Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pinch Flats and Politics

Remember the Hindenberg
Mike Varley over at Black Mountain Cycles was talking about frame pumps and pump pegs today. He uses them and makes sure the frames he designs have them. Anyone not knowing what a pump peg is might (at first encounter)  be confused. I know I was. I thought it was some kind of fitting for injecting helium into frames to lighten them. No, seriously, that was my first guess.

The more I get to know me the more I worry about myself. 

 But Wait and See if there are not Helium Injecting accusations at the Tour this year.

And who knows, maybe Helium Filled bicycles are the Wave of the Future. Please remember you First Heard About It Here. After all, the Wright Brothers were Bicycle Mechanics before they got into that Aeroplane Thing. 

 Who would ever have imagined that this:

Would one day lead to this:

So you can see where I get some of my notions.

Where Was I?
From Frame Pumps to International Space Stations is merely One Small Step for a mind like that of Ol' Tim Joe. I think.  I seem to have lost my train of thought...

Today's post has nothing to do with any of this except in some wildly abstract way. In a comment I made on Mike's site I mentioned how I have mounted my frame pump in typical Trailer Park Fashion using bungee cords and velcro straps. And it is a damn good thing that I did so, because today I had a flat on a longish ride Far, Far Away from any source of help or succor. And without succor, let's Face It: You're On Your Own.

One of the cool things about being insane is that now I was happy to get a flat, after years of walking the bike home or worse yet, having to call the Blonde In Residence to pick me up in the mini-van as though I were a dejected ten year old who had just lost his soccer match and got a wedgie to boot.

See Me Proud and Prepared
Not Anymore, Baby! Hah! Not only do I have a Poorly Mounted Frame Pump, but I also carry a Spare Tube! (Cue fiendish laughter.) And yeah, I didn't forget the tire irons, which actually should be called tire plastics for the sake of accuracy, or something. Stand Back, everyone, I'll handle this!

Le Danse Macabre
I forgot to mention that this flat tire occurred precisely at the same place on this lonely gravel road where some Unfortunate Fellow Creature had apparently Gone On To Greener Pastures. I never saw the carcass, because there was a veritable Begger's Feast of Big Black Vultures clumped together doing That Thing They Do. When I first pulled up, they eyed me warily and pretended to be concerned by fluffing their huge wings in dark and vaguely threatening fluffs, and when I removed the Frame pump they were definitely interested in what That Thing might be. But they all stuck around nonetheless, turning back to their Breakfast Buffet with only occasional glances my way.

So while I performed my First Ever Roadside Flat Tire Repair I was keeping one eye on what was happening over there about thirty feet away.

What's Mike Got That I Ain't Got?
Mike Varley has reported that it takes him about ten minutes to fix a flat in the wild. But has he ever done it amongst fifteen Giant Black Scary Birds hopping around with Raw Flesh dangling from their beaks? I was working pretty quickly because I wasn't sure what Vultures Do when the dead food runs out and the only thing at the Dessert Bar is an Old Sweaty Cyclist hunched over a bicycle. I certainly didn't plan to wait around and find out.

Luckily, changing flats is something I know about and this pinch flat was obvious and easy. The only difference between the Side of the Road and the Shop  (besides the carnage)   was that there was no Classic Rock on the radio or Cold Beer On the Bench. Well, there was no Bench, either...Next time I will carry glueless patches, also. But I swapped tubes, pumped away with the new frame pump, got enough Air In There to beat it on down the road to a less macabre spot and put in some more air.

Presta No Presto
Which brings up a point that is only peripherally related to today's theme, (whatever it is): Presta Pressure Gauges. A while back I learned to always travel with one of those handy-dandy stick gauges that you slap on the end of the Schraeder Valve and hey presto! A little stick pops out and tells you how many PSI's are in the tire. I do it three times and if all the readings are the same, I ride off reasonably confident that All Is Well and the Dreaded Pinch Flat won't be Comin' Round Here No More.

Now That I Have Your Attention
I can't tell you the Frustration and Near Madness that pinch flats have caused me. Well, actually, I Can Tell You if anyone is still reading. It is probably funny, but wasn't to me at the time...

It Happened At the Library
About a year ago, before I became Head (Only) Big Man In Charge of Fix-it at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park, I experienced a Period of Poverty so intense that Yea, Lo, and Verily the Internet was cut off. I was not proud of this, but neither was I defeated. The Local Library has Free Wi-Fi and Air-Conditioning, and I have a laptop. So everyday I would saddle up the old Mongoose, strap my rather ponderous seventeen inch Hewlett onto my back and pedal the seven miles to the Palace of Interwebular Satisfaction.

One day, however, I came outside only to discover that I had a flat on the rear. “Well”, I thought to myself, these things happen. I'll just walk it home.” After the first mile I let my Good Sense gain the upper hand on my Pride and I called the Blonde for a ride. Mini-van comes, I load bike, Home We Go. I pull tire, find weird little snake bite holes, apply patch: no harm, no foul.

The next day it happened again. At the Library. This time, I call the Blonde immediately and start yelling at her about cheap Chinese products and no good patches and how it gets Too Hot in Florida and Bicycles Are Stupid anyway and she says “Alright I'll pick you up but I've got to hurry 'cause I have a pot of Chili on the stove.” To which I replied “I'll meet you at the corner of US One and Palmetto to save time.” and started jogging (with the bike) away from the bike rack and down the street. Her Chili is That Good.

Anybody Need A Bathroom Break?
I would like to make this Long Story Shorter but it is already too late for that and I think, in hindsight, it gets better.

An Interlude of Sanity
For two days I forgo the pleasures of the Web and Free air-conditioning and I ride my Old Single Speed mountain bike on the Beach and around town and on the Bike Path Along the River. I am not confessing to a Fear of the Library;  who is afraid of the Library? But all the same, Money Was Tight and I was running low on glueless patches and all that Web surfing isn't very good for you.

