Monday, December 22, 2008

Why I Never Get Anything Done!


Look! an HPV!
Well, it has been a wonderful vacation week so far. Kathy and I are enjoying all the family being here, and the daily snowfall has even been enjoyable, too.
Enclosed are a few short videos and photographs of the fun and games here at the house.
video
Early Presents...

Brian, hanging out at the counter...
video
Sledding! A quick 25 seconds...
Also, we were blessed to receive as a gift, the largest poinsettia plant in the entire world. To help you get a grasp on the immensity of the plant, I have used a normal box of Cheerios (seen below) as a point of reference.

And now, the plant and the box of Cheerios...

See what I mean?
video
And, of course, there's a little time for riding, too!
Enjoy.
Jim

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Solstice Weekend...


The view from Legacy and 500 South....
Hi All,
Happy winter solstice to everyone. Well, ever since I mentioned the lack of winter around here, the snow has been coming and coming, and coming! Right now, at 7:30 AM on Saturday, it is 17 degrees, and snowing lightly.
video
No riding today!
There’s around 8-10 inches in the front yard, so a white Christmas is a lock! Of course, there will be no bike riding for a few weeks, but hey, there’s always the gym and the spin trainer.
The Christmas tree casts light everywhere...
Of course, I won’t have any time to ride anyway. Paul, Christina, and Brian, along with Amy and Jon all arrive tomorrow, so it will be a great time for family, and I will put everything else aside. Who wants to ride a bike when I can play chess with Paul, talk cameras with Jon, shop with Amy, hug Christina, laugh with Kathy and play with Brian!
Ok, folks...What is it? (About the size of a really big grapefruit)
Next up, a contest for all of my dear readers from all around the world. Kathy brought an item home from school that although looks like a fifth grader’s brain, is actually a piece of fruit. So, I will mail one of these interesting items along with some random Christmas candy to the first correct guess. Look at the photo above; what is it? Remember the first correct answer here in the comment box is the winner.
The end of the road...
And lastly, I stopped by Kathy’s school last week and noticed something in the hallway. Ten or twelve old CRT computer monitors; headed for the junkyard. If you’re not sure times have changed, look around and search for CRT computer monitors or televisions. You can’t buy em, and don’t use em anymore. They just suddenly disappeared, like the rotary phone, the Edsel, flight progress strips, and the Republican Party.
Hope all of your holiday travel is safe…
Jim

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter is Here, Christmas is Closer!


Snow means water!
Hi all,
Well, if I had known that commenting here about the lack of snow would have triggered a change in climate, I would’ve commented about it sooner! As I write this, there is a lovely 3-4 inches of fresh snow here in Layton, and I am sure that the ski resort operators are dancing in the streets. For me, it means that Christmas and the arrival of family is just a tad closer, and that a white Christmas is possible.
video
Snowfall starting in the front yard.... (just for Amy)
In other news, the arrival of winter means the end of train/bike commuting. With the price of gas around $1.40 and still dropping, it makes no sense to me to ride my bike on black ice in the dark at 5 AM. Now, I know all about my car’s carbon footprint, but I would really rather get to work in one piece, thank you very much. Now, if there’s a dry spell and it’s not horribly cold, I’ll jump on the Little Deuce Coupe down to the train and resume the bike/train/bike commute.
My work at 6 AM, I love black and white...
You may notice that amidst the dreary gray and white of winter that the colors of Christmas are becoming more in focus. Kathy has trimmed the whole house, and things are looking quite festive. There are Christmas lights all over the city, and some of the parks have huge displays.

At work, you can tell it’s Christmas, when the Christmas lights reflect off the radar displays! Most of the areas decorate in some way or another, as folks try to make being at work on the holiday a little more palatable.
Safety was never compromised! It's a spare radar position!
Not much cycling news, here. I will start spinning on my trainer in the garage, and also think about waxing my cross-country skis. With all of this snow, Mill Creek canyon should be lovely!
More news, mid week.
Jim

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Riding towards Christmas


Sunset from Fernwood Park...
Hi all,
Happy December to one and all. Of course it doesn’t look like December around here. The Christmas decorations are all up, and the outdoor nativity scene is gracing the front yard, and the lights are up the tower. But, some thing is missing. Snow! That’s right, snow. Today I rode 23 miles on my Barcroft Virgnia GT, and it was just chilly enough for light gloves and a thin wooly under my helmet. I even rode past two golf courses that were open for business. It was about 45 degrees; a far cry from the 26 degrees when I rode the Redline to work on Friday morning! For your enjoyment, I have uploaded a gripping 43 seconds of video from the driver’s seat of today’s ride.
video
Enjoy the view I see while riding recumbent. You may (really, you should) turn the audio off while playing the video. At 18 mph the microphone makes the wind sound like the camera is outside a 737!

