This Space for Rent

Apr 30, 2010

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Lair of the great mite

Dust Mite lurks in the corner, waiting for a chance to strike.

Apr 29, 2010

400km’s worth of nom nom nom nom


An italian(ish) fruitcake, fresh out of the oven and ready to be sliced and wrapped for my little ramble down to Eugene and back this saturday morning.

What, doesn’t everyone sew up bike luggage and bake a cake to get ready for a brevet?

Wow. I finished my project of the week more than 24 hours BEFORE the brevet I wanted to use it on.

MLCM & practice handlebag

I had to rename the handlebar bag to a practice bag, because in addition to the interfacing error and the sides being too short I also messed up the alignment of the lining (which is bright red, which makes the stitching painfully obvious.) But note the flashlight sitting jauntily on the front of the handlebar bag, so it can light my way if the dynamo light (which, if I get some time tomorrow I’ll move up to the top of the fork blade along with attaching a dynamo taillight to my saddlebag support) explodes on me.

It’ll be like the shoes the cobbler’s children wear, and it will stay on the mlcm until I either get sick of the errors or get around to brazing up the porteur rack (at which point the F15 will be removed from the bike and I’ll have to sew up a bag that ties to the rack instead of hanging from the handlebar bag mount.)

Now it’s time to make a fruitcake, set out some clothes, then charge up my cellphone & gps for the death march of the week on Saturday morning.

1 comment

Apr 28, 2010

Not actually the project of the day

Handlebar bag or augean stable?

Regrettably, this is not the production bag, due two two errors in the instructions; the first error is that my pattern for the sides is 20mm too short, and the second error is that the instructions tell me to install the interfacing before I sew the carcass together. The second error is the more serious one, because my Featherweight jams on the spot if it’s sewing a couple of pieces of packcloth together and it encounters even the slightest edge of the interfacing.

Oh well.

This picture does show a couple of the customisations I’ve done on this particular bag;

  1. I’ve got a loop on the front to attach a flashlight. The lego guy is the flashlight; his legs can move up to sitting position, so I can use him as both a flashlight for reading the cue sheet and as an emergency headlight if my dynohub explodes on me in such a way that it keeps working as a hub but doesn’t generate electricity anymore.
  2. The loops on the bottom of the bag are so I can stow my lock there when I’m using the mlcm to go shopping.

The d-rings are part of the instructions; there are another pair on the front of the bag, so you can strap things onto the top of the bag if you need to. (I will use it to carry a set of spare clothes when I ferry down to Wilsonville for the Eden’s Gate R400 this weekend (and, aaiieee! I need to bake a fruitcake tomorrow so I can carry it as rando fud on Saturday) and there are probably other places where it would come in useful.)

The little pocket on the front may not be as useful as I hoped. There’s not much room between it and the Nitto F15 support, so it’s not very good for first aid kits. I’ll probably just put battery boosters and cables into it for this weekend (I neeeeeed a battery booster for the GPS, since it only has about a 12 hour runtime by itself and there’s no way on G-d’s green earth I’ll ever be able to do a 250 mile loop in 12 hours on a bicycle.)

But sewing it by machine makes things faster; if I exclude the marathon jamfests that started happening last night, I’ve done 90% of the sewing in about 20% of the time (the hand-sewing is eating, as I suspected, a terrible amount of time. I should go and buy a lottery ticket so I can get an industrial sewing machine.) and the only substantial hand sewing left is the map case and the lining, and linings are very fast to sew into place.

Wandering Geese

Canada Goslings

I spotted a family of Canadian Geese walking around near Milwaukie & Bybee this afternoon. Note that there are no large bodies of water convenient to the goslings; there’s either the lake in Oaks Bottom, which is 50-60 feet down and about 1000 feet west, or there’s the lake in Westmoreland Park, which is about 1200 feet east, but across several busy streets.

Perhaps these geese are cosmopolitan geese, or hipster geese, and thus don’t need to settle down near water anymore.

Apr 27, 2010

Not good for quick work

When I’m trying to sew things, it’s normally much faster if I do it on a sewing machine. But if I’m doing it during the time of day when the sun shines in through the tiny decorative window in the dining room and lands directly on the dining room table, my productivity drops off like a stone.

It’s hard to sew, you see, when you can’t see the fabric, the needle, or the line of the thread. And when I’m sewing interfacing, I need to be able to see the needle and the line of the thread so I can tell when the sewing machine is about to jam and leave a wad of thread mashed up against the fabric.

And after a while of this, I start getting nauseated, and have to just stop.

At which point I see a couple of seams where the sewing machine did jam on me. Sigh. And they’re on the loops that will hang the handlebar bag from the support. So they’re kind of obvious.

So I’ll need to add a hour or so to rethink the handlebar loops so that I won’t have to sew them during the afternoon.

Project of the day

"Tall" & "Grande" handlebar bags

On the left you see my prototype#2 handlebar bag. On the right you see the first production handlebar bag, which isn’t finished (I ran out of black woven tape and need to go back to the Mill End Store to get some more before I can sew the sides onto the front-bottom-back-top-flap) but which has not seen a single hand stitch in the ~2 hours I’ve put into it so far (I started a little before 11am by cutting out the fbbtf, sides, and the pocket that holds the first aid kit on the front (it will be interesting to see how hard it is to remove the first aid kit when the bag is mounted, but that’s a problem for a different time)), and sewed until I ran out of tape at sometime around 1:20, with a 20-odd minute break for reading the net when my brains started running out of my ears.

When I finish the new bag, it goes onto the mlcm and I’ll pull the lining out of the prototype bag so I can replace the velcro closures with more traditional latching mechanisms. And then I’ll replace the lining with one that’s got more robust pockets, because the screaming yellow pocket material is already starting to wear through in places after not much more than 1500 miles of service.

But, yes, it will be handlebar bags for sale. Handmade by a neurotic ex-programmer in his home sweatshop. Not as elegant as some, but perfectly functional. Inquire within for prices and availability.

