Category Archives: Uncategorized

Back Home

So I’ve been back home for a little more than a week now.  A major weather front moved through and dumped a shitload of snow on us.  Thankfully this was after I got back safely on the bike.

Welcome home!

Pictures are here:

I hope I’ll get the chance to go through these and explain them, but a big “you’ve been here before” voice says to me that I’ll be looking at this blog post in 2, 3, or 4 years and wistfully remembering that brief time I had a respite from the crazy when I could actually take pictures and explain what they were about.

So now we’re on to the next thing.  Yay.  Finding it hard to muster an ounce of enthusiasm.  Call me a bad person.

Time will tell.  In the meantime, this song is stuck in my head:

79852 is the Terlingua zip code.  I found myself in the middle of nowhere…  True, though I think my exposure to the desert was insufficient to really get there.   (La Kiva and Glen show up at about the 2:00 mark)



Tuesday, Oct 28th- Big Bend National Park

Yesterday was pretty mundane.  I did the dishes, finished my book, packed up the tent, etc.  I had a nice Facetime chat with everybody  in Minnesota.  Sadly, it was getting too dark and the wifi doesn’t reach far enough to do a full walkaround.

Oh, this is once I’d fixed the Internet.  It’s hard to preserve things like fragile phone cables when you’re running big diggers around the property, and the inevitable happened.  So after everybody left I figured out what wires to connect to what and was able to use the Internet in the evening.   This morning, the guy from the phone company was here to relocate the phone box to a place where it is relatively unlikely to get clouted by a digger.  Hopefully this one lasts a while.

Today, I got up early (by me on vacation standards) and went to see Big Bend National Park.  It was as picturesque as ever.  Rather than upload all of the pictures here, I’ll point you to this set on my Flickr page:

Big Bend Album

I went in via the Study Butte entrance, and was immediately faced with a choice:  Asphalt or Gravel?  I’d been down the Maverick road in a truck before, but that was years ago, and I wasn’t driving.  Given the choice between adventure and the safe option, I chose adventure.  Even though I was on a huuuge bike.  That I just got.  With street tires.  What’s the worst that could go wrong?   This may have been influenced by watching a good portion of Disc 2 of “Long Way Round” last night.  I mean, Ewan and Charlie got through Mongolia, right?

Here’s a map:


I came into the park from Study Butte on 118, then immediately turned south-west on the unmarked gray road at Maverick Junction.  This proved to be a fairly well-graded gravel road without too much trickiness.  There were a couple of wibbly-wobbly bits when the gravel got deep, but on the whole it was possible to cruise along pretty well.  It was way more comfortable on the bike than it would have been in a truck, because the bike doesn’t sway from side to side.   There were even a few spots that would have been ideal jumps at higher speeds, but I exercised admirable restraint and kept both wheels on the ground.

GS on Maverick Road, Santa Elena in the background.
GS on Maverick Road, Santa Elena in the background.

The low structure is Luna Jacal.

Apparently Mr. Luna lived here with a very large family and up to 12 (!) wives.  He lived to 107 or 108 years old.

DSCF3455 DSCF3448

After Maverick Road, I went to Santa Elena Canyon.  The light was a bit flat but it was still beautiful.


Then I headed up to the Chisos Mountains to cool down, buy some gifts, and take photos of the Window and Casa Grande.

The Window
The Window
Casa Grande
Casa Grande
Cactus Blossom
Cactus Blossom

There was a very strange scooter that rolled in as I was having a rehydrating drink.  It was most interesting, in a “Mad Max meets Hello Kitty” kind of way.  I think it was a stripped down Yamaha Vision, though I could be wrong.  This would fit well in Japan.  I was surprised by the number of scooters I saw.  That’s apparently now A Thing.

Interesting scooter.
Interesting scooter.
Interesting scooter.
Interesting scooter.
Interesting scooter.
Interesting scooter.
Interesting scooter.
Interesting scooter.

It was a good day.

