Sunday, October 30, 2005

I Can't Wait

I cannot wait to complete this move. I feel the worst is already behind us. I know that may sound strange, considering that we are still in the US. A few months ago I was thinking of how little I had to show for my tenure in Minneapolis, how I didn't have the proverbial "pot to piss in" when I arrived, and how I had little more fifteen years later after selling everything off. Actually, we have a nice chunk of money in the bank- with no credit card debt. This is a far cry from my immediate need for employment when I first moved to Minneapolis. More importantly, we have each other. Year ago I lived with virtual strangers. Finally, I am not some kid, just out of college, looking for a job in a crappy economy. Things will be quite different this time.

I have a tendency to look at the worst case scenarios- always asking what is the worst thing that could possibly happen? This was a key element to my successes at work- but I need not run my life in this manner (even though I have, lately). So far everything has been great- both with the move and with my life. But sometimes I can't help myself from asking the what ifs? As an example, we really had nothing in writing regarding our moving estimate. A guy stopped at our house to estimate the cost of our move, but we actually had nothing in writing. My worst fear was that when everything was all packed up, we would be extorted with a bunch of "extra costs." The reality was that a shipping container involves a fixed cost. There are no extra charges, except the insurance- which is based on weight, and the glass-crating cost. While this charge was a few hundred dollars- relatively expensive- breaking the glass would render the furniture worthless.

So far the worst hasn't happened, and all we have left to do is figure out how to wire our money to Norway. Then we hop on a plane with two cats, four suitcases, a bike in a box, and our carry-on luggage. Fortunately we have an Airbus- which offers video on demand in every seat.

How How to be a Bike Snob

Required reading

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Not a Hitch

Tonight we sit at my parents' house in the middle of nowhere. All our earthly possessions are somewhere in a shipping container- all 4600 lbs of them. I guess the four to six weeks is an outside estimate- that we should be reunited with everything in much less time. The movers were great, and we tipped them well. I would have thought Mayflower dudes were more accustomed to being tipped. Their appreciation seemed very sincere. We fed them and kept them lubricated with Mountain Dew all day. I was rather nervous that we didn't have a written estimate. I need not have worried, since shipping a container is more of a flat rate. Insurance is determined by weight. There were some extra charges for crating our glass table tops. Again, no complaints.

We spent the night with friends in Saint Paul. Two other friends stopped by for a late dinner. Lise and I were so exhausted that we could barely keep our eyes open. At this point, with all the task oriented issues, I've had no time to be emotional about anything. All I want is for this move to be over. We had left the cats at home and would do a final clean up before the 10:15 walk-through. Our hostess handed me the Culture Shock Norway book that I had heard about- from a much less reliable source. I stayed up late reading about all the wonder work perks given to all residents of this mysterious land. I was feeling even better about the impending move by this point.

When we did our final clean-up, we had more garbage than we could handle. We left some of it in neighbors' dumpsters- after asking permission, of course. We were going to leave our luggage and my bike with the next door neighbors, but they had disappeared. I ended up having to pick up a minivan to drop them off at a friend's place down the street. During this process, my brother mysteriously appeared much earlier than seemed possible- with his SUV rental. The cavalry had arrived. We didn't want to depend on him because who knew when his flight would actual arrive. He was a wonderful help.

Our house closing resulted in a bit more money than we expected. When we went through the paperwork, Lise and I both frowned when we first saw the "bottom line"- that is, until we realized it was a subtotal. The bottom line was on page two.

We next did the paperwork for the actual move. That went quite smoothly. We headed to Saint Paul for lunch, and then to drop off the Porsche with a very heart-felt thank you note.

My brother then drove us and the cats to our parents. It was probably the best time I've ever spent with him. When we arrived home, we were quite surprised to see a new stainless steel refrigerator and stove.

Bottom line: I'm homeless and unemployed- without a care in the world. Things are looking good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Been Busy

Here is a scatter gram of recent updates: Saturday night we met a bunch of friends at Herkimer. It was really cool that my biking buddy Randall showed up. I met him several years ago in the middle of nowhere during a miserable Ironman ride. We rode together for a big chunk, and continued to ride together afterwards. I really hadn't ridden with others much at that point. He then introduced me to a local cycling club, which I then joined. I logged thousands of miles with that group that summer. There were two other guys that would often join us for weekend rides. We would also hang out for barbecues and other more social situations. Randall also talked me into trying my first race, the Firehouse 50. Besides all that, he just is a very cool guy- one of the most generous people I know. I will miss him.

The rest of the crew that showed up, except for two of my cousins, had some ties to Norway, so they were very supportive of our move. I wouldn't be surprised at all if any of them visited us abroad. I didn't really feel too sad about the night.

Sunday, Randall and I met up with a coworker, JD, to watch a bit of the cyclocross race at Powderhorn Park. It made me wish I had a cross bike. I've been far too busy to even think about racing. Otherwise, the rest of the day was spent packing.

