Category Archives: General Interest

Progress!

file-3 (002)After 12 years off the water and 5 months in the shop my boat is back among the living.  Given the condition it was in, I truly did not think it could be restored.  I give it a 9 out of 10 – I am so happy.

Saturday saw me putting parts back together and assembling everything.  Fortunately I had stockpiled bits and pieces over the years and didn’t need anything new.  That’s good, because it seems that everything associated with rowing is uber expensive these days.

I managed to sneek over to the lake and cruise around for 30 minutes without the benefit of a permit.  I have a lot of work to do, but gosh it felt great!

As far as the boat goes, I just need to work out a few bugs with the electronics, which is now old technology, but just as good as ever.

On the bike front, I picked up some Schwalbe tubes that I’m going to install on the Trucker.  They’re supposed to be better quality.  I also think I might switch some parts around and thin the herd – let go of the Black Bike and/or the wife’s Marin.  We’ll see.

In Memorium…

It’s time to retire my touring shirt.  After this last outing, it developed some severe ventilation openings around the back of the shoulders.  I have to say that it was extremely comfortable when the temps crept up into the ’90’s and I would pour water down my back.It's time...

The problem, however, is that there is a thin line between the well-seasoned bike tourist look and that of a hobo.  Almost as thin as the fabric that remains on my shirt. 

As far as I can tell, it had been a blue Dickies work shirt, long sleeve, 100% cotton.  I had it for years, and began wearing it for biking well before Grant Petersen started the whole seersucker craze.   The long sleeves came in handy for preventing sunburn, and the pockets were handy for just about everything.  The collar, while adding a touch of class, helped keep my neck covered.

 After many years of service and hundreds of washings, including in creeks and random water spigots, it had turned all but white, with a subtle hint of blue, except for the armpits, which are and will always remain a distinct aqua/green.

I’m going to look for a suitable replacement, probably at one of those farm stores.  They seem to know what good quality work clothes need to be.

In the meanwhile, after a socially acceptable period of mourning, my old touring shirt will go in the rag bin that I use for cleaning my bikes.  Perhaps I’ll even cut it up into little squares that I use for lubing my chains.

It’s been a good run, but all things must pass.

Cross Training

Yesterday I was due for a workout, but my shoulders hurt.  Not the type of outside muscle hurt, but deep-down joint/rotator cuff hurt.  I figure my body is telling me that I’m ramping up the rowing length and intensity too fast.

But my legs felt fine, and I had some spare time before the evening got started.  Next to the beast is a yard sale procured treadmill.  I’m not even sure we got it at a yard sale because I don’t remember paying anything for it.  It’s nothing special:  it’s got a lot of plastic parts and the belt is both too narrow and too short to allow running.  But it does have a healthy incline and the speed can get up there, so I decided to “speed walk” for 30 minutes.

I made a point to take long strides and lift my feet, and I could feel the effort when I started out.  Eventually I got settled in and got in a good, moderate workout.

That is, until about 3:00am when I woke up and my thighs were asking “what were you doing?”  It wasn’t that bad, but there was definitely enough acheing to get out of bed and pop two ibuprofen, had I not been inclined to just lay there in a daze for a few hours.

So I think there is a lesson here, and it involves mixing my workouts up a bit, and perhaps visiting the treadmill once a week or so.

The Beast

With the berms being snow covered, random patches of ice on the road, and overall cold and windy conditions, I have forsaken any bike riding for the time being.  Instead, I’m reverting to ages past, and taking some time every other night to “pull an erg.”

“Erg” or more appropriately “Ergo”, is short for ergometer, which was the original name for the Concept 2 rower.  It used to be marketed strictly for the rowing community, and usually more the elite crowd.  However, in recent years the firm has branched out into both the home gym and health club markets, so it’s now called the “rower.”

It’s a fascinating story how this thing evolved from a collection of old bicycle parts, but the new machines are true engineering marvels.  Essentially, they use air resistance to mimic the more fluid feel that one experiences while moving a rowing shell.  This is a far cry better than the old piston units that flooded the market back in the ’70’s.

