Saturday, March 27, 2010

Unusual Sightings Today

First day of Spring Break so I went for a bike ride with my friend Daniel. Right out of the gate, just riding along, I broke a spoke. We rode up the hill, down the Acuario Trail, and we rode around El Morro to get to The Rails. We were blocked by a large organized group of young walkers on some kind of event. We turned around and headed back to the Acuario Trail. As I ride, I always glance at the sea to see if anything unusual is going on out there. I saw a ship that didn't look like an oil tanker. We kept riding around the island.

We hike a bike up the Acuario Trail and saw this Uruguayan warship steam past while we were taking a short break. A rare sight for sure. Note; according to Wikipedia, this is ROU 04 (see the 4 on the bow), the General Artigas.

We pedaled up the remainder of the Acuario then up the Falla Trail, across the top and down the Fausto and The Rails. We wrap up the ride fairly early.

Later in the afternoon I head to the bicycle shop to get the broken spoke replaced. When I got back to my building, the watchman was feeding his turtle. Venezuelans call this a morrocoy. Very cool!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Ride with Lance Armstrong

It was February in the Big Bend country of Texas in 1991. (I would be 30 years old then but a racing age of 31.) I was on Merlin #1 with its rigid fork. I was feeling good and having a good race. I had already passed the 1990 World Downhill Champion, Greg Herbold on the start of the climb. He was suffering. After Herbold, there didn't seem to be many riders in front of me. There were a few up ahead, and I'd do my best to reel them in. I was in the zone, mostly riding alone, enjoying the desert and the ride.

As I reached the summit of Tres Cuevas (Three Caves) Hill, I saw Armstrong in his Motorola jersey. He was the buzz all weekend...the new kid...he's really good...some kind of prodigy...When I saw him, I thought to myself, "That's that guy! He's supposed to be really good!" He was just getting back on his bike after fixing a mechanical or flat. I pedaled faster to catch him before he got away.

It was a two track "jeep road" so we rode side-by-side, me left, him right. We exchange greetings, and I asked him if he'd ever gone down Tres Cuevas before. His reply was no. I told him to be careful because it gets really steep.

We did a couple of little stair-steppy drops still side-by-side, and road got steeper still. We soon came up on a guy wearing a Wild Oats team jersey who was obviously a roadie...this guy was flailing...literally. I was still on the left line, Armstrong on the right. We split and passed the guy, going around him on either side.

About a 100 meters ahead was the first switchback. Armstrong told me to take the lead. I lead the way through the hard right-hand turn, popped over a little berm/rock outcropping in the road, and set up for the second switchback coming up, a left-hander. A few meters down from this point is a ranch house on the left with its barn on the right. I knew the road was smoother and improved here so I got into my best aero tuck and took my hands off the brake levers. I maintained this position as long as possible. I couldn't pedal any faster. I must have hit about 40 - 50 for a full-rigid XC mountain bike.

The road gets to the desert floor where it is a series of small rolling hills. It was here where I dared to glance behind me and saw Armstrong at least 200 meters behind me. I pedaled like crazy in my biggest gear.

I reached the final check-point at the final major turn of the race. 9 miles to go!

As I went through the check-point I refused water and just wanted to stay ahead of Armstrong. I was hammering hard when Armstrong pulled up next to me. He said, "That was fun! Let's ride in together." I replied, "I can' legs are go ahead." and he did. He dialed it up to the next level and left me in his dust.

The next 7 miles was single-track through the Chihuahua desert. Really beautiful stuff, and all I could do was try and keep Armstrong in my sights, which I did for about two or three miles. The final 2 miles parallels the landing strip and on to the finish line in Lajitas. When I got there, about 2 minutes behind Lance, he was still there talking to someone. I rode through the finish, then coasted over to him, shook his hand and said, "Good race!" He said the same and said thanks for leading him down the hill and that it was fun!

It was one of my better expert category races. I don’t remember my placing…in the top 20 though.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Bamboo Skewer Box Kite

I haven't built anything creative in quite a while. I used to be famous at my school for my creations. I've built all sorts of stuff from everyday, low-cost materials. Probably the most sophisticated thing I've built is my wind tunnel which really works and is very precise.

Wednesday at school we are having our "Spring Fling" and I am on the kite making team, so I worked with the elementary students on making simple kites.

Back in kite mode got me thinking...

Box kites: Then...I remember my brother having a box kite and I always thought it was cool. I first tried to build one from scratch about 30 years ago, but it didn't work out too well.

Now...On the Fausto Trail on El Morro is a frame to an old box kite that somehow ended up there. Who knows how long its been there, but each time I ride past it, I look at it noting its construction. It is very strong for being around as long as it has, so I've tried to duplicate the design using bamboo skewers used for kabobs.

