This Space for Rent

Nov 28, 2009

Another failed experiment

After too many encounters with the nasty chipseal roads in Clackamas County, and after a series of fenders met their doom due to toe overlap, I decided that when I built up a midlifecrisismobile, it would have 650b wheels and fattish tires. This was helped by QBP dumping some of their 650b wheelsets, which let me buy a pair of wheels at a ridiculously low price, and by a local bike shop selling Panaracer Nifty Swifties at < 20 a tire. So, in the fullness of time (and the fullness of selling things on Ebay, which let me accumulate enough money to buy a nice used lugged frame at a substantial discount from list price) I collected enough parts to assemble a midlifecrisismobile of my very own.

There were 4 things I wanted from a midlifecrisismobile

  1. Faster than the xtracycle.
  3. smoother riding on chipseal roads.
  4. front-loading, ultimately with a porteur rack, but a handlebar bag would do as a short-term solution.

What I got was

  • No toe overlap.
  • Front-loading (though the joy of a high trail (==low rake) fork means that the front wheel really wants to flop off to one side or another. If I’d ever learned how to ride no-handed, this would have been a serious flaw, but as it is it’s just an annoyance.)

What I didn’t get was

  • Speed. In the city/suburbs, I was getting (in 200-odd miles of test riding in the last week and a half) about ¼th mile an hour faster than the xtracycle. ¼th of a mile an hour is nothing to sneeze at, of course – If I could increase my moving average from 13mph to 13.25mph, that would cut 25 minutes of travel time off a R200 – but when I tried to ride the midlifecrisismobile on an actual R200, it ended up riding so slowly that I couldn’t even make the 80-km control before closing time. I’m guessing that the speed improvements I was seeing in town was because the lighter bicycle accelerates faster up to its slothful cruising speed (and maybe because it was climbing short ramps faster; it certainly does not climb longer ramps any faster than the xtra does.)
  • Smoother riding. Now, I don’t know if this is an artifact of the wheels or if it’s an artifact of the shorter wheelbase of a bobtail bike, but those chipseal roads really pounded my arms and bottom when I was creeping up and down the county roads this morning. So, no matter what the cause, this has to count as a NO NO NO to whether it made the ride any smoother.

Now, I can probably live with a rough ride if I get it in exchange for a considerably faster bicycle, but a slower bike that has a rougher ride than the xtracycle? Um, no. My grand plan is that the midlifecrisismobile will be for riding those longer and more vertical brevets, and that plan will just not work if the d-mned thing runs so slowly that I can’t even make to the controls on time.

So it’s down into the basement with the midlifecrisismobile while I try to decide what to do with it. I have the original pair of 700c wheels off my Trek (rear wheel replaced with a 135mm axled wheel for the xtracycle, front wheel replaced with a generator hubbed wheel [originally from Amazon as a christmas present, then swapped for a fully built generaor wheel thanks to ebay and the ibob list]) and I could swap then in instead (after replacing the rear axle with a 130mm one to fit the modern frame) and see how they work out. I suppose I could move the xtracycle frame over to the new bicycle, then do a wheel swap to put the 650b wheels under the trek. And if worse came to worse I could just sell the parts on on ebay – the vast majority of the midlifecrisismobile is used parts, so I’d probably break even on the deal.

But, feh. It’s still annoying. It’s nice to not have to overlap, but maybe the way to do that is to get a cyclocross fork and rerake it to within an inch of its life. But I’m afraid the 650b’s are going to have to go.


Nov 27, 2009

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

prototype 2 (finished)

Dust Mite examines the failed second prototype handlebar bag before I drag it out on the line tomorrow for a break-in run of both it and the midlifecrisismobile. Dust Mite observes, with disapproval, the safety pins that are holding the mapcase onto the top of the handlebar bag (and the safety pins that hold the top of the interfacing into place, which means …) as well as the uneven line of the lid of the bag (which is an artifact of what you don’t see, and that’s that I ran out of time to sew in the lining.)

I made the foolish mistake of trying to hand-sew this bag, so it ate upwards of 20 hours of sewing before I ran out of time tonight. I’m not going to repeat that mistake with prototype 3, which I’ll start as soon as I can look at my sewing supplies without breaking into involuntary shrieks of horror. No lining. No front pocket. No medical pocket. No map case (I ripped the cycloactive map case off prototype 1 and pinned it here.) And it’s not particularly square. *sigh*

Nov 23, 2009

Crashing the ecosystem

A single fish pantomimes the death of the British Columbia salmon runs

As expected, the British Columbia salmon fishery has collapsed. So the Canadian government is going to have (another?) inquiry into “WHY THIS HORRIBLE THING HAPPENING THAT NOBODY EVER EXPECTED BECAUSE THE FISH SUPPLY IS, LIKE, INFINITE™!” and which will most likely have the same effect as the last half-dozen inquiries had, which is to say nothing. And 5 years down the line they’ll have to ban salmon fishing after the carcasses of dozens of starved-to-death Orcas start washing up along Stanley Park.


