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!