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!


Wrenching and Meditation

It had been a long day in a string of long days. With Austen to bed and Kate on her way out the door to do some grocery shopping, I headed into the basement to see if I could get a little time on the rollers. After the summer ended, I had finally set things up again: Rollers on the carpet, centered under our low basement ceiling's floor joists, tires pumped, old laptop on a stepladder ready to boot into Netflix, headphones with long cable threaded above, through the skis and tent poles stored in the ceiling.

I looked around the rest of the basement. Five gallons of British Bitter and another five of hard cider bubbled merrily away in fermenters. A drop leaf table I refinished years ago dropped one of its leaves too far when a hinge broke and I had moved it into the work area. Then some bike parts I ordered showed up, and the table became a workbench, as horizontal surfaces in the basement are wont to do. The minivelo was in the workstand. I had already rearranged the crankset and installed the new cassette. The bike had come with stock gearing for a normal-size road rig, but the 20-inch wheels threw it off, made the gearing too low. I had replaced the 52-tooth big ring with a 56-tooth one, and the new cassette has an 11-tooth small cog and a 32-tooth large one. Big range.

The next task to undertake on the minivelo was born of functional need and vanity in equal parts. I needed to adjust the shift cables and move the front derailer to make the new gears shift smoothly. I also wanted to replace the stock black cable housing with white housing, to match the white saddle and white handlebar tape I plan to put on the bike.  I pulled the cables, cutting each one cleanly with a satisfying crunchy snip. My Park Tool cable cutters are sharp and are reserved only for these two tasks. Cut cables. Cut housing. I removed the old housing and retrieved a bag of ferrules from the drawer I have for such small bike parts and uncoiled the new white housing. I made the new pieces shorter, for a more elegant "no reverse curves" layout that should make the shifting smoother and more precise. Even with the nice cuts made by the tool, some of the wires that stiffen the housing come out a little uneven. I ran each piece over a file a few times until all of the cut ends were perfectly flat, ensuring that the bare cable end would nest into the ferrule as tightly as possible.

I returned to the toolbox again. In the top drawer, there are a few tools that came from my grandfather's basement after he died. Calipers my grandmother used every day in her job at the Clarostat factory. Old wrenches, smelling of engine oil and the basement dirt of my grandfather's cellar.  An ice pick labeled "Dover  Ice Company." Think about that. A tool used to chip manageable pieces of ice that were delivered to the house from some other place, packed in sawdust after being cut from some winter pond. I use the ice pick to neaten and widen the holes in the cable housing, to pick bearings out of the unreachable places they sometimes end up in, to clean gunk. This time, I used the sharpened tip to pen up the housing, again ensuring a smooth interface.

All of these little things. All of these little things combined to do such a little thing. Someone else on the street is doing the same thing in their basement, slow, methodical, Doing it Right. Maybe fixing a lawnmower, maybe sanding a bookshelf, remembering to wipe the new wood with a tack cloth after, remembering a time when they didn't know to do that. Wisdom in the feel of the right tool, findable and maintained, the hand planes on my bench, each wrapped in an old section of inner tube, keeping the cutting edges keen. The right kind of oil stored just for this purpose of loosening one nut someday, waiting in the cabinet. 

The ferrules and cable housing slide over the cable with a little resistance, then effortlessly once they are fully on. I put everything back together. I go back to the toolbox. Top tray: Tools of Measurement. First Drawer: Tools that Cut or Abrade. Second Drawer: Tools that Push, Pull, or Drive. Bottom Drawer: Attachments, Tape, Solder. I take my "third hand" tool from the second drawer. I use it to put just the right amount of tension on the derailer cables before I tighten the fixing bolts. I adjust the shifting a bit here, a bit there. I plug  the soldering iron in and let it heat. I don't have any new crimp-on cable ends. I heat the freshly-cut cables with the iron. The solder is a solid, then it isn't as it melts and flows into the fiber of the cable with a sputter and a puff of smoke.