Whaddaya Want For Nothin'?
But naturally, being only a human and not a very well-disciplined human at that, it finally came time to “check my e-mail. I'll just drop in for a minute.” I carefully rode my bicycle the seven miles to the Library. On the way, along my usual route, I used my laser vision to scout for imperfections in the road or bits of glass. While I felt silly doing it, once I got to the neighborhood of the Library, I was Watchful for Snakes. Yeah. Well? What of It? Those holes looked Just Like A Snake Bite. That's how bad this was getting. I pulled up to the where the bike racks were, hopped the curb, and went inside.

Not This Time, You Won't
But I was crafty. I went over to my usual spot, set up my computer, all the while watching for Suspicious Activity, and making sure I wasn't being watched. Then, before anyone could guess what I was doing, I moved Stealthily and Quickly back to the front foyer. Directing my Stern Gaze towards the bicycles, I was a Tiger, ready to pounce.

Nothing. Well, the bored security guy in his baggy cheap uniform was sitting out front taking a smoke break. When did Public Libraries start needing security guards? Confident nothing would happen with a Guard On Duty, I went back to my computer. I dallied about on the Internet for a while, but could not get comfortable. I should have been looking up snake-bite-lookin' holes in inner tubes, but even MY strange brain would never think that one up.

Then It Happened
 I returned to the bike rack and automatically squeezed the rear tire, a habit that remains with me to this day.  I was (to put it mildly) transmogrified to find it flat. I dropped to a crouch, looking wildly about me for whoever (or whatever) was Doing This Thing To Me. I went back inside to see if any of my Legion of Enemies were present. At that moment, it was Clear To Me I was being Stalked by Fanged Demons. Fanged Library-Goin' Tire Bitin' Demons were the only Logical Explanation.  Except...

I Blame Sarah Palin
I noticed that dumpy security guard looking my way. What's his problem? Wait a minute! HIM! That's it! It is some kind of Super-Evil Tea Party Plot to get Homeless Guys to stop coming to the Library and soakin' up free air-conditioning and dirtying up the restrooms and chewing on the magazines...THAT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING! That Security Guard is a Fanged Demon Hired By Sarah Palin to Bite My Bicycle Tires!

Dial 911! Wait, They Might Be In On It Too!
I call the Blonde. “You won't believe the sinister plot I have uncovered it is probably going on in every city in America and I've got to get home and write a Letter to the Editor Before it's too late...” When she hears the words “Letter to the Editor” she knows it is time to kick in Emergency Plan Budweiser. “Tim Joe, take it easy. Why don't I come get you and we'll go for a Drive on the Beach and what if I pick up some Beer and Ice on the way?”

All's Well That Ends Well
She Did and We Did and eventually I learned about Pinch Flats and and what those Snake Bites mean and I bought a pressure gauge and used it daily and never again  have I had my tire attacked by Fanged Demons.  

Presta Schmesta
Until today. Having recently put a New Rear Wheel on the Old Schwinn I now have entered the 19th Century and a Whole New Way to put air in the tire and as of yet, I can't find a simple stick-type pressure gauge. All I can find are digital and dial gauges and most of them get poor reviews. The LBS wants me to solve my problem with a Floor Pump With a Gauge that they happen to have on sale at twice the worst Internet price. 

 So...Fanged Demons and Vultures today, Gauge Hunting tomorrow.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Pinch Flat Paradise

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gotta Ride

I don't know,  man...

What Might Have Been
As a Blogular Genius and Instrument Of Bicycle Wordism I ain't doing so hot. I have prepared two or three posts in the last few days that got put onto the back burner. Then I turned the back burner on High and torched what may have been really great Words of Wisdom but now We Will Never Know.

If It Was Fun They Wouldn't Call It Work
Here's why: As you are all aware, I Earn My Keep by fixing up old trailers in the Second Crappiest Trailer Park in Old Hawks Park. Turnover is high (as are most of the tenants) and lately I have been really swamped with Fix-It Work. I don't mean to complain, but this kind of work can be, on good days, disheartening. On Bad Days, Self-Immolation seems like a viable alternative. But Fear Not, Dear Followers, I Am Still Here, be it somewhat downtrodden and trailer sodden.

What Once Was But Now Ain't
Cycling? Who knows? I vaguely remember something about bicycles...Two Wheels, isn't it? The Work stand in the Living Room sits empty, a forlorn reminder of Days Past, when I was the Great Trailer Park Fix-it. Neighborhood Children would gather at my feet to hear tales of my Cycling Exploits and watch as I deftly adjusted saddle heights and squirted my secret Trailer Park Cyclist Chain Lube onto their, uh, well, chains. (that came out a little weird but I'm too tired and down-trodden to fix-it)  But anyway,  where was I?  Oh Yeah:   Gone, Gone are those Old Days of Glory!

Tales of Brave Ulysses
Miss Daisy the Yellow Dog nearly bit my ankle today when I dashed into the trailer for a Cold Hot Dog on a Stale Bun. Nothing is going right and there are still Stinky Old Trailers to tear apart and put back together. How Long, O Lord?

Well, As Long As It Takes, apparently. But the cool thing about being a Trailer Park Dude is that Disappointment and Heartache being your Only Friends means that sooner or later, things will have to get better. And all this whining is just the noise I make on weeks that have less than a hundred miles of riding in them.

It's true: I am an Addict. Without Road Miles, I begin to snivel and itch and shake and whine.

The Voice ain't been around for days now and as big a Pain as he can be, I miss him.

What to do?


Voice? Is that you?

Just go for a long ride tomorrow morning. These stupid trailers aren't going anywhere and you seem to be losing it pretty bad.

Well, I'll be danged. Good Ol' Voice! I'm getting Up Before Breakfast Tomorrow and doing You Know What!

