Friday, August 28, 2015

New Familiar Things

I finally have a car worth more than my bike.

28 August 2015

I've wanted a Prius since they first came out in 2000.  At the time, it didn't make sense.  My car was still in good shape, and most of my regular driving was on the highway between home and the Trenton train station.  My Honda Civic got reasonable mileage anyway.

Then I stopped commuting to Philadelphia. I took the money I'd have spent on train tickets, parking, and the city wage tax, and put it into a bank account with no easy ATM access.

Meanwhile, the body of the Civic began to rust (it was hit twice before I owned it). I decided I ought to dump it while I could still get some money for it.  

One week ago, Jack and I took the Civic up to a Toyota dealership in Flemington (they won the bidding war I'd set up with USAA's help) and came back with a dark blue Prius.

It's like driving a computer.  I'm just now getting used to it.

I get 50 mpg (since when did the window stickers start telling the truth?) and I can fit my bike in the back without taking the front wheel off.

I got to show the car off on Saturday's ride out of Allentown at the new Reed Recreation Park (so new it's not on Google Maps).

With Chris leading, we wound up on Arneytown-Hornerstown Road, where the bridge over the Crosswicks Creek is out.  

Well, not really.  We never came close to getting our feet wet. The road is closed, but the pavement is intact.

If I'd had any Hill Slugs Waders Club cards left, I'd have given one to Chris.

We went to Roy's for the rest stop.  This is the first time I've been there in their new location. The new space is huge, and the store was busy when we were there.  I wish them the best of luck and a lawnmower.  The place can't be seen from the road.

The ride was short, which was good, because I needed to save my legs for Tom's Warren and Sussex high point ridethe next day.

Monday I was off the bike and off from work.  I took Jack up to Nazareth, PA, to take a tour of the Martin guitar factory.  Our guide pretty much phoned it in, but it was worth seeing anyway.

We were using Google Maps on my phone to navigate.  The return trip, I thought, would be entirely highways (78 to 31), but instead, we found ourselves exiting west of Clinton and turning onto Baptist Church Road.

Google Maps is secretly a Hill Slug.

We were at the church, so I stopped and we walked around.  We weren't the only ones; a family was peering into the ruins too.

We were led home via 579 through Pittstown and Quakertown, then north of Sergeantsville to Ringoes, and finally back to Route 31.

Jim came over around 5:30 and we got to work on Gonzo.  Two hours later I had a bike again.

We took Jim out to dinner to repay him for the help, and to celebrate his new job.  Back home, I tightened up a loose shifter and put on the rear light, the headlight, and the computer.  The new handlebars are thicker than the old ones, and I chose a thick bar tape too.  As a result, the computer doesn't fit.  The holder is half broken as well.  But, this being Gonzo, there's nothing a little electrical tape can't fix or hide.

The light, which I used before without a saddlebag, was too big, and mounted less than ideally.  It's bright enough, though, that I wasn't worried about being seen.

Electrical tape holding the computer on:

I lubed the chain, filled the tires, carried the bike upstairs to the front door, and went to bed.

I'm not naive enough to think that things would run smoothly the first time out. Before turning the lights out, I went back downstairs and packed some tools.

A few things can go wrong on a newly-built bike.  Things can fall off, come loose, or otherwise explode.

I experienced all three.

Fall off:  the rear light, which I retrieved and snapped back on;

Come loose: the rear brake, the new barrel adjuster being fussy (I'd found the original only after we'd put the brakes together);

Explode: the front inner tube, because, once every few years, I screw up and don't seat the tire quite right (this is when I discovered that I'd only packed one spare and one CO2 cartridge).

Never mind all that.  I work in a lab full of tools. After I finished my lunch, I tightened the rear brake cable and housing:

I also walked up to Jay's Cycles on Nassau Street to pick up three tubes (two to take with me and one to leave in my office) and a new rear light.

The brake held for my trip home, but as I rode it became looser and looser.  When I got home, I replaced the bad barrel with the original. All, it seemed, was well.

That was Tuesday.  I've been squeezing the brake every time I walk by ever since.  It's holding.

Despite a new fork, new bottom bracket, and new hub, Gonzo is still a tank.  He's just not a fast bike. He's always struck me as a little hard to ride compared to my others. I'd always thought that was because it was winter or because I was hauling gear on a rack.  Now that Beaker has taken his place, it's even more obvious how much effort it takes to get Gonzo moving, even when there's no load at all.  For my entire commute on Gonzo on Tuesday, I was thinking, "I miss my Tommasini!"

