Thursday, April 29, 2010

So long, old frienemy.

Out with the old...
So long, pendejo!

and in with the new!
My car's decal.

I do get little pangs, thinking about how I can no longer haul entire sectional couches.
New Couch Day

Or the team's gear; tents and garbage and bikes and chairs and six gallons of soup and its burners.
Packed Up

Or seven Tetris pieces and one sexy cop:
Seven Tetris and one sexy cop.

But then, I won't miss things like this:
Cross Eyed

(I could go through all the pictures I have of repairs being done, but we'd be here all night.)

I was originally searching for a Toyota Tacoma, but most that had the mileage I wanted were out of my price range. And at first, car shopping is fun but there comes a point where I just want it to be over, especially when the current car is like a ticking bomb. So cue the Subaru Impreza Outback Sport. What a title. The Ranger got traded in and I've got a fun car to drive (manual! fast!) that will get better gas mileage, etc, etc.

There's something strange about it, though. It doesn't really feel like mine yet... or it feels so natural, and I'm waiting for the realization to hit. I own a real, reliable car now. Cool. I'm definitely getting used to being so low to the ground, though. And let's just say I'll have to re-learn backing up now that I can't just look over my shoulder and see the end of the car. So many things in the way! But I'm sure I'll persevere :)

Monday, April 26, 2010


Let's go back.

About a year ago, Snips was still pretty young and had separation anxiety. (I was working from home at the time and he was used to having someone around. I noticed he was super upset when we got back from a Thanksgiving weekend spent away.) So for our Spring trip to San Diego I asked if any friends could watch him. One friend said that he'd like to, but his roommate was allergic. However, he had a girlfriend that liked cats...

Fast forward to the girlfriend dropping off the cat. I asked her how it went, she said it went fine and they got along great.

Fast forward to a week after that. My friend, Pete, asked how the drop-off went. "Fine, why do you ask?" Apparently Snips had driven her nuts. He was always underfoot, meowed a lot, sharpened his claws all over and was a general pill, whining and not letting her sleep at night. She hadn't said anything about it, I guess to be nice.

Snips is much better now, and he's used to being left at the apartment with someone stopping over to feed him once a day. Last night I was painting the bathroom into the wee hours, with the cat keeping me company. While I enjoyed the company and the laughs, I think I can see where the girlfriend was coming from.



Oh, cat.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rainy Weekend

Danger Ranger update: The Wednesday right after the flat tire, the brake lines started leaking. The day after getting it back from being fixed, the idler pulley seized and the serpentine belt fell off and all hell broke loose. The check engine light and battery light went on, power steering went out and was leaking everywhere and the engine got overheated. It turned out to be a cheap fix, but that was the final straw for me. I want a newer, reliable vehicle, so I'm on the lookout.

Next time, I use the tire iron for more than changing your many flats, Ranger.
Cale, Truck Repairs

In other news, I'm getting rid of my Powertap wheel set. It's a new wireless hub, which is great and all, but I don't have the computer for it. For the NC trip I borrowed Cale's Garmin and mined the data, but before and since then it's just been a heavy hub. I'm not keen on training with power this year, so I don't have a use for it.

If anyone's interested, let me know. Here are the stats: Powertap Elite+ (wireless) wheelset, for all your Powertapping needs. $700. Hub has been ridden less than a dozen times this Spring, MSRP is $999. Rims are SUNringlé 24 hole Venus laced with Wheelsmith spokes. Front hub is SUNringlé City Flea. Does not include cassette, tires or computer.

Buy This

This weekend has been awful. Raining and 40 for the majority of it. Yesterday we made the most of it, though, meeting some teammates for lunch, doing a little work on some bikes and making some new vinyl decals. I decided to go in for a haircut in the afternoon, bein' as the last one was about a year ago. I went in and asked for Uma Thurman's cut in Kill Bill 2...

so if you're in the Milwaukee area and you think you see a movie star, look again. Yep. Probably me.

Yesterday we also discovered that the cat's favorite fish, a fat red and turquoise gourami he liked to bat at, had gone belly up. Here Snips is, morose and despondent.