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Asylum for the Going Insane

Friday, June 24, 2011

Trailer Park LBS

I cleared all the furniture out of the small living room in my trailer and set up a work stand and a bench. I was already known as a Bicycle Guy around the Park, but nobody associated me with Bike Repair. Now they do. In my 12x12 area there are my two personal bicycles and a Beach Cruiser belonging to one of the kids. There are two or three bikes on a waiting list for my free repair services sitting around the Park and I am sure there will be more.

At this point I am not interested in being paid, which is a Good Thing because nobody around here has any money. But I make it clear that One Good Deed Deserves Another and I generally expect there will be some sort of compensation for my efforts down the line.

Full House
But space is already an issue and I have no idea what to do about it. My situation here at Whispering Pines is a fairly cozy one and I have no plans to leave any time soon. There is room for a shed outside and I was planning to build one sooner or later but now that Bicycle Fix-it is a Reality I can see that I will need A Lot More room. Bicycles have a way off taking up space as I am sure all of you know.

But I'll work it out somehow.

The First Paying Customer
The Manager here at the Park dug an old Giant MTB out of one of the Trailers last week and asked me if it was worth fixing. I told her it certainly was and I plan to strip it down and clean it up, lube the cables and so on and do my Trailer Park Single Speed Special conversion. I did it to my Old Mongoose a couple years ago and really liked the results. The first thing I look for when someone comes by with a bike for me to look at is whether or not it has horizontal drop outs or at least semi horizontal. Horizontal dropouts means the chain can be adjusted once the rear D is removed. Many of them do have semi-horizontals and this is Florida: there ain't a hill in sight and these riders around here mostly just want a bike for the bike path along the river and riding to the corner market. Gears are of little use.

Strip It Down
I will remove the derailleurs front and back, take off the cassette and make a spacer out of a piece of PVC pipe. Then I will put on a single cog retrieved from my stash or from the LBS. Tires are usually an issue on these bikes. They sell these bicycles at the Big Box stores with huge 2.25 knobbies that will never see a single track and serve no purpose on the sidewalk riding they will be doing. Comfort bike tires (1.75) are inexpensive and ride way better.

The end result is a bike of improved simplicity and considerably less weight. Hopefully one less bike in the landfill and one more rider in Old Hawks Park.

My Master Plan
I have given a lot of thought to producing a few of  these Single Speed Conversions and seeing if I couldn't sell them for enough profit to buy more parts. The bikes the neighborhood kids are riding have cassettes and chains that are rusty and cheap rear derailleurs that have seen so much abuse that they are riding around in one gear anyway. I have found a pretty decent wheelset on the Web with a coaster brake rear that would work pretty well and enable me to remove the rear brake and cable and simplify things even more.

When we were kids in the sixties (yeah, I'm that old) the Stingray craze hit and there was always that One Guy in the neighborhood who could take your Regular Bike and put on the banana seat and the hi-rise handlebars. He would have two or three conversions available for sale. My first real bicycle was just such a Stingray Conversion. So that's kind of what I'm thinking about with my Trailer Park Specials. We'll see. First I gotta figure out this space problem.

The Ocean
This morning I took a short little ride to the Beach to make sure the Ocean was still there. It was. The water was smooth and clean and looked perfect for a sail. But a tree branch fell on my Prindle on Christmas day last year and wiped out the Port Hull. Merry Christmas, Tim Joe. I sold it to a guy who had the money to buy a used hull to try to do repairs so I am without a Beach Cat for the first time in many, many years. Cycling has been filling that void but today Mama Ocean was calling out to me in that seductive way she has about her.

Danged poverty.

Oh Yeah
But I just remembered I know about this guy who somehow has an eighteen foot Hobie and has never sailed it. Oddly enough, he also used to be a bike mechanic at some famous shop in San Diego. So perhaps tomorrow I will give him a call. Sailing would be good. Plus this guy, who I barely know, supposedly has some pretty wild cycling stories from his time as a race mechanic in SoCal back in the day.

Stay With Me
I know today's post wasn't much, but I can't help it. There are some wild developments taking place in my life that have nothing to do with Cycling and I'm pretty preoccupied. So while I'm typing about one thing my mind is on another. I want to tell about it but not yet. Once I get it Figured Out and Rolling you guys will be the first to know. Rest assured it's a Fun Thing and my Readers Will Be In On It.

So, later Dudes!

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Mystery

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jungle Jim

Lookin' Out the Back Door
In the Wild and Wacky World of Cycling, You Never Know.  Directly behind my trailer here at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park lives my neighbor and friend Jungle Jim. We call him Jungle Jim because he is the very epitome of the Vietnam Vet: A friendly-surly attitude,  long gray pony tail and you don't have to talk to him very long before you hear about the six months he spent in a Rice Paddy Over There. But he is mellow about the experience: if he ever killed anybody he hasn't mentioned it and he also lived in San Pedro, CA on an old fishing boat for a few years and those stories also color his background;  so it all homogenizes into a pretty easy listening experience. As a fellow Veteran from Back In the Day he and I like to laugh about how all the other Vets here at the Park seem to have been Special Forces This or Black Ops That when the truth of the matter is the Real Killers never tell you.

But Get This
But the fun part of the Jungle Jim narrative is that he also was a bike mechanic in Long Beach in the Seventies and to this day still Rides Out every morning sporting full Campy Kit, including the little Italian cap. The first time I saw him go by my Window On the Highway I just caught a glimpse. I said something about it to him later but at that point we were not yet friends; at that point he still regarded me in that guarded manner these guys have but once he found out I was a vet also he loosened up a little and now I like to think that we are buddies.  Being buddies with one of these guys means something.  It ain't all talk.