Apr 26, 2010

Project of the day

handlebar bag

A commissioned tubular handlebar bag for a friend. I need to measure the handlebars on his bicycle before I sew the handlebar mountpoints, and after that I need to stuff in the lining, but it’s pretty much done right now, and it’s an actual honest to g-d sale item.

It’s harder to sew tubular bags than the boxy rando-style luggage I’ve put on the mlcm. Tomorrow I get to see how quickly I can sew up a boxy handlebar bag to replace the prototype that’s on the mlcm right now.

Apr 25, 2010

Does this count as misuse of a rando bike?

Banks-Vernonia landslide

On Friday, my friend Ed Groth asked (on a local bikey mailing list I subscribe to) if anyone would be interested in coming along with him as he explored the old Crown-Zellerbach railroad/haul road from Vernonia/Pittsburg to Scappoose. It sounded interesting, so I wrote back offering some commentary and expressing some interest, but carefully wrapped in cautions about having to deal with shipping my children off to grandmother’s house (no river or woods in the way, sorry) for their regular saturday visit.

On Saturday morning, Ed got in touch with me (at ~9:30) and I said sure, I’d want to do it. But he wanted to head out of town basically right then, and I was 6 miles south of his house in North Portland.

“Are you planning on riding your red bike?” (I had been waffling about whether to bring the Trek or the mlcm, but decided (wisely, as it turns out) then that I should take the mlcm)

“Well, yes”

“Oh, you’re much faster than we are; meet us in Scappoose and we’ll head out from there.” (I was dubious about this claim, but it turned out to be the case this time around.)

So I threw on my clothes (I had been doing my usual Saturday morning sans brevet routine, which involves a lot of moving as if I had been dipped in molasses,) flung some cookie bars into the mlcm’s handlebar bag, and bolted out of the house as if I had been goosed by Satan himself, and after only one bad routing decision (I decided that I would route myself through North Portland and over the St. John’s bridge and thus avoid going through the west side and the tempting collection of stuff in the ex-BN yard there. I did avoid the yard, but at the expense of approximately 10,000 stopsigns between Williams & Willamette) I went screaming up to Scappoose at a new flat average speed of something on the order of 16.5mph, arriving at the Fred Meyer in South Scappoose about 15 minutes before noon (about 15 minutes after Ed & John Kangas arrived) and went inside to do some shopping.

I actually arrived at the Fred Meyer while they were still inside getting fud, but found the bicycles because (a) they were the only bicycles parked there and (b) the bicycles looked like Portland bicycles (a bianchi single-speed and a fully racked Surly LHT with a Citybikes kitty litter basket pannier.) I wasn’t sure whether or not that was them, but decided I’d wait for a while, and it wasn’t long before John came out and asked if I was David (answer: Yes, last time I checked.) And in the fullness of time (being defined as me going in and grabbing a sandwich and a couple more cookie bars, then waiting for Ed to come out) we got back on the road and headed out to the Crown Zellerbach haul road.

I’ll let you know that the CZ haul road is more scenic than the Scappoose-Vernonia highway (and safer for bicycles, because there are no cars on most of it) but it’s a lot slower. Near Scappoose a mile or so is “paved”, but then the path turns to gravel over pavement, just plain gravel, then a combination of paved NFD access road, gravel NFD & camp access road, paired gravel singletrack, and the occasional landslide and washout.

About five miles out of Scappoose the haul road turned abruptly to mounds of bicycle stopping dirt (I was following Ed up one of the piles when he stalled out and fell over, forcing me to stall out and leap off my bike to keep from falling over as well) which, after we’d walked a hundred feet or so, we realized was a fairly substantial landslide that had washed over the haul road and, presumably, had finished up by plummeting to Scappoose Creek down below. And no sooner had we cleared that when we encountered a more deliberate dirtpile, which blocked the road from where a trestle used to be before it was washed out by a little stream, which we had to carry our bicycles down to, cross and then haul up the other side before continuing on.

And then another five miles down the line we found another washout which was much more substantial, and which involved following a deer trail 50 feet down to the tiny little stream that had caused the washout, across the stream and up the other side of the ravine, at which point we collapsed in exhaustion for 20 or so minutes before clambering back onto our bicycles and continuing west.

Somewhere along here the old railroad ROW diverged from the haul road, so we missed the chance to go along and see the old railroad tunnel before we started grinding up the steep ramp that the haul road used to get up to the summit of the Nehalem divide. The roadbed here was interesting to ride on 26mm tires; the combination of fine gravel, mud, and leafmold made the ride slippery enough to feel as if I was riding on flat tires. I managed to lose my chain into the rear spokes once on the way up, but I was moving slowly enough to just stop when the chain went huuuurck! on me instead of chewing up the driveside spokes on my rear wheel, and it wasn’t long after that that Ed’s singlespeed dropped its chain in sympathy with mine.

And, of course, I do climb slowly; I made it to the summit easily a minute after Ed & John did, which may have been the furthest back I was on the whole loop.

And then it was downhill almost all the way to Pittsburg. Ed and I charged foolishly down the steep ramp from the summit, while John followed, sensibly, far enough back to avoid any possible wrecks and we slithered down the gravel and mud all the way to the end of the accessable haul road (the last mile or so is chainlinked off; presumable the present owners of the line are still using the yard to service their logging properties west of the Nehalem divide) just north of Pittsburg.

And then we got back onto the road and, battling a persistently constant headwind (it didn’t matter when we were on the haul road, but there were headwinds pretty much constantly from the St. Johns bridge north, west, and south to Vernonia,) made our way to Vernonia and the Black Bear Coffee Company, where we stopped and had a little something before proceeding to the Banks-Vernonia Linear Park to loop back into the Portland metropolitan area.

Most of the Banks-Vernonia Linear Park (the ex-United Railways line to Vernonia) is paved, which makes it not only scenic but fairly fast, but one of the long trestles on the line burned a dozen years or so ago, and the path for a few miles each side of it isn’t really maintained any more And we weren’t going to take any pesky shortcut on the main road to get around the unpaved part of the trail, but instead climbed up the side of the valley towards where the trestle used to be, then plunged down a steep ballasted ramp to the road, crossed over, and pushed our bicycles up the 13% ramp back to the railroad grade, which then obligingly dropped us 700 feet or so down to the flatlands northwest of Banks.

