Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pre-eulogizing My Car

I am so tired. Mentally, I'm alert, but this commute gets to me sometimes. I don't make it any easier on myself by riding it fixed. My legs feel like they are made of wood. Today it has been two weeks since I've driven to work. To be fair, I car pooled once. I don't have an aversion to driving, and I love my car. Rather, I'm trying to wean myself from my emotional attachment. When I purchased this car, five years ago, it was really an impulse buy. My other car was paid off and working fine. I was merely poking around and noticed they were selling cars. How could this be? So I explored the site and discovered this creature with aluminum pedals. Seriously, that was all it took. I tend not to be practical in such matters. When faced with years of payments, I'd rather it be an emtional decision. I clicked through the finance link, just to see what sort of interest rate I'd qualify for through eloan. Of course, they take you through a labyrinth of an application, then tell you that they will send you a check with the terms of the loan. If I didn't want it, I'd simply tear up the check. There was no intermediate step involved.

Daily, I had to drive by the dealership. I finally relented and took the car for a test drive. That same day, a blank check was waiting for me at home. It was too easy. I took delivery on Halloween of 2000. [Note to anyone buying a car: wait that extra day, so your tabs will be good an extra month.] One thing I hadn't considered at the time was that its high compression engine requires higher octane fuel. I've been paying a premium at the pump for years- and it doesn't receive the best gas mileage in the first place.

Fast forward five reliable years and I'm faced with having to sell it. The question will be how long I can hold out without a car. Last time I was car free was when I was a freshman in college. I had no mortgage or consumer debt back then either- nor will I when we move. I sometimes struggle trying to determine if this is a step forward or backward. I've been thoroughly conditioned to having a car- and car payment. It has become normal. This zebra will try to change his stripes.

Why Don't I Ever Learn

I woke up at 5:30 this morning- out of habit if nothing else. I usually need to wait until about 6:15 before there is enough light to ride to work. I could put my headlight back on, but why bother? Anyway, I added a front brake to the moustache bars and rode the black mystery bike to work. Half-way to work I really wasn't grooving on the bars- they were causing substantial hand pain. Thankfully, my comfort resumed with a simple adjustment. I also discovered all my chain ring bolts had worked their way loose, so I tightened them up. I can't figure out why this happens all the time. Happiness is a silent drive train.

I immersed myself in work, reworking the presentation I'll be giving in a few weeks in Mankato. I'm really comfortable with this type of project. It feels like old-school college homework to me. With everything going on right now, I like the task-oriented nature of this type of project. There are several people on vacation this week that I have to cover for. It was a miracle that I was able to accomplish anything today.

From work I phoned One-On-One to inquire about buying a recycled quill stem for Lise's commuter. I used what I had- and the shortest stem was still too long for her comfort. They told me I could stop by and scrounge around in the basement bone yard. If you've never been there, you should really check it out. It is one of the most surreal locations in Minneapolis.

After work I rode toward downtown Minneapolis, carefully plotting the flattest route. There are days where I tire of riding fixed all the time. Yesterday my down tube friction shifters arrived. They are old Shimano 600 clamp-ons that look faux-ornate, like an 1800s pistol handle. All I need now is a chain, and probably a rear brake, and maybe a rear wheel? I can still rock the 16 tooth cog- spin a little more often and warm up to the moustache bars. In my haste this morning, I gave them a totally ghetto tape job, using remnants from maybe three or four rolls of tape. I'll toss on the non-aero levers when I fully "un-convert" it.

During my ride I happened to pass a few roadies on Mississippi Boulevard. I really wasn't trying to be a hammerhead- especially given my low gearing today. I don't think it goes over very well to be passed by my Snidely Whiplash bike. Perhaps as it cools I can wear a top hat and tux with tails. Eventually I made it downtown to One-On-One-- and found that they were closed: "Out riding." I can't fault them for riding on such a nice day, but this is yet another irritation experience I've had with them.

My first experience was when I wanted to replace my old single pivot brake with a dual pivot. The guy suggested my real problem was cable compression, and he suggested that I actually use derailleur housing. Maybe it would work, but everything I've ever read acts like you'll die a violent, slow, painful death if you attempt such folly, since the steel housing isn't coiled. Rather, the housing is basically held together by the plastic, whereas on a brake housing, the plastic merely serves to protect the bike's finish. He seemed to avoid selling me anything- like how I try to discourage people from buying guitars from me.

That bizarre experience was corrected when I scored a great deal on a 600 crank set for the Prologue. They were, however, busy haranguing other customers at the time. Today they decided to close early. Makes sense to me- makes more sense than being open until 7 when they are located downtown. But while I don't understand them, I'm glad they are around. They are like the Bahá'í Temple of bike shops. Thusly discouraged from seeking a quill stem from them, I'll turn to my old friend, ebay.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Craig's List

We are selling a mixed bag of items on Craig’s List- things we do not want to move, cannot use in Norway, or haven’t used in years. Among the items was my 1983 Stratocaster- a genuine, made-in-the-USA model that has been thoroughly abused, scratched, dented, burned, and modified by yours truly. Actually, it was in rough shape before I purchased it. I could only afford a beater guitar when I was in college.