Campy, Triumph and BMW  Oh MY!
Listen to this: Jim rides a Seventies Raleigh Professional with Full Real Deal Campagnolo Everything. He takes it all apart and puts it all back together again about once a month and here this guy is living literally in my back yard. Now, this is a Bicycle Blog but I feel I have to mention that he also has a 1968 Triumph 650 motorcycle that gets the same treatment whether it needs it or not. And, oh yeah: A 1967 BMW turbo-charged automobile totally hand built, burnished and lovingly hand painted by the very same Jungle Jim. Not to mention his everyday vehicle: a 1973 VW Bus, the Camper version that he has taken apart, put back together “the Right Way”, as he puts it. He has even rebuilt the stove and refrigerator with stainless parts and improvements that leave me nodding my head as though I understand but really, I am, actually, just: impressed.

And Yet...
So as I fumble my way through the Journey of Enlightenment that is my Road to the Way Of the Bicycle, here I have an Old Hand living nearby.  And while I am always in search of a new Bicycle Guru,  my friend Jim is on a different trip.  He has Jim Stuff to do and does it just fine without my help.  Which is as it should be.

Me,  I'm on my own trip,  too.  Riding my bike and fixing crappy trailers and trying to think up fun and interesting stuff to spread around on here like fertilizer on a rice paddy.

But Why Listen To This Coon Dog?
What am I saying? I have no idea. These Yuengling Black & Tans and these shots of Captain Morgan's are doing their job quite efficiently. But I'm kidding. Not about the boozing...that is actually happening. What I mean is, and I think this is important: Without the stumbling and fumbling through the Bicycle Experience half the fun is lost. Bicycle Wizards can point the way and help you through the hard spots but the Journey of the Way of the Bicycle is a Real Blast that must be struggled through to reap the rewards.

I know that for Me My Ownself I wouldn't have it any other way

Meanwhile, Back At the Trailer Park...
So: What's happening in the Park? Glad I asked. The Blonde In Residence (You thought I lived alone, didn't you?) just brought in a Pit Bull pup yesterday, “To see what you thought.”

Have you ever seen an eight-week-old pit bull pup? That Dang Blonde-Headed Girl knew what would happen and as I type this muddled entry I am additionally challenged by the not-asked-for-assistance of the New Dog:  Toby, who sits here on my lap  trying to help me type while at the same time licking my face for stray drops of Yuengling.

Miss Daisy the Yellow Dog is not pleased.

Life Ain't So Bad When You're  Happy With What You Have.

 Ride strong, Brothers and Sisters!  Have a Cold One on the TPC,  Raise a glass to Jungle Jim and all the other Vets who Do Whatever They Do Over There so we can Stay Free to do whatever we do over here.  Hug your Family, Kiss your Dog, or, uh, well, you get the picture.  Cheers!

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Home For Old Veterans

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Saw A Peacock

Monday Morning Ride Report
The sun was just coming up over the Indian River as I swung a leg over the bike and shoved my feet into the clips. A great feature of the Whispering Pines Trailer Park is that it sits a few feet above the River so with just a couple pedal strokes I am coasting downhill to the River Road. It gives me time to adjust the toeclips and find my comfort zone on the saddle and polish the fog off my sunglasses.

When you first step outside into a Florida summer, it is moist. Even at 6:15 a.m.

I reach the bottom of the incline and lean down into the drops. The handlebar tape feels good in my hands in the early morning and I start pedaling in a middle gear to warm up my legs. The sun is a deep reddish orange and I think to myself that I should do this more often. My weekly mileage has been abysmally below my goal of two hundred miles a week. But I'm fixing that;  Today:  I'm Out Early and off for a Sunrise Ride.

This Is How It Goes
The first mile or so takes me along the River, headed South.  There are joggers and the occasional "comfort bike" rider,  but not many.  The wind seems to be a little out of the South,  but there is not enough of it to be sure.  On the return trip I will be heading straight North and a tail wind is always more fun than a header.  But I am learning to take headwinds in stride,  on the bike and in my life as well.  Sometimes there isn't much you can do about Which Way the Wind Is Blowing.  

Warmed Up and Rollin'
  I hook west and cross US One. There is hardly any traffic this morning. I pause at the red light (like a good citizen) and seeing no cars, I sprint across. This takes me into a little subdivision with lots of left and right sweeps and I always bear down here, feeling fast and skilled as I make the tight turns without falling off the bike.

Then comes a long straightaway that has zero traffic and on some days, this is where I put the hammer down to start my ride. It is only the first  five or six  miles of a 24 mile loop, but when I am strong I will crank through this part, and if I am really strong I can keep it up for an hour, all the way to the halfway point. This ride is lots of Florida country,  with very few  cars and usually no other cyclists.  The sun is higher now,  climbing fast and heating things up pretty good.

This morning I am not strong, but I push anyway. I don't know what's up. Last week I felt like I could Ride to the Moon, but the last few days I feel, well, old. Not real old, just like “dang, this is harder than it should be...”   I see a peacock on the side of the road,  not near a home or farm or anything...where did he come from?


Fred Buster
I'm stroking through the pre-mid-point of my ride, a neat stretch of old orange groves that I just know will be a housing development sooner or later. It has turns that put me at various wind angles and tiny changes in elevation that give me a reason to stand up out of the saddle and ease the pressure in my seat and get a little ventilation,  if you know what I mean.   I push hard on this stretch because with the little dips and rises and the sudden wind changes this is where I can practice and be ready to Bust a Move should any Stray Fred come through to challenge my peace and quiet. It has happened before. I once used this stretch of road as a Slow Place to rest and regroup after my initial push but not any more. 

 But the kick just ain't there and I know why.  I'm training;  not just out on my bike for fun like it used to be.  I'm trying to go fast and make it be a workout.  But all the same,  if I get in these short hard rides everyday or so for a few months,  they will get easier and I will get lighter and maybe the Wind Will Change and things in general will get better.

All My Life's A Circle
 I clear the fast part of the ride and cross back over US One, heading East once again towards the Mosquito Lagoon, then down along the water past Fish Camps and Historic Sites where the Timacuan Indians lived and harvested oysters and fished along shores that must have been bountiful indeed in those days before the White Guys came along. There is an old restaurant and a couple RV parks along here and it is really Old Florida,  but a little dilapidated just the same.  