I’m not even 50 years old, and I remember seeing chirpy articles in various vox-pop magazines about how there were soooooooooo many fish that we’d be able to eat fish forever even after converting all the farmland in North America into (hideous, but the chirpy articles didn’t say that because it would have harshed the mellow of countless parasitic developers) suburbs. Maybe if I’m very lucky I won’t outlive the oceans, and I’ll be spared the rise of our poisonous jellyfish masters.

Greenpeace (or Sea Shepard, I’m not picky) needs a nuclear deterrent.

Nov 21, 2009

YAFYE picture of the day


Yellow Menace GP39-2 #1234 pops out between some buildings as it leads a transfer freight northwards towards Albina yard this afternoon.

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Nov 20, 2009

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

prototype 2

Dust Mite inspects the carcass of my second generation prototype handlebar bag (which is made of packcloth instead of canvas, and is being held upright by some fairly stout interfacing (and which will have some lovely lining; possibly the stripey fabric that you can see in my sewing bag)) before I take needle and thread and (ugh) hand-sew it all together.

(And, yes, it’s going to be traditional and have an external pocket in the front, because I need a place to toss the battery for my headlight, and I don’t want to have a power cord carrying water into the allegedly water resistant interior of the bag. It’s also going to have a small external pocket in the back for my first aid kit, and maybe some loops for my bicycle lock (because the midlifecrisismobile won’t have any other place to store a bike lock until I get around to brazing up the racks for the horrible thing.))

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Nov 19, 2009

Load testing

Mavis tests the load strength of the Lego spaceship

The big Lego spaceship has been moved downstairs for a while so that sick children can play with it when they’re trapped at home and their cruel father won’t let them sit in front of the evil computer. But the bears aren’t the only ones who find the spaceship a source of endless amusement – Mavis has been climbing on the spaceship, using at a step when she’s leaping down from the sofa, and otherwise loading it way past its design capacity.

It hasn’t collapsed yet (unlike the time when Russell decided that he would test it out, and managed to collapse the prow into the hangar deck) so the design must be sound. Onwards to Mars!

The mysterious bear


Silas was sick at home today, and when I pulled out the fabric for the prototype #2 handlebar bag, he wanted to have some of the scraps. While I was fighting with the Singer Featherweight (not the best sewing machine for packcloth, even with a heavy-duty needle) he was working away with the sewing scissors in the living room.

I didn’t manage to get the handlebar bag latches sewn (I’m going to have to do it by hand tomorrow. Joy!) but he successfully managed to make a picture of what looks like downtown Portland, so the project part of the day was not a complete washout.

Nov 17, 2009

A type of street repair that will drive the libertarians crazy


The City of Portland has been threatening to turn Spokane Street into a bicycle boulevard for some time now, and they’ve finally started to carry through with the threat, by putting in lots of speed bumps and these little concrete islands to force auto traffic down to one lane while bicycles can sail right through on the channels between the islands and the curbs.

The nice thing about these bicycle boulevard obstacles is that they might actually put some teeth into the (ignored by an amazing number of automobiles) “RIGHT TURN ONLY (except bicycles)” signs at 13th & Spokane.


Domestic vermin picture of the day


For a change, I walked to school on Monday afternoon, and so I saw this cat sitting in a hedge about halfway there. It wasn’t sure what I was doing, but it wasn’t bothered enough to actually do anything about it.

Railroad picture of the day


I had to go out to do a couple of errands this afternoon, and when I was on the way back (via Union Station, of course; it’s not the most direct route, but it’s certainly scenic) I was stopped at Thurman & Naito by this light twinkie, which had run up to the crossing, stopped, and was sitting there while the driver walked back to the hostler controls at the back end of the unit.

Since I was doing errands, I was carrying the cheapy brevet camera. Can you tell?

Nov 13, 2009

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™


The Dust Mite Community Theatre presents a special performance of
Goldilocks and the Three Bowls.

Nov 12, 2009

A backup system Rube Goldberg would love


  1. About 9 years ago I had the chance to buy a (very) used IBM 701c, which I brought back to life and used as a terminal/fax machine for 5-6 years (I stopped using it as a fax machine when the power socket started to become unreliable; the battery has been long dead, so when I’d jostle the butterfly power would stop flowing and the machine would stop dead. And then it would have to (slowly) fsck when I got the power cable unjostled.)
  2. About 4 years ago, I bought a fistful of flash disks so I could build up some silent no-moving-parts low power computers. Well, most of those computers never materialized (the glowy server was the only one that got off the ground) and that left me with three little flash disks ranging from 1gb to 8gb.
  3. Last week, I was sorting through my (now tiny, thanks to repeated trips to ebay and the local computer recycler) pile of computer junk for things to sell and I found the flash disks. Now, used flash disks aren’t worth that much (if anything), but they are – unlike the loud whirring hard drive in the 701c – silent, and if I can’t profitably sell them I might be able to repurpose them. Like the 8gb disk, which is conveniently larger than the 4gb disk in the 701c.

