Doing it all the hard way...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A hero’s journey

My father-in-law Gordon passed away on Saturday and although I am qualified neither as a writer, nor by virtue of knowing him for just six years, I am compelled to pass along my thoughts.

Gordon was a man who loved life and loved people. His boundless love of people brought him success in business, but more importantly, in his countless personal relationships. He won the heart of his beautiful bride because of his enthusiasm and endless energy. My sweet wife tells me her mother referred to him as the most honest man she had ever met. I could try to recount a handful of his accomplishments both in life, in his family and still you would not know the man.

Two years ago, following an auto accident that had him in intensive care with a neck brace and halo screwed to his skull, his first words to us were asking how his wife was doing. Through the drugs, the pain and the increasing dementia; his first thoughts were of others. Throughout all of his physical challenges, which were many in his final years, he kept his infectious smile and upbeat attitude. In the midst of his calamities he was always asking about my children and his love and concern was obvious. His sincere love for others defined the man. I have never met a man who rooted for everyone to succeed. If you knew him then you felt you had a place in his heart and that he was pulling for you.

I believe that when Gordon looks back at his life, he had no real regrets. He was as a faithful husband and father as you can imagine. He had more integrity than you could measure. While many of us have interests that compromise our time with our loved ones, Gordon went out of his way to include his children in his waterskiing and fishing and camping adventures. He taught every kid that knew any of his children how to water-ski. He was the dad everyone wished was their dad. He was the man that everyone wishes they could be. In this world were it seems we all make mistakes that hurt people, where everyone seems to have skeletons in the closet, Gordon was a man had the peace of a live honorably lived. We will miss him; but he remains an inspiration.

My favorite movie features a character asking,” is this heaven?” Three years ago, I was sitting on a fishing boat with Gordon. He had his line in the water and the sun on his face. It was my honor at that time to see him in heaven. He tilted his head back and smiled and I knew exactly where Gordon would be when he left this earth. I saw a man who had lived a full and wonderful life and had the peace earned by a lifetime of actions motivated by love. Happy fishing Gordon !

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rants and Reviews Ortleib IBEX Conti and SRAM

After a series of trials and errors I have the commuter dialed in. I’ll comment in the form of reviews and you can figure out what I have that works and what is so-so.

IBEX (X-Ray) frame REVIEW
Painted this baby in the Rapha colors and it is a true warrior. Although it seems stiff when I stand on it and crank, I am reminded it held its ground and showed some compliance when it was functioning as it was intended, as a cyclocross bike.

Bike Rack REVIEW
Got this at Performance-Mart and have no complaints. I read some reviews and there were some folks that had trouble installing theirs. I can only assume they are the “floaters” in the gene pool as I found installation easy as pie. The rack has been rock solid from day one and nary a sway or negative word could I garnish as far as the rack is concerned. One of the biggest thrills is when I come up on some young uber-fit riders. They look at me and think, “old guy on a bike with a rack, I’ll drop him.” Then they pick up the pace and confidently look over their shoulder expecting to see a fading Evo and there I am smiling, trying to look like I’ve got plenty more if they want to try again. If I had a piece of straw in my mouth it would only add to their frustration.

Ortleib Bike Packer Plus Pannier REVIEW
Oh baby. Mike at work turned me on to these and swore they were the real deal. I got the model he suggested (the bike packer plus) in black to complete the commuters good looks. He was so right. When clipped in, it is as if they are bolted on. There are a couple rough sections of trail where roots have made sharp speed bumps out of the pavement. It doesn’t matter if I bunny hop these or take the bumps with a jolt that rattles my fillings; the panniers don’t budge at all. Then when I arrive they pop off easier than unclipping a seat belt. They swallow my stuff like a grandmother accepts a hug and keep it bone dry in our Northwest winter.

Continental Gatorskin tires 700x28 REVIEW
Bigger is better. Still getting used to not seeing a 22 (Conti Attack) or 23 (Conti GP4000) on the front, but the compliant ride is nice, especially with the stiff frameset. No flats so far. I’m not about to put these fatties on my “fast” bikes, but these are very fit for purpose.