Fish Stalker

So we went to the fish store to stock up.

New Fish

New Fish

We capped the night by going to Aaron's birthday party. Is it just me or was that a busy day for how nasty and rainy it was? It would have been great to spend the weekend riding, but sometimes it's just not in the cards. I think I'm going to head out and do some weightlifting in a while, cuz you know I be up in the gym, just workin' on my fitness.

Like Fergie.

Man, I'm going to be really hard to recognize, what with all the celebrities I resemble.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Getting Better

Cale and I have been out to Kettles a few times in the past week and this last time he commented that I've gotten faster, or more aggressive. He doesn't have to wait up for much at all anymore. I don't balk at many things, and I think my cornering and descending is getting better. As for the things that do give me pause, I step back and stare them down for a little while. The big boulder out on the Emma side took a lot of staring and visualizing of success, but in the end I gave it a go. It's still not the most natural thing, but I'll keep at it until it's old hat. Here's the boulder in question:

One thing I haven't gotten around to:


The hop up to the first log gives me pause. One of these days, though. I think it'll get easier as I get more comfortable with picking up the front end.

This past Sunday when we were out, I did this one about ten times until I rode the whole log. That's something I definitely need to get better at- log rides. I know it's in me, I feel like something just has to click. Which is how I feel about dancing (I'm terrible), except I think that the switch is much more likely to flip for log rides someday. I'm not holding my breath on grooving.


I'm coming along on boulders, though. This was taken last Sunday. Right before Cale started rolling, I was telling him to crouch down so the rocks looked bigger. Why yes, I act and direct.

Sooo I'm feeling good! I'm checking things off the list. I figure if I don't have the mental toughness to stick to a training regimen, I can at least improve my skillz and get a little faster that way. My kryptonite is still log-overs not perpendicular to the trail, and to a lesser extent large logs. A good illustration of this is my shaky laughter at my stellar luck in having survived this terrifying encounter:

Ooh, I get goosebumps just watching it.*

*Not really. I'm embellishing.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

MIAD's Gallery Night

Friday night Gallery Night! A bunch of us headed to MIAD to check out the senior thesis projects. Three years ago that was me, working like crazy for months for that one night. At the time it seemed normal- now removed, looking at the projects it's like seeing a superhuman feat of willpower. Some of the projects were just incredible, the amount of work that must have gone into them. All sorts of absolutely unique things that took totally unique solutions... but I digress. Check it out.

Gallery Night

The idea behind this was that a whole room full of furniture would be stored in a small place. I think when stored, it made up the bed.

Gallery Night

This bike is a huge SLA model (like a 3D print using little points of plastic)- incredible. This student has been hanging out at the track and interviewing people since summer. Probably for this project.

Gallery Night

Here's Tony with his thesis on a Velodrome. He did a lot of research on Milwaukee and velodromes and retail spaces and you name it.

Tony at Gallery Night

I haven't been out and about in Milwaukee at night for a while. Pretty, yeah? It reminds me of college.

MIAD on the River

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Danger Ranger:

Quite dangerous, actually. On Monday I got a flat in the rain-

Flat Tire

-and today the brake lines started leaking (and smoking) and I lost quite a bit of power in the brakes when I was coming off of the highway. I'm looking into how much it'll cost to get them replaced, but I'm daydreaming of a newer, more reliable car. A car where things aren't constantly rusting through, you know?

Until I get things sorted out, it's the cycling life for me. I can handle flats and mechanicals there. Twenty miles each way to work means waking up early, which I rather despise, but at least it'll be good exercise. I've already celebrated that by mowing down the upper torso of a 1# Easter bunny :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cat and Kit

Let me tell you guys how it is. Half of you are here to read about riding stuff, and half of you are here in hopes that there'll be some pictures of my cat, local celebrity Citizen Snips. Well today you can come together: the cat in and around piles of kit, recently 'unpacked' from my suitcase of riding gear.

Cats love suitcases.

Snips doesn't mind the mess.

Cat in Kit

Suitcase Explosion

You're welcome!