I wanted to find a local seller, since its condition was marginal. Mint Strats from this vintage can fetch around $1500 on ebay. Used condition can run around $600-800. I was asking $300, since I had taken a router to it and installed a rear humbucker and modified the electronics. I still had the original pickup. I did everything I could in my ad to discourage buyers. I hosted large, hi-res images, rather than the puny CL-hosted photos. I exhaustedly described its disreputable condition. I disclosed the sacrilege of my modifications. I received offers from all over the country.

Many of these were lowballers. The tremolo bar alone for the ’83 model has been going for $90 on ebay. Also, this had the case. The case and electronics should cost $300. Anyway, I finally narrowed it down to two local buyers. Over the phone, I tired to discourage both from buying it. Russ called me first to express his interest. He wanted to maybe stop by last night to buy it. Sloane was also interested, and called to schedule a time to see it later today. After I scheduled with Sloane, Russ said he might be in the neighborhood in the evening. We were leaving for a dinner party, and I said I’d call him later around 9-ish. We had a late start for dinner. Before I knew it, it was 9:30. I called Russ. Incredibly he was parked a block from our house, waiting for my call. I was annoyed, since I didn’t think this was a “for sure” thing- based on our previous conversation. I left dessert early and headed home. As I drove, another guy phoned who was interested in buying some speakers. I told him I was heading home.

As I was parking at home, I noticed the streetlight was out, and two guys were waiting on the dark corner. One looked like a Mormon missionary with a buttoned up white shirt. The other was a big guy with a shock of salt and pepper hair. I introduced myself. We joked about the confusion as each guy thought the other was me. We went into the house and straight down to the basement. Russ took a quick look at the guitar and said he’d take it. Adam pulled out his money to buy the speakers. I offered to help Adam load his car. Russ asked if I was selling any more music gear (which I’m not).

As I carried one of the Yamaha speakers to Adam’s minivan, I noticed it was completely crammed full of “stuff.” He said he was helping his girlfriend move to Eagan. I had no idea where he would fit them. He told me to set it on the seat. He didn’t want to keep me from returning for dessert. I headed back to the get-together. By the time we returned home an hour later, Adam was gone. Somehow he found room for the speakers.

Ebay is so much easier. There is no haggling on the price, no missed meetings to pick things up, no crossed phone calls, no strangers coming over at night. On the flip-side, last night went quite smoothly. I sold that old guitar for what I paid for it- almost twenty years ago. I received a great price for the speakers- which truthfully didn’t deserve being branded as Yamaha. Now for the rest of our junk….

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Moustache Bars

Nice thing about an open-face stem like the Deda Murex is that I can easily swap out bars. I installed the Nitto wannabe. I didn't have a brake housing, so I thought I'd ride brakeless to the shop to buy one. It looked pretty hardcore with no brakes, no tape. Of course my wife is just too smart for her own good. She took one look at my bike as I was leaving and asked, "Where's your brakes?" I'm not really into the whole fixie brakeless scene- though I can handle it. Besides, this bike will eventually run geared with panniers. I'll enjoy its present incarnation while it lasts.

No Time for Frivolity

It is that time of year again. Friday I car pooled with my wife, rather than endure the driving rain. It has been quite some time since I've seen rain like that during a morning rush hour. At least I saved a trip to work. Yesterday I worked for the County, which required use of my car, so that was a non-issue. I sold an extra bike to a coworker yesterday- for a very fair price. We are down to six bikes. We plan to sell one of my wife's bikes as well, bringing us down to a total of five that need to move, rather than seven.

My moustaches arrived yesterday. I love Ben's Bike out of Milwaukee- they are excellent ebayers, and I highly recommend them. I might fool around with them today. With all my commuting as of late, I can hardly bring myself to take a recreational ride. Racing is finished, and just riding around seems almost pointless. At this point in the year, it is about transportation. My legs feel like wood after the 200+ miles ridden last week- all of it fixed gear. I would argue that it is more equivalent to 300 miles on a geared bike that coasts. My commute keeps my heart rate more in the fat-burning zone- not that I have much fat to begin with, but it is quite different than interval training that I try to keep up with during the race season. The irony is that I end up looking leaner and meaner well after April, when I could have really used it. Of course, this time of year I end up being like a diesel engine- all endurance with no top end. It is amazing how quickly anaerobic power can be lost, while overall fitness and conditioning can remain constant. But again, I have nowhere to ride. Maybe I can scare up some errands? I'm feeling the need for a purpose.

