Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ride that Flat Tire

On this morning's ride to work, I almost got to the Mississippi River when I hit a block of concrete in the street. It was about the same color as the street and it was dark. I guess my fantastic lights won't save me from every dumb move. I hit the rock with both wheels. When the front one struck the rock, one of my hands came off the bars. That's scary.

I circled around to move the rock from the road and by the time I made my turn, the rear wheel was flat. I kicked the rock pretty hard and it landed in a lawn under a street light. I rolled the bike over and started digging out the tire repair equipment.

I remembered I grabbed the pump from this bike to use on last weekend's ride in Wisconsin. No pump.

I've been through this before. Some lessons I never learn. This problem results from having more bikes than pumps and repair kits.

I rode the bike home (about 4 miles) with a flat rear tire. Thump, thump, thump into a stiff, cold headwind. I used lower gears than I'm used to. I decided to shower and drive my car, because I either needed to move the bag and lights to another bike or dig out another tire and repair the flat. Both options required more time that I can justify.

The rule that should come from this is that I should never remove any tools from the commuter bike for use on another bike.

I could use the tire in a pinch, but I'm in no pinch with regard to tire. I hoard tires like Imelda Marcos hoarded shoes. For all I know, she might still be hoarding shoes. I'm working on my tire hoarding affliction. I put a Kenda Kozmit Light 1.75".

Monday, October 30, 2006

Good Night in Cable, WI

I took a few photos of this past weekend's bike riding at the CAMBA trails in Wisconsin. I'll see what I can post tomorrow.

I had lots of fun and the weather cooperated. We saw a few snow flakes. They only added character to our ride. I'll try to write up a trail review also.

I rode with two nameless cycling friends. We stayed at the Bon Nuit motel in Cable, WI. It was the perfect location sitting in the middle of all the trails.

I think Bon Nuit means, "Hotel with neighbors who don't have mufflers and park in front of the rooms in the middle of the night with their loud engines idling." Or something like that. Cable has an ordinace that prohibits mufflers. We didn't want to get in trouble, so when we drove around, we rolled down the windows and made engine noises with our mouths.

The truth is that I woke up at my usual time: 5 a.m.-ish. As I lay there, I heard someone start up a pickup truck that had no muffler. During the next hour or so that I lay there, I heard lots of mufflerless vehicles pass by.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Halloween Decorations at My House

My kids keep asking when we're going to decorate for Halloween. I'm not the guy to ask. I keep telling them to talk to Mrs. Rigtenzin. She loves that stuff.

My daughter grew tired of waiting and began decorating on her own. This is an example. This is our front doorway. She placed a chain with a sign on it. She says the trick or treaters are not allowed past the chain -- only family and adults.

Here's a closer shot of the sign. We don't have anyone named Beth here. That's a "d."

Here's what the little guy wielding the chainsaw is saying.

Please excuse her spelling, she's in 1st grade and I think it's one of the best things about this sign anyway.

Off-Road Riding Weekend

I'm going to ride the CAMBA trails this weekend. Well, at least some of them. I plan to ride Rock Lake and other than that, I don't have a plan.

We're staying in Cable at the Bon Nuit Motel. Our room is $53 per night. They don't get much cheaper than that. I'll write a review of it when I return. Please let me know what Bon Nuit means. I hope it doesn't mean, "We eat our guests" or "Home of Norman Bates."

I love the CAMBA trails and this is the best time of year. I've ridden there in the fall before and experienced rain, snow, and sun all in the same day. I think we'll only have sun this time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Little Leaf Mush

I took a few photos of the mess that my bike has become in the past few days of light rain. The leaf mush is building up on the bike. I'm not sure why, but I don't want to clean it off yet. I like the looks of the mush. However, I don't like the gray sidewalls of my tires. They are supposed to be tan. I guess that's why the color of sidewalls doesn't matter.

I changed the handlebars and stem on the blue commuter bike. I replaced the old stem which was a threadless-to-threaded stem adapter with a shim to a correctly fitting quill stem. So the old setup was an adapted adaptor that creaked no matter how much lubrication I applied. With the new setup -- no more creaks. The new bars feel nice too. Little changes make riding more fun sometimes. Compare this to my previous, complicated setup. I think it looks a bit simpler now.

My daughter was giving me artistic direction while I was shooting these photos. She arranged this last photo of us in the mirror. Click on the photo to see the enlarged version and you'll see her smiling in the mirror behind me.

Soccer is Over

I didn't get any photos of leaf mush. I'll try again tonight.

