Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Preparing for Summer

Although it was only 37 degrees this morning when the installers showed up at 10:30, we had a new patio cover installed on the pool deck because summer is near. Really, it is. Even though it snowed last night . . .

We tried a big tent in the same place that the wind destroyed.  We then tried umbrellas that didn't always provide great coverage, and they were often toppled over in the wind.

This should fare better.  It's pretty stout.

We'll probably paint the bases brown to match the pool border cement.  I'm not crazy about that much white.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Appetite for Destruction

Working today just isn’t sounding very appealing to me right now. I’ll go to work, but I certainly don’t want to.

Sometimes when I miss a few days of riding, I will come back with a tough ride. I'm not sure whether this is subconscious punishment for being lazy, or if it is simply a desire to catch up on the lost mileage. If it truly is a way of punishing myself, then I learned my lesson. I won’t miss riding days anymore, Mister Self. I swear.

For various reasons I hadn’t made it out for a ride since Saturday, so when Wednesday came I was itching to get out. I took the Fargo and mapped out a basic route in my head that would use roads, dirt and gravel roads, and some singletrack. I figured on four hours and 50 miles.

I rolled down to El Dorado Hills where I jumped on the Brown’s Ravine trail. This was the first time I had taken the Fargo on real singletrack. It’s a very capable trail bike, and the drop bars weren’t really a hindrance. It was the bar-end shifters that made things slow at times. You just can’t shift quickly with those things. On more than one occasion I came around a corner and was late downshifting for a steep climb.

After that I dropped onto the bike trail and crossed over the new bridge near Folsom Dam. I circled around Lake Natoma back into Folsom and took various pieces of bike trail and dirt paths back into El Dorado Hills.

At the 40 mile mark I was getting tired. My route featured a lot of climbing to that point, but the toughest climbing hadn’t even started.

The first grind was a dirt trail out of Empire Ranch. It takes you up to a ridge with a gravel road running along the top. That leads to another tough grunt up a gravel road with great views of the area.

I saw a number of deer, but this was the only one that would stand still:

View from the top:

At that point I consumed the last of my food and water, and I was beat. Unfortunately there was a lot of climbing still to come.

After the descent off the ridge, I had to climb a couple miles through Serrano. The wind was picking up and hitting me from the right. It was slow going.

At the top of the Serrano climbs I just wanted off the bike. I had been out of water for a while and my head hurt. There were still a number of stiff climbs in the last eight miles home, but I only had one nasty ascent to conquer before the next water fountain. I made it over the steep mile-long climb and coasted down to the park where I drank about 25 ounces of water. I immediately felt better.

The last five miles home were tough, but I actually started feeling better towards the end. I finally made it over the final crest and rolled up the driveway with 57 miles and 4.5 hours of ride time.

Today I am very fatigued and my motivation to sit at work is pretty low. But, it has to be done. Time to get my day started.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Al Gore Approved

I bought this yesterday.  My truck is 12 years old, so it was time.

I haven't had a car payment in about nine years, and I am not looking forward to having one now. But I am looking forward to having a car that's a little more modern than my truck. When I bought the truck, the FM cassette deck was the pinnacle of its technology. It didn't even have electric windows.

In a perfect world the new car would have been a Porsche, BMW or Mercedes. Something fun and fast. But we don't live in a perfect world. I drive a long distance to work every day, which is a.) expensive and b.) hard on the environment. I went with a car that minimizes both problems.

It's not much to look at on the outside, but it is a very sophisticated vehicle on the inside. Lots of toys and gadgets to play with. I love having all my music on a USB flash drive and just plugging it in (bye, bye CDs!). The Bluetooth is cool, as are the voice commands, navigation, backup camera . . . it's a lot to take in.

Hopefully it lasts a long time and I am not seen on the freeway with a runaway vehicle, frantically trying to get it to stop.



I couldn't sleep, so I have been playing with the blog.  It looks a little different now.

I became very frustrated yesterday when I posted the YouTube video.  Even at YouTube's smallest resolution, much of the right side of the video was being cut off.  I edited the embedded HTML to make it all fit in the blog body, but then the video was very tiny.

I went into the XML of the blog template and resized everything to make the blog body much wider.  Now I can upload photos and videos in greater resolution.

Future photos will be this size:

Overall I think the wider format is much more readable and easier on the eyes.

I'm going back to bed.  Later.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Garbage Dreams

I like documentaries. Every once in a while one peaks my interest more than others. This one is called "Garbage Dreams." The trailer explains the story better than I can.

The film has been showing at various festivals for the last couple years, but none near me. Finally it will premiere on PBS on the Independent Lens show on April 27.

See the Garbage Dreams web site for more information about the film if you are interested.


Friday, March 19, 2010


Today was another one of those Fridays when I worked in the morning and later in the night (currently), which left the afternoon open for a ride.

(In case you're wondering, no, the great State of California is not paying me to post in the blog. There is a lot of downtime while I work with the application developers to patch my servers.)

