Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Monday, December 26, 2016

Post-Christmas Post

I hope that everyone had a good Christmas. I decided to stay in Denver for the holidays, this year, and seeing the news about airport madness here and other places make me glad that I did.

I spent the day on Christmas Eve at Fermaentra, sipping a couple of beers and working on an art project that I want to maintain some momentum on.  Christmas Day was awesome. I called my family, first off, then went over to the Clicks' for breakfast, then on to the Max house for dinner.

I didn't get home until 1:00 AM!

Here's a short little bit of test footage from the art project (an animated music video):

It's shaky because I "filmed" it with the time-lapse feature on the cell phone.  It's a lot of work, but fun!


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Flu-bie Doobie Doo

I have been under the weather for the better part of the week. Monday afternoon, the annoying cough and itchy throat I had experienced for a couple of days welcomed a fever and extreme fatigue into the mix. I slept from 7:30, Monday night, to 1:00 Tuesday afternoon, and I slept 16 to 18 hours a day until yesterday, when I cut waaaay back to 12 hours.

Today was the first day I woke up feeling human, which was convenient since I had about 6 inches of (thankfully, powdery) snow to shovel off of the walk and drive. It was a little cool out, but it warmed up nicely by the time I went out to shovel...

It warmed up from 1 degree above zero (F) to 2 degrees above zero! I took advantage of the balmy temps to shovel, and let the van warm up before driving to Kaladi for my first coffee in 5(!) days.

(As a side note, the Dodge wouldn't even turn over since, I assume, I haven't driven it enough lately to keep the battery charged. This is one of the many reasons that I do not want two cars at once!)

I posted this photo of The Chick Magnet on FB, this morning, after I got to the coffee shop. This was my first drive in any significant amount of snow, and it went really well. While it's not quite as easy as driving in 4wd, the studded tires do make it a lot easier than normal tires do.

It's looking more and more like the Dodge is going to go away, and the Astro Van is going to stick around. It's a handy vehicle for me, and I am oddly fond of it, already. Of course, like any used vehicle, it could go completely south on me, at any time. That's why I am waiting just a bit longer before I make the final decision.


Metisse Guitar

Metisse is a French word meaning "a woman of mixed heritage". I can think of no better word to describe this guitar.

She started life as a mid-80s Asian-made (I think Taiwan, at that time) Harmony. I bought it at the flea market, outside my home town in Tennessee, 6 or 7 years ago. My oldest nephew took it home, for a few years, and I ended up bringing it home with me, last year, after a visit to Pennsylvania.

 I never really liked the headstock shape on these guitars, so I slightly reshaped the profile, did a nice set-up, and used it once or twice for solo gigs over at Fermaentra. It was just fine as it was so, of course, I decided I needed to modify it.

For some reason, I was craving a rosewood fingerboard on this guitar. I like the "woodier" feel of the rosewood grain, as opposed to the smoother maple, and I just thought it would look good in contrast to the blonde finish on the body. The original look was a little too monochromatic for me.

The easiest way to change fingerboards on a bolt-neck guitar?  A new neck.

So, I started watching eBay and, after a few weeks, I saw this Squire Bullet neck for $50.00, free shipping. I hit the "Buy It Now" button and, a few days later, the neck was in the house. Today, I decided the time was ripe to swap the necks.

Now, I have the Metisse; a 1980s plywood Harmony with a new Indonesian Squire Bullet neck on it. Not the fanciest guitar I own, but it has its place in the stable.

I'll probably swap the tuners out, eventually. That is always the weak point on the imported Fender product necks. The intonation is fine, the frets are nice and level, and the neck has a nice profile. Sounds good, feels good ... it's all good.

I might get a custom "Metisse" decal made for it, just for grins. Then again, I might just leave the Squire logo on it. It doesn't really affect the sound or playability, after all.


Monday, December 05, 2016

Snow and Cold Are In the Forecast

So, I busted out the fixed gear Surly 1x1 snowbike. Studded 26 x 2.2" Conti on the back, and a studded 26 x 4" 45NRTH Dillinger on the front.

The hand warmers are probably the best investment I ever made for winter riding. It is simply amazing how much of a difference those things make when the temps dip down below 30 degrees.

I haven't ridden a whole lot, lately. I commuted by bike a couple of days, last week, and I felt the effort, afterward. Riding on snow and ice will be a little harder, but I am looking forward to it, actually. Adventure Commuting is my favorite.

Low temps on Wednesday and Thursday are supposed to be around 0 degrees F to -5F. Since I leave for work at about 5:15, on the bike, I fully expect to be out during the low temperature time, those days. Fun, fun!


Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Chick Magnet

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a 1998 Chevy Astro Van from a guy up in Clear Creek County. I've been wanting a vehicle which gets better mileage than the Big Damn Dodge, but which would still be useful for hauling things around. I couldn't find a 1966 Dodge van with A/C, so I started looking at Astro/Safari vans from the late 90's.