DSCF3544I even helped this guy out a little bit:


Sunday, Oct 26th- Quiet day

I didn’t do much.  12 hours’ sleep, a quiet lunch, reading my book.  It was nice to be a hermit.  In the afternoon, I fired up the Kubota tractor and had a fine time figuring out how everything worked.  Based on the other day’s demo on preventing erosion, and the fact that I’d observed some pretty good gullies forming in the area by the creek used for camping, I thought I’d have a go at seeing if I could, if nothing else, stop it from getting worse.

I had a tractor, I had a stetson, I had something to fix, and plenty of rocks to do it with.  Hopefully when I come back there will be evidence that my strategically placed rocks are having the desired effect and allowing the water to slow down enough to drop its sediment.  As a bonus, I only got the tractor stuck once, and flicking four wheel drive to “on” got me out of that jam nicely.

After that, I wandered up to the porch at sunset and chatted with a couple of nice folks about motorcycles.

Bob owns this bike, and told me many tales of the cool off-road rides in the area.  He’s a retired nuclear inspector, and spends winters in the Big Bend area.  He’s down to 50,000 miles a year now- which he says isn’t bad for 70 years old!

Bob's Husqvarna.
Bob’s Husqvarna.

One guy had this beauty:

1947 Indian Chief
1947 Indian Chief

It was beautiful, and had been everywhere (including off road, which he says it does remarkably well.)  He has over 80,000 miles on it.  He was an interesting guy- he started out as a schoolteacher (in Alaska, for a while), then ended up in New Mexico.  Santa Fe, I think.  After that he became an administrator, then a police officer in the school.  He retired about 6 weeks ago.  He said he’s currently on call with this disaster response team (he said he couldn’t just retire and do nothing) and that they are expecting the call to go to Liberia to help with the Ebola epidemic any day now.  (!)

Only on the Porch.

Zoe, 1997-2011.

I am raw.  There’s a hole inside of me roughly the size, shape, and weight of an elderly American Staffordshire Terrier we called Zoe, and not much will make me feel better right now except maybe writing this and remembering all the happy times I had with her.

First, I should establish that I had her put down today slightly before 5pm.  The vet was professional, and the procedure (a massive overdose of barbiturates, like Marilyn Monroe but without the conspiracy theories) was peaceful and painless for Zoe.  She simply slid off to sleep.  It was actually a relief to hear her struggle end in peace.  No more labored breathing, no more groaning.  Zoe was a tough, tough dog who didn’t show pain easily.  That she was groaning as she labored to breathe or moved around says a lot about what she was going through.

She had a growth next to her kidneys or spleen (the vet wasn’t really very sure on which), but the consequences of the operation given her age and condition were likely to make her full recovery unlikely.  We elected not to put her through the whole ordeal, and instead focused on making her as comfortable as we could.  In the last week she’d really started to go downhill, and had begun to have trouble sleeping.  Today, after conferring with the family, I elected to end her suffering and say goodbye.  It should go without saying that this was one of the harder things I’ve ever had to do.

So, that’s got me torn up 10 ways from Sunday, and second guessing everything, for all the good that will do now.

We got Zoe out of the paper, in 1997.  This was back when things called newspapers (bits of dead tree with black stuff on it called ink) were still published on a regular basis, and when they ran something called Classified Ads.  They were in their own special section, and ran into many many large pages, all in small type.  The ads had a section for dogs, and there was a simple listing:  “Am. Staff, brindle” and a phone number.  I was newly graduated, and decided that I had the time and wherewithal to find a companion for myself and my two housemates (sister Joanne and friend Jeff.)

I had grown up with Staffordshire Bull Terriers in England, and had fond memories of all of them.  They belonged to my Aunt Gillie, and I knew that they were the kind of dog I wanted to own.  So I called on this number, and got no response.  I kept calling and explaining that I was serious and that I knew all about these dogs and that I really wanted to meet this Am. Staff, brindle.