Dear Slugworth

For a while now, I didn't think you were doing so well. You went off your feed and appeared to shrink smaller and smaller. You moved around less and less, but I figured, you're a slug and it's only logical that you be sluggish. However, now that you've sprouted mold I must come to the conclusion that you've gone on to a better place. You were not a great pet, but I did not wish death on you. I will strive to remember you as the sleek torpedo of a slug you once were.


Slugworth's New Digs

Goodbye, Slugworth.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


This was my third year of the H8TR, and true to its name it brought the H8. I got up this morning, dug through the suitcase of kit from NC and managed to come up with one smelly pair of bibs with a new hole in them and a rank jersey. I stuffed the bibs in my race bag, keeping them at arms length, but couldn't bring myself to put the jersey in. It would be too close to my nose during the race. I packed one of Cale's XS jerseys instead. Off to a good start.

Then I padded off to the bathroom to put my contacts in, where my heel found a finishing nail sticking up from the trim. I was spinning around on the balls of my feet and the nail snagged by heel but good as it was going by. A bunch of rubbing alcohol, neosporin, medical tape and one bandaid later, and that was that. I tried not to think of how terribly dirty my mtb shoes are.

At the start of the race, I got kind of a bad position and was still debating whether I whould race or ride. But I remembered last year, when I decided to ride after a little while, and how dumb I felt after I got third by a slim margin. Thus, I laid down a pretty challenging pace and worked through a few pace lines on the way out. Just before the turnaround, I saw Claire (she had just turned around) and decided it was a race, after all.

The ride back was a long chase. I eventually got in a pace line that brought me up behind the pack with Claire. I was all about the sneakiness. I wanted to pull up behind them, take a little breather, then blow past before anyone could tack on. Unfortunately, we were found out and they picked up the pace. It was on.

Our pace line caught up to them, and we sat in for a little bit. Then at an intersection Claire crossed the road while everyone else in front of me stopped for a car that was slowing. Well, I didn't have time for that. I saw the car was slowing so I darted after her. That cut us off from any outside help, which made things more interesting. (Later, we slowed down but the group behind us settled in to watch it play out rather than join us.)

We caught two guys in front of us and sat in for a while, and then I decided to make my move. I wanted to pull away, get a gap and make Claire either stay with the guys for support (slower) or come forward alone and tire herself out. It was genius! Genius, I tell you! So there I was, with a small but satisfying gap, flying along the trail... And then, flying past my turn to get back to the city park with the finish line. Oh, I was mad. I was so mad. I looked back and watched as Claire and the rest made the turn and I knew my race was over. I gave a little shriek of rage as I turned around, which only served to give me tiny cramps in my abs.

When Cale caught up to me, the H8 was flowing. I screamed at him some when he asked what had happened, then followed another racer who looked like he knew the way back to the park. Not much more to say but that this was the closest H8TR yet, and it's my third third place for it. Djonnymac, my admiration for the amount of H8 your race has is matched only by my frustration at my lack of navigational skills. H8 H8 H8 H8...

Wrap It Up

Well, Kris and I are back in Wisconsin. We took off yesterday morning at 8:00 and got in at 9:00. Not bad, since it included a stop at the birthplace of KFC. (We were curious. Now we know.) Here are some of the things that were noted about Hendersonville and the surrounding area while we were down there:

• Lots of car washes. Is that a thing?

• The locals like to play jokes on out-of-towners. The gnats/bugs were thick in the woods, buzzing around all up in my grill, and Robb told me that raising my hand would lure them up to the highest point. So there I am, standing around in the woods in spandex with my hand raised like I had a question, looking upward expectantly. Did it work? I couldn't tell. But I do know I looked like a goof.

• If there's a billboard for an adult store, there's an even louder cross nearby. We saw one that was three stories high and it looked to me like it was made out of metal roofing material. Inventive.

• Lots of driveways have street signs marked with 'Private', and they get to name them themselves. Some of the better ones: Mine Hollow and Plum Tree Holler.

• Plus this. This doesn't make any sense.
Wait, what?

