, the Mediterranean, the Gulf from a few angles and played golf on Carmel's famous Spanish Bay, but nothing's better than this.
Miles of sparsely populated beaches with crystal clear refreshing water.
The difference between National Forest Service campgrounds and the Modern State campgrounds is enormous.  Even at the Lake Michigan site there is plenty of privacy between the 99 campsites.
Compare that to the trailer parks state park campgrounds have become.
Heading back after a day at the beach, I caught a portion of USBR 20 which is plotted east/west route across Michigan.
I discovered a bit of old logging history in Fountain
with this enormous statue dedicated to the industry. 
I wasn't alone out on the paved roads.  This one part of two groups of 12 I ran across during the week.  They are traveling for a week with a camping program.
The last night I stayed outside of Baldwin and caught the rail trail back to Reed City.  Baldwin is kind of a neat little town, they must do a lot of fishing because they have a gigantic and very lovely metal sculpture of a fish at the trailhead.  I have no idea what that has to do with a rail trail, but it must be important to somebody.
The trail itself is an extension of the Pere Marquette trail which continues to Midland Michigan.  The surface is "packed" limestone which wouldn't be bad if it were packed.
This was something I had never seen before, there is a paved exit ramp to allow access to a road side park on Hwy 10 which is contiguous along most of the trial.
The truth is the ride was a real test of patience.  It's uphill on the typical rail trail grade of 1-2%, for miles.  I would honestly rather have ridden the sandy two tracks in the woods than this trail.  Coupled with the very loose and irregular limestone surface it was slow and annoying all the way until I finally reached Reed City and the paved portion of the trail.
Overall it was a cathartic 5 days in the woods, just me, the birds and trees and stuff.  The weather on the trip was nearly perfect, if fact a little cool at night, a little partly cloudy stumbled and fell for about 20 minutes one day but that was all the weather had to offer.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Definishing the Hunq

    My love for the Rivendell Hunqapiller borders upon the irrational.  It makes no sense that a well performing touring bike should be a 29er with no suspension and certainly no dick brakes.  But it provides a sense of confidence no other ride can duplicate.  The damn thing does everything, except go fast.  It's predecessor, the Bombadil fascinated me, but it was built as a 650B and, call me a tech weinee, I couldn't jump on a 650B touring bike let alone one built for remote all terrain touring.  When Riv released a 700C version I jumped all over it.
       I managed to get one of the first production and paint scheme which is no longer available and loved it.   The problem in the back of my head was that they had, for a short time, offered the Bombadil in an raw steel version with clear powdercoat.  It lasted a short time because the powdercoat didn't really bond and seal the metal.  Surface rust resulted.  People freaked.  Grant said, it's ok for him but he wouldn't sell another.   My finish was fine and I beat the crap out the bike on all kinds of week long trips, but stessed all the time about scratches, scrapes and superficial rust.  Fortunately Lowes had a common all purposed spray in a color called Cobalt Cannon, which matched perfectly, kinda, you know, the sheen from a rattle can is never quite right.  I'd built enough model cars in my day to make it work.  
   Apparently I was the only one in the world to use it because they quit making it.  When I had depleted the international stock (yeah, it's all about me) I was left in a quandary.   I couldn't just fill the scratches with nail polish and live with it.  I was still fascinated with the raw steel idea and spent some time on this inter web thing to find a solution.  I found a clear coat called Diamond Finish which was developed specifically to bond with raw metal, remain clear and plastic (so it won't crack and peel).  I wasn't about to trust their word so I tested it over last winter. 
 I took a neglected pair of channel lock pliers which had become encrusted with rust,
scrubbed both the upper and lower jaws with sandpaper and a Dremel tool,
coated the upper jaw with the Diamond Finish, and tossed them into the snow on my patio.
      Springtime came around, the lower jaw was once again encrusted with rust while the upper jaw was as pretty as a channel lock can be.  Encouraged by my little experiment, I took the frame to a local stripping company.  They warned me that the finish might be a little darker than I expected, that, in my head, would just create a better contrast with the brass brazing in the lug work.  
 An unexpected surprise was the magical appearance of a photo impression of the decals etched into the tubing.  We thought the paint protected the frame!
    Needless to say I went on with the process.  I used the brush on formula from the can.  It's a self leveling liquid, the brush formula has a higher solid content and I wanted maximum protection for Michigan weather.  This shit is toxic!  I opened the can, my cats ran under the bed and BRAIN DAMAGE screamed in my head!  I can't imagine the fumes from the spray formula.  Application is not at all like painting.  I simply tried to apply one stroke at a time on the frame with a sponge brush and fought the urge to touch it afterwards.  Applying two or three thin coats is recommended, I chose three and there are spots where I screwed up and touched it before it hardened and have few tiny runs and irregularities.  If you are a perfectionist with any form of OCD, do not use this.  You'll be on suicide watch before the end of the day.
     Rivendell provided new decals for twenty bucks and I put them over the second coat and sealed them with the third.  Above is the photo after I built it up in March.
 I took these this morning and you can see that there are no rust "plums" developing like people experienced with powder coat.  The brass brazing shows off the lug work beautifully,
 the color of the tubing has darkened a bit with exposure,
 but there is no appreciable rust developing after 3 months.
 I am really ecstatic over the appearance and this stuff is supposed 
to "resist all known solvents, including sulphuric acid."
I feel pretty confident that it will survive Michigan winters and all the crap we put on our roads.  It can be scratched but I just polished those spots with a dremel tool and brushed a little more over.  It blended in perfectly and I don't stress over the blemish in the steel like I did over the paint scratches.
It's like a fantasy come true after 7 years.  Having the original paint and an early run model was cool and all, but this is really badass lookin'.   When I saw the first raw finish on the Bombadil I imagined growing my red hair to shoulder length again and terrorizing traffic brandishing a green light saber.
I'll be fine, another martini, I'll be ok.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A glorious week on the Erie Canal Trail