It took about two weeks, and finally we made an arrangement to meet at a Petco out near Rogers, on I-94.  I arrived first, and met this little bundle of energy they had named “Turbo.”  She wanted to do nothing but play tug with her leash, growling fiercely but playfully.  She had a bit of mange, smelled horrible, and looked a bit on the underfed side.  She had been picked up by the city pound in Elk River because she’d been coming into a schoolyard and playing with the children.  A lucky transfer to a no-kill shelter in Monticello, a few weeks in the St. Paul paper classifieds, and she found her forever home with us. (Homeward Bound)

We brought her home, and she trotted around the house with her head up, tail wagging, as if realizing that she already owned the place.  We named her Zoe, because her personality reminded us of a person we knew, and she quickly became part of our life.  First order of business was a bath, which she took great offense to.  She stuck her head in the corner farthest from the showerhead and made a plaintive yowl I will never forget.  But we got her clean and smelling better.  She filled out quickly, we got the mange taken care of, and her coat rapidly turned into a beautiful shiny brindle.

The first night, I was resolved that she would sleep in her crate, next to my bed.  She was resolved that she would sleep in the bed.  Under the covers.  In the middle.  She turned out to be more stubborn and persuasive than any other being of any species I’ve ever met, so the spot in the middle, under the covers (if it was cold) was what she got.  This would prove to be interesting when I had company, but we worked it out.

She chewed a lot, but a liberal supply of toys meant that not too much got damaged.  When she was little, her favorite target was the trash can.  She hated the crate, but we used it to minimize the number of messes while we were out.

She was a good dog.  We had some trouble with training.  It took her a while to train us to do whatever she wanted.  This task was made easier by her mind control radar-dish ears, which she used so expressively you didn’t even need to be in the same room to get what was on her mind:

Throw the frisbee NOW, dammit!

Her favorite pasttimes were snuggling, frisbee, and tug of war.  She was fierce and committed to all three, and excelled at them.

She nearly caught this snowmobile

She lived with me in Minnesota, California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  She moved with me 7 times, including one epic trip driving back from California where we got stuck in a blizzard in Wyoming.  I spent the night in the car with her to keep her warm, as I couldn’t bring her into the motel.
She traveled across too many states to mention, including one memorable road trip to South Carolina to see a friend graduate from basic training.  She didn’t think much of that particular trip, particularly when the alternator on the Subaru went out and stranded us in the middle of nowhere, Kentucky.
She joined me trail running, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and camping.  She once singlehandedly invented the sport of canine base jumping, and lived to tell about it.  She carried her own gear while backpacking.  She was fierce in the ocean, and would happily dive into killer surf as long as there was something thrown in to retrieve.  In her prime, she could cover 10 miles in an hour on one of my favorite mountain biking trails.
Zoe had good people instincts.  She once saved Megan from a guy who was stalking her, and who raped somebody that night.  He knocked on the door late one night and Zoe would not stop growling.  Megan didn’t like the way she was growling, and didn’t go to see who was at the door based on the sound alone.   I was out of town and was incredibly grateful.  There was never a cross word with any of our friends… she seemed to know already who belonged to the pack.  She loved nothing more than a houseful of people.  Thanskgiving was her favorite holiday.
She was an ambassador for the breed.  When we moved to Stillwater, curtains twitched and the neighbors told their kids to stay away from her, as they thought she was dangerous.  Well, one of the kids didn’t get the memo and ended up meeting her (under supervision, of course), then  playing frisbee with her in the side yard one afternoon.  By the end of that week, the entire neighborhood of kids swarmed her as we let her out in the evening, to the point where we had to institute the “no frisbee before Zoe pees” rule because she was getting too distracted to do her business.
She was endlessly patient with the children, and loved them both dearly.  She took the role of “dog mom” seriously.
Zoe, I will miss you more than I can ever begin to express.  The last 14 years you have shared with me were amazing… we did so much together, and the whole time you were there for me no matter how much crazy stuff had happened.  Rest in peace, my old love.  Good girl.  Good girl.

DCTC track day – Ducati Minneapolis

Fun was had by all. I rode a bit, helped some nice
folks new to the track with their lines, and worked corners a bit.
Nice mellow day. Pictures are in this gallery.
As always, I have these in mongo huge resolution if you want ’em.
Just shoot me an email. While editing these pictures, I was
fairly impressed at how many people were getting their wheels off
the ground… Have a closer look through this gallery- there
are quite a few like this one:

These were taken mostly at the corner
at the end of the back straight. Since they patched the
pavement, it got a little bumpier. I didn’t realize how bumpy
until I saw these pictures. The SV moves around a little
through here, but I just figured it was bumps, not actual
wheels-leaving-ground. I find it more than a little magical
that motorcycles work at all on the flat, let alone when you do
things like this to them.