Jen was off work today due to a training class on her normal day off, so we were able to ride together. With our work schedules, we only ride together without the kids about twice a year. It was a nice treat.

The weather was great, and I wore shorts for the first time this year.

I took the Fargo out for the first time. My initial impression is pretty positive, but I need to make some adjustments to my position before I can really judge this bike. Fitting a drop-bar mountain bike is a whole lot different than a road bike or normal mountain bike.

Anyway, here are a couple pics from today:

Well, that's about it. Back to work.


Thursday, March 18, 2010


Well, it took a while but I finally finished the Fargo. There were a number of issues along the way—some due to the uniqueness of the bike, some due to my retardation, and just some plain bad luck. I'll get into that more later, but for now here is the finished product.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I had the opportunity to go mountain biking today, but opted not to. In order to pull off a mountain bike ride on Wednesdays, everything has to go right. If there are any hiccups—say a major mechanical or a couple flat tires—a six-year-old will be standing in the parking lot after school wondering where his dad is.

While I have never been late, the slim chance of it happening sometimes makes the whole effort more stressful than it need be. Riding is supposed to be fun.

Also, mountain biking involves driving, which costs money and adds to the wear-and-tear on our already high-mileage vehicles. Since I would need the truck, the SUV (which gets horrible gas mileage and uses premium fuel) would be driven all the way to Sacramento by my wife.

Then there is the pollution aspect.

Sometimes it really bugs me that I have to add to the air pollution that this region suffers from, the same pollution I complain about when I'm riding, to GO riding. Sometimes. Other times the pull of sweet singletrack riding is stronger than my conscience, and I fire up the internal combustion engine and spew pollutants all the way to the trailhead.

Today was one of the days when my conscience and desire for a more relaxed ride won out.

I took the road bike out for a tour of all my favorite country roads. The tempo was comfortable, bordering on slow, with a few hard efforts thrown in here and there. I stopped more than usual for pictures. Without consciously trying, the theme seemed to be animals.

I have ridden by this fence for years and wondered why it's so tall. What are they trying to keep out? Or trying to keep IN?

Suddenly I felt something looming above me and looked up to see this:

That pretty much explains the tall fence. The rest of the animals were a bit more common.




Uh, whatever geese are:



This shot begged for sepia:

This guy begged for food:

I put in 36 miles and enjoyed the mild temperatures, quiet roads and brilliant green scenery.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Furlough Monday and Casseroll Update

I went for a nice road ride today courtesy of the governor. The weather was just about perfect, and the roads were quiet. I had a good time, but was it worth 4.6% of my monthly salary? Uh, no.

I have been riding the Casseroll for a while now, and I love it. I don't think there is anything I would really change about it, which is saying something, because I usually find something I don't like about a bike. It's the perfect road bike for where I live and how I ride at this point in my life.

Most of the components from when I bought it in August are long gone, having found their way to eBay or other bikes.

I originally set it up with bar-end shifters because it was the quickest way to get it on the road. I didn't really care for bar-end shifting, though, and something didn't feel quite right with the handling.

I tore the bike down and built it up with a nine-speed Dura Ace drivetrain. It was better, but still not there. The bike felt a little sketchy going through high-speed corners and very awkward when climbing out of the saddle. The handlebar position, while comfortable, was too high. I took about an inch off the steerer tube, dropping the bars down accordingly. That was the sweet spot.

Still, the bike felt a little lethargic. I swapped out the stock wheels for my old Dura Ace racing wheels, and immediately the bike felt stiffer and quicker. Even with the fat tires, the bike is now pretty zippy.

Anyway, this is how it currently looks as of today:

I saw Kowalski out in the middle of nowhere, obviously scouting out some mission for the Skipper. They're a long way from Madagascar.

I'm always commenting on how hilly it is around my house. Here's how fast I went down one of the hills:


Friday, March 05, 2010

Rare Friday Ride

I'm working after hours tonight, and a little more over the weekend, so I didn't need to go to the office today. This left left my morning open for a little ride.

I stuffed my pockets with enough food for a weekend camping trip and headed out the door. The temperature was only 41 degrees, so the first few descents were a bit uncomfortable. It gradually warmed up over the course of the ride, but it only topped out at 53 today.

I am quite tired of the seemingly constant barrage of storms, but all the rain has left the area very green. It's nice to look at, but I would gladly trade it for a more normal Northern California winter; I have done little mountain biking since December.

It won't be long until these rolling green hills will be a brown, thorn-filled hell.

You never know what you will see along these country roads. My friend Bill says he likes a little junk in the trunk. There you go, buddy.

I eventually made my way down to the bike trail, which was mostly deserted.

I rode over the new Folsom bridge, down the trail through Negro Bar, around Lake Natoma, and back through Old Folsom.

Then I made the long climb back home from Folsom through El Dorado Hills, Serrano and Cameron Park.

That snow in the Sierras will be there for a while. With any luck it might melt enough by the Fourth of July weekend to do some mountain biking.

I ended up with 60.5 miles for the day, a nice change of pace from the usual Friday work day.