Today we plan to put a bunch of junk up for sale on ebay and craig's list. I'm bracing myself for the onslaught of Nigerians interested in my for local pick-up only household items.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Plotting and Scheming

The great debate continues. I sold my city/path bike to a coworker- one less bike to move. I never used that bike much. It was practically new. So I'm moving the rack to the Frankenbike. I'm contemplating panniers. Just dragging a six pack of beer to class the other night in a back pack was a bit of a, well, pain in the back.

Or, I'm comtemplating "touring shoes." My Duegi mountainbike shoes are walkable, but they are a little loud for polite company. I'm thinking maybe something a bit more discreet for trips to the store, errands, etc. Or, maybe I should by some hightop hiking boot-style mountain bike shoes. They would be a bit warmer in the winter. I wonder how waterproof they are.

Or, I should buy a less flashy, non-racing helmet. I currently have a Selev and Limar- neither of which I'd want locked to my bike. I should probably buy something less expensive for everyday errands. Of course in Europe, I'll look like a chicken-little even wearing a helmet.

If not a helmet, maybe I need better rain gear. Stavanger isn't the driest city on the planet. I plan to learn to love the rain. Rain isn't bad if I'm prepared. I am definitely not prepared for cold, winter rain- but hey, it is better than snow.

Finally, I need to figure out how to ship my bike so it is waiting for me when I arrive. 45 days is a long wait. I almost think it would be cheaper to buy a bike and sell it when my other bikes arrive. We experienced quite a debacle a year ago when a friend asked that we ship a baby jogger for her. The cost was outrageous through standard channels. We ended up using a shipping agent out of New Jersey.

The last thing I need right now is more stuff. Especially items that we'll fly with, rather than ship.

Overheard in New York

Overheard in New York

Maybe I'm the last person to discover this site, but it is quite amusing.

Friday, August 26, 2005

White People

I responded to a post on a bike forum where some bozo was ripping on Mexicans riding on the sidewalks. I mentioned that I ride on the road, and all sorts of white guys tell me to ride on the sidewalk.

Come to think of it, I've never been harrassed by a Black, Mexican, or Asian... only whites... and I am white. God I hate white people!

Long Week

Today's commute home was exhausting. It was mostly into the wind. I took a break and flipped the wheel so I could take it easy with the 16 tooth cog. Hopefully I can also ride tomorrow- weather permitting. This would be the first full week of commuting by bike. I'll have saved 200 miles on my car.

Last night I also biked to my Norwegian class. We actually have the summer off, but we still get together and mostly drink beer and converse in Norglish- that odd combination of speaking Norwegian until stumped by an unknown word. The class really brings a diverse and interesting group together- of people I otherwise wouldn't associate with. I'm one of the youngest students. We've been together for at least three years. Last night we met near Lake Nokomis. I followed the Parkway home in the dark- and it was very dark. This morning I noticed they had been working on the street lights. I really love riding at night. The city is so quiet, except for the frogs and crickets by the creek. My Niterider light system really does its job, and its name reminds me of the original Mad Max movie.

Today's training went very well. All the feedback was very positive. I don't proclaim any expert status, and it always worries me that I'll encounter some ringer with more initials after his name who knows more than I do. On the other hand, it sharpens my public speaking skills- the only way possible, and I actually enjoy the challenge of "being out there" and having to think on my feet. Today was a relatively small group. In a few weeks the show goes on the road and I train out of town. I think it is a package deal where some company pays $750 or $1000 or something like that for three hours. I wish all of my time were billable at that rate. All my down time that I put into developing this curriculum has really paid off- for the company at least. I have no idea what they will do with this after I leave.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sometimes I Just Have to Laugh

I woke up dreading work today. I am giving a training where people are coming from outside the company to hear me speak. People are paying money to hear me ramble for three hours. It wasn't my idea- I was more or less drafted to be the expert. It just all seems so pretentious. I might feel differently if I received a cut from the revenue.

My ride in was wonderful. It helped clear my head and help me focus on my presentation. There was, however, one odd glitch to my commute. As I was on my brief stretch of West River Road between the parkway and the Ford Bridge, I was riding off the bumper of the car in front of me, signaling a left to catch the bridge. I could see in my geeky mirror that there was an SUV behind me. I had room, although he was crowding me. It didn't make much sense, since there was a car in front of me, and I was riding the speed of traffic. Anyway, I stopped, did a brief trackstand, and turned left. I was met with a loud honk. I turned around and asked, "What?" as he pulled over. He looked like an extra from Hee-Haw, and he sounded like Scooby Doo as he yelled, "Muhghrgh jurghrugh mughgerth!"

I said, "What?" again, to which he replied, "Where are your lights?" I couldn't believe it. It was getting close to 7, and there was plenty of light. Half the cars didn't have their lights on. Mine were still on, since it was dark when I left and it is a pain to turn them off while riding. I flipped the bike around to show him the flashing tail light and said, "You mean this light?"

