Jul 30, 2011

TC3-SAS Ride on Sunday

The Twin Cities 3-Speed Adventure Society will be riding from the train depot at Minnhaha Falls park to the State Fair Grounds (the link is a map if you are hazy on where this is). We plan to roll out at 9:00 AM, and we'll be stopping for food and refreshment at the Finnish Bistro as well, so bring a lock and some $$$ for goodies.

The purpose of this ride is 1.) pure enjoyment, and 2.) to show people who have never done it just how close the State Fair grounds and and how easy it is to ride your bike there.

Hopefully this will help at least a few people dig into their Suitcase of Courage and ride, rather than drive, to the State Fair next month. The food at the Finnish Bistro is great, so that will be a good reward for the brave adventurers that turn out for this one...

Jul 25, 2011


Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
The write-up on the Southside Sprint crit ran today on Cycle Twin Cities. Here is a link to that post.

Jul 24, 2011

Here's a Teaser...

Southside Sprints
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
The full write-up will be on Cycle Twin Cities in the near future, but I'll share a photo between now and then.

This was a fun event. I hope this becomes an annual race!

Jul 23, 2011

TC3-SAS Rides Again!

The Cross
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Do what you must to prepare yourself, because next weekend, the Twin Cities 3-Speed Adventure Society shall ride again next weekend.

We are currently hard at work in our top secret research facility planning a ride that will be worthy of this illustrious group. A dash of local history, celebration of planetary gearing and unswerving commitment to sensible clothing are all in the queue. We just need to get the proportions right before we take the wraps off this one.

Hopefully the weather will be clement - we are still struggling with our top secret weather control equipment and have suffered through cold, rain, more cold and then sweaty heat so far, but hopefully we have the unit calibrated and can dial up some favorable weather for this ride.

Plan on a ride next weekend and stay tuned...

Jul 20, 2011

Echoes of the Past?

I am not a big believer in reincarnation. It's not my culture and it's not something I am particularly interested in, either.

I am not sure I agree with the premise that we each get sent back a few times or more until we get things right, although I will admit that I have met some people that definitely have their shit together a lot more than most other people. I am currently reading "Years of Rice and Salt" in anticipation of the re-start of our book club in September, and this is a major theme in the book, so perhaps that's opened my eyes to possibilities.

Every now then, I do notice things that don't entirely make sense, however, that leads me to question whether or not a past life is a possibility. An interesting example of this just happened to me.

We took a short road trip to Duluth yesterday to escape the heat and humidity of Minneapolis. After lunch at Burrito Union we walked the Chester Creek trail, and then Friend Spouse wanted to hang out at Brighton Beach. On our way over to Brighton Beach, I passed a small bead and knife shop on 1st Ave. that advertised Puuko knives. I know what these are - they are traditional Finnish hunting and utility knives, and were often a great source of pride for the owners (if you were really cool, you made your own and it was a work of art). I think I read this at one point, but I can't really recall how I know this.

At any rate, I was drawn back to this shop after dropping Friend Spouse at the beach. Despite not having any real need for one of these in the first place, I looked at the selection on display (all very nice, most hand-made in Finland) and ended up buying one because I was so taken with it. I am not Finnish, either - I can claim German and Belgian heritage only, so ethnic curiosity or pride is not the answer.

Late last night, back at our room, did I do some research into these knives. It turns out that traditionally, the blades on these knives are sized to match the palm width of the owner. Without knowing it, I had unwittingly selected the right size of knife for me (see photo). This afternoon, I made a cold chicken salad for supper, and used the knife to chop vegetables and de-bone chicken. I am not master chef, but t felt like second nature to use this knife. My cuts were even and my slices thin, as if I had used this knife a thousand times before.

It may be as simple as good design in a knife, but there is more of a connection to this inanimate object than I can explain with just facts.

Jul 18, 2011

How to Step on a Bee

With the heat so God-awful unbearable, I stayed off the bike today and instead consumed hydrocarbon-based fuels and took myself up to a rifle range I recently joined for some sweaty target practice this afternoon. Over the weekend, I purchased a scope for .22 rifle and installed that last night when I got home (no - I have no idea what I am doing here, more on that later...) so I was eager to test it out.

It was hotter than hell today, so I was wearing shorts, a breezy overpriced Ex Officio fishing shirt and Chaco sandals (my absolute favorite footwear for really hot weather. I figured I was appropriately attired for a muggy afternoon of shootin' stuff, but sadly, I was wrong.

