Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting ready to camp, August Recap

I usually prepare for camping or backpacking a few days early. We're doing the S24O Sunday into Monday and right now it looks like a relatively small turn-out. That's fine with me either way.

I don't know if I ever wrote about it here, but a while ago, Planet Bike sent me their "Keep On Keeping On" rack, a lightweight, strong utilitarian bike rack weighing in at just over a pound but being rated to carry 55 pounds. I've been using it since June, but never have gotten around to really loading it up. It doesn't have a spring-clip (sad panda) but otherwise, it's got the features I like. You know, like rear supports that don't turn my panniers into spoke-food?

I figured I'd load up my stuff (click to see an annotated version of what everything is)
The Lab-O-Ratory

And make sure things were all good:
The Lab-O-Ratory

Looks like all systems are go. Then, I found out that my wife would like to spend all weekend camping. So we'll be heavy camping (propane, coolers, etc) Friday and Saturday, too.

I found out cDude was planning on cooking over campfire. That's not a bad plan, but the wood you can buy at Hillsdale lake is usually green, uncured wood that's nearly impossible to start. I told him I'd rig up a penny stove to see how he likes it. Just in case. The end result was one that uses the jets coming out the side so that the pot can simply rest directly on top of the can for support.


Crappy composite, I know... but it shows how it works.

It brought 2 cups of water to a boil in about 4 minutes. It's certainly not a world record, but it's faster than the one I made last year.
Rolling boil

The thing I love about these soda can stoves is that you just need 2 cans, a razor or pair of scissors and a finishing nail or small drill to make them. Well, and a penny or some other round metal object to act as a pressure valve over the filler hole. The fuel is really the most expensive part. Mark my words: knowing how to make these things will make you a hot commodity during the zombie apocalypse. Or something.

As for August... it was awesome and crappy all at once. I logged 275 miles commuting, and more for errands. I didn't have a cyclometer the entire time. I'm pretty sure I got more than 300 miles total this month. I'm not too worried about counting them this year, though. The mornings have been stellar:

The Lab-O-Ratory

The afternoons have been everywhere between the 70s and over 100 degrees, with one day sporting a heat index near 120! Multiple traffic closures and detours have slowed I-35 down to a slog. In the mornings when I'm riding along I-35 and with the direction of traffic, I'm often riding faster than the cars on the highway are moving, for extended periods of time. This has, of course, resulted in a lot of motorists rat-running the highway and opting for the side-streets such as the ones I use to get around.

Also, some old guy on a $2,800 Serotta Colorado keeps passing me every morning. At least he's friendly, but yep, I'm still slow.

August Tunage on heavy rotation:
First State - As You Were
Gravity Kills - Guilty
Barlow Girl - Enough
Golan Globus - Blazer (2005 Radio Edit)
Burn In Noise - Raca
God Lives Underwater - Rearrange
Stabbing Westward - Save Yourself
Duran Duran - Ordinary World
Grand National - Talk Amongst Yourselves (Sasha Involver Remix)
Madonna - The Power Of Goodbye
First State - Reverie

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bike Camping, Labor Day Weekend

Where: Meet at the South Olathe Price Chopper, 159th and Mur-Len. Not 151st. 159th.
When: Sunday, Sept. 5th, 2010 at Noon
Plan: Ride out to Hillsdale State Park, set up camp preferably near the Crites Boat Ramp campground

I'm scratching the idea of a northern meeting spot, because I'm probably going to ride to church that morning (yes, fully loaded) It's only a mile from the meeting spot.

Email me for more details and to RSVP.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More than half.

The first three motorists to pass me this afternoon on my homeward trip were either talking on their phones or looking down and frobbing something, almost assuredly dialing or texting. The fourth motorist that passed me had one hand on the wheel, the other hand out the window and seemed to actually be paying attention to the road. Coasting down the hill toward Deluxe Check Company, I realized that today's commuting game would be "count the texters" and I'd already counted one seemingly undistracted motorist. I might as well count those, too.

This highly unscientific survey didn't count cars that had windows too tinted for me to see the driver, or cars that were simply too close to one another for me to get a good look inside. The grand total, though: 59 people on the phone. 47 people not on the phone. More than half.

There's a lot of commercial traffic on my route. Semi tractors, commercial vans, delivery trucks and motorcycle riders made up the lion's share of motorists who were not on the phone. In fact, not a single commercial driver appeared to be on a phone, period. There are probably company rules about this, so it's not that much of a surprise.

Granted, there are hands-free speakerphones, bluetooth headsets and many other variables to consider. I was just keeping count. I'm frankly a little bit disturbed by my findings.

Then, there was my friend Andy, who -- for some inexplicable reason -- decided to wave at me by holding a 20" recumbent bicycle wheel out his driver's side window as we crossed paths... Yes, really.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ah, weekend.

I had my (great) 90-day review at work and it totally doesn't feel like I've been at my new job for three whole months!