So I decided to discard the 4gb drive in the butterfly and replace it with a nice quiet solid state disk. But to do that requires getting the data off the (no network connection) butterfly and putting it onto the new disk. And what’s the easiest way to do that? It’s probably not finding a macos port of the ext3fs (open source, and buggy as hell) file system, installing it on my Macbook Air, then attaching the old disk to an ATA to USB dongle, plugging it into the Macbook, and (after the obligatory kernel panic when a filesystem error was found on the root filesystem on the butterfly’s disk) tarring the contents of the disk up into ~orc/butterfly on the mac.

It’s likely to be worse putting it back onto the flash disk, because I’ll need to run lilo to make it bootable, and lilo does not have the most coherent documentation in the (already incoherent) Linux world. But when I get done with that, the 701c will be nice and quiet (and it doesn’t have a little fan either, so it will just quietly sit there no matter how hard the 75mhz 486 processor is running) and I’ll be able to forget about the hoops I just had to jump through to move from one disk to another.

Railroad picture of the day


A short train (the Portland branch of the Empire Builder?) comes across the Steel Bridge at about noon today. Oddly enough, it appears that this train was coming from the direction of Albina yard (in North Portland) which isn’t the usual way I’d expect it to come. Perhaps it was having some sort of repairs done at Albina, or the railroads in town have decided that it’s better to loop through Union Station and keep the lead twinkie in the front of the train.

Nov 11, 2009

Railroad picture of the day


The northbound 3:15 Cascades, just after it left Union Station for Seattle and points north.

cheapy brevet camera picture of the day


The Ross Island Sand & Gravel tugboat interrupted my trip up to Kobos today, so I had to shoot it.

11 / 11

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

–Wilfred Owen

Nov 09, 2009

So I lied

A P&W logging train sneaks behind a hedgerow on a rainy saturday afternoon

When I wrote about the Verboort Flat Tire Extravaganza! yesterday, I mentioned that I saw a P&W train just this side of Banks, but was unable to get a picture. Well, this wasn’t quite true; I had the CBC, but when the train came by it was dark and pouring down rain, so I assumed that the picture would end up being something less than visible (like the artsy photo of Leo I took a few days ago.) Well, I just pulled the photo off the camera, and look, the camera is lying to me by claiming that it was bright and, well, not sunny, but not as rainy as it actually was when the logging train (led by yet another GP38-?)rolled by on the other size of the cemetery.

If you look veeeery closely, you can see the snoot of the lead GP38 facing east just behind the hedgerow at the back of the cemetery, and if you’re patient enough you will eventually see the shape (and pumpkin orange color) of the trailing geep behind it.

It is (in theory at the least) quite pretty out there. I’ll have to do that loop again sometime when it’s not raining quite so #$%$#&$!!#%$ much.

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Nov 08, 2009

A series of unfortunate events

In the grand scheme of things, flat tires are a annoyance.

In the grand scheme of things, riding my bicycle in the rain is an annoyance.

Add them together, and then they’re a pain.

I discovered this yesterday when I rode out to the godforsaken end of Washington County to try and ride the Verboort Sausage Populaire, only to be defeated by three flat tires, two of which happened when it was dumping down rain (and, worse yet, the third happened after I had already lost more than a hour to the second flat tire (the first one in the rain) and no longer had any functional tires, so I had to finish out the R100 in 5-6km sentences, punctuated by frantically pumping the tire up so I could creep closer to the end of the loop.)

I’m sure that rural Washington County is quite pleasant. I certainly enjoyed rolling through it on the two loops I did of the UGB 200k, and the run up and down Dairy Creek Road was rain-free enough so I could ignore the increasingly slippery feeling of the rear end of the bicycle as the third tire (donated by another randonneur, and then punctured by my bicycle very soon afterwards) slowly deflated down to nothingness in favor of enjoying the traditional sodden but very green Oregon countryside (the run in from highway 6 to the horrible clusterf*ck that is the Verboort sausage festival was also nice, but my patience with the ride/inflate/ride/inflate cycle had worn down to the point where I couldn’t enjoy the brief stretch of afternoon sunshine between rainstorms.)