Monday was unbearable at work. I mostly just cleaned out my office and left earlier. Later we had a work party at Bryant Lake Bowl. It was a very fun time, although I was quite drunk, to put it bluntly. Coworkers were buying Lise and I shots. As much as I like the group I worked with, I never really chose any of them as "friends." Work is a rather interesting social experiment where we are tossed in an environment with all sorts of people and more or less "forced" to get along- which we did quite well. But I did very little socializing with this group outside of work. My point is simply that this social void will soon be filled with other quality people.

Yesterday was my last day. I cleaned up my computer hard drive, said a few goodbyes to the folks at the office, and walked out into the sunset. Actually it was noon. Lise was quite emotional. I really think I had finished most of my grieving weeks ago. I will miss that job, the people, everything. But as I think back, it isn't the only good job in the world. I would not have stayed around so long if it wasn't a great company. If the future tosses me a bad job, I don't need to stay there fifteen years.

We spent the rest of the day packing. The Navigator still has a bad battery, so we can't switch to a bigger vehicle. The owner said he'd fix it- after I offered. This puts a wrinkle into some of our plans, since we are flying with four suitcases, a bike, and two cats. The Porsche just won't quite cut it.

All the bikes are finally packed. My music studio is packed. I feel like we are on schedule. Last night I stopped by a former co-worker who invited us over. He is the man who originally hired me when I was a fresh-faced 22-year-old kid, straight out of college. We've maintained a low maintenance friendship ever since. Tonight we have a dinner with my Norwegian class.

Somehow, everything feels right. I guess it is only natural that my emotions are all over the chart. I just want it to be over at this point. On a practical note, I have two immediate sources of anxiety: the cats cannot travel in the cabin. They will be with the luggage. The flight out of Amsterdam is simply too small of a plane, so the entire flight requires they be out of our control for the duration. The other is that our belongings will be out of our control for four to six weeks. I just don't like how that feels.

On a bright note, we finally have an apartment in Stavanger. It is a great two bedroom in a nice neighborhood. Things continue to fall in place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

...and it isn't a train. I'm counting the minutes. I just want this to be over. We need to pack and move on. We may already have an apartment. This is starting to turn into anticipation.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

How Does it Feel?

Like I just broke up with a girlfriend when I was a teenager and I don't know what to do with myself. I haven't worked through it quite yet to the point where I feel liberation. I feel that strange sense of emptiness where everything that had once meant so much to me will all be long in the past- that it will eventually lose its meaning and importance. My life as I know and love it will eventually be strange and foreign as the emotional attachments are severed and rebuilt around another life. On such a dreary day it was not a welcome feeling. My replacement was with me. I am on my way out and I cease to be significant. Can I be any more maudlin?

I had lunch in West Saint Paul with some staff from one of the programs located nearby. While I worked out of the West Saint Paul program myself for almost ten years, Robert Street had changed so much in the last five years that I had difficulty recognizing things. It was wholly unfamiliar. It reminded me how things have existed before me, and will continue to exist and grow when I am gone.

I left work early, since work is now a place I go rather than something I do. I have two days left. A coworker drove me home. We met up for a rainy two hour bike ride a little later. His track bike broke- literally, a few tubes were mysteriously severed. He is now on a beater conversion where he could literally remove all the bolts and it would still hold together- that is how corroded it is. I ended up with a flat tire a mile or so from home. It was cold and rainy, and it was a slow flat. I pumped it up and rode it out to make it home. I did not want to deal with it in the rain.

We are having a going away party of sorts on Saturday. I called an old friend and left a message a few days ago. He phoned me back from Chicago. They are relocating, and he is renting an apartment there until they can sell their downtown condo. Oddly, it was a pleasant surprise. I feel our move would be easier if everyone else we knew moved out of the Twin Cities- sort of a scorched earth policy of sorts.

On a lighter note, I did the impossible. In selling our house in twelve hours, and easily selling both cars, borrowing Porsches, Audis, and a Navigator are enough signs at the ease and smoothness of our move, this one takes the cake: I wiggled out of our Cingular cell phone contract! Since our phones were linked, there was a lot of money at stake, since we still have seven months left of our contract. I found a sympathetic customer service rep who thought we might return as customers if we were treated right, should we ever relocate to the US. I couldn't be happier. We will keep our US number for a few weeks with international roaming, until we are set up with Norwegian service. My phone is compatible in Europe. Lise lost her phone last winter, so she is using an antique that is so unreliable that it really should be put down.