Last night, I coached my last soccer game of the season. Regarding difficult players, everything was the same, except my wife took over the job of substituting players. That took a load off my mind and allowed me to concentrate on the field.

I talked to the other team's coach for a while after the game. He's a special needs teacher and noticed that one of the kids on my team was in that category. I wish I could have talked to this guy earlier in the season for pointers on how to handle the difficult kid. Mrs. Rigtenzin told me the kid's dad was just as difficult to be near on the sidelines also. I wish for the best for those guys.

I have a desire to play soccer, but I need to find a league full of old guys who promise not to sprint or play rough. And it has to be pretty close to my house too. Too many qualifications, but I can hope can't I?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Leaf Mush

On the way to work this morning, I saw lots of leaf mush. It's the stuff we get in the fall when the leaves are piled in the streets and the rain turns them into mush. It's pretty nasty stuff in a turn.

A couple of years ago, I crashed and fell in some of it during an off-road ride. It was wet, cold and really messy.

However, the leaf mush forms the coolest looking patterns. I'll try to get some photos today, before the mush is all mixed together into one color. I would have taken some this morning, but it was dark. We've got some great leaf piles in front of our house.

One of my routes home includes a street with lots of gingko trees. Gingko leaves turn gold from the edges inward. This year they fell before turning entirely gold so they've left a nice mix of green and gold mush.

No really, you have to see it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Gladwell Interviewed about Interview of Dog Whisperer

I posted this link to a Malcolm Gladwell interview, because I tried to place the link in a comment -- where it belongs (contextually, that is). But the comment machine ate part of the url. So that's why I'm putting it here.

Friday, October 13, 2006


I finished reading Blink the other night at about 3 a.m.

Why was I reading so late? That's another story, but I really liked the book. It made me think about racism, or my racism and bigotry specifically. At first I told myself that wasn't the author's focus -- the author was trying to tell us about "thin slicing" or "rapid cognition." It all sounded like intuition based on deep experience. Although the author went out of his way to avoid the word intuition. An example of rapid cognition is a basketball player passing the ball to someone behind him who is out of his view. He passed the ball, because he knew his team mate would be there even though he couldn't see him. How did he know the other player was in the right spot? Based on his vast experience playing basketball and playing with that team mate.

The last chapter summed up all the concepts nicely by describing the change in orchestral auditions in which auditioning musicians are hidden behind a screen to prevent the judges from prejudging them. The author says this changed the gender makeup of orchestras.

Another interesting point is that about half way through the book, I went to amazon.com and read some of the book reviews of Blink. They are favorable overall, but some reviewers didn't like the book. The negative comments usually ran along the lines of, "This is too obvious, we already know this stuff, it doesn't deserve this much space." Or they said the author cited a study or example and then took that as fact without questioning the study. Those are fair criticisms open for discussion. I suppose where your opinion falls is a result of your background with the subjects discussed. Something that bothers me about the amazon.com reviews is the meanness shown by many of the reviewers. They write as if the author has personally harmed them. I've noticed this every time I've looked for book reviews in amazon.com. I don't understand it. Disagreement and criticism are wonderful, but meanness gains nothing.

I think one of the best qualities of the book is that the author shows his lack of meanness. In many of his examples, he could have ripped into the people who were later shown to be wrong (like the officers who killed an unarmed, harmless man), but he gave them some credit and explained that we all make mistakes when thin slicing and that it's human nature. He didn't excuse the mistakes, but he treated them rationally.

This morning I went to the author's blog and discovered he is a very thoughtful person. In his latest entry, he says we don't appreciate how hard other people's jobs are. It's worth a read.

My wife handed me The Tipping Point the other day. I'll read that also.

No Riding Today

I haven't ridden for the last couple of days and now that my schedule is open enough to ride to work, I have my annual cold. I've gotten a cold every year in the fall since I moved to Minnesota in '94.

It starts as a sore throat and blah, blah, blah. You don't want to hear about my sickness.

The problem is that, each year, after I get over my fall cold, I find the weather has changed while I was sick. The temperatures have dropped and I'm not acclimated in a bike riding way. So I drive my car to work most of the time.

I'm going to try to avoid this cycle of sickness this year. I don't know how, but when this cold goes away, I plan to be back on my bike riding to work even if I'm not acclimated.

I'm going to make some tea now.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I'm not a soccer coach

The season is almost over. Two games remain. This is about the fifth time I've coached one of my little kids soccer teams.

I love running around talking to them and helping them focus on the game and what to do. Not that they need much help, but sometimes they get distracted. Sometimes, they forget the ball is in play.

