Sometimes it takes a while

There are things about me that surprise people I work with.

Since I am very loud and energetic, plus I being an excellent public speaker, in class and out, people find it very hard to believe I am an introvert (albeit a noisy one!)

I am also very good at trouble shooting tech issues in classes, meetings and for individuals.  I am not afraid to click buttons, mess with wires or Pull a Panama (Google it) to make things work.

Because of this some think I probably like to get the latest techie stuff…. Continue reading “Sometimes it takes a while”

Santa Rosa Final

Ever notice that when a vacation is over, it seems like it happened LONG ago?  Shoot a week ago I was still in California, I had just taken a ride through wine country and I was spending time by the pool.  Now back in normal life it seems like months ago I was there and the vacation buzz has started to fade, but there are just a few things left that I don’t want to forget about the trip! Continue reading “Santa Rosa Final”

Not Gonna Sneak Up on Me!

I decided I better get back on track here, it seems like it’s been a while since I did a bike related blog post!

Anyone who owns a bike knows how much money you can spend on it without even trying.  Clothes, helmets, gloves, shoes, pedals, tires, GPS, odometer, panniers, tools, tune ups, components, lights rain gear… The list goes on and on.

Working next to REI like I do, I love taking the “short cut” through the store, including the bike section, just to see all the stuff I could buy if I wanted to.  All I have to say is that it’s a good thing I am a cheap bastard, otherwise I’d need a second job. Continue reading “Not Gonna Sneak Up on Me!”

I’m Bummed….

Flagship store of Recreational Equipment Incor...
Flagship store of Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI Co-op), Cascade District, Seattle, Washington, USA. The high portion of the building at left includes a large artificial climbing rock. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

You know, there are just certain things you should be able to count on in life.  I know for a fact that my girl cat will do everything in her power to lay in the most inconvenient part of the floor each and every morning when I am trying to get ready to go to work, I know that Memorial Day in Seattle is going to be wet and rainy, I know my college Football team the WSU Coug’s will force me to drink every season (either due to an epic loss or an amazing win or BOTH), I know my brother-in-law is going to be grouchy (we call him Mr Chipperpants) AND I know that, if I wanted to, the polar fleece pants I pants I purchased in 1996 can be returned to REI….

 

Well, up and until Tuesday morning, I could count on each and every one these items.  But then, while getting my tea in the morning, I heard a news story: “REI changes it’s Return Policy”

 

WHAT???  Time froze for a minute!  For the luvva gawd what is happening?  I Brag about REI and send people there because of its return policy.  Now fair is fair, they are limiting the returns to items purchased within the last year…  Compared to the real world, that’s one helluva deal.  But compared to what it was, it stinks.

 

What they had was legendary!  They bragged about it!  A few years ago, a man who purchased a high altitude down suit for a possible attempt on Everest in the 70s brought it in for a return.  His wife finally got tired of it cluttering the house.  It took them a week to determine what the price was then, ut he got the full refund.  That is REI, or should I say that was REI.

 

Now to be fair, REI did tell of people who abused the system.  Bringing back clothes and bikes the kids grew out of, using things for one trip, then bringing it back since they wouldn’t need it any more, and one guy who returned a bike rack because it clashed with the new car.  I personally saw a coat returned  with the explantation “After 15 years it started to leak”  Well no shit pal!

 

Yes, those people abused the system….  But seriously how many could it be?

 

As for myself, I can count on one hand the number of items I have returned to REI ever.  And only once, a pair of sunglasses that snapped when I was changing the lens 4 years after I bought them, did I return something that was over a year old.  I am not bummed because I used this policy, I am bummed because it was always there if I needed it! Now it isn’t….

 

I have sent many people there to buy their first bikes because of the return policy.  A bike is a serious investment, if you buy it and don’t use it, why keep it?  REI would take it back.  For the record, no one that I have recommended this to has ever returned their bike.  But it was purchased there because they knew they could.

 

There are cheaper brick and mortar stores in Seattle, and even cheaper places on-line.  For years I could’ve gone over there, talked to experts, gotten the advice I needed, and then gone whom and gotten the same item and a much lesser price.  I didn’t.  I always felt they were sticking by me and ready to be there anytime I needed them, so I was willing to pay more!