Get your chainsaws ready! It’s almost Zombie season opener!*

Okay, so while I’m burploading megabytes more only-relevant-to-me personal content up onto Flickr today, I switch over to Facebook and notice that somebody is asking about the axe trend.  As in “an axe, at a bar, wtfmaynard?”

I cannot touch this one for two reasons:

1.  Bikesnobnyc has already done it far more deftly than I could ever hope to:

2.  I have not personally viewed anybody carrying an axe in public in a not-normally-appropriate way.  This is stated with a caveat that I live in Stillwater, which hosts the rather excellent Lumberjack Days, at which time it is entirely possible to see all manner of wood-splintering accessories being toted about.  Non-ironically.

Oh, he’s a lumberjack and he’s okay…

Of course, this is tautological in that, living in Stillwater, I am assuming that anybody carrying an axe intends to use it as an axe and not as a form of irony or as part of a trend.  Such are the many risks of living out in the boonies.  That and potentially being more than 5 miles from a Starbucks.

Regardless, during my reply, I inadvertently stumbled across a Really Great Idea.

My reasoning went thusly:

Hipsters ride fixies.  Hipsters are taking to carrying axes (apparently).  Therefore the thought of a fixie with an axe carrier is quite amusing, in a LATFH sense.

Taking this one step further, it would be funny to carry a broadsword with you on a cyclocross bike.  This is a variation on a sport I’ve intended to invent for a long time now: Running with Swords.  Cyclocross with swords would be even more epic.  Probably more efficient from a miles traveled per calorie expended standpoint, as well.

What comes next?  Next is probably a dirtbike… what’s appropriate for that?  A chainsaw, of course!

That’s when it hit me.  What do you use a chainsaw for?  SLAYING THE UNDEAD!!!


Where do you find the undead?  AT ZOMBIE PUB CRAWLS!!!

That’s only 6 days away… not much time to get your anti-undead weaponry ready.  We’re gonna need to organize.  We’re going to need a lot of supplies.  Get your butt down to S-Mart and stock up on chainsaws and ammunition,  Make sure the Oldsmobile is tuned up and running well.  We’re gonna tell those zombies to “Come get some” because that’s what Ash would do. *

* This post is intended as humor.  Don’t go out and do anything to, at, or threateningly close to the no doubt very nice, uh, people at the Zombie Pub Crawl.  I do think it would be hilarious if somebody dressed up as Ash and went on the crawl with the zombies.  Wait, that looks suspiciously like Bruce Cambell in the ZPC poster…  Maybe they want Ash to join them so they can devour his flesh…

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, watch these movies:

The rules of bicycle design

This will be short.  I may expand it in the future.  In fact, I only have one item right now.

Car companies should not ever ever ever try to design bicycles. Nope.  Stoppit.  Smack whoever came up with this idea.  Auto guys have NO idea how simple and complicated bicycles are.   Inevitably, they try to fix something that doesn’t need fixing, add too much, and the result is stunning in its mediocrity.

No, the word “mediocrity” implies that it actually fits on a continuum of goodness.  Inevitably, the result in these cases is somewhat like going up to somebody, asking for directions, and hearing “fish sticks appalloosa” as a response.  Doesn’t even belong on the scale for directions (which goes from “situational/emotional topography” to “ex military precision” without passing through any of the food groups or domesticated animals on its way.  Don’t worry about the first bit, I’ll explain that in a later post the next time somebody gives me situational/emotional directions and I feel like ranting about something.)

Particularly car companies that are pretty good at designing cars.  The results are always horrendously overpriced and abysmal.  If Hyundai did a bicycle, they’d probably actually do pretty a good job… less arrogance, lower expectations….

Wait, they did?

Hyundai bike thing.  $212. Not overpriced.