At this point I noticed he had handicap plates- not that there is anything wrong with that. He then changed the topic and told me to ride on the sidewalk. I told him the speed limit was 10 mph, that it was posted on the trail behind him. I pointed. I asked him to turn around to read the sign. He refused to look, but managed to get in the last word, saying "I don't care," as he sped off.

Here is the thing about this type of situation: he did not threaten me or endanger me in any way. I didn't ride away wishing I had handled the situation any differently. I had no revenge fantasies. I didn't even bother memorizing his plates. It was more amusing than anything else. Next time something like this occurs, I am contemplating responding with a "Jeg kan bare snakke Norsk," or "Jeg kan ikke forsto deg"- just to see the reaction.

Later, I spotted a woman riding a fixed gear with chopped and flipped bars along the Shepard Road Trail. I don't see that everyday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Proof There Is Something for Everyone

Handlebar Moustache FAQ

I stumbled upon this site searching for info on moustache bars for bikes. I am contemplating them for my frankenbike, but I am not convinced they aren't primarily for freaky bike geeks with bad backs. I have a tendency to learn everything the hard way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I should be able to commute daily this week. Yesterday it really helped clear my head after work. All sorts of strange office politics have emerged since my announcement, and suddenly I appear to be irreplaceable. I wouldn't even want to follow in my own footsteps. I've never felt this important at work before. My leaving will mean a lot of extra work for several people, and it will probably take years for the owner to trust my replacement. Meanwhile, I have to fire an employee today and announce my leaving to all the program directors. Another fun day ahead of me...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Canadian Fishing Trip

We just returned from a trip to Lake Saganaga at the end of the Gunflint Trail. The trip was excellent. We stayed at a "resort" on a Canadian island about twenty minutes by boat from the public landing. The forest fires had mostly settled down by the time of our arrival. The accommodations were quite rustic- no electricity, except a few hours here and there from a generator. We had gas lights and a gas refrigerator, but no indoor toilets. I quickly learned it was better to water the trees or use the dock in the middle of the night rather than use the "outhouse." I had no complaints about the fishing- lake trout, walleye, and northern.

The lake was pristine. The water is drinkable far from shore, away from the duck and goose "droppings." The shoreline is completely undeveloped, except for the few cabins on the Canadian side. In rethinking it, I think all the cabins were actually on islands. The islands also appeared to be immune from forest fires.

I was amazed at how few people we encountered. It was certainly not like being at a "summer home" in the lakes region of Minnesota. We joined a couple of friends who are police from St. Paul. They have been vacationing at the lake many times. They introduced us to some of the locals summering there. Very few people live there all year, although I believe the folks who ran the "resort" lived there. The woman actually grew up there, and apparently took a boat or snowmobile to the landing, then had an hour and a half bus ride to school as a child. One couple we met worked at the research station on antarctica four months during our winter- the arctic summer. They had support jobs, since the researchers are usually only there a few days to a few weeks. They actually owned their own island in the lake, complete with a well-furnished cabin with a few guest cabins.

I don't know if there are some latent misanthropic tendencies in my psyche, but it was nice to be unreachable for a few days. I didn't mind skipping the showers, or having no cell phone- or any phones for that matter, no TV, no email, no internet, no cable, no radio, no vehicles except boats. People leave very small footprints in that environment. It was surprising how the place is maybe only five and a half hours outside the Twin Cities. It seemed quite close to be that "remote." We will definitely return.

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Miscellaneous Updates

The CEO is out of town- which is usual for summer. Yesterday, her assistant left a group voice mail on the administrative team's voice mail that we are having our meeting today, but that I'll be leading it. That fact that I'm leading the meeting should definitely have been left out of the message. Today is the day that I'm announcing that I'll be leaving the company. Of course, now my peers are paranoid, since we never have the admin meeting without the CEO, and the CEO always runs the meeting. Several members the "team" were asking me what the meeting was about. My sense is they are suddenly concerned that I've risen to an elevated position of power in the company. My answer has been a light "if I told you what the meeting was about, we wouldn't need to have the meeting" sort of response. If they only knew... and they will. They will be so relieved that the status quo will not be upset that they won't have a single care about my departure, until they realize how that alone affects the status quo. It is probably better that way. At least with the passage of some time, I'm a lot less emotional about the matter.