Anyway, that is my life.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Final Night at the County

I worked my last shift at the County tonight. It was a busy night- likely remnants of the full moon. I had my exit interview at the beginning of the shift. I could hardly stand working the last fifteen minutes of my shift. I suddenly felt very emotional as I walked out the door. I work with such wonderful and high caliber humans there- people of uncommon quality. Part of this is likely unique to working with others in social services- just as it attracts a handful of rather dysfuntionally crazy individuals, it largely attracts excellent individuals who choose to work in a non-corporate, profit-free industry. Part of it is also because I still have no credentials, and the sum total of my knowledge in the "industry" I learned on the job. Three of the employees go back with me almost fifteen years from when I started my full time job. I held that job for seven years- and certainly experienced enough knocks that I haven't been considered "the new guy" for a long, long time. I really loved working there. I will truly miss it.

It is probably a good thing that I break up these "good-bye experiences" in chunks. I still have three more days of work. Somehow I really should ride to work tomorrow so Lise can attend an after work dinner with her co-workers. I really wish I could just call in sick the next few days. At least I've been turning things over to my replacement. I no longer need to be as useful. I need to remind myself that I felt this same level of anxiety when we purchased a house- that it was some undoable commitment that signified that the wild days of living downtown were behind us- when indeed those days ended years before we actually moved.

Last night we attended an even with the Crown Prince of Norway at the Landmark Center in Saint Paul. It was a kick-off to the Peer Gynt performance at the Ordway. We skipped the opera, and met up with some friends at Kincaids, then walked next door to dine at the Saint Paul Hotel with our bosses. We were aptly dressed- me in a black suit and Lise in an excellent black dress (that so inspired a neighboring older gentlemen to ask her if she were Swedish). We had an excellent meal, excellent conversation- then drove home in their Porsche. Their generosity knows no boundaries! Unfortunately, it took us almost an hour to drive home, since there was road construction on I94.

I phoned Lise's brother today to inquire about buying a mountain bike in Norway. He just purchased a Deore equipped Scott for a great price. I am interested in a similar bike, since it is cost prohibitive to ship a bike quickly to Norway. I simply cannot live without a bike for a month and a half. First I'm moving to Norway, and now I'm contemplating a mountain bike? These should be followed by "just shoot me now please."

Thursday, October 20, 2005


According to the USPS website, it seems I should be paying $63 for the heavy box and about $50 to ship the wheels. The Post Office stated it would cost $165 and $150 respectively- over $300 to ship my beater bike! Needless to say, I could buy/build one for that kind of money. The bikes have yet to move. I'm considering my options.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Shipping a Bike

I may truly be crazy. I spent a good deal of time lovingly packaging and boxing up the Prologue. I will be mailing this bike to Norway so I have wheels when I arrive. I almost think I should have packed up the other bike, since it has panniers and gears. It is doubtful that I’ll be commuting much in the next week- I am incredibly busy. What is truly crazy is that the Prologue was one man’s trash before its rescue and subsequent rehabilitation.

I borrowed a friend’s truck on Monday so I could pick up some boxes. I went to Freewheel and was basically told to dumpster dive in their recycling bin. I found several decent bike boxes for the three bikes that won’t have hard cases. I even found a few wheel boxes for my wheel collection. Last night, as I was packing the bike, I detected a nasty odor that I presumed was emanating from the cardboard- like there was an old food smell from some non-cardboard garbage that had been tossed in. It wasn’t until an hour later that I determined that it originated from the adhesive in the 3M packaging tape.

The boxes are all ready to go. I am shipping the wheels separately from the frameset. I’m sure postage will cost more than it cost be to build the bike. I managed to use a bunch of extra parts, so in all fairness, I could say the bike is worth more than the sum of its parts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Politics 2008

There are so many political blogs that pontificate on politics so much better than I possibly could. But there comes a time in every person's life where they feel so passionate about a candidate that they simply cannot keep it to themselves. I therefore present you with a very early endorsement for General Zod for President.

Be sure to check out the Kids Page!

Monday, October 17, 2005


My commuting days around here are numbered as well. I rode in the balmy 60s this morning- although it was very dark. The Parkway is still without streetlights. A passing shower left the road wet, leaving me still scratching me head about fender options. At my advanced age, I finally have cultivated an appreciation for a frame such as the Surly Crosscheck for a commuting bike (link not safe for work if your sensibilities are offended by a balding man in a half-shirt). I see the practical value of all the fender and rack bosses, the clearance for any sort of tires, the horizontal dropouts, and steel. Trouble is, I’ll never ride my commuter into the ground, so I’ll be stuck with it forever.

My brother-in-law in Norway just purchased a mountain bike the other day. I’m sure I’ll need one at some point. Gunn-Rita Dahle, the women’s World Cup champion is from Stavanger. I still don’t know what to expect regarding road bikes or road racing. I’ve already made a “pen pal” from Stavanger- a cool guy from a bike forum. I'll probably join a club as soon as I can after we are settled in.

In cleaning up my work computer, I was reminded of my favorite French radio station that we listened to in Paris, Radio Nova. Listening to it reminds me how dreadful local radio generally is. MPR is having their fundraising drive, so I cannot even listen to that. I really don’t feel like pledging a few days before we move. Call me cheap, but I am not well practiced in unemployment.