A Famous Fishing Football Hero bought up most of the waterfront a few years ago with plans to build a big high-end fishing lodge and marina and that would have been nice,  but it never happened.  And the truth is,  it would have been nice for the local Carpenters like me that might have got to work on the project,  and it would have been nice for the Tourists who got to visit there and fish these pristine waters,  but it would not have been so nice for the Mosquito Lagoon Fishery,  which is more and more pressed as the years go by and more and more people come here to fish these waters.   But the Lagoon is beautiful this morning.    I'm past the halfway point,  the sun is high now and I Got Grinding To Do.   

The Highway
 The road loops me back up to US One and I turn right, headed North.  This is the ten miles of grinding on the side of the highway that I do to pay homage to the Touring Cyclists I follow on the Internet who spend days and weeks and months grinding out highway miles. Some days it is no fun at all, riding on the shoulder of an old highway; but other days Bang! and I'm done and I don't remember any of it: first I was here and then I was there and now here I am again.  The wind is nowhere,  fluking around trying to figure out what to do while I turn the cranks and wonder why my butt is hurting on this short ride.  Must be seat position,  I'm  thinking.  Time for a little tweaking.  I'm rocking a little in the saddle and I remember that a few days ago I raised the seat to see what happened.  It is amazing what a difference a few millimeters makes on a long ride. 

 Home Again Home Again...
I remember the first time I did this ride a little over a year ago.  I was riding my old Mongoose Alta that I have converted to a single speed.  This 24 mile loop was an hours-long day trip.  I would lollygag through the neighborhoods,  and stop at the fish camps to look into the crystal clear water of the Lagoon.  I would ride way out on the long fishing pier that juts out into the water.  What has become the Grind up US One was the Ten Miles of Many Stops, sometimes  including a mini-mart for beer,  or the Goodwill Store to see if there were any good new books added to the racks.  It was usually at least a three hour outing.  These days I  finish in about an hour and a half.  

But I haven't read any good books lately. Might be time to slow down.  Maybe... 

Whispering Pines Trailer Park Ride Report: Monday

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Bet You Wish Hemingway Was Here

Trailer Park Blues:  Round-About To Down & Out

I Ain't Hemingway
Ol' Ernest once said something to the effect that his contemporaries (Like Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis and some guy named Dos Passos, who I never even heard of) were good writers  “But those guys never give you any stuff, any facts. When you read my books you learn something, how things are done.”

Getting Schooled
Now, I am quoting from memory and maybe I imagined the whole thing so don't any of you kids out there use this in a book report or anything. But it is true. In some of his stories you indirectly get instruction in fly fishing and detailed information on bull fighting. Big game hunting, deep sea fishing, it's all in there. In one war story he even has a guy riding around on a bicycle. My personal favorite is from Islands In the Stream. He describes how he would freeze glasses of Scotch and wrap them with cork sheets held on by rubber bands. Then he would pack them in sawdust to keep them cool and take them out on the boat on fishing trips. As they turned to slush in the heat of the day he would have cold drinks. So apparently Ernest Hemingway simultaneously invented the slurpee and the coozie. That's the kind of thing that wins Pulitzer's, baby.

Whispering Pines Monday
I spent Monday getting Unit # 9 at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park ready for a City Inspection. Once in a while a tenant, deeply in arrears on rent, will throw out a smoke screen by calling City Hall to complain about the conditions here. This Trailer Park has been here a Real Long Time (which contributes to the conditions here) and the City Inspector has been City Inspector for a Real Long Time, so he knows what's up. But he still will write up a list of things to fix. That's where I come in.

Head (Only) Big Man In Charge of Fix-it
Yeah, that's me. I spent most of the “oughts” (2001-2009) (What do you call them?) operating a little Door & Trim company in Tampa Bay. We worked almost exclusively on high rise condominiums, pulling contracts for buildings with anywhere from sixty to two hundred luxury units. It was wild times, with dollars flying around like big green butterflies and yes indeed, I had a net. Some of these units would change owners two or three times before we even got the building finished. It was real live Monopoly and even though I knew it would end I was planning on hanging out on Boardwalk and Park Place as long as the ride lasted. I even put a little back for when the boom slowed down.

Then, It Slowed Down. No worries, I've seen dips before. Then it slowed down some more. Then...

From Drinking Bubbly To A Burst Bubble
High rise building projects, previously bee hives of activity, were boarded up. Jobs in the planning stages that I had lined out for a year or two ahead never happened. The phone started ringing. Former competitors and colleagues were calling, looking for work. Getting Paid, always like pulling teeth, got even worse and the “I'll sue you,” “No, I'll sue you first “ stuff started and the Buccaneers, the Super Bowl Champs of 2003, went back to losing. Then the phone stopped ringing altogether and I Picked Up My Tools and headed home to the East Coast.

Driving Miss Daisy
I bought a little boat and I rented a place with a dock on the river and I got a little Yellow Lab Pup and we spent our days tooling around in the Mosquito Lagoon, ostensibly terrorizing Redfish but mostly Fishing around in the Cooler and enjoying just driving the boat and barking at the other boaters, the fish we could see in the crystal clear waters and having a Good Time Doing Nothing after a pretty intense six years of Smash and Grab Carpentry. “It'll work out,” I remember thinking one crisp winter's day when I noticed that the dollar stash was growing smaller at a steady rate. It wasn't hard to project the approximate time when that steady rate of dwindling would result in consternation on the part of my creditors, a cut in pay for my bartenders and a beer and shrimp surplus for Ruby down at the bait shop.

Why Are You Telling Us This?
It has only recently dawned on me  that as Comebacks go, mine ain't comin' back.   And the truth is, I seem to  have a “Don't Let the Screen Door etc” attitude about that Comeback. Oh, I still have my Tampa Bay Area Code office phone number on a pre-paid cell phone, sitting right here at my desk. I have to call it myself once in a while to keep it active. Yesterday, my old Lead Carpenter called to say things are starting to move a little over there and when was I coming back to fire things up? The crew is scattered but still available. I remember when one week's paycheck was more than twice what I have earned this year.