Back to bikes- I'm leaning toward downtube shifters for the frankenbike. It occurred to me that I could use a clamp on shifter, and that since I have no cable bosses either, bar ends would also require clamp on cable guides. I really want to keep this one simple. Also, I tested a 130mm wheel in the frame, and I managed to squeeze it in. My newest crazy idea is to use an extra Ultegra 9-speed derailleur- probably in friction mode. This should be compatible with all wheels. Total cost of the project should drop to $20.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Weird Ebay Auctions

I rarely promote non-cycling websites, but this one is something else: Outrageous Ebay Auctions

1973 WAR-AUTHENTIC HEAD BANDAGE!!! - and for only $10,000.

"Un-converting" a Fixed Gear

With the impending move to a more interesting terrain, I'm contemplating adding a rear deraileur to my rain fixie. Also, we found out that the import duty for my car alone, will run in excess of $10,000 US- so it looks like we are selling both cars before we move. Obviously, this will also save moving expenses. Without a car, I'm also thinking of tossing a rack on the old black bike, and turning it into a frankenbike commuter. I'll probably keep the 42 chain ring and avoid a front deraileur, and toss a thread-on 7-speed in the rear. I'm guessing bar end shifters would work the best, since this frame has no down tube braze-ons. Of course it will have lights for the eternal darkness that is known as winter. Overall, it should be a very ugly bike by the time I'm finished!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Writing My Own Obituary

I'm relocating abroad- in more than two months! As a courtesy to my employer, I spoke to my "supervisor"- the owner- last week to give her the "heads up." I didn't quote a date. I asked her to keep it quiet, since it is stressful enough dealing with everything without having to handle an interrogation from co-workers.

Earlier this week I informed a peer who will be greatly affected. Yesterday the owner called us into her office to discuss my exit strategy- to establish a plan for finding my replacement. I hated the conversation. I cannot imagine anyone else doing my job. I can hardly accept the reality that the company will function without me, although certainly it will. I really felt like I was at my own funeral.

Next week I'll announce at the admin meeting that I'm leaving. My wife suggested we hold a press conference- but accept no questions. I'm beginning to warm up to that idea.

New Route

I took a different route home. I took Otto to West Seventh to Montreal and then Ford Parkway to my usual route after the Ford Bridge. It is more direct than following the river as it dips south. It probably shaved off close to twenty minutes from my commute. Of course, Montreal is a huge hill, but that keeps things interesting. Also Ford Parkway is a bit crazy to bike during rush hour, but that also keeps me on my toes.

While waiting for a light near my home, I asked a guy on a scooter if it was electric. He said it was- that it didn't need any gas. I tapped my bike, and reminded him I didn't need gas either. It turned out he lived almost across the street from me. We had a conversation about the neighborhood and our home sale. He was an interesting character. As we were talking, a group of kids were going door to door selling something- presumably magazine subscriptions. I don't know why they always use kids- it seems rather exploitative. It is worse than telemarketing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New Mirror

I must confess, Lise insisted on giving me a ride home after work yesterday. There was lightning. She was already at the office. I didn't offer much resistance. There will be no stories how I braved the elements in my man against nature quest to ride home.

While out and about buying a new hard drive last night, I picked up a "Take a Look" mirror. I'd always regarded mirrors as being completely geeky, but lately I have felt that I might as well use all the possible safety tools. At first, I couldn't really figure out how to adjust it, then it hit me. This thing is an engineering marvel! This morning I used it on my commute. It took a bit of tweaking, but now that I am more acclimated to it, I think I might find it useful. I still think it is geeky, but now I can literally watch my own back.

Computer Woes

I've been quiet since our computer became possessed. As it turned out, the hard drive was in a spot of bother. A few months ago, it could no longer find either network card (and still couldn't as of its demise). The cards were invisible to the computer. I ended up using a spare USB network connection, but I hated that inelegant solution out of principle. About a month ago, the computer could no longer find the Windows registration file. Microsoft saw fit to make sure the computer wouldn't even boot up if the file was corrupt, so I had to speak with someone in India to restore the license. Of course, when I call back to re-enter it, they will probably send the black helicopters after me- or worse yet, they won't authorize the installation. I didn't even want to mess with it, so I am on my 30-day "trial" while I work out any potential bugs.

Installing the new hard drive solved all my woes. The trouble is, I had a huge amount of digital audio software, and it will be a huge pain in the ass to reauthorize all the crazy copy protection schemes. I've already lost an expensive plug-in that used hard disk authorization. All the challenge and response protection seems to be hardware dependent. I will need to search for all the serial numbers, licenses, and dongles. It will take hours.

This isn't the first time this has happened. I had originally used a high performance IBM hard drive that later became notorious for "the click of death." This happened at the exact same time the motherboard gave out. I was extremely busy at the time, and didn't want to deal with the hassle, so I took it to the Geek Squad and asked them to check the mobo and HD, since I suspected both- the PC wouldn't even post (which it should do even if the HD was bad). They told me the HD was bad and charged my something like $60 just to tell me that. I doubt there is a PC problem that I can't fix, and while at times, time is money, I will never go back to Geek Squad or pay anyone else to touch my computer. Of course that time, my replacing the drive didn't fix the problem, since the mobo was still bad. I didn't want to replace the board if it was working. Anyway, since I was one of three people in the entire universe that bought into RAMBUS when it came out, I had to order a mobo from Taiwan through ebay if I still wanted to use my memory. I found a hell of a deal, but they sent it by donkey- it took forever to arrive. Oddly, they shipped it in the original retail box that they had turned inside out.