Days Are Numbered

My last day is a week from tomorrow. My replacement is studying for a licensing exam, so she is off today and tomorrow- and tomorrow is my big going away party for my full-time job. I hope it doesn't turn into a maudlin, emotional, "farewell party."

Saturday my coworkers from the Crisis Unit threw a party for me. I was lucky it was held at a coworker's house, maybe a mile away, so that we could bike. It was a cool party, but I felt very saddened and alone afterwards. I probably didn't drink enough. It was the first time my wife met most of my coworkers, although I've talked about them for years. I think she really understood what I'd be missing. One of my coworkers described his relationship to me that I was like a younger brother to him. In many senses this is true, as he really helped mentor me over the years. They are truly quality people.

I especially love that job. I feel very connected to it. My supervisor from fourteen years ago works there, as do the two people who interviewed and hired me at my full-time job. Obviously having those connections made it a bit easier to work for the County. I guess what affected me the most is that I have known those three people the entire time I've lived in Minneapolis. They literally watched me "grow up" from the 22 year old, just out of college "kid" that I truly was at the time.

Also, regarding the Crisis Unit: I am not a social worker. I've never taken a social work class. I took one psychology course in college. I am not licensed. I have no credentials. None of that mattered. I could do the job and was hired. Actually, I was "recruited," since it was a part-time job. Oddly, many other part-timers have come and gone over the years. It is the sort of job where people either "get it" or they don't. There was little training. The vast majority of hires never could cut it. I ended up being hired as permanent part time, rather than as flex. I ended up with a regular schedule- working an average of 6 hours per week.

Of course, over the years I've taken that job for granted, and the genuineness of the friendships I've developed. I don’t expect to instantly have friends of this caliber when we move. I am also a little concerned that friends like this may be unique to the type of work involved. Most of us share the same political leanings. We work in an industry that is not driven by profit in any sense of the word. This isn’t Office Space I’m talking about. Then again, it isn’t like I’ll never see these people again. It isn’t like we’ve spent much time socializing outside of work. The thing is, it is just wonderful knowing they are there. I will miss that.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Time to Pack the Look

I don't think I'll be riding it anymore this season. It is getting cold and dark- my only riding is commuting. I don't like trusting it to complete strangers to ship across the ocean. Fortunately I have a hard shell case for it- but still...


Taken last summer. I need to inspire myself for this move.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Friday at Last

We have a little motion blur on the Highway 5 Bridge over the Mississippi this morning. There was a beautiful mist over the river, but it made the ride rather chilly. Earlier I thought I was melting, so I disrobed near Fort Snelling.

Work was uneventful. On the way home I spied a mature bald eagle near the automotive graveyard. I've seen all sorts of raptors on my commutes, but never such a bald white head. The photo of course does it no justice.

Later I biked under the 35 E bridge, just to see what was down there.

Finally, a rough shot of the Porsche. After riding home, I lowered the top and found lame excuses to drive around.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tomorrow I Ride

I drove the Porsche to my civil service county job this evening. I'm sure some taxpayers' league gadfly is taking photos of it with a telephoto lens as I speak. It will probably be published in a vanity blog about government waste. This of course actually happened, except it was a busy-body with a stop watch timing county employees' cigarette breaks. Talk about waste- all that time spent staking out the parking lot/cigarette break area.

Last night Lise was feeling a bit under the weather, so I invited Wayne to the T-Wolves game. The gratis tickets were in row D- as in four rows off the floor. I've never had non-nosebleed hoops seats before. The game took on an entirely different dimension. Garnett did not even dress for this game. I'm sure they want to save him for March. As I looked around, I wondered if anyone actually paid anywhere near the $100 face value for a pre-season, non-KG game with the Bucks.

After the game I stopped in at Waynes to see the frame I had given him in its finished incarnation. He had ground off all the cable guides, unseized the stem and seatpost, and had it professionally powder coated and clear coated. It was simply beautiful in its candy apple appearance. It actually looked like it had wet paint. It was a far cry from its oxidized, weathered patina from when I found it on a freeway overpass, propped up like a severed head to warn other frames from meeting a similar fate. I almost regretted giving it to him- but it was truly a labor of love on his part, with some outlay of cash. It was an old Raleigh Carlton frameset. The fork was thoroughly mangled. He paid the guys at One On One in beer to straighten the fork. The wonders of steel never cease.

Of course I had to sample his home-brew beer. This is another phenomenon that I simply don't understand. Every batch of home-brew I have ever sampled has been better than 90% of commercially available beer. If it is that easy to brew, why are there not much better retail beer options? I just don't understand.

