Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Under The Weather

Twelve days ago, my throat began to get a little sore. Since then, I have been down with what my doctor referred to as a "respiratory infection", including a violent and painful cough. For awhile, I was sleeping 14 to 16 hours a day, and running a fever. Then, I went through a few days where I had absolutely no appetite, despite the fact that my stomach was growling from hunger.

Yesterday, I actually ate lunch and dinner, for the first time since Sunday before last.

I've taken my belt up a notch, as a result of all this ... so, I've got that going for me. But, I don't have much to report. Thus, this is going to be a short post.

Stay tuned. Maybe life will get back to what passes for normal, in the next little bit. Until then, as they say in Japan, "See you later!"


Friday, October 13, 2017

Reconfigured the Funk Bike

I've had the Funk set up with 700x35c tires and fenders for quite a while, as I have used it as my main commuter bike for the past 3 or 4 years. A few months ago, I changed out the Albatross bars for some Velo Orange Klunker bars, thinking that the upright position might suit me a little better. Unfortunately, it did not. I think it was due more to the narrowness of the bars, more than anything else. I'm hoping to eventually build a bike on which they will be more appropriate.

Last week there was a 50 mile gravel ride down in Monument, Colorado, and I thought it would be a good ride to participate in. Danny Mac was up for it as well, so I decided to reconfigure the Funk to more of the original version of the bike; a mixed-terrain all-rounder.

So, I swapped the 35c tires for 29x2.3" CST tires, removed the fenders (they won't fit with the bigger meats), and replaced the Klunker bar with a Surly Open Bar.

The Brooks saddle and Carradice bag got swapped back from the Faux Surly, and I was ready to roll.

I love those wide (666mm) Open bars. I have one on the 1x1 and my camping bike, and it's great when I need to really torque it up a hill. But, width aside, the angle it sets my wrists at is very natural for me, and makes the ride more comfortable, no matter what kind of ride it is,

Danny ended up being unable to make the ride, so I got everything ready on Friday night and went to bed planning on doing a solo jaunt. Saturday morning arrived, and I found myself dealing with a very low amount of enthusiasm for driving down by myself and riding by myself, so I ended up bagging it.

I kinda beat myself up, a bit, for not going until, on Sunday afternoon, my throat started getting sore and I started feeling feverish. I'm thinking, now, that part of my low enthusiasm might have been that I was beginning to get to sick.

I rode the 1x1 down to Kaladi on Monday (Columbus Day is a State holiday), in the snow, not realizing that I was actually pretty sick. I was thinking mild head cold, but it was apparently something else. It was a pretty unhappy ride back to the house, that day.

I've had a pretty rough week; only worked one day, and I'm headed to the doctor's office, this afternoon, due to a weird rash that developed on my wrists when I started running a fever.

But, the Funk is in good shape, and just waiting for me to be able to ride it somewhere...


Friday, October 06, 2017

Never Leave Home Without It

Wednesday, I left the house, on the Faux Surly, at 5:20 A.M., as usual on my commute to work. The morning air was crisp, and I was enjoying the ride despite a nagging fatigue which has haunted me for the last month to month-and-a-half.

As I climbed the steep hill on the north side of Leetsdale Avenue, I felt/heard my chain make a "ping" noise. I hoped that I had just imagined it, but then, it happened again. My thoughts strayed to the time that I was climbing that very grade and broke my left crank arm, which caused me to crash in a rather spectacular fashion.

        The hill I was climbing. Look at the tops of the cars on Leetsdale, and keep in mind that I am only about 50 yards past that street. It is a steep pitch...

"I hope that doesn't happen, if my chain breaks, or something...", I thought to myself.

Just then, of course, my chain broke. Luckily, I think that the anticipation of such an occurrence made me somewhat ready for the sudden lack of resistance on the pedal, and I simply coasted to the side of the road, chainless.

"Well, hell," I thought. "I wonder if the connector link gave way."

Nope. I inspected the chain, and found that it had broken about a foot away from the the connector. So, I got the multi-tool out, opened up the chain-tool portion of it (never leave home yadda-yadda) and set about repairing the chain.

Once the repair was complete (less than 5 minutes after the first "ping", I continued on my way to work.


I got to work just about on time, and went about my day, happy that I travel prepared.

That afternoon, on the way from work. I was crossing Leetsdale, once again (at the pedestrian crossing by George Washington High School), when,,, PING.

Yep. The damn chain broke, again. This time,  the link next to the connector link broke.