At Least It Wasn't Heroin
I used to joke around that I was working so hard that when it all ended I was going to be a Heroin addict. But instead, once I found myself with more and more time on my hands, I started riding a bicycle for exercise. Five mile rides turned into ten mile rides and one time I went crazy and rode all the way to Daytona Beach Pier, about seventeen miles or so. I had no idea how I was going to get home but after a couple beers at the Ocean Deck I just saddled up and pedaled on back. This started a trend of Riding Really Far (for me) and enjoying a beer or two at the halfway point. It also started a trend of wearing out bicycle parts on the beat up old Mongoose Alta I was riding. I couldn't afford anything resembling regular visits to the Local Bike Shop, and when I did visit a shop it would almost always end in some kind of failed mission that left me determined to Figure It Out Myself.

Welcome to Whispering Pines Trailer Park
All of which resulted in me and my Yellow Dog winding our way to this little dilapidated corner of Paradise where I inevitably found myself Doing for Trailers what I used to do for Penthouses. Nowadays,  anything that comes up in my life, I ask myself first and foremost how will it affect my Riding Time. For me these days it is all about the Way of the Bicycle and Bicycle Fix-it. I am learning to be a Trailer Expert but that is just for housing. I still haven't found a way to pay for the Beer and the Bicycle Parts,   but I will.

Hemingway Was Here
The Experts say: If you want to have a successful Blog, give them something they can use, help your readers with their problems. Now, I'm not certain, but I think I only have about four readers. (Maybe fewer if I don't pick up the pace a little.) And the only facts I can impart are the few I learn through arduous research and my bizarro-world wrenching technique.   But when I slug my way through to those facts they appear here in Real Time. Sometimes there is grease on my fingers while I am typing.

Here's the Facts. I Learned All This Today

Don't Get Slimed
“Slime” tubes work but suck anyway because when you let the air out to mount a new tire green slime comes out of the valve and gets all over everything and you have to stop what you are doing and clean it up before the Yellow Dog licks it up and turns Green.

Also: Slime peel and stick tube patches don't work on Slime tubes because Slime and glueless patches don't mix.

(Note:  I have used the clear peel and stick patches from Bell and they worked fine.  But they were a RMF to peel off the paper they come on.)

Gee-axe or Geeks?
Geax Street Runner tires for MTB are Pretty Good but seem to be glass magnets and those reviews that say they don't work in the gravel weren't kidding. But they Look Good for neighborhood rides and Really Make You Feel Fast. (And it's Gee-axe).

Don't Run Into a Burning House
When the Weather Guy says there are Really Big forest fires in the area where you plan to ride, listen to him. While I never saw flames, my usual Empty Road Country Ride was awash with Worn Out Heroes driving Huge Trucks in a way that showed they were pretty interested in Getting Out Of There and getting a shower and some food (and beer, no doubt) and any scruffy old Homeless-looking Guy On A Bicycle was on his own this time and he better Get Out Of the Way. And the smoke. Fifteen miles In on a 95 degree day, dodging Big Trucks and Deep Breathing heavy forest fire smoke makes Heroin look like a more sensible hobby.

I Get Spaced Out
What are called bottom bracket spacers make excellent shims for the cassette when you are doing Retro Work. The seven speed SRAM Cassette I bought was a little narrow for the Tiagra Hub, which is built for 8 or 9 speed cassettes. After riding eighty miles on Sunday with a wobbly cassette (yeah) I Looked Into Things and then went around to both bike shops before finding out about these thin aluminum rings that come in various thicknesses and allowed me to get my rear wheel Just Right.

New Wheels= New Bike
If your old bike is feeling a little tired and you have some extra cash and have been considering a Wheel Upgrade: Do it! Sheldon Said So & now so does Old Tim Joe. Best bucks I've spent in a long time. (That one was for you, RoadieRyan)

SRAM vs. Shimano
I bought the SRAM cassette because it was silver and the equivalent Shimano unit was brown. I wanted silver. Today at the bike shop I got to handle the Shimano HG-50 and I had the SRAM unit I had purchased with me. The Shimano was NASA and the SRAM was Wal-Mart. Now this doesn't make me happy but that is the way it is. (Disclaimer: The Shimano was laser etched with a part number and the Shimano name like they were proud of it, as they should be. The “SRAM” I received has no labeling of any kind and as I type this I suddenly begin to smell a rat. So before SRAM'S lawyers start calling me I might want to look into this.)

Get A Work Stand
Even if you have to give up your Heroin habit to do so, just get one. I went a year before I did it and that's just one year of Wasted Energy and Frustration. There's no substitute. Even if you seldom work on your bike, having that stand is a game changer. Sometimes I can be found sitting quietly, a cold beer in my hand, staring vacantly at the spinning rear wheel on my Bike In the Stand. It encourages Tweaking and let's face it, There Is No End To Tweaking On A Bicycle.

So there ya go. Thanks to Ernest Hemingway for his good advice. And thanks to anyone who stayed awake to the end of this post.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Fact Factory.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Back In the Saddle Again: On Sundays We Ride

It Is,  After All, About Bicycles
So anyway, I got the big-frame Schwinn up and running with minimal (ha ha) effort and then, in my usual carefully planned manner, set forth on a Test Ride to See What Happens. What happened was enlightening indeed. The bike, my Loyal Steed on which I had ridden well over a thousand miles of smooth highway was now...twitchy. This was my Bad-Ass Steel War-Horse Freight Train! She still tracked like a freight-train, but not as, uh, “freight-trainy” any more. (Note: I am sometimes forced to use highly technical terms. This cannot be avoided)

What the WTF?