Tomorrow Lise needs the car in the morning. Back to biking. I need to live in reality at some point. But that Porsche is pure evil. It is decadence on four wheels. I'd recommend never driving one. They will steal your soul. Looks like we'll still have it through the weekend.

Wholesome Wear

Don't ask how I stumbled across this, but it is truly unbelievable that a market for such items exists: wholesome swimwear? Site is guaranteed "suitable for work" (no pun).

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Miscellaneous Updates

Still driving the Porsche. I'd like to bike, but somehow can't- while this thing is at my disposal. When Lise drives it, she gets all sorts of looks, waves, thumbs-up. I don't seem to receive that type of reaction. I think Lise loves driving it even more than I do- and we constantly argue about who is driving. I told Lise I would buy her one for her 50th birthday. That gives me more than two decades to start saving. BTW- when I met Lise, I was particularly impressed at how well she could handle a stick-shift. There is nothing sexier than a woman who knows how to clutch. Of course, in Norway, only great-grandparents drive automatics. It was comical when we were car shopping and Lise was asking it they had any Camrys with manual transmissions. We opted for a far less stodgy car anyway.

Tonight I'll skip Norwegian class for the Timberwolves game. My boss gave me two tickets. It will be quite a while before I'll see another NBA game. Next week I'll miss class because we were invited to meet the Norwegian Crown Prince. My wife is excited about that one. I really don't get this whole "royalty thing"- especially as Norway sort of adopted their family after years of Swedish or Danish rule.

Last night I went to the Juut up the street for a haircut. Scheduling these things is sort of an impulse move on my part. Hair is like fingernails. One day it is suddenly too long and I need it taken care of immediately. My "regular" stylist wasn't available, so I took whoever was open. As I was getting cut, the usual stylist asked me how things were going with preparing to move. I didn’t think she paid any attention during the idle haircutting chit chat. I would also see her at the gym last winter. I didn’t really know her at all, except that she cut hair, worked for Juut, lived in Uptown- but there is a familiarity there that will soon be lost. Going to the gym is another perfect example- of seeing the same people every day, but having no clue who they really are. Or my bike commute- seeing the same commuters going the opposite direction, daily, like clockwork. I don’t know these people, but they are familiar. They are part of the fabric of my daily routine that provides comfort. I’m tossing out my security blanket in a few weeks.

I’m still looking into shipping options for my fixed gear bike. I’ve decided to ship THAT bike, rather than my current commuter/frankenbike. I’m guessing distances won’t be so far in Norway. I doubt I’ll have a job before the shipping container arrives. I am starting to open to the idea of paying $100 “postage” just for the bike. It isn’t that much more expensive than shipping by, well, ship. The slow boat is $50-60. I MUST have a bike when I arrive- or I will go crazy.

The same guy from the County who announced my leaving via mass email included me on a reply list about my surprise going away party. At least the CEO’s administrative assistant figured it out. She spoke with me this morning. I will no longer need to pretend to be surprised next Tuesday. This Saturday, the County guys are holding a party for me. I think that is incredibly cool- especially given how long it takes to be accepted by the CRU team. I have felt vaguely like an outsider for years, since I am only at a 0.7 FTE. That is about as part time as it gets.

I gave official notice at work yesterday. I had already written a massive missive for the newsletter that has yet to be published. My notice was rather brief in comparison, since I’ve personally expressed my feelings and appreciation to the owners and my coworkers. We have been planning this move for so long that it makes little sense for a tear-soaked letter this late in the game. This truly is a great company to work for. I am so spoiled.

On the other hand, when I arrive in Norway, all I need to do is stop by the police station and pick up my national ID number. I’ll be covered for health insurance. I already have a work permit. Norway is already spoiling me- especially compared to the efforts we undertook to obtain a green card for Lise. We literally had to huddle out in a tent in the middle of the night- during winter- as a post 9-11 security measure. After hours of waiting we made it into the building and took care of the paperwork. We had maybe $1500-2000 in fees tied up in her residency permit- and we did it without a lawyer. The US government makes it ridiculously complicated. A travel permit is called “advance parole” (as just one example of how counter-intuitive it all is). I have all the sympathy in the world for illegals. I doubt the US even publishes immigration documents in foreign languages.

I have one more proposal to get off my desk before I leave. It is literally due on my last day of work. I’m feeling less inspired than the last round. I already gave the oral presentation on this, which makes it highly unusual that I must follow it up with a written one. As often as not, they already know who they will award the contract to. This could easily be a waste of my time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I'm Loving This Porsche

We are roughing it with a Boxster. I'll post a picture when I get around to it. This thing only has 2000 miles on it. It is the fixed gear of sports cars- it takes a bit of work to drive. I grabbed a CD for the stereo, then realized the engine - which I practically am sitting on - is the music. This is not a refined car in any respect- quite the opposite of the Audi.