Tomorrow, Tom is taking us out on a slow, flat ride.  Many of us are bringing our slow bikes.  I'm taking Gonzo. I made sure to be extra-ready:

OLPH Builds a Wheel, Part Two

28 August 2015

In mid-July, Sean lent me his truing stand and dishing tool so that I could finish building Gonzo's rear wheel. 

That was a month and a half ago.

On the evening of July 20, Sean and Dale dropped by.  Sean and I sat on the floor, passing the wheel back and forth to each other.  I'd made the spokes on both sides far too tight, and I was having trouble wrapping my head around the concept of centering the rim over the hub.  Sean finally got through to me:  tightening spokes on one side moves the rim to that side and the hub to the other.  After an hour or so, it was centered.

The next morning, halfway to the lab on Beaker, I heard the unmistakable "tink!" of a broken spoke. It was on the rear wheel, drive side, because of course it was. 

Beaker's wheels are Mavics.  It was the special red one that snapped. The spokes are few and bladed. I have neither the correct wrench nor replacement spokes. The best I could do was to loosen the brakes and ride home very slowly. 

I grabbed Kermit and headed back out.  This was the first time Kermit had pulled commuter duty:

If anyone were to have a replacement spoke for a special edition wheel now 8 years old, it would be Michael at Wheelfine.  I called him from the lab.  He said he might, so two days later I left work early and drove to his shop with three wheels in the back seat.  I had the broken Mavic and both of Gonzo's wheels (the front had been out of true and I'd trued it the best I could).  If time would allow, perhaps Michael fix the one and check the others.

I arrived at 4:00 p.m.  He said he had to leave at 6:00. While other customers came and went (I think there might have been three), I took pictures.

This is his truing stand:

The shop might look like a hoarder's paradise, but he does have his tools in order:

Finding a replacement spoke was proving difficult.  Michael had a bag of Mavic spokes from that era, but none was red, nor quite the right size.  He found a silver one that looked right, but he had to file it down at the elbow:

Because there are only 28 spokes, one broken one will send the wheel far out of true, so far, it turns out, that it takes a few tries to figure out just how long the replacement should be.  It didn't help to measure what was left of the broken one, because it had snapped somewhere above the elbow. We wound up with a black Mavic spoke.  He set about truing the wheel:

Whatever spoke you need, I'm sure he's got it:

Lotus, the German pinscher, also known as Cujo.  Look, but do not touch:

The wheel on the stand:

Another beautiful lugged frame, far too large for me:

View from Wheelfine of the Sourland Mountain:

Japanese beetles:

The new spoke:

Michael looked at the wheel I was building.  The drive side was far too tight still; he measured the tension and loosened the spokes. He gave me instructions for what to do next, which I jotted down dutifully on my cell phone. Then he took a look at the front wheel, which I'd gotten to be about as true as it was going to get.

When I finally left the shop, it was 7:15.

Another month would go by before I was ready for Michael to check the wheel again.  During that time, I might have worked on the wheel for an hour or two.  As I tightened the non-drive spokes, I noticed that I was stripping the aluminum spoke nipples.  So, I ordered a nipple driver (having returned the loaner to Jim) and replaced all of the non-drive spoke nipples.  I got the dishing as close as I could, and as much wobble out as I could.  The roundness was another matter; the strike plate wouldn't stay in place.  The stand not being mine, I didn't want to force it.

Enough was enough; I wanted to put Gonzo back together.  With vacation days piling up, I took last Thursday, Friday, and Monday off. Michael was expecting me on Thursday.

Once again, the wheel was on the stand:

And, once again, the drive side spokes were too tight. He loosened them all, and, within half an hour, put the wheel in riding condition.  I wanted to know if I was any good at this.  "Not bad," he said. He told me that in choosing butted spokes and alloy nipples, I'd made my task about as difficult as one could make it.  "When you tighten them, the spokes heat up, stretch, and do the opposite of what you're expecting."  They also go "ping!" a lot as they resist, then suddenly give way to allow tightening to continue. It's very disconcerting.

He put the cassette on for me, too.