26mm tires are, as I may have mentioned, not the finest thing for cyclocross-style riding, but they coast much better than the 35mm tires that Ed & John had on their bicycles. Just coasting (and with my dynamo headlight turned on, because rainclouds were blocking out the sun and it was getting quite dark periodically) the mlcm would regularly outrun Ed & John, forcing me to stop and take more pictures while either waiting for them or watching them sail by so I could catch up again.

And then we reached the end of the Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail, which ends in a very Elroy-Spartaish manner by abruptly becoming just a railroad grade, and then a railroad grade with railroad on it. And we proceeded forward, past the “TRAIL ENDS HERE” signs, onto the branch and ballast-strewn ROW, which, not more than 1000 feet along, managed to – after I misjudged a wheelhop – catch my bicycle’s front wheel and stop the bicycle, but not me, dead in its tracks. And then after I picked myself up after my no-doubt-elegant superman-style endo, I continued along at a more walking pace until the railroad ROW dumped us out onto the highway at the intersection of Sellers Rd, Banks Rd, Cedar Canyon Rd (of Verboort Flat Tire Extravaganza! fame), and highway 47.

We were about 75 miles into the ride by now, and it was closing in on 7pm, so we decided to take highway 47 down to Forest Grove, then ride baseline east to Hillsboro to catch a train so I could get home for our weekly ethiopian dinner, and as I was cruising down 47, I was thinking to myself “I am so ready to ride a 400km loop next week!” This, of course, meant that no sooner had we cleared Forest Grove than I got a call that Russell was being taken to the emergency room with suspected appendicitis. This made the six miles into Hillsboro much more interesting, because all of a sudden I was overflowing with adrenaline and moving much faster than before. So I’d be cranking along, fretting about how to get home most efficiently, and then I’d realize that I’d left Ed & John faaaar behind. And then I’d stop, wait for them to catch up, and repeat the whole shebang, over and over again until we finally got to Hillsboro and the Tri-Met station (just in time to see an eastbound train pull out as we scrambled to buy tickets.)

I probably would have made better time if I’d just bolted east on my bicycle (we had to wait 20 minutes for the next train, and at the speed I was going then I would have been six miles down the line before that train departed) but I still made it back before anyone thought I would (including a 20+mph sprint from the First & Yamhill interurban station to home) and was able to get to the emergency room before we switched to the other one and were, after 4 hours, shifted to the “his appendix isn’t going to explode, so we’ll send him home with you now” timetable.

I am still ready for the 400km. I spent most of the time in the emergency room either fretfully trying to do stuff on the computer or pacing around, because even though I was tired my legs were not. And in the grand scheme of things I would much rather have a emergency room appendicitis scare happen when I’m 50 miles away from home instead of down by Eugene and looking forward to a 130 mile “sprint” home.

And the poor mlcm? Well, I’m going to have to scrape the dirt out of the fenders, clean the seaweed out of the wheels, brush the mud off the wheels, the brakes, the braking surfaces, and the parts of the transmission and downtube that fell foul of “I didn’t get around to putting a mudflap on the front fender yet.” But the bicycle survived, the bicycle luggage survived, and the rider survived, so we’ll just pretend I didn’t do 45 miles of trail riding (~28 miles unimproved?) yesterday.

I’m taking advantage of flickr these days, so you can see a more complete pile of photographs of the loop at

Proxy servers suck

I’m sitting here in the emergency room at Providence Milwaukie, and I want to check my mail on pell. Providence Milwaukie has noticed that a lot of people desire net access when they’re in the hospital waiting for a relative to get better, so they’ve set up access.

PARTIAL access.

They’ve got a horrid little web proxy that wants you to give them a email address (which I did. A bogus email address, but the stupid web proxy doesn’t care) and then brings up a “click here to logout” popup window (which you can’t close, because if you close it you lose web access.) And as long as the popup is there, you can slowly talk to outside web servers (though I’d bet that they’re firewalled into oblivion.) but you can’t do pop3 or ssh. So no mail.


It’s not as if I wanted to read mail or anything.

Stupid web proxy.


Apr 24, 2010

Out on the line

Oregon American 102

I went out today for a longish loop to help explore the old Crown-Zellerbach railroad/haul road ROW, and, after successfully traversing the entire haul road (including dragging the bicycle down into a couple of ravines where the old trestles had washed out) we proceeded into Vernonia, where I finally stopped and *took a picture* of the shay that’s on display in Shay Park.

There are many more pictures of the loop, but this eng! has been eluding my camera for too many trips through Vernonia, so I have to publish it now.

Apr 23, 2010

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Banana Mite

Other people may find tarantulas in their bananas, but we find dust mites

Trolley picture of the day

Departing from Foster Road Station

A bicycle & a train head south after stopping at Foster Road on the i205 interurban line/bike path.

Cute baby picture of the day

Silas on the run

Silas runs across the Llewellyn playground.

Apr 21, 2010

Cute baby picture of the day

Bears & photographer

We had a late breakfast at Marsee Baking this morning (late school opening, yayy!) and the bears decided that they would sit in the window, conveniently right in front of a mirror. Russell doesn’t like to have pictures taken, but since I was in the mirror I was out of sight, out of mind.

Apr 20, 2010

Moving to a new co-lo, the hard way

The focus of tsfr shifts around a lot, but one constant from basically get get-go is that I post a lot of pictures to it. I post about 5% of the pictures I take, but that’s still a lot of pictures; after (uselessly, since I found a p*th*n command-line copy utility that I could have run from gehenna) copying most of the files that were referenced on the weblog over to my macbook air, I ended up with a directory that contains ~2600 images (plus another 100 or so that didn’t get copied because scp throws up in a most amusing fashion if a filename contains a space, a parethesis, or a backtick.)

The 2600 images are now being firehosed over to my flickr account, and then I can, at my leisure, write another p*th*n program that will build the appropriate markdown for displaying the pictures on tsfr, and then after that build a little sed script that will rewrite all of the thousands of posts that use those images to point at the new image locations on flickr.