I don't get it. I spent hundreds (ok, three hundred, and one hundred was for a work stand) of dollars and I get TWITCHY? I angrily, (well, grumpily) mashed the pedals. The Voice never Comes Along for the Ride, but this time, There He Was.

We're already in Daytona, he said.

 “What?” I said. 

Daytona,  said the Voice.

 “Shut up, Voice,"  I said,    “We just got started.”

But No. Eighteen miles had got behind me and I was still Arguing with the Bike. Now, that's interesting. So I started listening and what I heard was that this New Rear Wheel, built for as Low Cost as possible and Imported from Way Far Away was One Hell of a Whole Lot Better Product than what I had been riding. That “twitch” was the brilliantly stiff new rear wheel imparting increased torque to the front of the frame, causing the front end to tweak a bit.  I rather liked it.

Good Old 27 inch / 36 spoke bicycle wheels are flexible. That is part of their charm. I still have a 27 inch (Wienmann) on the front of my bike. I only changed the the Back Wheel. I will forever appreciate the “Float” of the Good Old Long Spoke Bike. But right about the time I was thinking these thoughts I was in Ormond Beach and that's twenty five miles.

But all the same, maybe I'll keep the 27 on the front. There is definitely a larger spring-factor and I could get used to the feeling of imbalance...

Then Some More Miles
Now I'm pausing for a Refreshing Cold Drink (guess what kind) at a cool little market Way Out There and I realize I'm Going Long on this one and Me and the Bike have still  not Made Friends over these transformations and then Bang! I'm headed North and I can't believe how fast I am after such a long layoff and even with the New Stuff on the Bike...

Old Glory Days
Life Guard Stations in Florida have flags flying over them. I know this because I sometimes (when not pedaling a bicycle) ride around in the Atlantic on a Hobie Cat. We use the flags flying over the Life Guard stations as wind indicators to help us decide Best Points of Sail and Who To Salute and so on. And while flying North along the Coast Highway I was whizzing rapidly by these Life Guard Stations and noticing the Flags flapping gallantly in the breeze, indicating a wind out of the South.

What's That Got To Do With Me?
As a Super-Cyclist I knew this meant something, but what of it? I am the Trailer Park Cyclist, Master Bike Builder and King Hammer-Masher! No South Wind will slow me down, when headed North! I was amazed at the New Feel of the Bike. I turned West off the Coast road and headed Inland. Highway One, I was confidant, could not be far away. Nor was I wrong. After a short interlude at a high-end convenience store, I had another short interlude in the woods out back, then mounted my trusty steed. With but a few swift pedal strokes  I crossed a High Bridge (what passes for a climb in Florida) and then found my way to US1,  my Home Road and an Easy Spin South to Whispering Pines Trailer Park and a fridge full of cold beer and Miss Daisy to scratch my back. Except Yellow Dogs don't scratch backs, they like their backs scratched, and when I turned left into that South Wind:   Reality Took Hold.

No,  Seriously,  I'm Not Stupid
What can I say? I'm not stupid, in spite of Popular Opinion.  I knew, all the way up this 40 mile ride from Home  (My dearly Beloved Whispering Pines Trailer Park Which I May Never See Again)   I KNEW it was a South Wind. But What About the New Wheel? Doesn't That Count?

Remember This
Hell, man, you can Count Anything You Want when you are Way Too Old For This, Way Too Out of Shape and you still got 40 miles of Florida Highway On A June Afternoon staring you in the face. Actually, BLASTING you in the face at about twelve  miles an hour and as relentless as only a summer South Wind can be. There will be rain tomorrow,  but Today Is Today.

 So what do you do?

You put your head down and grind. You reach down and grab the drops and you grind and curse and bonk and grind and Drink Water and grind and spin and every once in awhile Sprint and cuss and you are pretty sure your toenails are bleeding and then GRIND and then, a little over three hours later: Home.

Good Old Whispering Pines Trailer Park
I never go straight to the fridge and grab a beer. Well, actually, I do: but I put that beer in the freezer and then I rip off my burning shoes and socks and then I peel off my Salvation Army T-Shirt and then I Pay My Respects to my Yellow Dog.

 Eighty Miles of Road,   Forty of which was Ninety Degree Sand-Blasting means you head straight for a cold shower and then, wearing a cool clean pair of shorts and your favorite t-shirt,  you sit on the Veranda of your Crappy Trailer and as the sun settles gently into wherever it goes, you take that almost frozen beer and pop the cap and think about what Eighty Miles On A Bicycle means;  you drink that Cold-Ass Beer and Know that Today, You Did Good.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Ride Review

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cold Cuts, Cold Beer and Cold Setting

The Plot Thickens
Having, after some initial difficulty, finally mastered the art of inflating a presta valve inner tube, I next turned to Loftier Goals. Here on my makeshift workbench was the Prize: a Mavic Open Sport wheel with a seven speed ShimanoTiagra hub. My tire choice for what I am calling a Low End High Quality Bike Build is the Kenda Kwest. It features (supposedly) a Kevlar (or kevlar-like) liner to make it more puncture proof. We have all heard that one before, though, have we not? But having ordered these components from an internet Bike Shop (Tree Fort Bikes) what was once pictures on a screen was now reality, here on my bench.

Lance Is Making A List, He's Checking It Twice
I carefully folded the partially inflated inner tube into the new tire, making sure to place the valve stem between the “Kenda” and the “Kwest” on the label on the sidewall of the tire. We savvy cyclists do this so that in the event of a flat tire, we have a reference point to locate any matching penetration on the tire after we find the Hole In the Tube. Smart, huh?

Cycling is so jam-packed with esoteric minutiae of details and Proper Procedures and How To Do This and How To Wear That that it can be actually intimidating. What if I get it wrong? Do I get a demerit? Do I get kicked out of cycling? Will Lance Armstrong show up on my doorstep, All Doped Up on God knows what, and demand that I Turn Over My Bicycle?

Who knows? He might.