 

It also seemed a bit underhanded to me the way they did it.  There wasn’t any advanced warning (Unless I somehow missed it, but it was headline news here in Seattle).  It was announced and effective today!  Now I can hypothesize on the reason for this.  If they announced it prior, they would get a rash of returns trying to beat the cut off.  Yep it makes business sense, but damn it feels slimy to me.

 

Now I know, compared to what’s happening in the real world, this is not that big a deal.  And lord knows, I will still shop there, hell they are across the street from my office.  But, just to share how this one cycling hiker feels…. I honestly feel let down by them.  From now on, I will tell people, check REI, they have everything, but I bet you can find it cheaper on-line.

 

Oh well, I can still count on an annoying cat, cranky brother-in-law and the COUGS causing heart palpitations come football season, but I am still bummed….

 

 

 

Racking Up the Miles: April 2013

image

 

Well April is officially over!  I was able to get one last bike commute home in last night!  A little over 16 miles, and it felt good.  Considering I had my 58 miles on Sunday and this was my second commute home of the week!

This is the first month of the year that I did not exceed the previous month’s total!  It was close though.  only 8 miles separated me from March.  I ended up with 315 miles.  I actually crunched the numbers more than once when I saw that!  I was seriously surprised!

There were some contributing factors (or as some of us call them, excuses) as to why I didn’t get more miles.  The first, was the bike going to the shop.  When you only have one bike, its hard to ride when it ain’t here for a week!  The tune up was needed though, so I am very glad I got it done! (Even if there were some lingering issues!)

Second was the weather.  This was the second rainiest April on record up here!  Shoot, I was starting to worry my house was going to disappear behind my lawn!  More than one weekend was a complete rain out, and I was limited to the shed and riding on the rollers.

Finally was just the schedule in general.  Volunteering at the Winery and the Coastsavers beach clean up shot a couple of days as well….  I was seriously feeling a bit of saddle deprivation syndrome!  Even my butt callouses were starting to disappear!  NOT good when I have long rides coming.

A couple of things combined to save me though!

First, the new job!  It is close enough to bike commute!  My wife and I carpool in together, and I bike home.  I get exercise, and she doesn’t have to wait for my quitting time!   The first round trip was my wettest ride I’ve ever had on the way home!  But the 16 – 17 miles I get is more than I normally do on the rollers, and the hills are MUCH better for conditioning than inside riding!

Second is REI.  Not once but twice, they came to my rescue when the bike had issues after riding to work! Once for a new rear wheel and once when I needed work on the rear shifter.  Both times, I was on the road and heading home at my normal time!  (They did neglect to fully inflate my rear tire the first time, but I won’t fault them much for that!)

And finally, the weather gods come through last Sunday.  The rain stopping a least long enough to allow me to get on the road let me crank out the longest ride in a month, allowing me to make this month at least a bit respectable!

So overall, I shouldn’t complain.  AND May is looking up.  2 Century rides in the next two weekends, both of them new rides, so it will be a lot of fun!  It is also Bike to Work Month for Cascade Bicycle Club, and I am on the work team.  This means I will ride as many one way and round trips as I can!  I know better than to count my chickens, cuz anything can happen, but I am hoping for one of the biggest mileage months ever in May.

Let’s hope the weather gods cooperate and REI is standing by!!

Adventures in Bike Commuting

Well as I mentioned, the weather has seriously turned around this week and the sun has come out.  At least for a few days, the rains are gone!  Couple that with the bike fresh out of a tune up, and it was time to bike commute again!

Monday and Tuesday, I hooked up the bike rack to my wife’s car and I biked home each day.  This was helpful as its been BUTT cold in the mornings still!  No ice scrapping, but it was close.  That happens in spring time up here.  When the clouds are gone at night, the temps go down as well!

It was windbreaker weather both days, and the headwinds sucked, but it was dry!  The sun was shining, the views were great, and people were out in force.  The bike felt great and I really enjoyed blowing the stink off me.

But then yesterday hit…

I decided it was time for a round trip commute!  I set the alarm and broke out the warm clothes, and good thing I did, it was 41 degrees outside.  I took off at 520 AM and headed down the hill!  I noticed the bike was acting up a bit with the shifting on the back cassette, but I blew it off to I was cold and messing up when I worked the gears.

Later though, when on the bike path, there was no doubts.  The shifting was NOT working well!  The chain was skipping, I had to shift multiple times to get it to the correct gear, just to have it slip out again!  I will NOT share the language and the words that I used each time it happened.  I was pissed off, the bike just got out of the shop!