   I was rolling along all week making daily blog posts on my phone when the Blogger app quit working!   What have we left to believe in?  Twenty years ago the service started with a weird made up name that sounded like it came from a bunch of college stoners with a laptop.  Now Google is a noun, a verb and one of the most pervasive services in history.  I was depending on them, and they left me lost in the woods.  Well I survived and I'm sure my small but painfully neurotic following will as well.
The road for this trip begins in Buffalo and ends in Albany both of which are convenient Amtrak stops.   Amtrak had sold all the reserved bike spots from Chicago going east, so I drove to Buffalo and was given a long term parking pass at the Buffalo Amtrak station.
I was running a bit late on the drive and left the station just at rush hour.   Getting through rush hour traffic and out to the trail head was a bit time consuming and trying.  I bailed to the sidewalks on a number of occasions.  When I got to the trail  I was pleasantly relieved.  It is a beautifully paved MUP with wide, well manicured aprons of grass which made it perfect for a first night wild camp.
Leaving the next morning I enjoyed talking with several trail users who had never seen somebody camp on their suburban trail.  They were all  good company and interested in the trip as I broke camp early and headed down the road where I found a sign of things to come.
I pedaled through well developed parks and staging areas
 some with shelters and barbeques
randomly developed stopping points to rest
where I encountered other cyclists some of which make
the entire trip each year and return.
The small towns have built up substantial tourism along the waterway.
The area west of Syracuse is the flat area of the canal and draw bridges are common where the towns have developed camping areas along the way.
At Holley, the stream which runs beneath the canal structure produces this beautiful water fall in a wooded area
 where the city has developed a campground 
for cyclists which even provides free shower facilities.

near the top of the falls.
At Syacuse the trail diverts to the streets and winds through the central business district which has some developed shopping and business areas.  I rode through on Sunday and it was quite pleasant and very well marked, but I would've detoured around the town on a weekday.  I met one woman who had a friend transport her from one end of town to the other, just to avoid the weekday mess.

East of Syracuse the trail leads to an older an currently unused portion of the canal.  The original canal was built in this area and is called "Clinton's Ditch."  Fourty feet wide and 4 feet deep the canal produced a waterway in western NY without current which was used to carry produce and goods throughout the region.
The still waters provide a mirror to reflect the landscape.
Small towns and villages take advantage of the canal to develop  museums and preserve some of the boats originally pulled by mules on the towpath .  Places like Marcy have developed extensive parks for campers like the one where I met 
Albert who is using the month to make a leg in his continuing effort to cross the country.  This year he expects to make it to Kansas City where he will pick up the journey next year.
At times the trail is diverted from the canal in places like Utica where they have not taken advantage of it to develop tourism and the trail takes to the secondary highway.  Utica is an example of urban sprawl principles applied to small towns.  It sucks, but it's there.
The trailway itself is splendid.  It's gravel in spots, generally paved in the cities towns and villages but well-maintained packed limestone for most of the mileage,
and the visuals of the countryside just keep impressing.
I was never far from services or restaurants, and where the path diverts to the highway the route is very well marked on roads designated as bike routes.  There were continuous 8-10 foot paved shoulders to ride on and courteous and respectful drivers.
Many of the developed parks and roadside stops have shelters and gazebos with electricity where I was able to recharge my phone and battery pack while camping, resting or having lunch.
There are pieces of canal history all along the way,
unused locks and bridges preserved,
as well as interpretive signs about the life on the canal.
Did I mention scenery?
Opportunities for free, safe camping spots seemed to be everywhere.
Small towns and villages have developed shopping and housing projects along the canal.  In the coffee shops and bars I was meeting people who had stories to tell about their connection to the trail, how it dominated their family history and the area for over 150 years.
19th and early 20th century architecture is strewn across the countryside
like this sandstone church in Albion with a spire made of cut blocks of stone.

and the historic Amsterdam Castle.
Some of the highway portions did provide  a chance to do some climbing but the punishment had it's rewards with views over the Mohawk valley.
and, after regaining the trail,
sharing a local sense of humor.
The small towns and villages provide a variety of picturesqe backdrops
the locals were glad to share their birthday parties with cycling travelers and the whole damn thing was bit too idyllic and trouble free to leave.

Schenectady was nearing the end of my trip.  Like so many other small cities,  Schenectady has re-invented its downtown area with boutique shops, businesses and loft apartments.  There are bike lanes and cycling accommodations being developed throughout the downtown area.  
      I needed to get to Albany to catch a train in the evening, so I let another cyclist lead me to the direct route.  State route 5 makes a bee line over the 10 miles between the cities and was not comfortable at all.   It's a great example of inter urban sprawl;  a dismal stream of constant traffic, gas stations, pawn shops and fast food joints.   

Albany has it's charm.  There is some beautiful and historic architecture like the State Capitol and the SUNY campus.
The train trip back was completely uneventful, Amtrak took care of my bike for me and I caught a nice nap on the way back to the car.  This was the easiest week long bike trip I've ever taken.  I forgot to mention there was no weather.  Really, there was sunshine and 75 F during the day 55 F at night.  I had no problem with free supervised parking in Buffalo, campgrounds were all free and the people along the way were all very friendly and accommodating.  The canal path was some of the easiest pedaling I've ever known on tour, the wind was behind me all the way and, honestly, the drive home was more exhausting than 360 miles of cycling.