I wonder when we'll get it? (Jan. 08)
Where is the snow? I think its northwest of Chicago at Paul’s house this week. After all, I did see lovely snow video on Paul’s’ Blog this past week. But, soon the snow will be here. At least I hope it will. We need the water, and my skis need something to ski on!

The Christmas season is still out of focus...
But, back to Christmas. Yes, it is the Christmas season. It’s the season of Advent; not the season of Advertisement. And sometimes amidst all the happy shopping and planning, I find myself looking for Christmas. Usually, it arrives at the most unexpected time. It comes in the form of a hug from a visiting family member, an unexpected gift, or just some peace and understanding that despite what the newsies tell us, the world is not going completely to heck in a hand basket.

Getting closer to focused...
For now, I am very much looking forward to the whole family being here for Christmas. I have the whole week off, and am looking forward to really enjoying every moment I can get with family.
Oh, and one last thing. Take a look at a new listing in my tabs to the right. I found this blog while perusing the Lazy Randonneur. Meet Russ Roca; cyclist, professional photographer, and car free in LA. He does beautiful work, and his cyclist photos of just regular folks are amazing.
More news and pictures next week.
Jim

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Riding the Redline...


5:20 AM, temperature 33 degrees....
Hi, All
This past week, I enjoyed three days of commuting on the new Redline 925. The weather is very mild and dry for this time of year, so I am able to keep commuting.
Come along for a ride with me, will you? The commuting day starts at 4:30 AM, with a quick daily routine of breakfast and putting on some layers. Then, out the door at 5:10, turn on the bike lights, and down the hill to the train station. It is a quick ride, just a mile and a half. I almost never see any other bikes, although lately, I have seen a few joggers along the way. It’s chilly, but not cold, about 32-33 degrees. Then, it’s the short wait for the train. The train ride is quiet, good time for a quick doze or some reading.
Note the red Peugeot...
As the train comes through the depot, I head downstairs, get my hat and gloves, say hello to my friend who rides the red Peugeot. We are amongst the last hangers-on of the bike-commuting crowd as the chilly mornings and falling gas prices have reduced the bike population on the train.
My friend, the Peugeot rider, always dozing...
The ride to the ARTCC is about 15-17 minutes, and perfectly flat. I get to work with just enough time to be able to change clothes, stow my gear and head to the control room.
A nice view of the Utah State Capital...
At the end of my shift it’s a bit of a scramble, as I get relieved around 2:30, scamper to the office, get my stuff, change clothes, and get out the door. The train is at 2:55 so I can’t absorb much delay.
Riding to the platform...
Lately the afternoon ride has been lovely. The sun is out, and it’s so nice to get some wind in my face and relax from the day.
The view out my window...
The only risk is getting trapped on the wrong side of the freight tracks, and missing the 2:55. Of course that’s not a bad thing, as if I miss my train I can go one block and spend half an hour at the Gateway Plaza, and window shop! On the train heading north, it’s time for reading and enjoying the scenery.
The day is ending, sunset around 4:30...
Back in Layton at 3:30, it’s a quick ride back up the hill, get the mail, park the bike, give some love to the dogs, and enjoy a cool drink. The eleven hour commute and workday is done, and I can lay out all my gear for the next great adventure.
I wonder how much longer I can ride before the snow comes?
Jim

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Fleet Upgrade...


