Gone Fishin'


I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!


An HDR Thought

Nice run again tonight- six miles after dinner with a belly full of chipotle black beans, tortilla, tomatoes, cilantro, onions peppers and scrambled egg- and it didn't even hurt the run too much. It's feeling wintry again, so the bikes are garages with the exception of commuting on my cruiser fixie (pictures of that later). I took this shot (actually, I held down the shutter and auto-bracketed two stops either side of the correct exposure) last night and did the old merge to HDR with Photomatix. I was thinking today about why I like HDR. Although part of it is the whiz-bang factor of doing the post processing, I think the other thing I like is the closer approximation of good slide film that you can get, but with more control. I can't imagine what this might be like if I knew what I was doing. The other thing I think worked well here was zooming the lens all the way on to 200mm, thus compressing the scene and pulling the North Hills and Snowbowl in closer to the buildings. Missoula Skyline All that said, even with camera tricks and color correction, yes, it really is that beautiful out here.


The Train I Ride

Too snowy and weird for the bike today, so Kate and I went for a six-mile run instead. It felt good and we caught the little bit of sun that we had all day here. We took a drive out along the Clark Fork toward Turah as well. We matched speed with a train headed out of town for some time. It carried oil, plywood, grain, empty cars and who knows what else. Home again after that and bison sirloin fajitas for dinner- always good! It was a short weekend, and the next will be as short. I have the same work schedule coming up, that is, a regular work week at the office and a Friday night/Saturday all day combo at REI. Gotta sell that footwear! Bulbs are up around town now and the crocuses (which I swear they've planted over a steam pipe) on the side of the police station are in full bloom. Our plants can't be too far behind though, if it will just stop snowing in the valley.


Long Week

Another long week has come and gone. This one involved a day-long workshop on land-use planning and natural resource conflict resolution, an attempt to establish an advisory rural community council in an new community (oooh, I'm quoted in the paper- famous!), and two days of meetings in a place that is 55 miles one way from the office. Tomorrow's a full day at REI, maybe a bike ride on Sunday before the madness begins anew? Let's hope so.


Situational Awareness

Celebrating the extra hour of post-work daylight, Kate and I got out for another bike ride tonight. We headed up the Rattlesnake along Duncan Drive and then portaged over the slush into Lincolnwood, then further up the main corridor and back around again to return across the Clark Fork River over the UM campus bridge at Eastgate. It was a nice ride, but that isn't really what this post is about. The bridge at Eastgate is a nexus between the UM campus and eastern Downtown Missoula. At its base on the west side of the Clark Fork, the bridge trail intersects the Kim Williams Trail, a route that follows the river for several miles both up- and downstream. With the good weather of the last few days, the trail has become packed with runners, bikers, dog walkers and clueless pedestrians walking four across and taking up the whole width of the path. While the clueless pedestrians provide ample rant-fodder, that's not what I'm posting about tonight, either. As we came down the bridge to the aforementioned intersection, a cyclist approaches on a neon orange road bike, riding only a little more than walking speed. Nearby, a girl with a brunette ponytail and big sunglasses walks her Scottie dog on one of those extensible cable leash things, at its fullest extension. She's not paying much attention to where she's looking, or to where the dog is. Next, all I can see is the bike jarring to a halt, entangled in the leash and the little dog cartwheeling almost though the frame of the bike. I don't remember if the cyclist went down, but I do remember him riding toward us again at the same plodding pace moments later. A girl nearby is red-faced and in tears, and the dog owner has scooped up the little Scottie and carried him to a nearby field. He looked OK, but who knows? I'm not sure where to lay the blame on this one. The biker was JRA (just riding along) and he was certainly going slow enough that his speed was not a factor. The girl clearly was not paying attention or had not realized that she had a small living thing under her care an had allowed it into a very dangerous situation by letting its leash out so far in such a heavily trafficked area. Who am I kidding? I blame the girl. I've seen dog owners in Missoula do plenty of really stupid things, and last year Kate was nearly taken off her bike by a leashed dog in a very similar situation to today's. Here's a few notes to people getting back out on the bike paths this time of year: 1. Welcome back. Those of us who use the paths year-round can't say we really missed you all winter, but the warmer weather sure is nice. 2. Believe it or not, there are actually people going both directions on the path, and when you and your friends walk four abreast, you impede their travel. It's annoying enough when they are overtaking you, but when you see them coming and don't even attempt to move out of the way, that's just lazy. 3. If your dog's leash is extended longer than the path is wide, and especially if your dog is unpredictable, you are harboring a potential tripwire AND you are putting your dog in danger. 4. That said,Missoula does have a leash law and it does cover the entire trail in town. Use a leash. And if you see me glaring at you when you have a dog and no leash, don't try to make it better by pretending your dog is under voice command by yelling at it. It makes you look stupid and it isn't very nice for the dog, who has no idea what you're talking about. 5. Nobody can stand less than 10 feet from their dog and pretend convincingly that they don't realize what it's doing on the grass. Get a bag and clean it up. 6. The path is not your personal racetrack- there's lots of open roads out there and they are all great places to go all out on your road bike, fixie, or cross machine. The path in town just has too many people, leashed dogs, unleashed dogs, etc for going much over 10mph during peak hours. That about covers it for now.