I arrived at the range and let myself in, wrestled my gear out of the truck and headed to the 50 yard range. I set up shop, arranging my ammunition and uncasing the rifle, setting up my spotting scope and getting a few sand bags for my bench.

Once I had made a comfortable nest at my bench, I went to hang my target. I made it only about 10 steps when I felt a sharp pain in my foot, right in the meaty part where the toes join the foot. I thought at first that I had sucked a stick up in my Chaco sandal and gave a kick to get it out, but the pain got much worse, so I stopped to see what the problem was. As I bent down to see what was up, a big bug flew out from my sandal.

I had apparently scooped up a bee on some clover into my sandal and pinched him between my foot and the sandal footbed. He stung me. I can't blame him - I would have done the same in this case. It hurt like blazes for about a minute. I hobbled back to the bench and thought thoughts about anaphylactic shock, wondered what the address of the range was, wondered how the EMTs would get the heavy duty gate I locked behind me and otherwise contemplated my decisions.

Fortunately, within 5 minutes the pain was gone, I could still breathe and I was happily plinking away. No swelling, no soreness and no problems. I doubt the bee faired as well as I did in that encounter, though.

How'd I do? The scope was an absolute disaster - I need to get that professionally installed and bore-sighted before I try again. On the other hand, my performance on the 25-yard pistol range was better than ever, and I am even contemplating league competition in the future.

New rule, however: no open-toed shoes on the range from now on.

Unbelievably Humid

We have been beset by weather that rivals Southeast Asia here is the City of Lakes. We had record humidity and a heat index of well over 100 degrees yesterday and today as much the same.

Last night, the National Weather Service measured atmospheric moisture and found almost 2.15 inches of preciptable water in the air. That's about 200% more than normal for mid-July and not far from the highest levels ever observed. We were ABOVE the 99th percentile in humidity at that point.

It's really unpleasant. We have been sequestered in air conditioning since Saturday. I went to the range on Saturday morning but other than that, no real extracurriculars for me at this point. I really want to get on my bike, but with today's 117 degree heat index, I find discretion to be the better part of valor.

It looks like this breaks on Wednesday, so I can hang in there until then, but I don't care much for being under house arrest.

Jul 15, 2011

Week Two

Water's Kinda High
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
We got almost 2.5 inches of rain at the house today. This on top of rain yesterday and last night as well. The rain has had me bottled up a little more than I would like, but we have gotten a number of things crossed of the to-do list, so at least I am making good use of the time.

Today marks the second week of not working. The first week felt like a long weekend - there was a farewell party at work, then immediately we traveled to Milwaukee and Madison for family visits and a bridal shower over the July 4 weekend.

Because of the road trip, that first week off really "started" on Tuesday with a solo ride the length of the Dakota Trail on the new bike. I had my first LCI teaching experience on Thursday of that week (assisting with a kid's bike rodeo at the U of M) and that shot much of that day.

Over the weekend I kept busy with a reprise of the Flood Ride on Saturday and a steamy 3-speed ride on Sunday, so the weekend flew by.

This week has been more of a vacation - canoeing the Cannon River, and a ride out to Riley Lake in Eden Prairie early on, and house projects (deck and side yard rose garden) began to take shape in the later part of the week. I salted in a few posts on Cycle Twin Cities in there as well.

Unstructured time is an interesting experiment. I've spent the last 25 years or so having to be at the office, and have always maintained a pretty predictable schedule. By now that feels pretty natural, so I am maintaining a calendar and I am generally scheduled out about a week in advance. There's a lot more free time, but I think without something on the calendar I would tend to drift a little more than I would be comfortable with.

So far, so good, though. I've seen more friends and ridden more miles in the past two weeks than any other time I can think of, and that's the kind of catching up I seem to need right now.

Jul 11, 2011

Ask the LCI

As Faithful Readers will already know, I am a contributor to the Cycle Twin Cities website. We are trying a new feature on Cycle Twin Cities that I am very excited about. It's called Ask the LCI.

This a "Dear Abby" style column where we will be addressing Twin Cities cycling problems such as bad intersections, confusing laws or misinformed drivers. We hope that cyclists (and drivers) will submit questions related to site-specific challenges they encounter during their commutes and rides. We all encounter intersections that don't make sense or situations that raise questions, so here is a venue to raise an issue and get an educated answer from an expert and perhaps have a dialogue with others that have encountered the same situation.