I want one.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Cold As It Ever Was

It was cold this morning- maybe upper 30s when I left. It is even colder when I make the abrupt transition from a warm bed to the predawn windchill of riding a bike. By the time I made it to the river, I was warmed up and overdressed. I love panniers. I can easily adjust my clothing. Last year I was backpacking it, and the bag would become overstuffed as I warmed up.

My white bird friend was waiting for me on the fence by 35E. Just as I was thinking about him, he appeared. I stopped, lamented that I didn't bring a camera. I grabbed my phone to take a photo. As I walked closer he flew away, singing an unusual song. He certainly must be someone's pet. I thought how sad it was that it order to rescue him, so that he could survive, someone would have to catch him. He would never allow it. At least he wasn't wearing a bird diaper. One of these days he'll probably freeze to death, if he doesn't starve.

The one-eared rabbit was nowhere to be found. It has been weeks. I'm quite sure he is dead. Rabbits don't just relocate like that.

Automotive Woes

We had brunch with my best friend from high school and his wife, who was 9 months pregnant. It was very cool. I had not seen him since sometime in the 80s. I was a bit uncomfortable driving there in the Audi, but we ended up walking to the restaurant. When we returned home, Lise noticed that the tabs officially expire tomorrow. I called my boss, since she was taking it on a road trip overnight- leaving tomorrow from work. She thought the tabs were at work. In the conversation she mentioned that she'd be loaning us the Porsche, rather than the Navigator. This Porsche is maybe a few months old. Our neighbors will be talking. I could really get into living "the borrowed life." Again, it really eases the sting of selling our cars.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Celebration of Street Art

From the Wooster Collective. Makes the local taggers seem a bit sophomoric?

Great Unwashed Bike

Yesterday I finally washed my commuter. We had so much rain this week that there was little point. Wednesday was a late night with class and hitting the bar, and Thursday we car pooled- I had to show my car after work and it was Lise's birthday. It was nice to have a good-bye drive, although I didn't know it at the time.

As I was washing, wiping, and lubing the bike, I noticed that the battery mount was wearing off the paint underneath the top tube. On second glance, I noticed the paint was wearing off all over from the rubbing of various attachments and accessories. Strangely, I found this vaguely comforting. I really don't want this bike to be "too nice." This is a work horse. It needs to be comfortable living in the elements. I still haven't figured out shipping a bike to Norway for the move. I can't be bikeless for six weeks. On the other hand, maybe I should just bring tools and build another one there. It might actually be cheaper.

Odd Juxtaposition

Today I rode to the bank with $2300 in $100 bills and a nice bank check for the car sale to make a rather substantial deposit. I'm sure I looked like quite the freak in my commuter bike gear, loitering in the lobby on a busy Friday.

Later I rode about 15 miles to pick up the Audi. Nothing could be better for my soul than to be driving this engineering marvel. This A6 Avant has everything. It is far more car than my loaded Toyota. Monday we'll swap it for the Lincoln. Lise and I are seriously contemplating driving it to Mexico to deliver it to my boss. The longer we can avoid living out of suitcases the better- and a vacation/fun in the sun is definitely not just living out of suitcases. Life just keeps getting stranger and stranger.

Friday, October 07, 2005

As of High Noon

The Celica is out the door. I will need to ride 15 miles to Saint Paul to borrow a car for the next few days until we grab the SUV. Suddenly it is less a choice and more of a necessity. I feel a strange ambivalence. On the flip side, car ownership is a huge liability. They are maintenance time bombs. I could build another commuter bike from the ground up for the cost of even a minor automotive repair. Our loaner car won't be too shabby- an Audi A6, until we swap it for a Navigator. I really am burning the candle at both ends. It would be more poetic to borrow a mid-80s Dodge.

Randolph Commute

On Google Maps- probably shaves off three miles from the river route.

Eulogizing My Car

My precious Celica is about to be purchased by a kid who wants to throw a bunch of subs in the trunk. The price is right, so who am I to complain? Still, it seems blasphemous to carve it up like that. It has been a great car. We will borrow a vehicle- although we don't know if we'll use my father's huge pickup or my boss's Navigator. Either way, it won't be the Celica.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Car Free Living is Hard Work

I took both panniers to work so I could take my 30lb NYC lock and books for class- and extra clothes, anticipating rain, cold, and civilian clothing. I took Summit to the River to Franklin, shaving precious minutes off my commute to class. It was windy as hell, and I was stuck at work late preparing a brilliant last minute proposal that could well be my crowning signature at this job, if it goes through. I guess a half hour isn't that big of a deal.

I arrived at class with an extra twenty minutes, giving me time to change. As I locked my bike up, the front tire felt very spongey. I decided to ignore it. I was hungry and wandered down Franklin to a convenience store straight out of Natural Born Killers. I purchased some new Black Pepper Doritos and a soda and scarfed them down before class.