Shakedown Ride

Kate and I got out for a nice little ride today, totally enjoying the full sun and total lack of wind. Temperatures were in the 50's- whee!


It's Final

I may have never blogged the virtues of our apartment building, but let me do so in a sentence or two: It's an old, heavy wood everything, former nun housing, five unit, white with green wood shutters, well made and in a great neighborhood, building. The closet doors weigh 30 pounds apiece and ride on brass tracks, and everything is solid. It stands in total contrast to the first place we lived, a chipboard and plastic megacomplex that shook whenever somebody used the stairs outside and will have to be torn down in 40 years when it wears out.

What's final? Vinyl's final. That's what we used to say when I worked painting houses with Lance and Jesse anyway. For the last few weeks, the property management company has had a crew here adding some r-1 insulation and vinyl siding to the structure. I guess they weighed the cost against repainting and went with the hose-off siding instead. I'm all for increased efficiency, but I loathe vinyl siding. It looks ugly and cheap, it's made with foreign oil instead of local trees, and it encases much of the architectural detail of an old house like this under the hermetic seal and charm of a double-wide. New windows would have added way more thermal efficiency, but probably would have cost five times as much and not resolved the need to paint this summer. Further, out go the wooden shutters in favor of more plastic, with the new shutters about 3/4 as wide as the old. Ugly.

The sting is even greater considering that our next door neighbor spent most of last summer removing the crappy vinyl from his place, replacing old claps, and repainting- his place looks great now, and ours is a sad caricature of its former self. It's no wonder people who own homes in our neighborhood rail against "renters" as bringing down property values. Maybe it isn't the people, maybe it's the level of care the owners give to the structures. Our place now stands as another bit of disposable built environment within a neighborhood that was built to last (sidewalks poured in 1913, maple trees from New York planted in the boulevard around the same time). That's the real shame. They aren't making any more places close to downtown Missoula- the neighborhoods we have now are the only ones we'll ever have, and in an era orf rising gas prices, neighborhoods like ours will become critical when walking to the farmer's market becomes a way of life and not just something to do for hipster points.

All told, it isn't really final, but it will be a mountain of work for somebody who ever wants to bring this place back to its former glory in 20 years or so. It makes it more likely that they'll just consider a teardown when the time comes, which would also be a shame.


Spring Cleaning

Through more my own anxious desire to have some warm weather than any real change of climate, I decided that today was bike cleaning and de-winterizing day. The bike is question was my faithful Trek 930, which I have had since 1997, I think. It started life as a middle-of the road mountain bike with front suspension when front suspension was (to me, at least) a pretty big deal. The bike stayed in that configuration:

Until a year and a half ago, when the bottomed out suspension fork started to be a real drag and the abused drive train, with overstretched chain and shark-toothed cogs, was starting to skip on me any time I applied any real torque to the thing. All at once, I replaced the fork, stem, tires, chain and cogs, ending up with a 1X7 gear setup and a rigid fork. With the fenders added on, it was probably a wash, weight wise.

So, today, I stripped off the studded winter tires and put the slicks back on and gave everything a good cleaning. Here's to another season of riding!

The picture above is of the bike today. It's also an HDR shot (or actually, the composite of three bracketed shots.) HDR is great fun, and if you have a camera that you can adjust exposure on, I'd recommend giving it a try. Photomatix is a good place to start for free, though as you can see above, the free version watermarks your photos.