I fully expect that giant meteors will strike each and every one of the Yahoo! data centers (and their corporate HQ) about 30 minutes after I finish running the rewriter script and deleting the old images.

Apr 19, 2010

Domestic vermin picture of the day

Buckley Naps

Buckley, all curled up at Russell’s feet.

Apr 18, 2010

YAFYE picture of the day

UP5390 et alii

When I was returning from Sandy after the ibob/donut ride I heard a train winding up out of Brooklyn Yard at about the time I reached the west end of Tideman Johnson Park. I sprinted up to the overpass, pulled out the CBC, and managed to actually take two pictures of the 4 diesels at the head end of this train before it shoved itself under the bridge.

how to take the slowest possible trip up to Sandy for donuts.

ibobs & bridges

Today I was planning on going out to Sandy to get a dozen donuts. But today the executive office of Bicycle Fixation was also in Portland, and had whipped up a group ride out “somewhere” (which turned out to be a ~45 mile loop out to Edgefield and back) and I wanted to ride downtown and be social for a change.

And it was certainly a change. My usual ride up to Sandy is a mad scramble for the hills so I can get there, get donuts, and get back in a 4 hour window. And, compared to basically every other randonneur in Portland, I’m kind of slow, and the conversations I have on brevets are usually done while I’m panting to keep up at 15-20mph. This morning was, on the other hand, an actual honest to g-d social ride, and the part of the ride I did with them out to Gresham (where they peeled off onto Main/233rd to cross over to where Edgefield is, but I continued up towards Sandy) took almost 3 hours, at which point no mad scramble would have been enough.

But it was Sunday, and a absurdly warm and sunny April Sunday at that. So it didn’t matter.

ibobs on the line

(And I did get the donuts after a mad scramble from Gresham to Sandy. And then on the way back I ran into some friends coming home from a loop on the Springwater Trail and ended up that lap at an even more leisurely speed. The total loop time was a speedy ~7 hours for almost 100km.)

Apr 17, 2010

Railroad picture of the day

CBCed photo of Oregon Pacific #1202

I was on my way home from a short shopping loop (dropping off an old wheel that I sold on ebay, picking up some nylon fabric, d-rings, and zippers for a handlebar bag I’m making for a friend) and 1202 was sitting there in the yard in the perfect position for photographs. All I had was the CBC, but I’ll consider this picture to be another artistic one instead of a somewhat holgaish result of an el-cheapo camera.

Apr 16, 2010

More bee pictures!

Bee Tree

Some of the older maple trees along our street (the ones that didn’t get blown down by the Columbus Day storm in 1962) are rotting out from the inside. One of them has a nice opening about 12 feet up which is just the right size for a honeybee colony to set up home inside.

I finally made it down there (while helping Silas walk a friend home from a playdate) with a telephoto lens and I got a couple of marginally in focus pictures en passant. I’ll have to go back again without bears in tow tomorrow or the day after so I can get focus into the middle of the swarm instead of at the near edge.

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

(Dust Mite & Lego Guy)^2

Breathtaking. I shall call him… Mini-Me

Trolley picture of the day

CBC trolley

I took the Trek out today for some shopping (leaf tea at Kobos, kitty litter and dry fud at Pet Loft) so I didn’t have a handlebar bag to stuff the Pentax into. So I pulled out the CBC, wedged fresh batteries into it, and, after verifying that I could turn it on, stuffed it into my pocket and headed out for a quick trip downtown (17mph average from home to just south of Burnside, thanks to a slight north wind. 23mph on the level with an xtracycle is pretty good for me, particularly when I can maintain it for a mile and a half.)

I looped up to Grand Ave for the run up to Broadway and the Broadway bridge, and when I crossed the interurban line at Holliday, I saw a Clackamas-bound train coming and stopped to take a picture. The first picture wasn’t that good, so I tried to take a second one and got to sit there for a long time while the first picture was laboriously painted into the flash memory chip, thus resulting in this picture after the train had already crossed Grand and was heading east to the next stop.

It’s artsy, and it’s what I planned. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Apr 15, 2010

Railroad picture of the day

Portland Traction @ Oaks Park

When the bears and I were walking back from returning one of Silas’s friends home from a playdate, we heard a funny rumbly sound coming from the river valley. Fortunately I realized that it was a Portland Traction train before the thing finished sneaking across the embankment that separates us (and the seasonal lake that sits in the middle of Oaks Bottom) from Oaks Amusement Park.

Project of the day/week/month(?)

Porteur rack platform

I probably won’t get it done before the Eden’s Gate 400, but the plan has been all along that I’m going to have a porteur rack on the mlcm so it can fulfill its destiny of being a gofaster cargo bike. Today I was waiting for the dishwasher to finish, and I decided that this would be a good time to start on the thing.

Note the elegant rubber band and the absence of squareness. These are not unrelated; I’ve roughed out the cutouts in the ends of the center rails, but they aren’t finished to the point where they’ll fit snugly around the tubing of the rim. This pushes the ends up, which springs the sides out, which means I need to put on a rubber band to reduce the temptation for the whole thing to just go sproinggggg! and fall apart on the floor. (the little check-mark shaped piece of metal on the lower right is a lamp bracket, which will hang down below the bicycle and have an eyelet attached so I can bolt a headlight to the thing. Right now the mlcm has an old Dlumotec Oval attached to the fender eyelet at the dropout, which puts it a little bit too low for my tastes; If I put it up closer to the top of the wheel, it will be more visible to cars without having to be tilted up quite so much.)

I am uncertain of how to attach the rack to the fork. If I had enough money, I’d have a custom fork made with eyelets on the top of the fork crown and about halfway down the fork legs (so that the curvy part of the leg would shock absorb before the bounciness made it up to the rack) but in the short term I might do something like the CETMA halfrack’s fork mount (which is better than using a metal strap and bending it to fit) and then just make a couple of longer legs that drop all the way down to either (a) the dropouts or (b) the fender eyelets at the dropout. In any case, I’ve got metal & files to work it with.

The only thing I need to learn before I can finish this is how to braze. I suppose I could alway use epoxy and glue it up like my invisibly lugged Trek but that would tend to spoil the whole brazed steel aspect of the mlcm. So, no, I’ll have to buy, borrow, or rent a torch and start studying.