From mid-2006 to the first week of 2010, I was a tiny cog in a mega-corporation and my primary job responsibility was to make the red piece of a pie graph look smaller for some guys in big, cushy offices. I was told four times per year that I was exceeding management's expectations and was rarely ever given much more feedback than that. These days, I love what I do and who I work with. I'm constantly challenged with new aspects of the things I'm passionate about: security, systems administration and helping people understand technology in their own terms. I genuinely feel appreciated, too. My team is efficient and forthcoming with very short feedback cycles. That makes all the difference in the world.

Last week was one of the hottest weeks on record. It makes me really glad I live so close to work these days. The weekend brought sweet relief. Many of my pals put in a lot of bike miles today. It feels really strange to say that 89 degrees with 45% relative humidity feels mild, but it really was a nice break from the heat. After church, my wife and I met some friends at a local fishing lake, where I finally got to test out my new baitcasting reel. It took a few casts to get the hang of it, but now I can see why this style of reel is so popular. It casts far if you want it to, very precisely and operates much smoother than my other closed-face and spin-casting reels. My wife and friends caught a few bluegill. I ended up feeding the fish.

Argiope Aurantia (So-called "Garden Spiders") have always been my favorite spiders. When I was growing up in Nebraska, they were everywhere. They're very tame, don't bite and make zig-zag silk inserts into their webs. They're also some of the biggest spiders you'll find native to this part of the country. This female specimen has a leg-span of nearly four inches!

Random Tunage:
Barlow Girl - Enough (excellent Chris Tomlin cover)
Burn In Noise - ERT

Thursday, August 05, 2010


The relentless triple digit temperatures might have been a clue, but I never really believe it's August until I see a Cicada up close.
The Lab-O-Ratory

By the way, I always knew these guys had a proboscis. I didn't know they used it on people. According to wikipedia, they don't "bite" on purpose, but this one got my hand. It felt like a big mosquito bite.

Cart rage in aisle three

I typically ambulate at a fairly good pace as far as plain old walking is concerned. The highly scientific and precise measurement as performed on a cheap home-gym dreadmill says I walk at 3.6 MPH, which, from what I can tell, is a bit faster than average.

I don't particularly care for walking. I avoid walking for transportation for all but the closest of destinations. If it's more than a few blocks and it's at all possible to ride a bike, I'll take the bike. Until such time as it becomes socially acceptable to ride one's bicycle through the aisles of the supermarket, that's at least one place I'll be forced to use my own two feet.

Despite my relatively quick gait, I actually had a lady behind me on my way out of the store this evening muttering "Come on. Move!" just loud enough for me to hear.

Related: I happened across a minivan with the license plate "KEWLGMA" that, according to another highly scientific instrument bolted to my handlebars, was incapable of exceeding 20 MPH in a 45 MPH zone. She was certainly a grandma. No, I didn't pass her. I drafted that thing! Thanks for the pull, granny. Perhaps that's how she earned the "kewl" label. I know she didn't earn it by holding up traffic.

* Title roughly based on a facebook comment from Bill Burns.

Random Tunage:
First State ft. Sarah Howells - Reverie
Alpha 9 - Come Home

Monday, August 02, 2010

Face-melting heat, Park Street, brine and coconut sunscreen

A new personal heat record: 118*F heat index. Ouch.

I had a good tailwind, and I think I'd have preferred a headwind in this heat. On the flat stretches of road, I could easily go fast enough to get some breeze, and it wasn't too bad. Going up hills, my speed would often match the wind's. Combined with 50% relative humidity and triple-digit ambient temperatures, that's no good. I really did feel like my face was melting off. A few times, I squirted my eyes with water to drive the stinging brine away from them. And all this on a relatively short commute.

I had some errands to run on the way home, and I'd usually take Pflumm. Pflumm is an arterial road that doesn't have any highway interchanges. If you count the small curvy northernmost section labeled "Quivira Drive", Pflumm cuts through all of Johnson County and the biggest intersection you'll ever have to deal with is Shawnee Mission Parkway. It's a decent road to ride on, but it's still an arterial road with hurried motorists. Today, I opted for Park Street instead. Park is a short road that runs parallel to Pflumm two blocks to the west and only for a little ways near Old Town Lenexa. It's very residential. It's got tree coverage. People sit out on their front porches and wave.

It reminds me how vitally important a good route is for us bicycle commuters, and how often finding a good route involves riding just a block or two away from the big roads you normally think of when planning your trips.

Finally, a few blocks from home I rode past a small, private pool for one of the nearby neighborhoods. I caught a very strong whiff of coconut-scented suntan lotion. I might not have air conditioning for my commute, but motorists miss a lot of little things in their hermetically-sealed transportation bubbles.

Random Tunage:
Dresden & Johnston feat. Nadia Ali - That Day (Tritonal Air Up There Mix)
New Order - True Faith (The Morning Sun Extended Remix)

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