It all clicks, the new cable housing is bright, different. The tools all go back in the box, the bags of small parts are closed and returned to their proper places. The bike stays on the workstand. Next time I'll do the brake cables and bar wrap.  I can hear the car in the driveway as I head back upstairs to wash my hands. I never made it to the rollers, but I felt deeply satisfied, and my mind was clear.


Brewing Journal: Batches 11 and 12, Entry #1

Batch #11. Purchased 5.5 gallons of unpasteurized apple cider from Boyer’s Orchard. Allowed it to warm to room temperature overnight and pitched a pack of the Wyeast 4767 the next morning. Last year’s cider had an original gravity of 1.051, I’d guess that this years’ was close to that or a little sweeter, but it is whatever it is and I’m not too hung up on worrying about the alcohol content on this anyway. Looking over my notes from last year when I made cider, I can’t believe that I only let it go two weeks in primary and then kegged it, and that I was liking the taste of it two weeks after that! That is way, way too quick for good cider. The best of the cider from last year was the bit I drank in April before the keg finally blew. This year’s plan is more conservative. I’ll give it two or three weeks in primary, then rack it to a secondary for further clarification. I got too much sediment last year going right from the primary to the keg. I also think the cider could have benefited from a little more sweetness and body, so I am going to double the lactose addition from one to two pounds.  Same sugar and maple syrup additions for natural carbonation in the keg, more sugar if I decide to go ahead and put this in Belgian bottles.

Batch #12. British bitter. I brought 2 gallons of my boil water to 170 degrees with my steeping grains in the pot and allowed it to sit for a few minutes, then to the boil with the DME and LME included in the kit, 1 ounce of Kent Goldings hop pellets at 60 minutes and another ounce with a minute left to go in the boil. Chilled the wort to 100 degrees in about 10 minutes in a water bath in the kitchen sink and added it to the fermenter with the rest of the water to make just a hair over 5 gallons. Didn’t bother with a gravity reading, it is supposed to be around 1.035. (Not like I’m really doing a mash here, so as long as the right amount of water is in the fermenter and I put all of the malt in, which I did.)  I pitched the yeast when the wort had cooled to 78 degrees and observed slight signs of fermentation 12 hours later. 24 hours in there was a fluffy krausen about an inch thick and my blowoff tube was bubbling away. This is supposed to need a two-week primary and two weeks of bottle conditioning (fast, low-gravity, low alcohol brew) so I should be able to rack it to a keg for natural carbonation on 10/31 and be ready to consume by 11/14 (at least taste). looks like we’ll be pulling drafts of cellar-temp British Bitter for Thanksgiving if all goes well!


The Cold

We all have the cold. Austen snuffles all night and wakes periodically to protest the way a stuffed-up nose interferes with the use of his pacifier. Kate has had it for a day or two now. It started for me last night, a grating feeling down one side of my throat and now a pressure behind my right eyeball that makes me want to check the mirror to see that it is staying in.  An all-day regimen of tea (to soothe my gravel throat) means waking up all night, every two hours, to pee. Like an old man. Last night at some unnamed hour we all awoke and hauled the little humidifier out of the basement for Austen. I don't remember when that was. Its little ultrasonic element that vibrates the water into vapor was dried out or clogged or something, so there we were, the three of us in Austen's room, Kate rocking him in the chair and me stabbing at buttons, the electrical outlet, stabbing at the little ultrasonic thing with a Q-tip trying to coax it back to life. It's making the noise but no vapor.You wouldn't know Kate had the cold if she didn't tell you. Austen, though tired and off his normal appetite, smiles and laughs the same, giggling through his perpetually running nose. I'm the real baby. I can't stand it, the reduced lung capacity, the fatigue. Kate recommends a decongestant, a vitamin."I hate pills." I say. What I mean is that I hate that the pills are not a miracle cure, their efficacy more imagined than measurable. I get the vapor going in the humidifier. At 5:30 Austen is up again, and I have the sensation that I have been wakened from a more peaceful sleep than the rest of the night brought. He's back to bed, we all sleep. Fifteen minutes before I need to be on my way to work he wakes again. I feed him, make the coffee, try to eat something myself. I get my bike stuff on and roll out the door, knowing Kate has had a frantic shower and is half together herself. I'm leaving her with more work than she should have to do. I have the fenders on, the lights, the shoe covers. The raindrops hit my thighs just the same. Wet wool. The first hill comes and I feel like my lungs stop an inch below my neck. Short breaths, try not to upset the delicate balance in my throat. There's a gremlin tugging back on my wheel, resistance like a flat tire but I can see there isn't one.  Later, spinning, trying to find a rhythm, the cough comes, the sharp sandpaper throat follows, the grimace. At the top of the hill is the Poplar that drops leaves and sticks into the road. On a rainy day like this, I slow and go around. The leaves wouldn't crunch today anyway.