They Came From Outer Space
But right now all I cared about was getting the New Tire mounted on the New Wheel because I had concerns, weighty concerns that could have a drastic effect on the entire 1981 Schwinn Low-End Super Bike Project. The Monster In the Closet was Over Locknut Dimension. We will call it OLD for now, because saying the whole thing sounds like a phrase from Star Trek or even the Outer Limits. Remember that show? Indeed, creatures from the Over Locknut Dimension had been haunting my dreams ever since I placed the order with Tree Fort.

Here's Why:
OLD refers to the outermost distance of the two nuts that hold your hub together and provide a stop for where the wheel fits into the rear of the bike, between the drop outs. Now remember, everything I know about bikes I have to learn by pouring over the Webs late at night, trying to decipher and remember important data that comes into my brain through a filter of anxiety and Budweiser. And if you spend any time on the Cycling Forums, reading the multitudinous opinions about everything, it isn't long before you feel like maybe you need something stronger to drink.

Crappy Old Ten Speeds like my pre-build Schwinn have dropouts spaced at 126 mm, I think. Maybe it was 125. But do you know how big a mm is? No, not The Candy that Melts In Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand. I'm talking about millimeters, a Unit of Measure in an Alternate Universe called the Whole World Except America. So, you don't know, do you? Neither do I. I vaguely remember that we (us in the U.S.) were going to “switch over” about thirty years ago. I think Jimmy Carter was behind the plan, something to do with Peanut M&M's. But then I remember when the Nerdiest Guy in High School confidently predicted that the Whole World would be speaking Esperanto by the year 1980. He was wrong and we didn't switch (mostly, although while I drink a 12 ounce beer, my more better soberer friends drink liters of Coke.)

Are We There Yet?
So, while stewing in a miasma of sleepless nights and international measurement schizophrenia, I waited to see what was going to happen when I tried to fit that New Wheel into my Old Frame. You see, new Road Bike wheels come with an OLD of 130mm. So I had to somehow cram this new monster of a wheel into the tiny and delicate looking dropouts on the Schwinn. Past experience in the Wacky World of the Bicycle Repairman had taught me One True Thing:   If It Can Go Wrong It Probably Already Has, You Just Don't Know It Yet.

Look Up Qualified Frame Builder In the Yellow Pages
The situation was far from hopeless, however. In anticipation of Things Not Fitting I had done further research into alternate solutions. That's when the term Cold Setting first found its way into my realm of consciousness. Just the words alone caused a slight twitch in my left eye. The fact that these words were often accompanied by the term Qualified Frame Builder did very little to Ease My Worried Mind.

Qualified Frame Builder? I've heard of these guys. They're like the Da Vinci's of the Bike World, highly skilled craftsmen who immerse themselves in an Alternate Universe of steel tubing, obtuse geometry and high prices. They all seem to have a multi-year waiting list. But according to the Pundits on the Interwebs, if I was going to make that new wheel fit my old bike, I was going to need some Cold Setting and that meant I would need a QFB.

Hell, Anybody Can Do That
But before I strapped my old frame onto the back of a Yak and set out on a years long quest in search of the Elusive Frame Builder, I thought I would at least see about sorting out this “Cold Setting.” I think it was Sheldon Brown who enlightened me, as he has so many times in my spiritual cycling journey.

And listen to this: He said all you need to do is to strip most of the parts off the bike and grab a two-by-four. Now, I have to repeat that last part: Grab A Two-By-Four.

This was like finding out I was the Lost Prince of Alaska, and my loyal followers had been saving my Castle and my Gold for the Day of My Return, which was nigh. Am I not the Head (Only) Big Man In Charge of Fix-It at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park?

Grab a two-by-four? Hell yeah, baby, you know how many times I've grabbed a two-by-four? A lot. That's how many. All I had to do was grab a two-by-four and bend the rear parts of the bike a little.

That's What Cold Setting Is?! I need a Qualified Frame Builder to grab a piece of lumber and torque around on the ass end of my bicycle? Who makes this stuff up?

I celebrated my good luck with a cold beer and a thin sliced turkey sandwich from the Winn-Dixie Deli.

The Once and Future King
There have been a few times when I have been tempted to grab a two-by-four and give the bike a Sound Thrashing for Its Own Good. Having not done so, however, I still have here in my Park PCS 9 work stand an all-in-one-piece 1981 Schwinn Super Le Tour. I have here on my bench a fully mounted Kenda Kwest tire wrapped carefully around a very shiny and solid-looking Mavic Open Sport Rim. (Wrapped twice because I forgot the rim strip the first time. Yeah, really.)

The mounting moment is here. Will I have to “Cold Set” the frame to make it fit? I smile a grim, determined smile.   Ain't that a 2x4 over there in the corner? And not some wimpy Euro-Metric 2x4. If there's any Cold Setting to be done, we gonna do it American style, brother.

But even as I am thinking these thoughts the wheel slips easily into the drop outs. I Tell You the Truth when I say the new, bigger OLD wheel fit more better and more easily than the old one that came with the bike.

Cue the Voice
Why does this not surprise me? Said the Voice.

Some things defy all understanding. After days of shopping and worrying that things would not fit, they did. Even though I was vastly relieved, I was a little angry, too. I would someday like to grab a virtual two-by-four and pay a visit to some of those Internet Experts who seem to delight in causing me to worry.

They Were Wrong About the Brakes, Too
Oh yeah, there was also a general consensus that in switching from the Old School 27” tires to the New Standard (Metric) size of 700c I would have to do some kind of intricate carving on my brakes using a jeweler's loupe and a dentist's drill. The truth was far less dramatic. I grabbed a 10mm wrench and loosened the brake shoe mounting bolt. The shoes dropped down into a proper position over the rim as though that was where they were planning to be all along, but they  were just waiting for some hero to come along and Restore Them to Their Rightful Place. Like the Lost Prince of Alaska.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Bicycle Repair Palace