This is a Model C, which has since been replaced by three new units, and has a PM2+ performance monitor.  In addition to telling me every bit of data I would ever need, I can also connect it to a computer and have it tell me data I don’t need.   If I were really ambitious, I could also hook it to a computer and race other rower owners on-line.  And when I was ambitious, I would strap on a heart rate monitor and it would tell me how hard I was working – as if I needed to know that.

It’s also sitting on a pair of “slides”, which is an option that allows the entire works to move back and forth while the body mass remains static, provided you’re rowing correctly.  Otherwise, you end up crashing into the stops and causing all kinds of trouble that would prompt you to quit after a few minutes.

It’s all about applying massive amounts of power from three major muscle groups in a precisely controlled manner, resulting in the closest thing to actual sculling without being in a boat.  You can get a great physical workout on an ergo in 20 minutes that would take nearly an hour on a bike.

The downside, of course, is that you’re stuck in the basement, looking at the walls.  I find some loud rock music helps keep me distracted, and the less commercials the better.  You can’t see it in the pictures, but there is a stereo sitting right next to it, and we figured out a way for my oldest son to plug in his Ipod.

I’m still at the point where I’m just pulling steady state for 20 minutes, but I already am noticing improvement.  I’ll probably work up to 30 minutes, increase the rate slightly; and then develop some workouts where the rate is varied.  The PM2+ allows storing timed interval workouts so the machine does all the thinking for you…you just have to pull.

Taking Stock

This is the obligatory end of year/beginning of year post of reflections, ruminations, and otherwise self-absorbed drivel.  Nonetheless, in the world Biking According to doc, this is a good time of year to sit back and take stock of where we’ve been and where we hope to go.

I always regret not being able to ride more than I do, so whining about not getting out on the bike enough is pointless.  If I ever do reach that level, I probably won’t have either the desire or the time to blog about it, so there.  Otherwise, 2010 was a good year.

I didn’t set a particular mileage goal, other than to ride further than the year before.  I did that.  There were some extended periods where my schedule and/or the weather didn’t cooperate and I found myself jonesing to get out, but eventually things broke free and I was able to carve out time for a ride or two.

What I did do this last year that I think is worth noting is that I mentally sorted out what I wanted biking to be.  It’s notable because it involves relaxing and enjoying the moment.  For me, that is an epiphany and probably a sign of me getting old.  Every other endeavor to this point has usually involved fueling my intense competitive nature with excessive training and excessive accumulation of toys.  With biking, I’m happy just to ride.

I really enjoy day rides, and look forward to doing more.  This involves getting up early, picking a point on the map that looks like a challenge, and pacing myself to get there and back.  I’ve learned that I have two obstacles:  First is having full days to do this.  There is always something going on, so it’s important to pronounce well ahead of time that “this is going to be MY day.”  Second is the issue of getting lost.  It happened twice this last year where I ended up riding in big circles, not knowing my bearings, and overextending myself.  The solution here is going to be carrying a map, because cue sheets don’t cut it and I’m not ready to immerse myself into the world of GPS.  But going on a day ride where I can take in the sites, stop and heat up some lunch, shoot some bad pictures, and clear the mind is something I like to do.

I’ve yet to reach the century mark, but I’m finding that I’m not drawn to an arbitrary mileage goal as much as I once was.  If there ends up being a destination that involves more than a hundred miles of riding, and I’m in shape for it, then it’s going to happen.  When it does, I’ll celebrate; but I’m not going to do a century just for the sake of it.

Bike camping.  This was new, with two S24O’s.  Those efforts were both shake down cruises for testing gear, packing, and other assorted issues; and also a lot of fun.  We had cold and we had rain; but manly men prevailed.  I’m a gear head by nature, so messing with camping stuff, and finding a balance between weight, cost, comfort, packability, and usefulness was the order of the day.  I’m at a point where I think I could go out for several days self supported and do fine.  I might smell a bit funky by the time I got home, but I’d otherwise be fine.  I wish there were more postings on the web by people doing S24O’s and short tours to see what others are doing, but I sense this is not yet a big movement.