And if this rack works out, maybe I can start selling them to go along with the bicycle luggage I’m making (and selling! I’ve got a commission to make someone a handlebar bag, which will almost pay for all of the packcloth I’ve bought so far.)

Apr 14, 2010

Side by side, a year and change on.

What is the plural of xtracycle?

City bike vs. country bike, part 2

Cute baby picture of the day

Silas & baseball

Silas walks over to show me a baseball he found in the Llewellyn playground.

Apr 13, 2010

It’s only 35 miles longer than last weekend’s loop

It's only 124 miles down, 124 miles back...

It’s only 400km; I did 340km last weekend in 19h30 (including flats) so it might even be possible to do this flaaaaaaaaaat loop in under 20 hours. What’s not to love about it?

A spectacular proof of “wool doesn’t stink”

On Saturday, I spent all day and most of the night rowing around northwestern Oregon and finally returned home with my clothes caked with a layer of sea salt, road grime, and crystalized sweat. The smell of death was strong, so I took everything I was wearing and shovelled it into the washing machine for a good cleaning. Now, our washing machine is one of those super-efficient frontloaders, but it’s also fairly finicky about what the load is, and if I put in a small load with one or two heavy items, it will just not bother to spin dry the clothing after they’re washed.

So the clothes went into the wash late in the evening on Sunday, were pulled (sodden, and with a faint whiff of evil to them) out on Monday morning, hand-wrung, and thrown into the drier to attempt to dry them out.

When they were dry, I pulled them out. Still a faint whiff of evil. So I laid everything (yes, I machine-wash my woolens. Why do you ask?) out to air dry, and left them there for the morning.

I started scooping up the clothing around noon. The woolen clothing (long underwear, socks, multiple layers of shirts, gloves, and little pink hat/scarf thingie) smelled like, well, wool. But the plastic clothing (nylon knickers & a please-dont-kill-me-yellow vest) smelled as if the Grim Reaper had come up and micturited all over the basement, then soaked it up by piling dead squirrels over the puddle.

And this was after just one long loop. Fortunately, an emergency hot water wash with regular caustic washer soap burned the foul smell out of the pants (the vest is sitting in the back room getting blasted by the sun, though I’m probably going to buy a yard of cashmere and replace the neckband with a woolen one that won’t carefully save the nasty smells for future rides.)

Too bad knickers are so expensive; if I follow the sales, I can buy four pairs of these nylon ones for the price of one pair of woolen ones :-(

1 comment

Apr 11, 2010

Picture of the day

Bullfrog in profile

A bullfrog sits in its cage at OMSI this afternoon, providing an almost perfect profile view in the process.

Project of the (fri)day

Bicycle tool roll

At pretty much the last minute I decided I’d rather not sew a pocket into the new saddlebag to hold my tools, but that I’d be better off making up a toolroll out of some of the spare canvas I have lying around after making the prototype#0 handlebar bag.

I had two flats on the Three Capes R300, and it was very useful to be able to lay out the tool roll and just pluck tire irons and the like from an easy to spot chunk of canvas. I don’t have a latch to hold it closed yet (I need to hand-sew a latch, which takes more time than I had on friday) so I just use a velcro strap as a placeholder) but it works nevertheless.

Well, this is going to make those 200km brevets seem fairly short.

grand ronde mountains

Yesterday, thanks to the fortunate collusion of snow in the mountains last week, parental assistance in bear herding, and a bicycle that’s just a little bit faster than my trek, I was able to go out on an R300 and, as a radical change from the last time out on the line, actually finish the damned thing (in 17h30, which included a couple of hours of snaillike creeping through the (invisible, due to the dark) wine country of northern Oregon.)

Alas, the Three Capes loop starts in Forest Grove, which is conveniently placed 24.5 miles away from home. So to ride on a brevet that starts at the UNGODLY hour of 6am, I need to be awake by 3:30 and out the door and on the way by no later than 4:00.

I’d spent part of Friday scouting out a route up to Barbur from the Sellwood bridge (the traditional “ride through the cemetery” route is not possible because the cemetery is now locked both top and bottom (and it’s not a particularly good route because it deposits you below the top of the hill at Terwilliger & Taylors Ferry, so you end up climbing a long way up, and then dropping down several hundred feet to get to Barbur)) – I’d looked at the map and thought that Macadam->Nebraska->Corbett (people who are familiar with this route are already snickering) would be a good way to do it, and it would if not for the pesky problem of a 20+% grade ramp that goes up most of the 2-300 feet from river level to I-5 level. Needless to say, this made it not a particularly suitable way to start a 215 mile bike ride, and I’d frantically pencilled in another route (Macadam -> Taylor’s Ferry -> La View Drive -> Corbett) before doing the final sewing chores on the saddlebag, boiling up a bag of potatoes as trail food, and recharging my GPS & cell phone for the deathmarch to follow.

6am at Forest Grove

Saturday (after a distressingly tiny amount of sleep, because I’d been working myself into a tizzy because of the evil West Hills) the alarm went off at 3:30, and I dressed myself, ate a cookie bar, and rolled out the door at 3:50. An encouraging note was found when I went up the Macadam->La View->Corbett route and discovered that except for a couple of short blocks at 20% the entire run up to the Brier Place bridge over I-5 wasn’t even 10%. I got to Barbur and Bertha at ~4:10, and reached Forest Grove at ~5:40, and then spent the next 20 minutes slowly freezing (it was 39°F at the Grand Lodge parking lot) before the bell rang at 6am

I don’t even try to pretend that I’m a fast rider, but I do try and keep up with the fast group as far as possible at the start of a loop, and yesterday was no exception; I clung to the end of the fast group for as long as it took to get out of Forest Grove and onto Stringtown Road, where an annoying headwind put a stop to that nonsense and left me labouring along while the fast group vanished as if they were shot out of a rocket.