Anyway, I found this one, cheap, and bought it. Then, I took it to my mechanic and spent almost as much as I paid for the van in order to get it safe and reliable (and to make it pass emissions testing). Today, I put a new battery in it, so I think it's good to go for the most part. There are some small things (broken outer door handle on the passenger door, stereo/speakers) that I will take care of as time goes by, but the van is on the road.
 The Chick Magnet

I call it the Chick Magnet, ironically, but I actually do kind of dig the looks of it.

It's not perfect, but it sure is useful. The two rear bench seats come out, allowing a 4x8 sheet of plywood to lie flat. So, it is at least as utilitarian as the Dodge, for hauling. I can't get the motorbike in it, but I can't get the motorbike in the Dodge, either, as it sits too high for my ramp (plus it has a hard cover on the bed, which is a real pain to remove).

Here it is with one bench out, the other still in place. We have a show, tonight, and I am hoping that we can load everything up, in this configuration. If so, that means that all three of us could load up and head down to the Springs, or up into the hills for a show, if need be.

Worst case scenario is that both seats will have to come out, in order to haul all of the gear. If that is the case, I will devise some sort of jump seat arrangement in order to get us all on the road.

 I like the "half hatchback/half barn door" arrangement on the back.

The only real worry I have with the van is that it is 2-wheel drive. It has studded snow tires on it, right now, and I did test-drive it in the snow, where it did fine. Getting to work is not a worry, since I typically ride the bicycle to work when it snows. I just want to make sure we can get to and from gigs with the band.

If I get through a couple of snowstorms with no problem, I plan to sell the Dodge. I really don't want to own two trucks at once.

I also plan on building or buying a camp cot/storage unit to slide into the back, so that I can use the van as a mini-camper. Maybe I'll throw a Thule cargo box on top, too, if I can find one cheap.

All in all, I am pretty fond of The Chick Magnet, even though I realize it may well be the least-cool vehicle I have owned since my beloved 4-door Chevette (which I still miss).


Friday, December 02, 2016

Blog Post #1000

Some thoughts on blogging ... skip this if you want. There is an actual post, below this.

Next month will make seven years that I have been posting on this blog. During that time, the "Golden Age" of blogging, it appears, has come and gone. I have bemoaned the exodus of bloggers to Facebook, before, and it probably means little to most of you. But, I do still miss the community of bloggers that existed back then. It seemed so much more social than "social media" does.

But, enough of that. Until Google kills Blogger, I will continue to post here. This truly is a web-log, for me; a public journal of my life and what's going on around me. I really like looking back through the posts to see what was happening at certain times, or even to check and compare the weather, today, versus at some other time. I hope someone continues to enjoy reading it, as well, but I will post, no matter what.

That said, the frequency of posts has certainly decreased, lately. That is partly because the audience has shrunk, and partly because I have gotten lazy. I'm thinking I will change that, going into the new year.

I'm still working on my fat-front mountain bike. As I mentioned in my last post (2 months ago!), the aluminum frame I had built up did not have enough clearance for the 27.5x3" rear tire, if the tire was inflated to over 27 psi. This was fine for street use, and slow cruising off-road, but riding with any speed over rough terrain caused repeated pinch flats. I also mentioned, in that post, that I had a possible fix in mind. That fix is shown in the picture, above.

I bought a cro-mo steel 29er frame from a vendor on Amazon, for $139.00. At that price, I figured I could take a chance on tire clearance and, since the frame is steel, I could  attempt to dimple the insides of the chain stays, or even re-bend them, if necessary. And, if all else failed, I could build it into a 29er and sell it cheap on Craigslist.

The clearance was better than the alloy frame's, but still not optimal. So, I did end up dimpling the insides of the chain stays. I might even do a little more, later, but I'm able to run 40 psi, now, if I need.

The front fork is certainly going to need a paint job, if this ends up being a permanent installation. The blue really doesn't complement the green frame.

 The frame looks enough like a Surly (especially with the green paint) that everyone seems to assume that it is. If I was that type, I could sticker it up and most people would never know the difference. The biggest difference is that the rear dropouts and triangle were way the hell out of alignment, when I received the frame. I spent about an hour and a half tweaking it, after I got it.

But, what do you expect for $139.00, shipped?

 I bought this rear fat wheel off of Craigslist, a couple of months ago. The rim is 80mm (like the one on my Surly 1x1), but it had the offset drilling and was dished to run on the rear. I re-drilled it, and  re-laced it to center it and even up the spoke tension. Works like a charm, and gives the front tire a much bigger footprint than the 50mm rim did.

I haven't had a chance to go mountain biking, since I put this together, but I have done some around-town riding on it and it's mostly working to suit me. I did get some thumb shifters for it, since the old GripShift shifters I have on it are a little stiff to operate. And I bought another 1990's LX rear derailleur to replace the one I removed from one of my Trek 930's just to get this bike rolling.

Hopefully, I will do enough mountain biking, this year, both just riding and bike-packing, to justify this build. More on that, later.