The Bikes.   I found myself falling more in love with the Trucker this year as my do-it-all machine.  Switching to the Albatross bars and the Model 8 saddle really changed the feel of the bike.  It’s now a touring/gopher/night cruising/exploring transportation machine that is superbly comfortable and a treat to ride.  The upright position has grown on me, and I look forward to loading her up for some serious touring.

The X bike is still out there as my lightweight drop bar bike if I get the urge to go fast.  I believe that the shorter top tube on this frame makes it more comfortable for that style of riding, so I’m going to tweek it a bit to get it just right.  Both of my sons have already outgrown it, so I can have it back for exclusive use.  (I haven’t figured out yet what to do for them, other than to start looking for 64-67cm frames.)  I need to beware, though, of throwing money at a bike that I don’t intend to ride a whole lot.

The idea of a folder is still out there, but I don’t feel strongly enough about it to justify the expense.  If I happen to see one sitting out in the trash…

The whole losing weight thing didn’t quite go as planned either.  I didn’t lose any weight, but I didn’t gain any either.  I suppose that’s a good start.

So enough with the self reflection and on to 2011:

–         More day rides.  I want to ride to Gettysburg, Shippensburg, Wrightsville, Southern York County, and other points of note; and make it back without any unplanned detours to Poukipsee.

–         S24O’s.  No set number, but whenever I can.  After all, the elan of an S24O is the lack of advance planning.  I’m thinking rides to Michaux, Colonel Denning, Stony Creek, and a few other possibilities.  They may end up being longer than 24 hours, but that’s not an obstacle – it’s a bonus.

–         Some other long rides.  I’d like to do Pine Creek and possibly combine with a camping excursion.  The challenge there seems to be avoiding the supported tours that clog up the trail, so either spring or fall is best.  I’ve also got this crazy idea in my head to leave from my house, hit the HRT, ride to Baltimore, then to DC, and take the Allegheny Passage up to Pittsburgh.  Basically a week long, epic ride full of camping and riding.  That’s asking a bit much at this point, but I smile every time I think of it.

–         I think it’s also going to be a good year for just riding more.  Son #1 is going to start driving in the Spring, so that means I won’t be hauling him around as much.  Plus, with one kid in college and two more on the way, we don’t have any money for prolonged house projects that would otherwise suck up my time.  I want to ride more than last year; and more often than last year.  We’ll leave it at that.

See you on the road!

Job Security

It comes as no great revelation that both the City of Harrisburg and Pennsylvania State Government are facing tough economic times.  Rougher roads lie ahead as elected leaders face hard decisions concerning cutbacks in services and obvious downsizing of programs that will lead to employee furloughs.

Working within the realm of human resources and manpower planning, plus having three kids that will be entering the job market, I have been researching careers where it appears there is a better than average degree of job security.

This has led me to conclude that there are two fields of expertise where holders of these positions will never fear layoffs:

First are the men and women who assemble and disassemble the scaffolding and wooden partitions around the nekkid statues on the front of the Capitol Building.

These cats are always busy.  I never looked close, but after twenty six years of being a career bureaucrat and passing by this artwork almost daily, I’m guessing they must be carved from Ivory Soap.  Every other week it seems there is some maintenance, preventive maintenance, repair, planning for repair, adjustment to repair, or repairing the previous repair; that needs to be done.  And before any of that can take place, we need scaffolding.  Given prevailing wage and that fact that this is the Capitol Building, I’m guessing some of the Caddy’s and Crown Vics parked out front are actually owned by the scaffolding guys.