Then, I noticed, there was a distinct rattle from the back wheel…  My bike does NOT rattle!  The further I went, the more mad I got.  I can do some repairs on the fly, but I don’t mess with gears!  I also started worrying about it just completely breaking down and stranding me miles from town….

OK, then things go worse, not with the bike, but just in general.  Just when I was getting the most frustrated, another rider, who was just a bit faster than I am, passed me.  Generally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but this guy was sporting MAJOR plumbers crack!  That’s right, staring me in the face was MAN ASS!!  He wasn’t fast enough to  pull away from me, and my gears would let me pass him.  I couldn’t slow down cuz I didn’t want to be late for work.  So I was stuck!  I was wishing for spackle (sp)  to cover that crack!

I made it to work, but for the second time this month (and I have only ridden to work twice all year) after riding to work, my bike ended up at the REI bike shop.   (Good thing its next door).

Turns out

  1. My rear cassette was tightened completely, hence the rattle.
  2. The gear cable had gotten old
  3. My bike shop did a crappy job on the tune up!

i will be looking for a new shop!

Three hours later, it was done and raring to go!

The ride home was perfect.  70 degrees, no wind, blue skies, gorgeous!  Adding to the list of strangeness though, I saw a lady with a full cockatoo (yep just like Beretta’s from the 70’s TV show!) Riding on her handle bars.

In fact, it also had a tether she tied to her handle bars!  I can’t help but wonder what happens if the bird took off and tried to fly away!  That can’t be safe…. I had pictures of it hitting the end of the tether and ending up in the front spokes!  Not a pretty site! (not as ugly as man ass, but still….)

The rest of the ride home went great!  I took the big hill, and got home no problem at all!  Loved it!  I never knew how different bike commuting is as compared to a car.  The car commute is faster, less exciting and, at least so far, no male nudity!

I am looking forward to more commuting as the spring moves into summer!  I am just hoping that one of these times I can get to work and NOT take my bike to the shop!

 

Well it Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time!

Well yesterday morning I was all proud of myself for having my first bike to work commute ever!  Things worked out well for me, I had the bike all packed and ready to go, I was up on time, on the road as planned, and made it to work without getting rained on!  All in all good first time.  Wasn’t even cold outside!  Sometimes the weather gods smile on you.

 

The luck seemed to hold as the day went on, I took the bike next door to REI, showed them the loose spoke and the guy said “No problem!  We can get it done for you!” I saw him write down $12.  Easy!  Life is good.

 

The day went quick, I was even taken to lunch as the new guy on the team.  World Wraps is good!

 

Now, how many of you are thinking, “In a story like this, there is always a “but”.”  Well, you are right!

 

Long about 2 o’clock I get a call from the shop.  Ummm, it’s not a broken spoke, the rim itself has started to crack and the spokes are pulling free. (well it has had 11000 hard miles ) They do not have a comparable (price range) rim to mine.  They have one that is a lower quality for $90 and a higher for $160.  Well, normally I am a cheap bastard, but I need this bike to carry me a lot of miles this year.  OK, do the $160.  They told me it should be done by 4 (quittin time for me)

 

Well, 4 rolls around, I head across the street, and it is pouring down rain.  Greeeeaattt.  Well the bike isn’t ready till 430, but I am not complaining, they squeezed me in without an appointment.  I also still had $40 left of my dividend which helped some.  I saddled up and headed out.

 

Remember when I said sometimes the weather gods smile?  Well other times they don’t! It was a steady downpour the whole way north.  glasses fogging, giant puddles on the trail, cranky drivers and cyclists.  If this was the first time I had ever ridden my bike, I might never ride again.

 

However, as we know, it wasn’t my first time on a bike.  Therefore, I am able to see the positives!  (Yep even in a monsoon!)

 

  • First of all, it wasn’t cold.  I hate freeing cold rainy rights.  My light shell and rain pants were plenty
  • I had the right clothes.  I might need to think about a better rain shell, but my old Mountain Hardwear gave a valiant effort to keep me warm and relatively dry

 

Mountain Hardwear
Mountain Hardwear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

  • I had a tail wind!  Any biker will tell you that the worst misery is made better by a decent tailwind!
  • Finally, I still had something left in the legs. Even though I did stairs last night, and biked in hard this morning, the tank felt full.  I was cranking it along the trail, passing people left and right.  My theory was the less time I spent in the rain, the less wet I would get!  It was one of those rides when you feel like a “Lead on the Wind.”  No resistance, no pain, just flowing forward!