The northwest Cache valley...
Hi All,
The Klein Panzer is for sale. Anyone interested in a low cost, yet somewhat tempermental commuter bike, drop me a note. We can work out a deal quite easily.
A neat paint job and logo...
Why is the Klein Panzer bike for sale? Because, I bought a new bike! Yes, the fleet has changed yet again. I guess it’s a continuing process; finding the right bikes for the right cycling task. You may have noticed in a previous post, the photograph of a nice single-speed bike. For several weeks I have been regularly browsing a local cycling classified page, in search of a low cost single-speed, or perhaps a nice touring frame bike. It’s a good site, however it seems that the majority of bikes were too big, too small, or $3,000 dollars.
Isn't it lovely?
Last week, I found an ad, listing a Redline 925 for $225.00. This is great news! However, the ad was 3 days old, and had received over 150 views. I was certain the bike was gone. But, wanting to be sure, I called the seller. To my surprise, he still had the bike, and actually hadn’t received many calls. I couldn’t believe my luck. The bike regularly lists for around $499.00 - $510.00, so I was excited at the prospect of a great bike, at a great bargain.
The bike is a lovely rust/bronze color...
The next day, I drove to Salt Lake City to meet the seller, and check out the machine. Just as it looked in the ad, the bike was in mint condition. Other than a few small scratches on the left chain stay, the bike was in brand new condition, and includes included brand new Randonneur Cross tires, fenders, and nice toe-clip pedals.
Would you believe I already have two offers to buy it!
So, now it is mine. With bullhorn handlebars, and a receptive and smooth steel frame, the bike is just a kick in the pants to ride. I will outfit the bike with all the necessary accessories, and continue commuting as long as the weather holds.
The fleet now stands as such:
The Barcroft Virginia GT All regular riding and distance events.
The Redline 925 Single-Speed for commuting and quick trips.
The Cannondale F7 Mountain Bike for trail riding and falling down.
A truly simple machine, perfect for commuting...
Why a single-speed you might ask? The main reason is simplicity. The bike has very few moving parts, and will withstand the rigors of commuting in all kinds of weather. The majority of my ride is flat except for the slow climb up the hill from the train station to the house. So, I will become a better spinner, and climber, too. The rear hub can also be flip-flopped and converted to a true fixed gear. Riding fixed gear will take a lot of education and training, and I will add it to the list of things to do in the spring.
More news and a report on the first commute later this week.
Jim

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Color in November....


Bales, rolled and ready for harvest...south of Minneapolis.
Hi all,
This past week, I was working at the Minneapolis ARTCC, which, strange is it may seem, isn’t in Minneapolis! The Center is 20 miles south in the small farm town of Farmington, MN. It was kind of a short notice trip that was supposed to last three weeks, but then ended suddenly in five days. It’s a long story about the FAA, Raytheon, and a new ERAM training contract. I won’t bore you with the details here. All in all though, I am glad to be home.
A microwave tower at Minneaplis ARTCC...(Light Room 2 is Fun!)
This was my first trip to Minneapolis. I found the city to be a very nice place, and the people friendly. I spent too many hours walking the Mall of America, ostensibly, the largest shopping mall in the known universe. It was OK, just big. But, I did enjoy some good indoor walking there. It totally sucked to be in a major league baseball city in November. No baseball!
I made Murray stop the car for this picture!
November is a gray month. Not much chance for bright color photos when storm clouds are forming. It is a neat time though, to think in black and white, sepia tone, and to see if I can make the camera see what I see. Suffice to say, I did make time to take some photographs along the way. I didn’t get much chance to go exploring with my camera, as the weather was poor most of the week. One set of photos comes from Depot Park, a small walkway park right next to the old train depot. While walking on my lunch I found this park right near the center, and enjoyed the art projects from all grades of local schools. A lovely splash of color on a gray day. My only regret is that I didn’t take pictures of all the artwork!
Angled painted boards... from the right side...
and from the left...
From the left...
And the right...
I did stop by a fine bike shop, too. If you are ever in Apple Valley, south of Minneapolis, check out Erik’s Bike Shop. They are the largest Specialized dealer in Minnesota and Wisconsin. They had a full maintenance and parts section, too.

Somewhere over northeast Wyoming, I think...headed home.
Enjoy all the photos…
Jim

Saturday, November 01, 2008

My, How Things Pile Up...