The first installment ran today, and it was a topic that is near and dear to my heart. If you have other challenging situations or general questions about what a cyclist is supposed to in a given situation, send the questions to Cycle Twin Cities and a League Certified Cycling Instructors will respond with advise on how to handle that situation (for free!!). What better deal is there than that? Include a photo if you can and give a specific location, because we want to ride each situation if possible to really understand the setting. We are open to more general questions as well. Things like "how can I ride safely at night" are fair game!

Go ahead and ask away! I think this will be a fun project and we are eager to take on all questions. I think that in the long run, we'll also inform bike infrastructure decisions going forward, so that's exciting as well.

Jul 10, 2011

I Took the Low Road

We poked around the low trails next to the Mississippi River yesterday and found them to be passable and lovely. It's been so wet this year and the river levels have been so high that a lot of the trails in Hidden Falls Park and Crosby Farm have been inundated with water and/or flood debris.

The guys on Fargo's had no problem with the sand and mud. The guys on the LHT's and Kabuki were just fine thanks to superior bike handling skills and their finely honed, cat-like reflexes, but for some of this stuff, fatter is in fact better.

We only had one point in Crosby Farms where we had to give up and turn around. This looked rideable but it turned out that the wet mud on the trail had the consistency of Phil Wood grease, so I abandoned ship and came back to the group, which was wisely watching to see how I fared before venturing into this mess.

The LHT actually did very well on this ride - the only squirmy moments were in patches of deeper, loose sand, which is tough on any bike, really.  It ate up gravel and crushed limestone with a spoon.

From here on out, I think things will only get better on these trails, so head on out and do a little exploring on your own. Wider tires are better, but I rode this on standard touring tires with no real difficulty.

Photo credits to Neutronforce.

Jul 8, 2011

Let that be a Lesson to You

Keen SPD Cleat
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I gave myself a little scare yesterday...

Yesterday I had a bike rodeo event I was assisting with over at the U of M, so rode the LHT over to the St. Paul campus early in the morning. That bike has some flat/SPD pedals on it for maximum versatility, which I think will be handy, especially for teaching.

Now that it's finally summer, I've been wearing my Keen SPD sandals for most of my "clipped in" riding, but yesterday morning I opted for a pair of very lightly used Lake shoes that I picked up from a Bike Lover at a very favorable price.

I probably rode about 1.5 miles or so before I had to stop for a red light. I rolled to a stop and found the tension on the pedals so tight that I almost couldn't unclip. I avoided going down like a bag of hammers but was a lot more careful on the rest of the ride over to St. Paul.

I have never had that problem - I generally keep my clips pretty light except on the LeMond since I ride in traffic so much. My theory is that the cleats on my sandals must be worn more than I realized, and I have the pedals clamped down pretty tight to compensate. The new Lake shoes have fresh cleats, and this was the first mating of those cleats to these pedals.

I'll put a lightly used pair of spare cleats on the Keen's today and see if all my pedals need to be loosened.

Kind of glad I discovered this without acquiring scrapes and bruises for the learning experience.

Jul 6, 2011

Dakota Trail to Mayer and Wayzata and Back

After returning from a trip to my parent's over the 4th of July weekend, I was eager to get out and try the new bike, so I set my sights on the Dakota Trail. I have ridden this before, but the trail was extended to Mayer, MN this year. A friend had ridden it last week and piqued my curiousity, so I loaded the LHT and drove out to St. Boni to sample the trail.

The full write-up is at Cycle Twin Cities so I won't repeat that in it's entirety, instead I'll focus on some of the editorial comments that I left out of the CTC post.

Most importantly, this toad welcomed me to the new trail leg. He didn't make the CTC article, but he deserves to be on the internet after posing so nicely for me, so here he is.

As I said in the other article, it was a lovely trail and lovely ride. My hat's off to St. Boni for embracing the trail. They have a nice trailhead with public parking and a newish cafe next to the trailhead to serve the riders. They also have signage up directing trail users to their markets, etc. Mayer has a wonderful trailhead as well. The sign is up and there is free parking as well, plus a kiosk (which I imagine will get a "You Are Here" sign in the near future.

The wag of the finger goes to Wayzata, which still seems to be pretty much ignoring this trail. There is no trailhead, per se, in Wayzata. The trail starts at Shaver Park, on the shore of Lake Minnetonka in downtown. The streets around there have PERMIT PARKING REQ'D" painted in gigantic white letters all over the place. There is little to no public parking that I was able to find. For a city the size of Wayzata, there is also very little in the way of support amenities. There is a D'Amico restaurant east of the trail as well as deli (with no seating) also east of the trail.