After class, I didn't notice my tire was flat until I took off. Wayne couldn't hear me. I pumped up the tire, hoping it would hold out to the bar. When I arrived, Lise and Wayne were locking up their bikes. It was super cool for Lise to ride down, given the freezing wind.

Afterwards I changed the tube. I never did figure out what caused the flat. Lise and I had a great ride home.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

More Rain

Last night it rained and rained. More rain is on the way. There reportedly was urban flooding. It was still wet this morning, but I rode to work anyway. I really need to solve my fender problem- or lack thereof. I rode with both panniers this morning so I can ride directly to class if I’m running late. If it isn’t too warm out, I shouldn’t be a sweaty mess.

As I rode to work, there was so much debris in the gutter that I hopped on the trail at Cedar. As I rode in darkness, I noticed that the trail descended into black water. I was disoriented for a moment until I realized the park area between Nokomis and Hiawatha was submerged. I did a quick U-turn and took the road.

To mix things up, I took Randolph- this time to work. There was just the initial hill as I left the river. Randolph runs by a few colleges, and through an interesting Saint Paul neighborhood. For a few moments I could actually envision living in Saint Paul, which is a disconcerting thought for a Minneapolitan. I caught Shepard Road. Randolph shaved a few minutes off my commute. With little effort I reached the Cemstone plant in an hour. One of these days I’ll properly time trial it and shoot for the entire commute in under an hour. I came close earlier this year on my fixed gear- taking the much longer river route.

By the time I arrived at work, I was a muddy, sandy mess. I really need to clean up this bike. And fenders! I now see the point of a Surly Crosscheck or other such mutt bike. Rack and fenders- plenty of clearance… room for wider tires. Sounds like heaven.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Andy Hampsten in a Rain Suit

Doppler radar was clear this morning. No rain in sight. The streets were dry. Sure, I ignored the 80% chance of rain, but I thought I had my window of opportunity. I wasted some time getting ready, and a half hour later the streets were wet, but it wasn’t raining. Apparently I missed some stealth rain.

I rode anyway. I felt larger drops near Lyndale, so I pulled over and put on my rain pants and jacket. By the time I made it to Portland it was torrential. I pulled over and changed into my new waterproof socks under a little kiosk. I rode the trail, since the shoulder was like a river. A little after Cedar I resumed riding on the road, since it is a more direct route to the river. Leaves were clogging the storm drains, and water was higher than the curb in most intersections. I was getting seriously wet.

I took the Ford Bridge. Along the river I tried the new trail for the first time, since it was on higher ground than the bike lane. It was still very dark, and I it was difficult following the unfamiliar trail, since it was covered with leaves. They really did a nice job repaving it- not that I’ll ever use it again unless facing another deluge. Frequent lightening helped illuminate my ride. I stopped to call Lise to ask her to bring another pair of bike shoes to work. I don’t anticipate these will be dry by 4pm, although my system worked quite well last week. I set up a fan in the shower room to help dry everything out.

By the time I made it to Shepard Road, I was pondering the very concept of rain gear. I almost purchased some Helly-Hansen rain pants that truly were waterproof. They were non-breathable. Rather, I opted for the breathable pants- waterproof- after returning a water resistant pair that was quickly soaked in a light rain. These waterproof rain pants were quite wet as well. Of course water was running off my helmet- presumably down my jacket. While the waterproof socks didn’t really work, my feet were less squishy than when I wore wet wool socks.

I saw my white exotic bird friend again. I worry about what winter will bring, since it certainly is not an indigenous species. Riding along the river I was amazed at all the debris, like whole trees that were trapped by the barges. There was quite an assortment of waterfowl floating in the water, rather than on the barges. It truly was weather for ducks. After I crossed Warner Road, I lamented the fact that my one eared rabbit friend hadn’t been seen in weeks. Life is cheap when you are a rabbit.

Traffic approaching me on Burns was crazy- backed up all the way from White Bear Avenue to Highway 61. I’m guess people are using this as an alternate route, rather than using the freeway. White Bear Avenue was also jammed, and I witnessed a very strange car accident. A woman tried turning by cutting through a gap in gridlock traffic. She clipped the bumper of another vehicle stopped at the light. It made quite a sound, but the other woman- the innocent victim- simply drove off as the light changed. Both vehicles had dislocated bumpers and broken headlights after the mishap.

I finally made it to work. It took little extra time over a normal commute. I didn’t really need to shower, but I did anyway. I spent considerable time organizing my gear so it hopefully dries by evening. Even if it doesn’t, Lise is bringing reinforcements.

Armadillos in Our Trousers

OK, I had a flat the other day. No big deal. Today I had another- this time the rear. There was no discernable cause of the flat. I thought I noticed a tiny pinhole on the inside of the tube, but I could find no implement of destruction in the tire that could have caused it.