Surveying the Harbor

It may be Fall, but it is basically beach weather down here.


Colchester Ave 'Complete Street' Approved!

I don't normally just reblog stuff here, but this is really excellent. After a demonstration period, a local street that was once a 4-lane has been reduced to a three -lane "Complete Street" with accomodations for cyclists, pedestrians, and cars. I truly hope that this sort of "4 lanes to three lanes with bike lanes" approach will be considered some day for Williston Road, at least from the airport to I-89.

Colchester Ave 'Complete Street' Approved!: From Localmotion
After a year-long demonstration, multiple public meetings and continued advocacy from nearby residents, the City of Burlington has officially committed to keeping the 3-lane design that was installed last September!
On September 28th, the Public Works Commission unanimously approved the 3-lane design with bike lanes and enhanced crosswalks. As long as weather cooperates, the final coat of asphalt and the striping should be in place by winter.
The Commission referenced the City's newly adopted Transportation Plan that calls for 'Complete Streets' as an important reason to approve this demonstration project. As Commissioner Maggie Gundersen rightly noted "It will take time to transition to our complete streets plan" and added that she sees the benefits. "As a driver, I feel much safer on Colchester Avenue now -- it's much calmer."
"This process wasn't easy, so I want to specifically acknowledge the strong leadership from Public Works (Erin Demers and Nicole Losch), the CCRPC (Eleni Churchill), CATMA (Bob Penniman), RSG (Joe Segale), the City Council Transportation Cmte (Kurt Wright, Vince Brennan, Dave Hartnett), City Councilor Sharon Bushor and the entire DPW Commission," said Local Motion's Director Chapin Spencer.
The City started the 3-lane demonstration in September 2010. The road had previously been 4-lanes and was a high-crash location. The 3-lane design has been working well, even with the 18,000 to 20,000 cars a day. Now that the City will make the 3 lane design permanent, it will allow for bike lanes and enhanced pedestrian crossings. When Public Works initially asked for public comment on the redesign, comments were 160 in support and 10 opposed, but a few critics persisted in questioning the complete street.
If we weren't able to get the 3-lane design passed on Sept 28, another year would have gone by without the final coat of asphalt added on the street or the formal bike lanes. The successful demonstration ran for a full year, and the continued support of Burlington residents helped convince policy makers to make it permanent. The Department of Public Works has led the way with forward thinking work on Colchester Avenue and we should thank them! Click here to send a thank you email to DPW staffer Nicole Losch.
The City and many stakeholders have completed a final draft of a long-range plan for Colchester Avenue. It also shows a 3-lane 'complete streets' vision, and it will be presented to the full DPW Commission in October 2011.


Rainy Fall Days

-are made for baking. This sky-high Apple pie is on its way into the oven right now.


Sometimes a Great Notion

Austen has this sort of Pacific Northwest thing going on here while I am sporting the classic "rumpled Vermont municipal employee at the end of a long week" look.