 

So the long and short of it, I picked a lousy day to bike commute.  But, as I have tried to point out in here throughout my short blog career, you can’t always count on sun.  If you want to use the bike as basic transportation and exercise, then you have to take the good weather with the bad.  Especially in the winter and spring in  Seattle.

 

I won’t lie, there was a second there when the bike was not done at 4, and it was pouring, that I considered calling Michelle to come get my pitiful butt.  She would have, no problem.  I looked at the freeway though, and southbound (the way she would be traveling) was crappy, it always is, and rain makes it worse.  She would have had to slog her way to me, then turn around and get right back into traffic.  This would have taken over an hour.  It’s only a bit over an hour to bike home!

 

Suck it up cowboy!  You aint gonna melt!  Hell it was dark when you came to work, so even if the bike was even longer getting done, I could still make it.  And I did!  I honestly had a great commute in one of the worst weather days I could’ve had.  I felt strong, the bike handled well, and I got a GOOD work out in!  if I was able to do all that in a day like this, then imagine how much I will like it when it is sunny!

 

So like I said, picking today as my first bike commute (both ways) day seemed like a good idea at the time!  And, looking back at it, wearing my sweats, fleece shirt, wool socks and sitting in my warm house, I honestly think it really was a great idea!

 

You are REALLY Going OUT in This???

As you may or may not know, I have a desk job.  Yep, for most of the last 22 years I have had either or cubicle, or an office, and I have worked with a computer and a phone for 8+ hours a day.  This is not conducive to staying healthy and in shape!  (And I cycling at the office doesn’t work out too well…)

I remember early on in my career at the Holy P (a Faith Based health care provider) and it was employee appreciation week.  My boss thought it would be a great  way for me to meet the people I work with to help serve the “thank you” cake in the lunch room.

So there I was, spatula in hand, handing out cake to anyone who wanted it.  One lady walks in, thin, in shape, and I asked if she wanted cake?  She turned her head, cocked her hip, and said “You don’t get to to look like this, if you eat that!”  She looked at me and said “You know what I mean, look around, you will see the girls who do and those that don’t eat that stuff.  Looking at you, I can tell you don’t!”  Then she strutted off (Yep its was a serious strut!!)  Didn’t catch her name till much later so I just called her Bag O Chips (as in All that and a Bag O Chips!)

I tell this story because she and I think alike.  Sitting at a desk all  day every day, is bad for you!  So long ago, I started doing the lunchtime walk!  I average this well over 4 times a week, and people at work just don’t understand.  They see me heading out when the weather looks like this:

image

Just me, and my giant umbrella! (I picked up a big ole Costco Umbrella years ago, one big enough to house a small family.  I am VERY popular during rainy fire drills!)  I eat at my desk while working, then head out for a 30 minute walk.  My route when I work now is about 1.5 miles.

Getting outside does many things for me.  Clears my head, gets me away from the germ factory that is my work, forces me to take an actual break from emails and projects, and allows me to come back full guns for the second half of the day.  Rain, snow, hot, cold, wind or fog, I am out.  Sometimes with an iPod, sometimes not!

I’ve seen high-speed chases, car accidents, motorized wheel chairs running over old ladies, pan handlers, bald eagles, movies being films (I saw a scene from the 6th Sense and had no idea), WTO demonstrations,

WTO protests in Seattle, November 30, 1999 Pep...
WTO protests in Seattle, November 30, 1999 Pepper spray is applied to the crowd. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and once, I even stopped a guy from ripping off a girl (I was glad I had back up that time!)

When I worked in Seattle, I could get my Christmas shopping done, and NOT pay for parking!  That in itself is a bonus!

I’ve come back to work sweating like a pig on a hot day, and soaked to the brim when I gambled the rain would hold off.  Oh well, if I am too smelly it keeps people away so I can get work done!  It is such a tradition in my office, that people know NOT to schedule meetings during my walk, I get grouchy!

The best part is its easy to start.  Bring a pair of walking shoes and leave them at work (Or do like I do and fudge the dress code and always have walking shoes.)  Start twice a week.  Pack a lunch that you can eat at your desk, and then get outside (Make it really easy, invite your boss!  Then maybe you can lengthen the walking time a bit….) Walk around the block, the parking lot, to Starbucks, or to your favorite nearby store and back (MANY times I walked around REI!).  After a while you will want to walk more!