I ended up buying a sandwich and a coke and then riding back to the park to look for a place to eat. As I rolled to a stop and unpacked my lunch, I had holes absolutely stared into me by some paunchy local wearing a green Izod shirt and white shorts on the next bench over. I finally waved at him and offered a bite of my sandwich, which got him to ignore me so I could eat in peace. Shortly after that, he left to go check up on the servants or something and left me to contemplate the Wayzata experience.

If/when I do this ride again, I'll start in St. Boni, ride to Wayzata and back, refuel in St. Boni and then hit the leg to Mayer. I believe in spending my money with merchants that support the trails, and I think St. Boni needs the revenue more than Wayzata anyway.

Jul 4, 2011

Mandolin Lessons

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
A few weeks ago I signed myself up for mandolin lessons. I've had a mandolin for years now, and can play a few songs on it, but I've never really gotten to a level that might be described as "proficient".

I am quite pleased with how quickly my right hand came back into form - my attack and pick control is really better than it should be give, given how little I've played this thing over the past few years. The right hand is getting there. The chord positions are so different from my more familiar guitar and the scale length is so different that there is an adjustment period to this, but the left hand is getting more agile as well.

At the moment, I am working on keeping rhythm while throwing in fills. That's a little like walking and chewing gum, but it's a must-have skill for any mandolin player. Next up will be soloing. That will be less of a stretch if I can get my fills down over the next couple of weeks.

It's fun to pull out an instrument again, I must say. I've been away from guitar, mandolin or bass for awhile longer than I care to admit, so dipping a toe back into music feels pretty good.

Jul 1, 2011

New Bike Day!

New Bike Day!
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak

I walked into the bike shop this morning looking for new cork grips for the 3-speed and walked out with a new Long Haul Trucker.

This is not quite the impulse buy that it seems to be. I've been toying with the idea of a new bike for a few months now. The impetus (and by impetus, I mean "excuse") is that I need a multi-geared bike that's suitable for teaching (LCI #3276, thank you very much!).

Honestly, I could put different bars on the Rawland and install my flat/SPD pedals on that bike and it would work just fine, but I am a little frustrated with that bike on a few fronts. It needs some maintenance, admittedly, so I'll give it the once over and then we'll give each other some time and I'll reassess my position on that bike.

I've never really seriously considered a Long Haul Trucker (LHT) but the shop had last year's 52cm LHT complete bike in stock, so I test rode it and was very pleasantly surprised. The LHT increased in price about $200 last year, so this one was still priced at the good-deal level. The bike was not sluggish, which I anticipated, and although the bars on the original set up were very high by my standards, I got that dialed in easily and now have the bars level with the saddle.

I will not wax poetic about this bike - suffice it to say that the bike is very nice, and carves through corners very confidently. It is not harsh riding but it's plenty stiff and very sure-footed, and it's agile enough but steers straight ahead effortlessly. It's slow-speed handling is superior, which is important to me at the present moment.

I like that the smaller LHT's come with 26-wheels. That gives me a huge selection of tires to choose from, including some real fatties. Road bikes with fat tires are just all-around bad ass looking, and I would not hesitate to take this bike on some single track with the proper tires.

I spent a sweaty afternoon adding bottle cages and my frame pump, attaching light mounts, and swapping my Brooks saddle from the Rawland to the LHT. Also, considerable pfutzing around with bar and saddle height happened as well. After all that, I ventured out into the swelter to give it a test ride.

It was "all good" except for a faulty seat post binder. Luckily, the gentlemen of Hiawatha Cyclery were there to save my bacon. Apparently, the Surly seat post binders of this era are apparently kind of notorious for having problems. We swapped the original out for a different unit and all was well in regard to saddle height and stability.

I've got this tricked out to be the everyday bike, and expect I'll ride this one a lot, both for getting my butt around town and for teaching. At some point soon, I'll likely add fenders, but I am going to wait until I find the perfect fenders. No 700c's or too-wide MTB fenders compromises for this bike.

This bike has me itching to ride the Luce Line or SW LRT, and I am past due for a repeat of the Cannon Valley trail as well. Also, I got a gift certificate for a B&B stay on the Root River trail at my retirement send-off last night, so that trail beckons as well.

Tonight, it's pretty good to be me.