Observations on riding:

• I was too out of shape to really tackle the stuff out there. I couldn't handle the sustained climbs very well. I tend to want to charge up the hills quickly, and that works for a lot of things in WI. The last day I was coming up on Robb at the bottom of climbs, because he was in it for the long run and I was trying to bang it out. Doesn't work that way. Steady as she goes is better.

• Camel Baks are not that dorky. When it hit me how far we were out when I busted my derailleur (I think unfamiliarity with the area made it seem further, too) I realized it was important to pack a lot of extras along, just in case. I guess some stuff at Kettles is pretty far out if you do the Full Monty, but there are roads nearby.

• I bruise easily. My legs are covered.

• Most of the rides I did, I got pre-race jitters for. It was hard to eat and I didn't sleep well. You may not think that makes sense, but it does. I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up, and nervous because I didn't know how it would pan out. Just like a race. A little stressful, but mostly exciting, and a great diet. What with all the excitement and riding, I lost about 6 lbs. Crazy.


They're few, but the one thing I sorely regret is taking the bridge instead of fording the river on my last mountain bike excursion. It sums me up, taking a bridge to keep my feet dry (for the last ten minutes of a ride) instead of wading in. Too timid, too practical sometimes. Put me back there and I would splash in.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Squirrels and Turkeys

Yesterday (Wednesday) Kris and I met Robb a few minutes from the house to do some riding. Kris did some great road riding in Pisgah and Robb and I started out to do a 4.5 hr loop including Turkey Pen and Squirrel Gap, trail conditions allowing. Things started out great. It was warm out, but there was a little coverage from the sun in the woods.


There were some tricky steps I rode up (pat on the back) where I practiced picking up the front wheel. My arms are pretty sore today. I tackled some roots and some rocks and sent 'em packing. Yeah, I'm pretty slick. Then I took a misstep and wound up falling off the steep side of the trail. And then a little while later I did it again. After that you could say I was more cautious and conservative.

Fitness-wise I was feeling ok, though. After one big climb, it was more like WI, with shorter climbs and descents. There was some cool stuff out there.


Creek Crossing

After a few miles, maybe 8 or so, we started running into some downed trees. Robb had a small saw along, so we did a little trail work. Robb did some sawing, and I did a some clearing and photographing.

Trail Work

Trail Work

Robb figured it was more of the same, downed trees and slow going, so we turned around. That's when the trouble hit. One of the trees that had been pushed to the side was still clinging to the side of the trail and as I brushed past it made a play for the cassette.

Stick Overload

More like Blackbroken Technology

Let me tell you, things were f**ked. With the derailleur in pieces and the hanger bent, Robb removed the whole thing and took a few links out to make a singlespeed.

Der. Removal, Chain Shortening

Then the trick was getting the chain not to fall down the cassette. We tried jamming some sticks in the cassette, but that only worked for a little while. Eventually they would break off and I'd have to get off and put the chain back on.

First Solution

The second solution was to zip tie and tape (ran out of zip ties) a stick to the inside of the seat and chain stays as a kind of chain watcher. That worked much better, with fewer stops.

Who needs XO?

All told, it wasn't so bad. It was nice out, we had ample food and water, and the people half of the expedition made it back relatively unscathed. I was happy to be back, though. I wasn't too tired, but I was a little shaken from my spills and not at all confident in my bike, so I wasn't trying the new stuff I had been on the way out. I'd love to make it back sometime to try again, though. I was really enjoying the trail up until the ride started requiring MacGyver level skills and engineering marvels made out of sticks.

DuPont. In a word; cool.

Tuesday night, when Aaron and Erin got home from work, we all piled in the car and headed to DuPont. We scattered to the four corners- Erin went running with Tucker (the dog) and Kris headed out for a road ride. Aaron and I had brought the mountain bikes, but unfortunately not the pump, and my front tire was a little low. Lucky for me (and this has been an exceptionally lucky vacation) there were some other mountain bikers hanging out in the parking lot.