And then, to add a touch of hilarity to the morning, I looked down at my GPS which was telling me that, despite my efforts the night before, that it was not charged and it would not be recording my itinerary on this particular loop. *sigh* I’d prepared for the GPS running out of power by bringing along an external battery, but I hadn’t expected that I would have to use it 5 miles away from the start of the loop. But, anyway, there was nothing for me to do but grind to a stop, do the dance of electronic despair, and get the GPS plugged into the battery and running again (and it kept running for about 12 hours before dying the true death just north of Willamina) before I started up again and proceeded, alone, up to Gales Creek Road, highway 6, and the detour 5 miles up Timber road to an infostaffed control and back (I reached Timber Road just in time to see the fastest of the fast vanishing uphill on highway 6, and saw most of the rest of the fast group pass me by about 3 miles up the road. And that was the last I saw of most of them for the rest of the day. But I wasn’t the slowest of the lot, and there were at least a dozen people behind me that I saw running up towards the Timber control as I left and headed down to highway six.)

Timber Road switchback

The control on Timber Road is conveniently located up past a pair of switchbacks where Timber road leaves the Gales Creek watershed and climbs up and over to the Nehalem River watershed. So it involved a short stomp up the hill, getting the cuesheet signed, then plunging back down the switchbacks and along the little side valley back to highway 6. Which was *cold* – by the time I reached highway six my fingers had, despite wearing two layers of gloves, frozen into little painful sticks which I was clamping into fists to keep warm and to devil with braking!

Scott Peterson (The randonneur who recovered me from Government Camp after I blew up on the Barlow 300) rolled into the Timber control on his recumbent just a few minutes after I did, and we rolled out at approximately the same time (which started a cat and mouse game that lasted for another 130 miles before he lost me for good.) Here I lost him going down the road towards highway 6, caught up to him on the long but gradual climb up to the highway six summit at ~1600 feet (the both of us puffing like steam locomotives in the cold morning air), lost him briefly on the downhill, and then, after he was stalled out by a flat tire, zoomed on ahead and didn’t see him again until the control in Tillamook.

Cape Mears from highway 6 just east of Tillamook

The trip along the Wilson river from the highway 6 summit down to Tillamook is spectacularly beautiful, though I must admit that my admiration was tempered by first forgetting to wrap a scarf around my neck (one of the formerly shockingly pink woolen tubes that rivendell sells), and then, after stopping to see if Scott needed help with his recumbent, realizing that the Wilson River spends a lot of time right next to and a looong way down from the side of the road I was on. But nothing was quite so satisfying as when the Wilson River disgorged from the mountains and highway 6 popped out into the flatlands around Tillamook; I’ve seen it from a car a couple of dozen times, but there’s something extra nice about knowing I got there under my own force.

The segment from Forest Grove to Tillamook via Highway six is easily the fastest I’ve ridden 100km over a mountain range – 15mph moving average for the amount of time I had the GPS GPSing, 4h30 clock time (I’m not sure about the moving time, thanks to battery death), and being up 2h30 on the clock at the time I got my receipt at the Tillamook Safeway.

Artsy Netarts cottage

In the fantasy world where I could maintain this rate (and could avoid flat tires myself) this would work out to be a <14h brevet. Alas, this was not to be the case, because the roads along the Three Capes Scenic Loop are in what can only be charitably described as terrible shape, and soon after riding past (and unsuccessfully photographing) the cottage that we occasionally rent for holiday weekends, I slammed into a pothole that gave me a pinch flat on my rear tire (which I initially blamed on the nashbar tire letting a shard of stone through, but later investigation found a tiny little snakebite about half an inch away from the valve stem, so I think I must have hit the pothole so hard that the stem whipped down and fatally pinched the tire) which was complicated by my not reseating the tire properly, thus causing the bicycle to go *thumpTHUMPthumpTHUMPthumpTHUMP* every revolution of the rear wheel for the next 25 miles (despite trying to find the problem a mile away from the flat, and a couple of attempts to work the tire into proper seat at the top of Cape Lookout and in the control at Pacific City) until I finally pulled off the road, deflated the tire, and forced the tire into position by brute force and copious cursing.

In the grand scheme of things, none of the ascents of the three capes is particularly bad. But Cape Lookout (coming after a flat, the advent of *thumpTHUMPthumpTHUMP*, and the rest of the terrible roads on the Three Capes Scenic Loop) was quickly renamed Cape Doom, Cape Catastrophe, and various obscene names involving sexual congress and chainsaws as I tediously thumped my way to the top (to be caught again by Scott Peterson & his incredibly fast recumbent from scene 3.)

Pacific City monolith

Pacific City is notable for several things. The haystack rock is one, of course, but it was also the point where my stomach started refusing to eat potatoes (thus resulting in a increasingly severe calorie shortage in the next hour or so’s worth of riding up to Sourgrass Summit,) and, finally, the previous tailwind turned around and became an annoying headwind for the next 20 miles along the coast and up along the Little Nestucca River. The headwind was annoying because I was trying to keep up with a recumbent (a doomed mission – those things are fast if given half a chance) and was so occupied with cursing the wind that I didn’t notice the “you are starting to {get hungry|feel weak}” warnings until the “You feel too weak from lack of food. --more--” message appeared and I ground to a stop (repeatedly) for picturetaking and application of emergency chocolate + potatoes.

bridge over the Little Nestucca River

This is a good place for a picture. And food.

Near the top of the Little Nestucca highway

And this is a good place for a picture. And food.

Sourgrass Summit

What a surprise! It’s a lovely place for a picture. And food.

(And there were also a couple of stops for just food, and one stop to deflate my rear tire, force the damned thing to seat properly, then reflate it. And food.)

And I finally crested the Coast Range (again) and went riding down Hebo Road towards Grand Ronde and the 60 mile crawl up through wine country back to Forest Grove.

The snaillike creep up to Sourgrass Summit gave me more than enough time to absorb enough food to shove me back up to a reasonable fascimile of operating condition, but the store at Grand Ronde was time to implement Operation Emergency Junk Food; I stocked up on candy, dried meat, and some horrible strawberry-kiwi “drink”, then headed off north in the company ofTed Lundin(?) & Scott Peterson (which rapidly became the company of Scott Peterson, because we had a tailwind and he was pushing as fast as he could go to get back to Forest Grove before it got too late.) I almost kept up with the super-fast recumbent, too (and this includes passing without photographing the W&GR railbus which is now parked as a display in front of the ex-W&GR depot in Willamina,) except that when we were almost at the info control at Ballston my rear tire decided, again, to go flat on me and I ground to a stop, cursing gently under my breath, as he vanished at line speed into the distance.