Gonzo finally had a rear wheel:

Now it was time to put the bike back together.  I dragged the work stand in from the porch and made a work space in the corner of our lower level:

Jim promised to come over to help me finish the job. It would have to wait a few days, though. The next day, Friday, I was going to be busy buying a car.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Warren and Sussex High Points: We Are So Done With Climbing

Millbrook Road, Delaware Water Gap

26 August 2015

Yes, Tom broke us on Saturday.  

This was to have been day one of a two-day northern excursion to five county high points. We had planned to cover Warren and Sussex on Saturday, find a cheap hotel, then hit the Passaic, Bergen, and Morris high points on Sunday. Instead, it was a day trip, and a good thing that was, because had there been a second day of this, there would have been mutiny.

What happened was that two minutes before the last minute, I complained of an aching knee. At a minute before the last minute, Snakehead begged off, taking his daughter with him. Marc was on the fence. That left Tom, who would go no matter what, to convince us to attempt at least the Warren and Sussex ride.

So, after a flurry of emails, a mended knee, and a commitment from Marc, the three of us carpooled to Millbrook Village in the Delaware Water Gap.

At something past 9:30 a.m., we began with a 700-foot climb over 1 mile.  I put a mellow song on the mental iPod, found the 29-32, and stayed there.  I also broke my rule of not stopping on a hill because the view was too good to pass up:

Sand Pond Road:

We had a rest stop around 20 miles at the Sunrise Deli along the Appalachian Trail, between Kittatinny Lake and Sunrise Mountain.

Sunrise Mountain Road at Route 206:

Sunrise Mountain Road farther along, doing a Skyline Drive imitation:


Lake Marcia, High Point State Park, with the monument in the distance:

The last quarter mile of the ascent to the monument is the most difficult section.  As I've done the past two times, I summoned James Brown.  A group of young men were walking down as I pulled up.  One of them smiled and said, "High gear all day!"

"Uhhhhhhhh," I groaned.

If a car had arrived to drive me back to the Water Gap, I'd have taken it.  At 35 miles, I was finished. I was channeling my inner Cheryl, but I kept it to myself.

third in a series

I ate my second PB&J, finished what water I had, took some pictures, and resigned myself to at least 30 more miles. Tom wasn't entirely sure just how much further it would be.

I needed water.  A vending machine swallowed $2 and gave me nothing, so I filled up from a sink in the lake bathroom at the bottom of the hill.  The water tasted funny; I was looking forward to our second rest stop, where I could get better water and something with sugar in it.

At mile 50 was Flat's Deli.

It was closed.

"I fucked up," Tom said.  "I'm out of water."

Across the street, back where we'd come from, was a small farm stand called Flatbrook Farm.  We turned back.  I decided to go back a little further to take pictures of the farm across from the stand.

As I approached the intersection again, Tom and Marc were headed slowly towards me, following a man and his daughter.  He led us into the farm, where we filled our bottles from his well.  The water was cold and tasteless.

We were on level ground for a while here, following the Flat Brook into Layton, where we stopped at a Greek deli.

If a car had arrived to drive me back to the Water Gap, I'd have taken it. Instead, I drank some juice.

A farm in Layton:

Tom and I knew what was coming: the final steep climb up the eastern end of Old Mine Road, back to Millbrook Village.  Last year we'd first descended, then ascended this road, and last year we all agreed that if we never saw this road again we would not be upset.  The steep grade is bad enough on its own, but what made us completely miserable was the condition of the road.  For the next two miles, one would be better off on a soft-tail mountain bike. This isn't a dirt road; that would be smoother.  This is a series of potholes with a little pavement in between.

We knew it was coming; we just couldn't quite remember where.  As we got nearer, we remembered.  "We have to cross that stupid bridge," Tom said.  I could tell he was getting tired, because the bridge isn't particularly stupid. It's pretty, and so is the Flat Brook that runs under it.  So we stopped to stretch before the final hellscape.

Weaving between two potholes as a car passed near the top, my right calf cramped.  I pushed through it. I was too close to the end to stop.  The descent, about a quarter mile, had me gripping my brakes so much that, when I went to remove the front wheel two minutes later, the rims were still too hot to touch.

I collapsed on the grass to stretch.  It was after 5:00 p.m. We'd gone 68 miles at a C pace.

So. Done. With. Hills.

(Here's the route. If you go to the upper right corner of the map, click on "map," and choose "terrain," you'll get a better idea of the topography.  You'll also notice that Sunrise Mountain Road (a one-way street), goes from west to east, so that the view is north, where the sun definitely does not rise.  Whatever.)