I usually don't run more than 8 cogs on the freehub, simply because I don't really trust the thinner chains used with 9-speed and up. Everyone pooh-poohs that, but... the Faux Surly has a 9-speed cogset and chain. And, I have never broken the same chain, twice, on any other drivetrain. Coincidence? Maybe...

But: Twice! On my commute, not on a gnarly mountain bike ride.

I have a new KMC chain on the way to replace the SRAM chain which broke (twice!). Hopefully, that will fix the problem.
At least I had my chaintool with me. Never leave home without it!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Changing Weather

The only weather more confusing than Springtime In The Rockies is Autumn In the Rockies. As of Saturday, it was warm enough that my yard snakes were swimming around in the fountain. Sunday, the weather went south, and I had a wet, cold commute on Monday morning.

Since it was raining when I left the house, I put my phone, wallet and pocket notebook in some high-tech protective pouches:

I buy them in boxes of 200 at the grocery store. 

Oddly, ZipLoc bags are touchscreen-friendly. You can actually text while the phone is in the bag.

It was not only raining, but it was also 44 degrees (F) when I rolled out. So, I was dressed for it, including my old shoe covers. I have had these for about 10 years, and I keep repairing them. I put a new zipper in one, and I have sewed up various splits and separations over the past couple of years. Apparently, there is no one making shoe covers like these, nowadays (full coverage, a walkable sole with no precut cleat hole, heavy duty neoprene and a rear zipper), or I would just buy a new pair!

Today, I rode home at 63 degrees, in a long-sleeve base layer and a sport t-shirt, shorts and no tights! Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer still.

 Messy Kitchens Are Us!

Last week, I transferred the Carradice bag from the Funk onto the Faux Surly, and I have been commuting on it. The big tires require a bit more effort for acceleration/climbing, and I hope that jump-starts my fitness, a bit. Plus, I just love this bike.

I have posted in detail about this build in the past, but some points bear repeating. It is definitely one of those "the sum is greater than the total of its parts" sort of bike. The frame came from Amazon for $139.00 (they are currently listed at $102.43), and most of the parts came from the parts bins in my shop building. (I did buy the handlebar specifically for this bike.)

The fork is from a Surly Karate Monkey. It has no clearance problems with the 27.5x3.00 tire. I could only get a 2.5" rear tire between the chainstays of the frame, though. That's why I bought my Bikes Direct 27.5+ adventure bike.

I've not been on the singletrack with the Faux Surly, yet, but I think I may fix that this weekend.

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Goals

This past little bit, I have felt somewhat adrift in my everyday life. I have so many things going on (work, band, motorcycling, bicycling, handyman projects, life in general) that I often found I was doing nothing, since I just couldn't focus. Plus, I am getting pretty out of shape, since I don't put the focus on cycling that I once did.

So, I am trying a little experiment with bullet journaling, to try and keep things in focus. (If you don't know bullet journals, do a Google search, and be prepared to go down a rabbit hole if you like Moleskines and such...)

One of my goals to check off each week is to bicycle commute at least three times a week (and another is to blog at least once a week, by Wednesday night). Hopefully, the commuting will give me a subject to blog about, if nothing else.

I have two days under my belt, this week, and I plan to pedal, tomorrow, as well. Thursday, I have to go in at 5:00 AM and get everything rolling for the certification class we do each month, at work. So, I will ride the motorbike, that day.

Speaking of the motorbike, I bought a used Thruxton seat for it, last week, and ended up finding a used black and gold seat cowl for it, too.

 I got the seat because I know from having owned a Thruxton that this seat is more comfortable (and looks better) than the Scram seat. I got the cowl just because I thought it would look cool. I wasn't entirely sure that the cowl would be appropriate on the Scrambler, but I thought I'd give it a try.

I like it, particularly since it is a little beat and that matches the bike as much as the black and gold scheme. I may re-stripe it, and I may not.

Progress is being made toward going into the studio with Skull Full Of Blues, and all kinds of things are on my bullet list.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

First Bikepacking Trip on the Adventure Bike

I started building my camping bike back in March of this year, after I finally bit the bullet and gave up on trying to modify a standard frame to do what I want. (See the post here.) This past weekend, I finally got a chance to use it for what it was intended. Up to then, I had merely commuted on it and run errands in order to get my position on the bike dialed in and test the various bags I had mounted to it.