That flat would have been extra annoying because I’d only brought one spare inner tube, and the idea of sitting there gluing on a patch while the clock was ticking away towards darkness was, oddly, not particularly compelling, but while I was in the throes of unravelling the wheel Ted(?) rolled up, offered me a spare, and stuck around while I stuck everything back together (slowly, because for some odd reason I was kind of tired and every assembly step was a new experience for me.) And just down the road, at the Ballston info stop, Holden Hughart rolled up (to a chorus of “wait, weren’t you with the fast group?” (answer: yes, but he stopped for a meal)) and the three of us proceeded, mainly as a group (and accumulating other riders along the way,) all the way to North Valley Road, where my familiarity with the last 20 miles of the loop resulted in my pulling ahead and sailing off down the line well in advance of everyone else.

The sun went down about the time we reached Dayton, and, my, it’s spectacularly black out in the country when the sun goes down. If it wasn’t for the cloud cover (the weather forecast called for scattered showers in the evening, and there were scattered showers all right) reflecting the city lights of the greater Portland metropolitan area it would have been dark as my soul black. The 15 or so miles from Dayton to North Valley Road could have been in Australia for all I knew; it seemed like everywhere we turned was to the right, and I spent a good two hours clinging frantically to either Holden or Ted(?)’s wheel because if I’d gotten dropped I would have had to just stop and wait for the next group of randonneurs to happen along.

yes, it's dark

dramatic reenactment of me on a bicycle halfway between Dayton & North Valley Road

Basically, about all I can say in favor of the inky blackness that is the country at night is that I didn’t get to see the two or three steepish hills that always interrupt my runs up Spring Hill Road, and what I didn’t see kept me from dropping slower than my 70" gear on any of them. Not that I’d seek out riding in the dark, but it’s gratifying to be able to blow up hills without thinking (much) about it.

I think I’ve started to get my equipment list settled down to the point where everything works. I’ve tweaked the midlifecrisismobile so I can ride on it for hundreds of miles and have nothing hurt except my hands (I’ve not really found any padded cycling gloves that don’t make my fingers go numb, so I ride bare-handed and end up with stiff fingers) and my legs (because I’ve been pedalling for a large part of the ride.) The new saddlebag does an excellent job of moving clothing and other supplies I don’t need ready access to out of my handlebar bag (which, even though it’s still a prototype and needs work, is much happier when it’s not spending all of its time looking like a pufferfish that’s been stapled to the front of my bicycle.) I’ve got enough lights so I can mainly see where I’m going (except when there’s a lot of oncoming light – the D'lumotec Oval washes out just like that when a car doesn’t turn down its high beams), I’ve gotten my clothing stocklist down to the point where, at least when it’s not dumping down rain, I pack what I need and very little else (this time out the only piece of clothing that I didn’t wear were a pair of non-longjohn woolen underpants (I didn’t know just how hot it would be on the ocean, but it was no where near hot enough to make me want to shed layers off my container)) and with the space I’ve got left over it gives me enough room to pack enough fud to make it between widely separated controls for at least the first 200km of a ride.

What didn’t work was I didn’t bake up a fruitcake to bring along with the potatoes. After a while, I just didn’t want to eat potatoes anymore, but instead wanted something sweet right now. Fruitcake is sweet, and it’s a lot better for me than convenience store food.

And, even though I’m getting used to the feel of a loaded high trail fork, the disconcerting lunge the fork takes to the left or right when I get off the bicycle and try to find something to lean it against is not the most pleasant thing in the world. A long term solution is probably a low trail fork, but if I build up a rack I might be able to get my handlebar bag down a couple of inches and pushed back a couple of inches, which may improve the stability of the current configuration to the point where the front load doesn’t make it an offensive weapon.

When I was creeping slowly up the hill towards Sourgrass Summit, battling headwinds and a looming calorie deficiency, I was thinking that 300km was probably about all I’m capable of doing these days. 60 miles later, when I hit already-travelled territory and wound up to high speed for the 20 mile run into Forest Grove, the whole idea of doing something like a 400km loop seemed like not just a doable idea, but a downright sensible thing as well. (But not a 600km loop, because when I woke up this morning I needed to have a fairly long conversation with my legs before my thigh muscles would accept that they’re made for walking as well as lying in bed. I don’t know how gracefully I’d do this conversation if the brevet clock was ticking.)

Apr 09, 2010

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Still life with minifig-shaped flashlight

Still life with flashlight, handlebar bag, and Dust Mite

Apr 08, 2010

Cute baby picture of the day

Midlifecrisismobile & Silas

Silas poses with the midlifecrisismobile at Llewellyn this afternoon.

A “proper” saddlebag (part 3)

Saddlebag (day 3)

It’s close to finished now; I need to sew and attach the lining (which is going to have a zippered pocket in the back so I can stuff my toolkit into it and have it be properly out of the way but accessable when I’ve filled the saddlebag with clothing) and maybe I’ll need to shorten the strap that attaches to the bottom part of the bag, but that’s it for prototype#1.

Apr 07, 2010

Domestic vermin picture of the day

Mavis on a stepladder

Mavis has rediscovered the joys of being the tallest cat in the world, thanks to the annoying presence of Buckley the cat.

Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.

[File under: The United States of America is a machine designed to create monsters.]

Apr 06, 2010

A “proper” saddlebag (part 2)

The shell of a saddlebag (prototype #1)

The saddlebag that I drew up last night walks again by day, after about 25 minutes of ipod-assisted sewing. It’s not going to be a project of the day because I have to finish the trim around the opening, hand-sew the corners, trim the cover, cut and sew in interfacing, sew a lining, sew straps to tie it to the saddle and the stem of the saddlebag support, sew a couple of strap to hold the lid closed, sew them into place, then sew the lining into the bag.