Never mind.  At least it’s cheap.  On to the cool car companies:

Cases in point:

Mercedes bike.  Never thought I’d see something that makes a Brompton look sexy.  Note the almost complete lack of trail (“But ve haff rake, is that not vhat you need for ze good handlingk?”).  1699 Euros.  The stylists were on an extended coffee break when this thing was whisked through ID for approval.  The guy who signed off on it was actually the janitor.  The scene was half Good Will Hunting, half Rain Man, but with no math.

Porsche Bike – Clearly their stylists spent more time on the wheels than their FEA guys (curved spokes FEEL stronger.)  In a fit of pique, the FEA guys then swiss-cheesed the hell out of the billet pieces holding the frame and swingarm together.  To get back at them, the stylists stole the boot off the shock so it would only last two weeks but would look more “technical.”  The project manager for this excresence is still in a mental asylum somewhere outside Hanover.  $10,612 in 2001 dollars.  PT Barnum is still counting his money somewhere.

There is one exception to this, the Ferrari/Colnago collabo bike.  It gets away by being only horrendously overpriced.  But it’s definitely not abysmal.  Clearly, the Colnago guys put the Ferrari guys in their place right quick.  “You-a… you choose-a the colorway.  We do the rest, yes?  Maybe you design the stand?  For the store, in Milan?”

Ferrari by Colnago, the lone exception.  $12k plus.

Update :

Never mind.  It’s so horrible I can’t look…

(and people get mad at Ducati for building a muscle cruiser… sheesh!)

I just realized that I completely let BMW off the hook in this post.  While we’re on this rant, we might as well take a look at what our Bavarian friends have cooked up in the two-wheeled human-powered realm.  Shall we?

Not bad, actually.BMW – Exhibit A. $995.00

Actually not so bad.  I’ts got a bit of the Chris Bangle thing going on in places, but it’s at least trying.  It’s only when you realize that you’re paying for $1000 for roundels and Alivio componentry that things begin to smell a bit sauerkraut-y.    You could get a nice bike for $1000, probably with 105 or Rival.

Let’s see what else Ze Germans have on offer…

BMW – Hmm.  Not bad.

I’ll leave it at that… at least till I find something new to add.

Another 30

Today was day 2 of my second official #30daysofbiking. This time around, I’m doing at least 10 miles a day. With longer rides on the weekend, I’m hoping for about 500 miles or so in the month.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m starting stronger than last time by a long shot.   Some of those early rides were pretty dire, and the rides the day after that were even more pathetic.  But I got through, and I can safely say that I rode more days than I didn’t over the last 6 months or so.  That’s got to count for something on the old health-o-meter, right?

As I think back on the previous #30 (which turned into 105), I find myself thinking about the power of the social network.  It was a chance encounter with a post by somebody I hadn’t seen since high school that piqued my curiosity and got me back on my bike again for so much of the summer.  What a cool coincidence, and what a cool time we live in that this sort of thing can and does happen.  Before #30daysofbiking, I didn’t really even follow twitter much, and didn’t really get what the big deal was about.   Now I get it.

The funny thing is, this isn’t the first time that this has happened to me.  Nearly 5 years ago, I found Crossfit, and I can safely say it’s changed my life for the better.  This was an early example of the power of social media and open-source thinking to change lives.  I much prefer Crossfit’s approach (free, social, interactive) to Tony Horton’s expensive, overly-produced P90x and their variants.

Think about how you stay informed these days.  I still listen to the radio (MPR, contributing member, thankyouverymuch), and I occasionally turn on the TV, but most of my information is delivered to me on my terms, in little previews that I can explore in greater depth if I choose, when it’s convenient for me.  I have the whole internet in  my pocket *ALL THE TIME.*  Such connectivity was science fiction 10 years ago.  Now it’s like breathing.

Now that the technology is here, look at how fast we’re learning to use it.  Read your facebook feed and see how much news has crept in, and how much other information is improving the signal to noise ratio (provided you are good at hiding apps like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. )  Links to Pandora, news sites, and other media are the next wave of connectedness.   Say what you like about Jobs and Zuckerberg and the like, those guys at least have a vision for a future where you can do more and see more and stay more connected with people who matter to you.