I got up early on Saturday morning and loaded the bike into the Chick Magnet, then drove to the Ride-Share lot at the I-70  Morrison exit to meet Danny Mac. We were headed up to what he had described as a rough cabin, sometimes used by hikers and hunters, on public land somewhere near Breckinridge. I brought my hammock, bivy and tarp just in case it was too tumble-down to sleep in or already occupied when we got there.

Once Dan rolled up, we loaded my bike onto his bike rack and took off to the west. As we drove, I became more and more excited to be on a camping trip. I counted it up and realized that it had been at least five, maybe six years since I had slept in the woods.

Once we parked the Rover and got the bikes off of the rack and loaded up, we took off. The initial part of the ride was up a pretty well-maintained, yet rugged, Forest Service road open to vehicular traffic.

There were a number of people camped in the designated spots along the road, and we began to worry that the cabin might be occupied when we got there. Even though it is a spot known to a relatively small number of people, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for some of that group to have beat us to the spot, or for someone else to stumbled upon it.

As we climbed, the road got rougher and the density of campers decreased, somewhat. Once we turned onto the trail (gated against motor vehicles) that actually led to the cabin, we were beginning to relax about being beat to the punch. We saw no tracks, from foot or tire, along the trail and figured we would be alone in that neck of the woods.

This is a lot steeper than the photo indicates!

Once at the cabin, we were relieved to see that no one was there. I was impressed with the outside appearance. I was anticipating something much rougher than the Spruce Lodge turned out to be.

Inside, it was quite nice ... more so than Danny even anticipated. The floor had been replaced since his last visit, and few niceties such as the chairs in this picture had been added.

We stowed our food in the cooler (more to keep the mice out than to try and keep it cold), threw our sleeping bags inside, then...

...popped open a couple of beers. Riding in had been thirsty work.

After a bit, we decided to hike around the area surrounding the cabin. Danny wanted to show me the neighborhood.

 This is more the condition I was seeing in my mind's eye, but with a roof, when Dan described the cabin to me.

As we hiked, I spotted some bear scat on a log. As you can see, it was quite fresh. We kept an eagle eye out for our ursine neighbor, after that. It was obvious that he was not too far away!

A view from the hillside above the cabin.

After awhile, we headed back to the cabin. We could see storm clouds gathering in around us, and we wanted to get back and get a fire started before it was too wet.

I wanted a nice campfire to sit around, if it wasn't pouring down rain (in which case the wood stove in the cabin would have to do), if for no other reason than to enjoy the bottle of Law's Four Grain Bourbon that I had recieved for finishing the long course at the inaugural Golden Giddyup, last
September. I had saved it for a special occasion, and I figured that this trip qualified.

One of those things I pride myself on is my ability to build a fire, quickly and efficiently. So, I gathered up fine tinder and started the process.  But, as they say, pride goeth before a fall.

I have never had as much trouble starting a fire, in my life. After a week of rain, the normally moist ground and wood in the area was soaked. The ground in the fire pit was so wet that even after I resorted to burning pages from my pocket notebook to start the kindling, steam would come up out of the wet ground make the paper smolder, rather than flame. (Next time, I'll start working on a piece of aluminum foil, or somesuch, to avoid that problem.)

Then, it started to rain. Not a drenching downpour, but a steady shower.

Finally, after much huffing and puffing (and way more matches than I ever thought I would use at once), I got the fire started. Danny split wood as I worked, and I added his splits onto my burning starter, and we eventually had a roaring fire

The rain moved on, and we settled into the evening. Dinner was cooked and eaten. Whiskey was opened and drunk up. We wandered up to the mining road/trail we had ridden in on and watched shooting stars for awhile, then moved back to the fire for more story telling and whiskey drinking.

Late in the evening, this little scamp ran into the cabin, then came back out. Not long after I took this picture, the fox returned and stole some food we had foolishly not secured well enough. It was a lesson well-learned, especially considering the bear scat we had seen earlier!

About midnight, we moved into the cabin. I shoveled some of our campfire coals into the wood stove, and added a few sticks of wood. By the time we went to bed, the inside of the cabin was toasty. I actually had to get out of my sleeping bag, for a while, in the middle of the night!

I got up at about 6:30, the next morning, not feeling particularly good. I figured it was the whiskey and the late night, so I  set about starting a fire in order to make some coffee and breakfast. The fire starting was a lot easier due, I think, to our previous night's fire drying the ground out under the fire pit. The tinder was still damp, but I have dealt with that before.Within a half hour, I had a mug of Kaladi coffee in my hand, and Danny came out of the cabin as I started working on coffee for him.