My fear when the PC couldn't find the network card in recent weeks was that the mobo had gone out again. The blue screens of death could have pointed to bad memory. I wouldn't even know where to find RAMBUS these days, so I'd probably need a new board and processor as well. Regardless, the HD solved everything, although I have a minimum of software reinstalled. Fortunately, all the data was backed up elsewhere.

Finding a hard drive was a bit of an annoyance. Best Buy had 100 gig drives on sale for $49, so I stopped at the store down the street. Of course they were all out, but they had a 120 gig drive for just $10 more- I assumed the usual bait and switch. When I arrived home, I realized that I must have been living in a cave, because this new drive was not a regular Ultra ATA drive, but rather a Serial ATA- that requires a completely different cable/mobo connection. I returned it and located what I needed at another store. I've given up on high end drives. In the end, they are all crap, and they don't make them like they used to.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Getting Home is Half the Fun

It is 3pm, the sky is darkening, and I hear the distant thunder. This should be a fun commute home. I should have ridden my rain bike.

Image Hosted by

Tuesday Commute

My PC conked out. I think I have another bad hard drive. I don't understand why these large capacity drives are so unreliable- this is the second bad drive I've tossed in. Anyway, I guess I have a project waiting for me when I return home. There is nothing like waiting hours while rebuilding a PC. How it relates to biking is this: I was unable to consult the weather before leaving. For starters, it was hot by 6:15. I didn't need a base layer like I did a few days last week when it was in the low 60s. The other issue was that a huge black leading front came it. Cars had their lights on all morning, and I was sure the sky would open at any second. This motivated me to push the pace a bit. There were more bikes than usual out and about, including a rare sight- a helmetless group ride of roadies. Two young deer also crossed Shepard Road right in front of me.

Digressing somewhat, when I was on Minnehaha Parkway near Cedar, I was literally watching my back for the Donut Man. Actually, his name is Tom. The amazing thing about the internet is some stranger emailed me and offered to run his plates. I had written down his plates the last time he buzzed me a few months ago and remember the plates from the current incident, and it was the same man. I know his name, wife's, name, their dates of birth, all the vehicles licensed to him, his address, his credit union name, the address of his rental property, I even know his house was assessed at $750,000. He lives near me, and we drove by his house Sunday evening. The tan 2003 Jeep SUV was parked in front. It is amazing how much information you can find about someone, with very little effort.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Dakota Criterium

I was not planning to race today. I decided Friday when I was riding home from work that I'd had it. I had a fitful sleep, or lack thereof on Friday night, with the realities of having sold our home sinking in. Saturday I worked my part-time job as a crisis social worker, and it was completely dead. Last night we wanted to take our minds off the move, so we watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or whatever it is titled. It actually was a cool movie- especially since it is a remake of sorts (although it claims not to be).

Anyway, I woke up feeling ambivalent. I did not want to race. I thought it would be better just to take a long ride. I remember the race last year where few people turned up. As I went downstairs to swap out the racing wheels, my bike called out to me to be raced. I hurredly prepared, and my wife accompanied me to Rosemount.

Somehow the beautiful day turned into heat and wind. I quickly registered and warmed up. My legs were sore from my hammerhead commute on Friday when I took the long way home- including a bunch of hills that I probably shouldn't have ridden on my fixed. After maybe a half hour warm-up, I rode the course- which included a bunch of tricky turns that would surely blow the field apart. After a warm up lap, a few guys took off for another lap, and I followed. When I turned around, I noticed everyone was lining up for the start, so we cut through the course and I lined up in the back. Not a good place to start.

When the race started, one guy simply took off. A GP teammate held pace, and I could easily move up. I knew I didn't want to be at the end of the accordion when we hit the turns. The first lap was easy. The second was a bit rough, for some reason, and we split from the rest of the field. By the third lap, I realized my legs didn't have the snap to stay with the lead group. I knew I couldn't hold it, so I dropped off, rode alone for a lap as some stragglers caught up. We rode as a group of 6, behind the lead group. It was rather leisurely, like a fast club ride.

Our little group consisted of three other GP riders and two Silver Cycling guys- a total of six. One of the Silver guys tried to organize a rotating paceline, but pullling through was a bit iffy. At this point it was me, another GP guy, and the two Silver guys doing most the work. Eventually one Silver and one GP rider each faded, and we were now four. As we hit our final lap, it seemed no one wanted to work, so I took the wind for about half a lap. As soon as we approached the final series of turns, the big GP guy took off. I let the others fight it out with him.