Sure, there are problems, and there’s abuse, but that’s nothing new.  The  Ponzi schemers and patent medicine hucksters from the past are no different than the phishing, 419 scamming scumbags we have to deal with today.  Set up a system and a small but visible minority of the population will try to take advantage of it in not-nice ways.  Doesn’t mean that the system isn’t worthwhile.

Think about the rate of change in the last 5 years, then think about what’s going to happen to news, marketing, sales, and politics over the next 5 years.  What will top Old Spice Guy?  You can bet there are legions of very smart people working on that right now.

More importantly, when will we reach the next tipping point, and what will that be?  What’s after the iPhone generation?

Life got busy there…

Nothing like a month of bouncing back and forth across the continent to put your “I”m going to ride my bicycle every day” thing on hold for a while.

First, I got to go down to Grand Junction, Colorado and ride with the motorcycle press and talk about the new 2011 Victorys.  It was a hoot, and well worth the 1200 miles of interstate it took to get there.  Got to see some friends (though not all of them… bummer!) in Boulder on the way down, which broke the trip up nicely.

The area we were in (Gateway Canyon) is being turned into a resort by its owner, John Hendricks, the founder of Discovery Channel.  He’s got a bunch of land, and is quickly building a very nice conference center/resort in the middle of the desert.  It’s beautiful.  Everything is built very well- so much so that I half expected to see velociraptors running around the grounds.

The riding through the canyons was most satisfactory.  Roads were in good condition, and nicely twisty without being ridiculously technical.  Perfect for my Vision, which allowed lots of fun at extralegal velocities without sacrificing comfort.  Why we don’t market the bike as a sport-tourer, I don’t know.

I took the following photo gear:

Olympus E-P1 with 17mm F/2.8 lens.   This lives around my neck while I ride, and allows rolling photography.  I try to keep this to a minimum, and only on straight roads.  I tend to take this photo a lot:

From the “what the F@#* is that rolling down the road?” file:

And a couple of entries in the “Classy things seen at gas stations” contest:


See, I told you I take that photo a lot.

Nikon D300 with

-Sigma 24-70 F/2.8 lens.  This used to be my standard carry lens, until it died.  Again.  About 3 months after being allegedly repaired (thankfully under warranty) by Sigma USA.  Now it’s out of warranty, and it’s got the same mechanical problem with the zoom and focus mechanism.  Do not buy one of these.  They die, in short order.  Mine is about 15 months old now.   I’ll see what it costs to get repaired, then probably sell it.  Don’t trust it any more.

-Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 –  I like this lens a lot.  The image quality is good, but sometimes it won’t… quite… focus… at all.  Not sure if this is technique or the lens itself.  When it works, it’s great, as it works out to about a 50mm lens on an FX body like the D300.

-Nikkor 50mm f/1.8- Love this lens.  It’s a $100 plastic bodied cheap POS that takes images far far better than what you would expect.  Magic things happen when you put this baby on the camera… and it’s cheap!!!  Did I mention it didn’t cost much?

-Tamron 11-18.  I use this for most of my architectural stuff, and in close quarters at rallies and the like to document cool motorcycles.  As long as you keep the camera relatively level, and don’t mind a bit of lateral color fringing in the corners, it works great.  I’ve looked at sample images of other wide angles in this class, and they all seem to get a bit funky in the corners.

-Samyang 8mm fisheye.  I love this lens for making stuff look exaggerated.  It’s great for self portraits (at 8mm, almost everything is in focus all the time), and for making cars and bikes look funky.  Good fun.  Not technically a very good lens, I still love it for the wow  factor you get with it:

After the press thing, we rode with a bunch of journalists through the rockies and up to Sturgis.  Epicness happened, including about 20 miles of twisty dirt road (we were all on Visions, Cross Countrys, and Cross Roads, not dirt bikes).  Much fun was had.  Twisty roads aplenty, savvy?

Sturgis was the usual.  I didn’t stick around long- worked my day in the store then headed home.  Two young kids at home, missed my wife, etc.  Plus, fun things are happening at work.

…and that’s all I’m going to say about that.