Each game leaves me with the uneasy feeling that I've failed though. In each game, there's one incident that proves to me I'm not very good with little kids.

We play three on three. That means if I have five kids, substitutions are unfair as far as the number of minutes each kid gets to play. And no matter what, some kid goes in and has to come out really quickly when there are five kids.

Tonight, two of them revolted and wouldn't leave the field. I talked to them at length about how five kids makes it unfair as far as the time goes, but they weren't getting it. They are kindergarteners and aren't interested in reason.

I finally had to take them by the shoulders and point them at the sidelines. I told them that they needed to go talk to their parents. One of them cried and the other one gave me the big lip. I didn't know of a better way to handle it. I started by reasoning with them and when that didn't work and the other team was waiting to play, I had to resort to stronger methods. I think if I had a bigger toolkit of methods to handle them, I could do better. If they were dogs, I would have thrown a ball for them to chase.

I suppose that's just part of the territory. But I wish I had a kindergarten or 1st grade teacher to give me some pointers on how to handle the little people. That might be of more value than a coach's clinic on how to run drills with them.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Video

This video link is not like most of the really questionalbe stuff I see posted. It's really a mini-movie. I bet there's a better name for it than that though.


My Ride at Levis/Trow Mounds

Last week, a nameless friend and I rode our off-road bikes at Levis/Trow Mounds. Really, my friend has no name.

First off, Levis/Trow Mounds is a confusing name, I think. Here's the background that might help it make sense. The place is located in Wisconsin near Neillsville which is East of Minneapolis about 2 hours. In that area, they call the hills mounds. The trail was originally only on Levis Mound. Then they added the trails on Trow Mounds. So it became known as Levis/Trow Mounds. Sometimes it is pluralized. It must be confusing to even the people who live there.

Don't let the confusion stop you from going there. It's a wonderful group of trails. We rode for more than three hours and didn't do any back tracking. We didn't ride all the trails either, but I want to go back and plan for more time, because it's worth a day.

We started from the trail head and ascended through pretty deep forest. It was a very easy climb, but slow because the trail is littered with rocks and roots. My newest dual-suspension wonder made it pretty smooth. I bet a rigid bike would make it a more manly ride.

My nameless friend, heretofore known as Nameless, had ridden there many years before and remembered an overlook we could climb to. We had to dismount and scramble up rocks to get there. Nameless brought his camera and took the panoramic photo you see in this post.

The trails are mapped and have lots of signs to guide you. If you are paying attention to your map and the signs, you'll never feel lost or misdirected. The trails are named like ski hill trails. I enjoyed everyone of them, but a few stand out.

Toadstool includes large rock formations with a gap big enough for bikes to fit through. The trail builders added a wooden bridge that allows riders to cross smoothly through the gap. Some people have been known to ride it without cheating.

The Cliffhanger is a short trail that circles the top of the mound. It is wide enough to ride a bike around the cliff-face trail, but not much more. The trail has lots of rocks and roots to throw you off and make you think about falling down the cliffs. I walked through the parts that made me nervous, but I bet braver folks ride the entire thing. I was glad when I completed the Cliffhanger. It made my feet sweat, but I'll do it again.

All the trails felt easier after the Cliffhanger because it was so difficult for my mediocre skills.

I also really like the Snodgrass trail. The topo map shows that it winds through lowlands and I didn't expect much from it, but it was fast and fun with lots of wetland vegetation growing around -- a nice change from the deep woods and hills of the other trails.

Levis/Trow Mounds is a great trail system within a 2 1/2 hour drive from the Twin Cities. This makes it closer than the CAMBA trails and a nice alternative for a day trip.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Salem Hills Park

Last Sunday, I rode at Salem Hills park in Inver Grove Heights, MN. It's a dirt trail network built by MORC. They've done a great job on the trail. I found it a little too short, but they have more trails planned and after all, you can't get it done overnight.

I did a few laps of of each loop and was ready to head home when I saw two riders start at the trail head. I greeted them and they took of, knowing I was behind them. I followed them and stayed on the second guy's wheel (a safer distance away). They were going faster than I had been earlier and I had to work hard to stick with them.

It was fun to ride with a competitive spirit. I haven't ridden hard with other people like that in a long time.

The next day, I felt great. My legs were fresh and felt powerful. I think riding fast in a competitive way is good for me.

I took a few photos of the beautiful colors in the woods along the trail. I can't get them off of the phone though. I've sent them to myself a couple times and they never arrive at my email addresses (I've tried two different addresses).

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