I’ll blame it on Meek Road, which, aside from being a spectacularly nasty example of why the midlifecrisismobile is going to have fattish 650b wheels, also hid something that, when I ran over it about 200 meters east of Jackson School Road, exploded (or something) with a horrible metallic clatter and punched about eight holes in my rear wheel (and, it turned out, gashed through my xtracycle pannier and slashed my spare inner tube,) one of which made the wheel go flat basically instantaneously (10 minutes to fix, and this time it wasn’t raining, so I didn’t mind when everyone else on the brevet went whizzing on by) and another which made the wheel start going flat half an hour later, when I had just passed through North Plains and was conveniently out in the rain-swept countryside with no shelter around (this is the one that killed my brevet. I attempted to re-inflate the tire so I could get to the demised store (and open porch) at Mountaindale & Dairy Creek, but the inner tube would have nothing to do with this and I ended up pulling off to the side of the road and trying to replace it with my spare, and also dead, tube, and then after that failed dragging the bicycle up to the store to sit under the porch and spend another half an hour or so trying to patch the hole I found in my original tire. I didn’t get it fixed until I flagged down John Kramer (“please, sir, can I have another patch?”) and, after he spent 15 minutes trying to dry the tube off to patch, when he flagged down someone else who had a tube I could borrow which actually inflated. Oy.)

And only then did I get the bicycle back on the line and up the ramp to Fern Flat Rd, then down to Mountaindale, renewed rain, and the realization that I was going to have to spend the rest of the loop kludging the back tire to keep the bicycle running (fsvo “running” – real bicyclists can run long distances at high speed with flat tires, but I get really slow when my back tire gets low enough to start skating sideways) out to Banks and back.

On the bright side, I managed to see the top half of a Portland bound P&W lumber train when I was about 2 miles east of the turnaround and control at Banks. Unfortunately it was dumping down rain at that point, so no pictures, and you’ll have to take my word for it. And, on the other bright side, after I reached Verboort ((20 minutes after the control closed, oh well!) and spent 20 minutes wandering around the traffic choked disaster area that is the sausage festival in a vain attempt to find said control) and bolted for home, I found a convenience store on Canyon Road that had nice broad eaves, so I could get some junk food, sit down with the bicycle, find, and then patch the third flat before heading back out into the now bombing me with cats and dogs rain for the 30 mile run back home.

I got 193 kilometers (41 to Forest Grove, 104 for the loop back to Forest Grove, and 48 back home) out of this loop, and by G-d I earned them.

And as a postscript to the whole trip, I sat down and tried to patch the tubes that failed yesterday: My initial tube (the one that I was riding when I went over the fragmentation grenade) ended up with three holes in it, the slashed by debris spare tube had two holes in it, and the loaner tube had one. And the Ruffy Tuffy tire on the back of the bicycle, which only had slightly over 2000 miles on it? I counted eight gashes, three of which went all the way through and one which still had a tiny metallic fragment wedged deeply into it. That tire is dead, and needs to be recycled, and I’m back to a heavy, stiff, and slow Vittoria Randonneur on the rear wheel of the xtracycle (yuk! Maybe it’s time for me to sew up a few spare handlebar bags and see if I can sell them, and then I can shop around for some more flexible armo(u)red tubes) instead of the nice & speedy, but sadly fragile, Panaracer tires.

On the things that worked/things that didn’t work categories (modulo the innertubes) there were very few things that didn’t work.

  • Shoes don’t work for wet riding. I’m fairly obsessive about layering up with woolens, so even when I’m completely drenched the temperature gradient between me and the rest of the world pushes the water away from my skin and keeps me from becoming a cold wet mess of sheepfur. But my feet are encased in shoes, which keeps a large puddle of water right next to my feet, and the wool can’t help with that. So when I got home last night my feet were impressively blue with cold. Perhaps it’s time to buy some sandals and just add additional sock layers for winter riding?
  • Not having a rain visor is not a good idea. Sure, I can use my gloves as windshield wipers, but when my speed isn’t obligingly reduced by a flat tire I don’t know if I want to keep taking my hands off the wheel to wipe the rain out of my face.
  • Xtracycle panniers are not even close to waterproof, unless the water is inside and you want it to drain out. And I don’t even carry anything close enough to need to use them.

Nov 06, 2009

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™


Dust Mite has an elegant new skullcap.

Trolley picture of the day


A Clackamas-bound train approaches the station at Flavel St. & I205 at about 4pm today.

Nov 05, 2009

cheapy brevet camera picture of the day


The bears have been agitating to have candles at the dinner table for the past couple of months, and they took advantage of my going to the store just before dinnertime to get the best to set them up before I could return and complain about candles on a messy table.

Cute baby picture of the day


The bears play with some friends at the local ice cream joint.

Nov 03, 2009

Domestic vermin picture of the day


Leo peers at me from the sofa tonight, via my CBC and the iPhoto magic wand tool to make an almost black photographic mess into a more artistic photographic mess.

Nov 01, 2009







Oh, no, my file will be destroy!

I love spam. It’s as if a thousand stoner poets were hooked up to a travesty generator and they’re all being paid by the word.

1 comment


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