Next up are graffiti artists.  Not the talented ones that tag railroad cars, and not the ones that feel compelled to deface otherwise clean walls with gang related markings; but these guys are far more insidious:

Utility Workers. In broad daylight, these hoodlums demonstrate an unmatched boldness in their ability to take a spray can and scrawl unrecognizable hieroglyphics just about everywhere.  Most notable, if some big project has just been completed and is new and shiny, within days it is marked up for the next great project.  Whether or not that project will actually occur is questionable, but at least it is marked…just in case.

I’m going to continue this study and post further job advice.  If you become aware of similar opportunities, feel free to drop a note as a public service.  Let’s create “One Job At a Time!”

Randomness

The other day I took the afternoon off and we brought my daughter home from college.  She was in the lobby saying goodbye to all of the friends that she had made – lots of tears.  That’s probably one of the more heartening aspects of her getting out of the house and going to school – she fell in with a group of really good kids and we’re seeing her blossom with being more sociable and independent.  She’s going to miss her friends, but I tried to console her with knowing that she has access to a car and can easily take roadtrips on the weekends.

Now she’s home, and our house looks like an explosion of clothing and other assorted items.  How can one kid fit so much stuff in a dorm room?  You could tell the difference as we were loading the van at school:  parents of girls had several people helping, making several trips, and in some cases filling more than one vehicle.  Parents of guys waited in their cars outside while their sons came out with a single duffel bag full of dirty laundry.  She should be caught up on her sleep by today, so this evening we’re going to have the “you’re back at home now” discussion.  Pray for me.

I’ve never been a sandals kind of guy, but a podiatrist told me I needed biking shoes with a harder sole due to the unhealed broken bone in my foot from soccer.  Since they are so highly recommended, I was looking at a pair of Keen Newports, but was reluctant about shelling out $100 for what looked like a cross between sandals, sneakers, and water shoes.  Since I was in Boscov’s buying Red a Mother’s Day gift, I saw a pair of Skechers Journeymen for half the price and they looked darn near close:I have to say that they’re pretty comfortable.  I wore them without socks on a few warmer days and really liked the feel, and then I’ve had them on with wool socks a few times on cooler days, including one ride.  I doubt they will hold up as well as the Keens, but I’m not putting on a lot of miles lately anyway.

Son #1 has kept me pretty busy with baseball and being a guitar god.  This year he opted to leave the in-field and play out.  It was strategic, since the team already had a good mix of in-fielders.  So now he’s on the field most of the time, and occassionally gets pulled into first base.  He’s also put a lot more time into hitting, with excellent help from his uncle, and is doing much better at the plate.  The other night in a game he hit the fence in center field at Redland for a standup double with 2 RBI’s.  Had he hit to either right or left, it would have been over the fence…so we were pretty excited.

We also made a deal with him regarding his interest in guitar.  Provided he would continue to play in church, we would help him out with equipment.  He ended up buying a nice Fender acoustic that we gave him a little bit towards, and he just bought a nice amplifier off of Ebay with his own money from mowing lawns and other chores that he does.  But for his birthday we gave him a slightly used Fender Telecaster that I bought from a friend who needed the cash.  This past weekend, he and his cohorts played at a Christian Battle of the Bands.  They had been practicing for weeks, wrote their own song, and did really well.  They couldn’t compete against some of the pro bands that had entered, but for a bunch of 15 year olds, I thought they were great.  His nightly practicing is really showing itself.

Now I’ve got to get son#2 set up with playing my old drumset, and we can be a regular Von Trapp family.

Finally, after testing out my camping gear on the Pinchot S24O, I traded up my Big Agnes pad to a Dual Core model.  In addition to the insulation, it has a layer of closed cell foam.  According to the many reviews I’ve read, it should address the cold coming up off the ground much better.  I also bought an Exped Pillow based on this review from the Epicurian Cyclist.  I wasn’t all together happy with the ALPS – it seemed too thin, and I got a good price using some discount points from Backcountry.  I’m hoping this will all make for a good night’s sleep at Codurus in a week.