As it turned out, I ended up 15th rather than 12th if I would have really contested it. No big deal. I had no regrets, especially considering my demeanor earlier in the day. I was worried that this would be a rather emotional race, considering that it will probably be the last I do in the Twin Cities. But it was a good time. It was nice to reconnect with some other teammates that I hadn't talked to in awhile, and nice to see Dan and Brian. It is strange how I see the same people almost weekly, in a sport largely ignored by the masses- and while I am only aware of a tiny corner of their lives, I feel like I almost know them. It is probably magnified by the amount of trust involved with racing, and the fact that it is something of a dangerous sport at times. I really hope that I can find this sense of community abroad. It is one of the things that I fear I will miss the most.

Afterward: When I returned home, I found my average heart rate was the same as Tuesday, and the average speed was the same. Tuesday was basically a time trial for me, as I rode solo after my chain issues. I guess we really weren't working that hard today... in the heat... and the wind.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Donut Man

Minnesota Plate: MNW162 (I might have the letter mixed up, but not the numbers) Light colored SUV, "Large build," mid to late 40s, reddish blonde hair, foul-mouthed, moustache, donut eater.

I often wonder what happens to school-yard bullies as they grow older. I originally wasn't going to post this, but I was buzzed again on Minnehaha Parkway near Cedar. The driver unkindly suggested that I ride on the sidewalk. He was quite a potty-mouth, considering his wife was with him. I caught up to him at Cedar and caught a good look at his face. I then noticed his vehicle parked at the bakery a few blocks further east. There were no other cars around at 6:30am. There was no mistaking his actions.

At this point, I realized it was the same man who buzzed me a few months ago. Last time he drove a green Ford- possibly a Taurus. He had the same M.O. He buzzed me a little further east on the same road, same time of day, and he stopped at the same bakery. I really do not want to play his dangerous game. I'm am quite sure the police won't do anything. Any response I do will only provoke him.

I think I'll start carrying my camera on all my commutes. I'll post a few pictures of him. What else can I do?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sold Our House

We are moving to Norway in a few months. This isn't widely known around the office yet, but a few people- like my boss- already know. Anyway, our house went on the market yesterday, and before a sign even went up, we had four showings and two offers. We took the offer over our asking price. I'm sure it helps that our neighbors put their house on the market a day earlier, but were asking about 30% more. I hope everything else goes this smoothly.

I know this has nothing to do with our house, but I took this during the Cutty Sark fesitval last summer. I need a bit of inspiration. I think we'll fly, rather than take a tall ship. Although ironically, we may actually be using Mayflower Moving.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

They'll Never Print It

The angry white male columnists at the Pioneer Press ran two successive anti-cycling pieces last week. Sansevere Soucheray

I sent a rebuttal to the "Letters to the Editor"- I doubt they'll ever see the light of day.

EDIT: I just received a call to confirm that I wrote the letter. Apparently it will see the light of day. Who knew? Since it can't be published anywhere else, I will link to it when it is in the paper.

For those that don't want to "subscribe," here are the reprints:

Posted on Tue, Jul. 26, 2005

Lance wannabes hog roads


A few things: It is exciting that Lance Armstrong won his seventh straight Tour de France. It's especially exciting that he's retiring from cycling. Now maybe there will be fewer bicyclists crowding our streets and ignoring the rules of the road.

While it is massively impressive that Armstrong overcame cancer to win a record number of Tour de France titles, I hold him directly responsible for the surge in scofflaw bicyclists.

All those Tour de France victories ramped up interest in cycling, and I'm hoping now that he's retiring a lot of the law-breaking Lance wannabes will put their bikes up for sale on eBay.

There are plenty of law-abiding bicycle riders out there, and I have no gripe with them when they stop at stop signs and don't go pedaling through red lights.

The problem is, there are far too many SOBs (Spandex-Obsessed Bicyclists) who think they own whatever road they're on.

And it's not usually someone riding a Schwinn or Huffy. It's often the SOBs on their sleek Armstrongesque racing bikes.

Bob Sansevere can be reached at


Posted on Wed, Jul. 27, 2005

Armstrong's success creates red devils in yellow jerseys


As an experiment I have asked several bicycle riders if they can name any other top-flight cyclists besides Lance Armstrong. I am sure that serious fans of bicycle racing can name dozens of other riders, but I am talking about the average bicycle rider who puts on a rainbow-colored tight-fitting uniform and then races through the city streets pretending to be Lance Armstrong.

It is a rare occasion when one of this type actually stops next to you at a red light, but when they do, ask them.

"Can you name five top-flight cyclists besides Lance Armstrong?'' I asked a guy the other afternoon.

He swung his head to look at me. I was evil. I was burning gasoline.

"Bug off,'' he said, or words to that effect.

"Just one,'' I said. "I'll take one other name.''

This got me a gesture.

I can't do it, either. I vaguely remember the name Eddy Merckx, a five-time Tour de France winner from Belgium. I have no idea why that name rings any bells.

This phenomenon makes Lance Armstrong all the more remarkable. I hope he has a good agent. I cannot think of any other athlete in any other sport who has so single-handedly dominated the game.