SRAM shifting:
I had originally built the commuter to be a single speed cross bike for my previous work situation. Then I won a bunch of swag at a CX race at the end of last year. It was my first and only podium and I was pleased to have it count (merchandise-wise). I took the cassette, chain and RD and bought some double tap levers off eBay and converted the (now) Rapha into a ten speed (single front ring) commuter. Then when I picked up a SRAM compact 180mm crank, the Rapha got my old FSA compact. A Rival FD and I was able to enjoy all 20 speeds as God intended. It takes almost no time to adjust to the shifting and even the Rival shifters are clean enough. The front shifting is fast, or at least that is my initial impression. The missing tooth in the cassette hasn’t won me over, but ask me again in June.

Can you ever be satisfied ? Me thinks that whatever you have, you always want more. Once again, ask me in June.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Living Green or seeing RED ?

I like to paint bikes. I read what I can on the web for tips and one struck me last summer. Step number one was, “don’t do it.” The point was painting (actually striping) your bike creates trash, releases toxic gases, makes a mess and in the end, you just end up with a different color bike. Like most of us, I decided to ignore this advice and went ahead and did what I wanted.

Recently an Albertsons grocery store closed down after being part of the community for dozens of year. The closing did not create any emotions for me. Then PCC bought the location and signs went up telling that a new market was coming. I was excited as PCC sells what I considered to be pretty cool stuff. For months monster sized trucks came and went. Some of the trucks were bringing lumber, concrete and glass. I love the smell of fresh cut lumber, it reminds me of all of the projects I have done with my sons over the years. Well different trucks arrived before the ones that brought lumber, glass and concrete. These were dump trucks that hauled away truckload after truckload of chunks of old concrete, mangled wood, aluminum and glass. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the demolition of the Kingdome. The phrase that stuck with me was when one of the commentators for the televised coverage of the Kingdome implosion said something to the effect of, “here we go, demolishing a perfectly functional building.”

For the grand opening, PCC offered discounts on cotton bags and asked its patrons to minimize their footprint by using these bags. They preach recycling and conservation and going green and all of the current fad de jour of environmental responsibility. But as I loaded my own groceries in my conscience easing cotton bag I was aware I was saving half a square inch of landfill by not taking a plastic bag, but I think of the “footprint” at the dump the size of an Olympic swimming pool that was created when PCC took over this location.

What strikes me as hypocritical is that the inside of the market has that industrial look that one would expect if you put your market where a factory or, say, another supermarket, was before you took over the location. But these guys tore it down and then built it up just to look this way. It is like when a developer levels a piece of land and cuts down every tree and bush and then plants new ones and boasts that the neighborhood has indigenous plants and trees.

So after PCC has had hundreds of cubic yards of debris hauled away into landfills they put on cool music, sell me overpriced food and ask me to do my part for environmental responsibility. I think my part may be to avoid patronizing hypocritical businesses.

I’m not sure what PCC stands for but I’m running with Politically Correct Crock….

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back in the Saddle ?

I'm okay !!
Single Speed racer emerging from the suds 'o fun in Portland
I am always put off by bloggers or anyone who makes an excuse for their cycling performance by citing family and work as “conflicts” or as “getting in the way.” I think if they really think that way they need some reality in the face. We all have other commitments and so it should be. And those things are so much more important!!! My belief is one should set their own performance standard to do their best under their given circumstances.
Portland righfully has us pegged as whiners !
Hence, my lead in. When we last left our hero, Evo, things were going well. The six weeks since my last entry have been full of life; perhaps a little too full. I have made visits to the hospital for loved ones, added new job responsibilities, completed online classes, and been training for Cyclocross and doing some bike commuting to boot. Our local YMCA opened in early October and we were there in full force. Six AM spin classes are the perfect motivation for Cyclocross. Two of those a week and then twice a week bicycle commuting (sixteen miles each way) were enough to get my heart pumping. Then some added responsibility at work that added hours to my day. I started to feel myself getting to the edge and decided to take a couple of days off. I had twenty eight workouts in October. My plan was to take off three days. A family emergency stretched that into a couple of weeks and I still wasn’t at 100%. We snuck in a trip to Portland for the (unofficial) Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships (SSCXWC) last weekend and I almost popped.

This weekend Hottie and I were at home following her much needed and rather serious back surgery, and we both slept much more than we thought possible. Although hers was drug induced, mine felt just as needed.
time to clean up and get ready to do it all again.

So now I’m ready to do it all again. I expect I’ll be wincing about something else soon, but for now I am glad I had some down time to recover.