The Causeway in Black and White...(and in 16:9 ratio!)
My how things pile up. A week passes, and I have an idea for a blog article. Another week passes and another subject comes to mind. A third week passes, and I don’t even know where to start.
Mmmmm.....Chocolate Pound Cake!
I admire some of the other blog authors I read that make time to write almost daily. They kind of remind me of a talented columnist, who is able to entertain us in the newspaper every Sunday morning. They have a deadline, a cranky editor, and a paycheck to earn! With me, it's just a matter of making time, and getting the brain engaged! So, lets take a couple of subjects and see if I can catch you up on some news.
The past three Saturdays have been taken up with working on the tree project in the front yard. After 20 years of shade, our two ash trees had become infested with borer beetles, and perhaps some type of fungus disease. So, this past spring and summer, they only grew about half of their leaves, leaving bare limbs, and a lot less shade. So, we decided that this was the year to remove the trees, and plant new ones. Since I don’t own a chainsaw, this project was a lot bigger job than
I thought.
Yes, that limb is balanced on the ladder, rather not discuss how it all happened, and where I was when it did...
Ever cut down a 25 ft tall tree with an 18-inch bow saw? So, every few days, and weekend, a little at a time, I would cut off limbs and take the refuse to the recycling compost landfill. Then, one Saturday, Sherm Facer, our 78-year-old farmer who lives behind us offered two great tools: His chainsaw, and a 1958 two-ton flat bed truck! That sped up the project dramatically. Then, last weekend, two fellas came by with their grinder, and ground the stumps of the old trees into mulch. Tuesday marked the arrival of two new trees; a nice tall autumn blaze maple, and a white oak. Enjoy some pictures of the project.
Yard Clean-up Anyone?
What a Great Truck!
This machine destroyed the stumps in 5 minutes!
The White Oak...

The Autumn Blaze maple...

Something to drool at, a lovely simple machine....
I can also tell you that in checking the calendar for August, September, and October, that I logged miles on one of my three bicycles, on 45 of the last 90 days. The predominant miles came commuting to and from work using the train and the Klein. The weeks seem to have a routine; a nice Monday long distance ride on the Recumbent; 2-3 days on the Klein commuting, and occasional Saturdays on the mountain bike. I haven’t logged a tremendous amount of miles, (600 or so) but it has been very consistent riding the past three months.

My second Adobe Lightroom Project...
Photography. Two Mondays ago I was enjoying a lovely ride on the causeway, and I spent some time composing and taking pictures in black and white. Unknown to me, I had my camera set incorrectly and did nothing more than take 5-10 badly over exposed photos. They were so bad; I was unable to rescue them with any type of photo software. Here’s to the delete key! In the past year, many of you readers have been most gracious and kind, complimenting my amateur efforts. But, (thankfully) you never see the ones that go in the scrap pile!
See you down the road.
Jim
PS: Don’t forget to VOTE!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shifting Seasons....


My first project with Light Room 2...
Hi All,
Well, an interesting Sunday here in Utah. Here it is, only October 12th and 3-4 inches of snow arrived overnight.
Who knew! This kind of storm is much earlier than the usual arrival of the cold weather. Thank goodness the forecast is for 70 degrees by the end of the week. I am fairly sure the higher altitude mountain bike trails will now be closed for the season.
My neighbor's tree, weighed down almost to the ground!
In other news, I have new photo editing software; Adobe Photoshop Light Room 2, was presented to me as a gift from my friend, Joe. He wanted to thank me for all the photo work for his son Jonathan’s wedding. Honestly, he didn’t have to do this, but it is much appreciated! Think of all the hours I will while away working on images when I am supposed to be getting things done.
Joe, all of the photo work and program work was a labor of love from Kathy and I, and we enjoyed working on the projects. As to the new software, Joe; you are most welcome!
No words necessary.....except gosh darn it!
In the cycling department, the Klein is in the shop. A few weeks back, the engineer on the train got a little heavy handed on the brakes, and the Klein fell over, breaking the housing on the front derailleur bar-end shifter. Suffice to say, uncouth words were spoken when this happened. At the time, it was a fitting end to an all-in-all rotten day.
But, all things work out. My friend Pete from Canberra, Australia had a spare housing and sent it halfway ‘round the world to me. Then, while working overnight on the graveyard shift, through the magic of the Internet and Skype Internet phone, Pete helped me take apart the old housing and install the shifter. It was a lot simpler once I understood how it all worked. Thanks, Pete!
Pete Heal (on the left) and Mike Priestly of Canberra, Australia.
And in case you didn't know, Pete from long distance has been a fine mentor in helping me understand distance cycling, and how to fix all sorts of minor issues on my bikes. He built the orange recumbent you see in the picture. I won't even mention the distance he rides every year!
And in the “I can’t make stuff up like this” department, I was at the bike shop on Friday to have them install new cable housings and calibrate the front derailleur. (I had reached the limit of my expertise). As the tech. put the Klein up on the maintenance rack, I looked on the stand next door, and there was the red Peugeot that I park the Klein next to on the train every week. Amazing. I just laughed out loud at the coincidence.
In any case, tomorrow, the Klein returns to me; new cables, new handlebar tape, new front shifter, new pump, and who knows, maybe a fender! Looks good riding weather later this week.
See you down the road.

Jim