The average person, by whom I mean the men and women who are racing about the city streets pretending they are Lance, can all name more than one professional basketball player. The same is true for baseball, football and even hockey after a year's absence. OK, hockey might be a stretch, but more people will be able to name two hockey players than two bicycle racers.

And as dominating as Tiger Woods is, the average person can name more than one golfer, and when it comes to tennis you get two names out of the same family, Venus and Serena.

The devotion or loyalty to Lance is so thorough that most bicycle riders now dress in a complete Tour de France cycling uniform. Imagine if the fans of Kevin Garnett wore complete basketball uniforms to play five on five at the playground. They wear jerseys, you say. Yes they do, but not the same shorts, socks, sweat bands, shoes and shoelaces.

Well, golfers dress like professionals. No, they don't. The average golfer doesn't wear a shirt covered in the logos of the Ford Motor Co. or a financial consulting firm. Besides, golfers are not playing on the city's streets.

I have no problem at all conceding that Lance Armstrong is the greatest athlete of my lifetime. Nobody wins seven straight anythings, much less seven straight grueling bicycle races through mountains and twisty village lanes, all the while putting up with French people.

The real test is what will happen now that Lance has retired at the age of 34. Next year the Tour de France will probably go back to six paragraphs on , or where it was before Lance came onto the scene, having beaten cancer and all other rivals.

But will the streets of St. Paul and Minneapolis quiet down? I doubt it. Driving will remain harrowing, what with the new pedestrian laws and the new law that will allow young people to use the streets on little mechanized scooters and, of course, the hordes of uniformed bicycle riders who ignore the traffic laws because they are in training to become the next Lance Armstrong and cannot be bothered with trivial matters such as red lights.

The honest bicycle riders out there — and, yes, there must be a few — will admit it. They think exactly the same thing when they are driving their SUVs. Lance Armstrong has created a monster of road-hogging hero worshippers. Look out.

Joe Soucheray can be reached at

I Don't Know You

Last night I was talking to a guy from Loon State who placed in Sunday's crit. I congratulated him on placing. We talked about the race, and he apologized if he yelled at me- which he didn't. Apparently some guy from my club was behaving badly. I have a pretty good idea who it was. I went on to describe how strange the GP "team" actually is- that I went to a few training rides last year and didn't recognize anyone from any races. This year, I recognized no one the first few races. The club is huge. Anyone can join. I can't ride anywhere without seeing someone wearing the team kit. I have no idea who these people are.

Tonight I took a fixed ride down the Hopkins loop. It was hot, and that was all I could handle. I had the 15t cog, and was riding like a hammerhead. As I followed Lake Harriet to my turn off, I heard someone yell, "Shit. Go, god damn it!" I turned and saw a "teammate" behaving badly. He had pulled to the right of a car that was turning right, and the car didn't want to hook him, as so often happens. It was irritating watching a cyclist berating a motorist that was only trying to drive carefully. It was more embarrassing realizing we wore matching jerseys. I had no idea who he was.

On a different note, there has been recent editorial content by two local columnists in the Pioneer Press that condemns cyclists as lycra-clad, Lance-wannabe, law-breaking scofflaws (pardon the redundancy). In thinking about this, it occurred to me that almost every motorist I encounter while driving on the freeway is "breaking the law." It seems speeding is epidemic (and I am no angel) and turn signals have become optional. Does that make every motorist a Jeff Gordan wannabe scofflaw? I know that isn't the most insightful rebuttal, but it pretty much goes to the heart of the arguments of our beloved social commentators/trolls backed by the power of the local press. I'd really expect no more from those misanthropes.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Rosemount- Week 4- Suffer fest

OK, it was a bit hot, but I was ready for it. What I wasn't ready for was my chain dropping twice on the first lap. This has never happened to me before.

Let me back up. I think it was Nestvold who took off like a maniac from the start. What does he think this is? A mountain bike race? Anyway, I dropped my chain, pulled off, fixed the chain, but the damage was already done. Then it happened again. I was so angry and frustrated that I refused to quit. I watched as others peeled off the back, fade, then leave the race. I was going to use this as a workout. I actually discovered that I may have some potential as a time trialist. I never was lapped, and I held a respectable average speed. My frustration has, however, raised my ambivalence about racing again Sunday.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


It is forecast to be in the mid 90s this afternoon for the Rosemount Crit- at the treeless, shadeless driving course. My hayfever is driving me nuts, and I'm hoping for no respiratory issues during the race. Apparently last week I came in 14th out of 28- which is exactly the story of my racing life- right in the middle. I didn't know they counted us that deep. Maybe I'll work a bit harder tonight. I'm tempted to try something a bit crazy, like a suicidal break.

After tonight, there is one more race remaining this season- Sunday, again at Rosemount. At least this course isn't kicking my ass like last year. Oddly, I'm beginning to welcome the idea that racing will be over, and I can spend more time commuting and generally enjoying riding my bike. There is never a disappointment associated with my riding to work results.