Camp coffee in my camp mug/whiskey glass...

Keeping my coffee warm as I cook...

I had shelled a half dozen eggs and frozen them in a plastic jar, for the trip, and they had thawed overnight. The yolks didn't really want to blend with the whites as I scrambled them, but they tasted just fine.

I knew something other than the late-night carousing was affecting me, though, when I was unable to finish my breakfast. The spicy deer-meat chorizo sausage that Danny brought was delicious (I ate it the next night, for dinner), but I had no appetite once I had eaten some eggs. It finally occurred to me that what I was suffering from was a classic case of altitude sickness. I haven't spent that much time over 10,000 feet elevation in years and, combined with a slight dehydration from riding and drinking, I was feeling the effects.

So, we packed the bikes and made a reluctant farewell to Spruce Lodge. As we rode back to the car, I was impressed with how the bike handled the baby-head rocks and water bars on the closed trail, and the off-camber dirt of the Forest Service road while still pretty heavily loaded. The bike had impressed me already, on the climb, but the speeds were pretty low on that leg of the trip. The 3.25" tires soaked it all up and allowed me concentrate on the beauty of the forest, rather than having to white-knuckle the ride like I imagine I would have on 2.35" tires.

The Gorilla Cages and bags on the fork worked excellently. Even though they had a quick-release feature, they remained rock-solid for the whole ride.

Once in the car and headed down from the Eisenhower Tunnel, I felt progressively better as we dropped in elevation (though I was quite sleepy). By the time we got back to town, I felt fine.

Danny and I parted ways, and I headed home. After a shower and a nap, I unloaded all of my gear and stowed the bike away, as I started planning my next trip, in my head. I can't wait!


Sunday, July 02, 2017

Summer Vacation - Day Two

The last time I saw my dad before he passed away, 7 years ago this month for both instances, I was packing the bags on my bike, getting ready to leave, as he watched. He had a look on his face, not his normal look of disapproval, but something else. Quizzical, I guess is a good word for it.

"What?", I asked, as I cinched down a strap.

" Motorcycles mean a lot to you; don't they?" he said.

I looked at him for a moment, then answered, "Yes, Daddy, they do. Motorcycles are a big part of my life."

Then, someone else walked up and the conversation took a turn. Daddy and I didn't speak of it, any more.

A couple of weeks later, I was flying back to Tennessee for Daddy's funeral. As I sat on the plane, drinking a vodka tonic, I thought back to that conversation. In truth, I wondered (and still do) if it actually took him over 35 years to realize that my love of motorcycles was not a "phase". Or, was there some deeper meaning behind it that, due to the interruption, I will never learn?

You see, Daddy and I never really got along.  He constantly disapproved of everything I did, and let me know what a disappointment I was to him. To the day he died, if he saw me with a guitar he would say, " Nice guitar. You should learn to play one, some day... "

So, as I thought about his motorcycle comment, I was trying to figure out some negative context for it. But, I could not. I have to hope and believe that he did, indeed, just finally figure out just how much the motorcycle means in my life.

I was thinking about that as I crossed the state line from Kansas into Iowa, this morning. I was heading to Des Moines, where I planned to turn toward Grand Rapids on US 6. The miles were going by smoothly, overcast skies kept the temperature down to a comfortable low-80s range, and the scenery was knocking me out.

I live in a place where majestic mountain vistas are easy to find, and I love it. But the Midwest farmland I was traveling through, today, has a majesty of its own. The green fields of corn flow across the landscape like waves on an ocean. One hundred fifty year-old farmhouses appear around every turn, and lead me to ponder the history soaked into the walls and floorboards. Do the descendants of the original owner still live there? How many doorframes are marked with progressive heights of generations of kids, now grown old or ... dead for decades?

Travelling slowly and forgetting to get in a hurry; those are my goals on this trip as much as getting to my various destinations.

I stopped alongside the road to snap a picture of this tank which guards the entrance to an RV park.

And, I pulled off the highway and explored the small town of Lucas, Iowa, just because the old architecture pleased me.

I ended up getting to the motorcycle museum, in Animosa, 45 minutes before closing time. The gal at the entrance gave me a two-day pass so that I could take a quick look, today, and return tomorrow for a more thorough visit.

I had a great ride, today. Rain sprinkled me outside of Des Moines, but not enough to worry about. The bike is running great, and I'm feeling good.

Motorcycles do mean a lot to me, and today reminded me of that at every turn.