I had a hell of a time remounting the tire after throwing in a new tube. The Armadillos have the toughest (or harshest) sidewall of any tire I have ever used. In my haste to rejoin my trip home, I apparently didn't check to see if the tube was pinched. As I was popping the wheel back in the drop-outs, I almost jumped out of my skin as it exploded, leaving me with ringing ears. Again, I wrestled with the tire. My hands were numb and my fingers raw. I resumed my ride. The Mississippi Queen was still docked in the same spot as this morning. Police had closed a lane of traffic on Shepard Road near the big boat. Traffic eastbound was backed up for miles.

Shortly after the Queen, I stopped at a fountain to wash the grime off my hands. I resumed riding. As I neared West Seventh, the rear felt soft again. This time I was irate. I noticed part of the tire was delaminating- likely from what appeared to be sharp debris of some type in the tread. Not taking anymore chances, I gave up on this tire and tossed on an old spare that I learned to carry after blowing out a bead last year. Having a real tire onboard really improved the ride. Armadillos and Italian or French rims just don't mix. Besides, such rims deserve better. Three flats in one ride are just too many. It makes for a long commute.

On a related note, my wife sold her car today- for a decent price. I have two interested buyers in mine. If I've learned anything about "book value"- it doesn't mean a thing if nobody is interested in paying that much. Again, sometimes reality bites. I will miss my car. I've never owned a fully loaded vehicle before. I fear I may be spoiled. Perhaps it will be best not to own any cars in the immediate future.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Hot Day

Partly Cloudy
Feels Like

Mississippi Queen

Today I left a little late. I was completely disorganized and shocked to discover that it was almost 80 degrees at 6am—in October. I am completely bored with my normal route, so I took Mississippi Boulevard north after the Ford Bridge and took Summit to downtown. I encountered far more commuters this route. My normal route usually feels like biking on the outer edges of the planet. Downtown Saint Paul was more lively in the West Seventh Street area near United Hospital and the arena. I connected with Warner Road near the Science Museum. As I zipped around the corner I encountered the Mississippi Queen- a tall-stack ship that takes multi-day river cruises. Unfortunately, there were semis, trucks, police cars all parked on the bike lanes, and taxis actually driving on the jogging and biking paths. Judging by the people boarding (or “de-boating- I couldn’t tell which), this was not an expedition for today’s youth.

I hit the Cemstone factory at the one hour mark- which is pretty fast considering my lesser exertion. Taking Summit seems further, since I need to ride north to pick it up, but ultimately I believe it is faster and more direct.

I hope the weather holds out today. At least it is warm. I no longer care about anything but snow- I am ready for all weather.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Strange Bird

As I bounded out the door for my commute yesterday, I grabbed the camera. I then noticed Lise has some work photos on it, so I left it. My ride was very cold and dark. I was chilled all the way to the river. I took the road toward Fort Snelling again. I've developed something of an aversion to the Ford Bridge and Mississippi Boulevard. I think it is the back tracking that I don't like. I'd rather shoulder my bike down and up the steps to the Seventh Street Bridge. I also like the odd desolation of the pre-dawn fort area. Much of the buildings are abandoned and badly neglected. Strangely there are often several cars parked in a parking lot that is near no buildings at all- mystery parkers. As I rode along the crest of the bluff toward the visitor's center, downtown Minneapolis was bathed in a reddish pre-dawn sunlight. The buildings were tall enough to catch the sun that had yet to rise. I really regretted not having my camera.

After I crossed the river and headed toward the tunnel under 35E, I noticed the most amazing white bird sitting on the fence. This was certainly someone's exotic pet- there was no way this creature was indigenous to Minnesota. Again, I regretted not having my camera. This little stretch along 35E is also where hundreds of goldfinches hang out. As I blast through there in the morning, they scatter. These amazing finches can actually fly through the links in the chainlink fence. I'm guessing there is a special plant that grows in the area.

Work was the busiest Friday ever. I was almost running out the door by 3 pm. A few miles from work I heard what sounded like a gun shot as my front tire blew out. Just the other day I was thinking how long it had been since I'd flatted on a commute- probably jinxing myself. I was quickly up and running again. To mix up my route home, I took Randolf to Lexington to Summit. I was home in short order.

We needed to run some errands, and I noticed Lise's new shoes had arrived in the mail. I had ordered some mountain/touring shoes- shoes that looked relatively normal and were walkable so she could commute, run errands, etc. We needed some groceries, beer, and I needed some blue Loctite. I quickly installed her cleats- well, it still took a while. Eventually we were off and running. Lise commented on what a production it was to do errands by bike. I reminded her that she probably works more than 20 hours per month just to own a car- and that doesn't included the time spent driving it. She reminded me the absurdity of my point, since she still had her car anyway. By the time we were home, neither of us had any regrets. It is interesting to consider: how convenient and quick is using a car if you speed twenty hours per month just to pay for it? How many of us would choose to work five hours less each week? Besides, nothing depreciates like a vehicle.