You can bring shorts for the summer, coats and gloves for the winter.  Hit Costco for your own umbrella.  Whatever it takes to get moving.  It gives you an excuse to skip out on the dreading potlucks.  HELL, once, I took the cell phone and participated in a conference call while walking at lunch! Multi tasking I tell ya!

Get started, start to enjoy it, and soon they will be asking you “Are you really going out in this??”

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year! (Or Why I Love Being an REI Member)

Sing it with me people!  “It’s the most wonderful time, of the year…..”

No not Christmas!  Shoot it’s not even Spring yet (though close!)  Yes, I can hear y’all thinking, “Dude what are you talking about???”  {Or as my kid sis in England would say “What are you on about big bruver?”)

Well I’ll tell ya, aside from spring time and the hope for nicer weather on the horizon, my favorite part of  the month of March is the REI Dividend arrives in the mail!!

What’s that, not everyone knows about REI, let alone the dividend?  Wow, I sometimes forget the rest of the world isn’t as spoiled as I am with places to get outdoor gear.

Flagship store of Recreational Equipment Incor...
Flagship store of Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI Co-op), Cascade District, Seattle, Washington, USA. The high portion of the building at left includes a large artificial climbing rock. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

REI stands for Recreational Equipment Incorporated.  It’s a co-op started in Seattle, back in 1938, by climbers who wanted to help other climbers get quality equipment at a decent price.  It has since expanded to 31 states and carries gear for almost anything you can think of in the way of outdoor adventure! (Hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding rock and mountain climbing even the new stand up flat boards for water!)  About the only thing it doesn’t carry is guns for hunting or poles for fishing!

I first started shopping at REI when they opened the flagship store right across the street from my office!  I was in heaven!  In fact, I (in my slacks and tie) was one of the first 100 people to climb their climbing wall pinnacle

Rock climbing tower, REI Flagship Store design...
Rock climbing tower, REI Flagship Store designed by Mithun in 1996. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, cool, so you know what REI is, what is this about a dividend?  Glad you asked!

REI is still a co-op, anyone can shop there.  However, if you join, you get 10% back on all nonsale items you buy during the year.  I once had a $300 dividend when I was getting ready for Mt. Rainier.  The best part?  it’s not an annual fee!  One time only, lifetime!  When I joined it was $15,  I just checked an it is up to $20.  Still, spend $200 your first year and you get it back!

What is nice is that I don’t just shop there for gear.  I have gotten work clothes (Hey if it has a collar and buttons it fits in the office, especially if it is Mountain Hardware), baby shower gifts (every infant needs a carabiner (just kidding, they have lots of stuff to help parents introduce babies to the outdoors INCLUDING bike trailers and ride behinds for older kids)), birthday and christmas presents (everyone needs a headlamp, or in case of zombie apocalypse, an ice axe!)  and even anniversary gifts from there.  It all adds up over time.

NOW add to it I have an REI Visa card.  I get a percentage back on each card purchase added to my dividend.  Normally I am not a big credit card shopper, but this year I did a LOT of traveling for work!  Guess how I paid for it all?  It always got paid off as I got reimbursed, but that’s 1000’s of dollars in purchases that all qualify for my dividend!

Shopping with your dividend is shopping with free money!  My wife just turns me loose and tells me to come out when I am done.  Last year I splurged and bought a set of sunglasses strictly for biking.  This year I need at least a new pair or two of biking shorts (wore a pair out last year) and maybe a new swiss army knife!  Or even a new soft shell jacket!  Just have to wait and see what I get in the mail!  Plus, if I don’t find anything i need or want (yeah right) after July 1, I can ask to cash it out!

Just for the record, I am not affiliated with this store in any way shape or form.  In fact, I’ve been turned down for jobs there as EVERYONE wants to work there!  They just have the best selection, customer service and return policy (this will be its own post!) anywhere.  Check them out, talk to the employees, hell even if you go elsewhere to find a cheaper price, the knowledge they share will come in handy!

Best part!  Almost Forgot!!  I am going back to the company that is next door to the flagship store!  Just in time for the 20% off dividend sale!  HELL YEAH!  Time to climb the wall again!!!

“it’s the most, wonderful time….  Of the year…”  HEY is that the mailman????