About ¾ths of this can be done by machine. But the parts that can’t be done by machine will take much longer than I expect, and this after expecting that it will take longer than I expect.

But it will be done before friday, so I can carry it on the Three Capes loop at 4am onwards on Saturday (the official brevet start is 6am, but I have to leave home at 4am to do the 26+ mile ferry move to Forest Grove. More proof that randonneuring makes you stupid.)

Apr 05, 2010

A “proper” saddlebag

A saddlebag schematic, drawn with the mouse in photoshop

When I don’t have a pad and pencil handy, I have to resort to using photoshop and the touchpad as my sketchpad. When the iPad jailbreaks get stable enough for people to port the Gimp to the iPad (or several of the MacOSinterfaced Gimp derivatives) I’ll be able to dump the Macbook Air and use an iPad as a tablet PC (with a keyboard! – The Apple world might think that using the iPad as a high-priced Kindle is just the thing, but I have more practical applications for a low-power touchscreen PC) instead.

(And tomorrow I’ll be cutting out the ~7×5 side panels for the saddlebag and sewing the carcass together before I go out on the line. If I can machine-sew the bulk of the saddlebag, I should have it in “attach to the bicycle and take it out for a few test runs” mode by wednesday afternoon.)

Apr 04, 2010

House picture of the day

Union Station, or a house?

An art deco-style house a couple of blocks north of Hawthorne. It’s pretty, but when I look at it I think of some mid-thirties railroad or interurban station instead of a residence.

Easter Loot

Easter Loot

The Bears pose with their new collection of easter loot.

Apr 03, 2010

And now I need to sew up a proper saddlebag

Saddlebag support (99.5% finished)

Since my last comment on the saddlebag support, I worked on using the pieces of scrap aluminum I had lying around the house, but without success. So I then went back to ebay and bought a couple of feet of ¾×1 6061 stock, then cut off about 3 inches and drilled, sawed, and filed it into the proper shape to fit the saddle rails without fouling the seatpost. I finished that work up tonight, and all that remains is to drill and tap a couple of small holes for setscrews (to clamp into the saddlebag support rails to keep it from tilting and/or falling out), pot the rails into the clamp with epoxy or some sort of rubber cement (to keep moisture from getting in and having a happy corrosion festival), and buy a low-profile nut instead of the partsbin nut I’m currently using to hold the thing together (the partsbin nut stands quite tall, and, you guessed it, fouls the seatpost.)

And then I’ll probably nuke it with boeshield or framesaver, because it’s going to be a while before I have enough money to visit a powdercoater and get the whole bicycle painted a more midlifecrisis red.

Oh, yeah, and I’ll also need to sew up a saddlebag. And I’ll need to do that before friday, because with any luck I’ll be able to go out for a nice long ride on Saturday morning, and I’d like to be able to keep my handlebar bag from being quite so ridiculously overstuffed as it was the last two times I went out for a R200 or so.

(My only comment on the regularity of the saddlebag support is that some of the irregularities will be hidden when I sew up my (also irregular) saddlebag, and I did it myself at a considerable savings over buying a Carradice Bagman. The gleaming chrome on the Carradice support is pretty, but it’s not $47+shipping’s worth of pretty.)

A nutritious meal, easter weekend-style

Easter Oatmeal

Oatmeal, fruit, orange juice, peeps!

Apr 02, 2010

It’s an ill wind that blows no good.

I couldn’t even think of riding the Three Capes loop tomorrow, because it conflicted in a fairly fatal fashion with Silas’s eighth birthday party. But clouds loomed on the western horizon…

Issued by The National Weather Service
Portland, OR
9:05 pm PDT, Fri., Apr. 2, 2010









… and the April 3 schedule for the brevet was abruptly snow delayed …

Are we Penguins?

OK, you thought it was a joke. You know, about the Birkie organizers spending the entire ORR 2010 Bribe the Weather Gods Budget.

Since we’re bicycle riders and not penguins, we have decided to postpost the Three Capes 300 for one week. Same everything else. Well, hopefully the weather will change!

Well, yes, it’s not much of a silver lining – 30-odd people, many from not around here, and many more tweaked their schedules so they could do a nice springtime deathmarchette out to the coast and back now (or tomorrow) are instead looking at either not doing it or having to rearrange next weekend on a moments notice. So it’s mainly a great and terrible loss –but I wanted to run this loop, and not as a permanent (300km on virgin territory all by myself has the potential of being a fairly grim ride from about 100km out to about 200km out) and thanks to this bizarre spring weather I can actually consider doing it.

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Alien Friends

Dust Mite hangs out with a couple of friends on a Friday evening.

Bicycle photo of the day

Blue Heron Bike

The Midlifecrisismobile waits outside my doctor’s office while I wait inside. Note the elegant saddle cover (a plastic bag that used to contain a pair of socks from REI) and the absence of my handlebar bag (I didn’t know how long I would be inside the office, so I thwarted temptation by unbolting it and carrying it in.)

Apr 01, 2010

Thank goodness for bicycle helmets

It’s springtime here in Portland, and when I went out (on a sunny day that promises to be bookmarked by rain and/or snow) all of the trees were in the throes of flowering and/or budding. The branches of the budding trees are hanging much lower than they would normally, and one tree along Clinton Street had a nasty surprise; the end of a branch was dead, so this large heavy piece of wood was hanging down into the road, not more than about 6 feet above the ground.

I only saw the dead branch hanging there a second or so before I reached it (at ~22mph) and only had time to lower my head and let the helmet take the impact. Which it did; there was a tremendous crack and my head rang like a bell for the next 2-3 blocks, and when I reached the Big Big Store at Seven Corners I took off my helmet and saw a brand new dent in it right about where I felt the impact.

So I’ll probably have to sell some more stuff on e-bay so I can get a replacement helmet sometime soon (either that or go back to the ancient specialized mushroom-head helmet that I took out of service last year in favo(u)r of the new helmet.) But in the grand scheme of things I’m much happier that the dent is in my helmet instead of on the surface of my brain. Helmets can be replaced. Brains can’t.