I'm pretty shy when it comes to approaching four unsmiling strangers, but I bucked up and did it. That's when I noticed that two of the bikes hanging over the tailgate had the red and black Answer bars that just came out. Gone was the shyness- I grinned and actually pointed to them, blurting out "I made those!" Pretty soon it was smiles all around as we talked about Answer and all that good stuff. I even got some flak about my brakes, the Avids I got with the XO group that I'm testing out. A pump was produced and the tires were set to go. It would have been cool to talk more with the guys, but we had to get going before the sun set.

We didn't get much riding in- just over 40 minutes of moving time- but I did get to check out the riding there. Pretty cool, with more of the neverending hills I've come to have a healthy respect for. We started out on a trail that looked like a giant cobblestone path. Big rocks set into the trail, but uneven enough to make it interesting. Here's the beginning of that trail.

Aaron at Dupont

After a few minutes, we were at the top.

Big Rock Trail and Cedar Rock Trail

One cool descent later, it was more climbing. Here's Aaron, looking awful cheery about it.

Aaron at Dupont

I tackled some cool technical stuff toward the bottom, but as the climb wore on I pulled out the rest day card and stopped to walk and take pictures. Aaron kept on going and made it all the way to the top. What can I say, he's made of the tough stuff.

Aaron climbing like a madman.

Eastern Slickrock! It's pretty cool.

Dupont, Eastern Slickrock

We made it to the top around sunset, which was really cool. The light didn't fade too badly and we made it down without incident.

Dupont - Me

It wasn't as much time as I was hoping to spend out there, but it was my rest day and I did get to check it out. When I came down here, I wanted to sharpen my skillz and come back with an arsenal. I'm doing a little of that, but it's really turned out to be more of a recon trip. I'd love to come back down with Cale and some teammates and hit the trails.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

North Carolina Awesome

Starting Out

This is the first time we started out from Milwaukee. We made it as far as Kenosha when Kris found out he had forgotten his wallet. We got turned around in Asheville, but got to Aaron and Erin's place (confusing, right? same name.) in Hendersonville before it got too late out.

Sunday morning we went to church, where a visiting youth group made a little thank you speech to their hosts, earnestly proclaiming "Southern comfort is not just a saying." After a few seconds most of the church had dissolved into giggles. After church, we went grocery shopping and then hit the road/trails. Kris started out from the house, and I drove to Bent Creek to get some riding in.

Not only did I not get lost getting to the trail head, I made an awesome friend. New Best Friend Robb and I have been tearing it up. Or rather, he's been taking me on rides that have been tearing me up. Sunday was 2.5 hours at Bent Creek, which is like Kettles on steroids. About the same level of technical stuff (nothing I couldn't ride) but the elevation came in large, large chunks. Killer climbs- a few times I had to walk to keep from, you know, passing out- but of course some fun descents. This one, Ingles Field Gap, we did twice, though the second time we took a logging road up, which was easier.

Toward the Top at Bent Creek

Fire Road

To top off a great day, I had the best hair day I've had in... months. Really, months. This is blog worthy. Don't even tell me I look like a teenage boy, either, because that doesn't even matter. Great hair day.

Awesome Hair Day

On Monday Robb took Kris and I out for 3.5 hours on the road. We did a climb (I'll check the route when I download the Garmin), that brought us up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was pretty painful, not gonna lie, but it was a good ride. Plus, we got to stop at the Biltmore McDonald's for a shake. We saw the actual Biltmore from the the road, too, off in the distance.

Starting Out

Kris and Robb


Tunnels! Tunnels everywhere.

Lots of downed trees from bad storms this winter.


After we hauled our sorry selves back to Robb's, we got cleaned up and went out to dinner in Asheville at a BBQ place. Asheville really does have a Madison vibe. I mean, if Madison weren't 40 degrees and raining right now (suckaaaaaas!) I might have gotten confused. Luckily, there were a lot of t-shirts and idyllic blossoming trees to remind me I was in sunny North Carolina.

Blossoming Trees in Asheville

Well, I'm just about caught up on my adventures but it's time to get to bed. More riding tomorrow.