The prototype...
Yesterday I built a box kite from drinking straws just to see if I could. I built it in about 45 minutes and it worked okay until the drinking straws started bending from the gusts of wind. I decided I could use the same dimensions and build one out of sturdier bamboo skewers. Here's how I did it:

1. I cut off the pointy ends of 12 skewers so each stick is 26 cm.

2. To make the long sticks, I overlapped them about 2 cm for a length of about 50 cm. They were glued and lashed together with cotton string.

3. The cross pieces are also 26 cm, so they cross at 13 cm. I made a little notch at 13 cm then glued and lashed them together with the cotton string, and lathered on more white glue.

4. The long sticks were notched at 6.5 cm from each end and the crossed pieces were glued onto the long pieces. The glue was allow to dry, then reinforced with a paper/white glue gussets.

5. The cross pieces make little triangle with legs each 13 cm long. The string which wraps around the frame for stiffness and strength creates a hypotenuse of 18.5 cm on each side. The perimeter around the frame is about 74 cm. The string should be cut at 1 m in length so you can tie it off.

6. The perimeter coincidentally was the was right sized for the little grocery bag I was using without having to cut and retape together. The width of the plastic is 13 cm. I just slipped the plastic over the frame for a snug fit. I used stick glue to glue the plastic on to the frame and string guys. I just eyeballed the width and it seemed right.

7. The bridal is about 75 cm in length tied to two corners; one top, one bottom.

Total weight is probably about 25 grams. I need to confirm that tomorrow. flys!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Weekend Riding

I've been trying to get some time in the saddle between now and June. Not having the bike handy during my work week makes it difficult, so I have been riding the spinbike at the gym and I have a home elliptical trainer (aka torture device). This weekend I ended up doing two good rides; Saturday I rode about 30 miles, and Sunday about 20 miles. Good fun, feeling good, and losing a little weight which makes the climbing a bit easier.

I took this pic on Saturday. Its been very hazy the last few weeks, probably due to range fires. Its very dry right now.

This is a pic looking down off the Acuaro trail. I've been cleaning this regularly, but today I dabbed (arrgh) on the entrance to the steep part (you can see it as that dark shadow just in front of the white jersey wearing rider).

I tried to get a pic of riders coming off the Fausto switchback, but it took me too long to get my camera out of my jersey pocket, turned on, etc. The pic I was going for was the riders all silhouetted against the sky on the switchback, also due to the hazy air quality right now. (There is that white jersey again.)

Anyway, killer rides!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


On Sunday's ride I found another monument. This one was small, about 1/2 meter tall.
I don't know what to call them. A friend from Canada suggested to call them "Inukshuk" even though these are found 10 degrees north of the equator instead of 70 degrees north. I like them whatever they are and appreciate whomever is making them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

One of My Favorite Blogs

I started blogging by accident back in 2006. I didn't know much about it, and when I started it I decided to just make it about stuff that I find interesting. I've tried to keep politics out of it (though my emotions have got the best of me a few times) mainly because I think it dangerous considering where I live.

My mom hates my blog. She wishes I'd focus on real writing instead of giving it away for free. She thinks I should write my book(s) instead.

Anyway, about during Christmas break, I started exploring other blogs by pushing the "Next Blog" button at the top of the screen. I guess my default is bicycle blogs because just about every blog I came across is about bicycling. Most were the same.

I repeated this experiment for about three days. Same blogs recycled...I didn't find them very interesting, not interesting enough to go back to until I found
1410 Oakwood. This blog caught my attention immediately because it was different. It was similar to what I've been trying to accomplish...a real eclectic blog with a bicycle slant. Gunnar, the author, seems a real genuine kind of guy. We've become i-friends. I've even learned a bit about classic road bikes by reading his posts.

Anyway, check it out.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Wife is an Amazing Person!

My wife is an amazing person. She is Venezuelan, a Guanesa from Ciudad Bolivar on the banks of the mighty Orinoco River. She has lived a full life, but not an easy life. Her life is like many who grow up in a developing country; a life of hardship and heartbreak.

My wife has always been one who was driven to improve herself. To improve her lot in life. Never staying still for very long.

When I met her, she was working in the Venezuelan oil service industry as an office assistant.

Before meeting me, her job afforded her to buy a Fiat Uno, a small compact car. She bought this car even though she could not drive. She wanted the car so she could be more mobile and it would improve her life. Her cousin chauffeured her around, much like Driving Miss Daisy. When she needed to learn English to improve her position in the oil service industry, she sold the car to pay her tuition at an English Institute in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

When I met her 9 1/2 years ago, her English was okay, but not perfect. We got/get along fine. We celebrated out 8th wedding anniversary last December. Her English is much Spanish is still minimal.

Since being married, she continues her quest to improve herself...First it was getting Microsoft certified to keep her resume' up to date. Then it was going to a local 3-year university and getting a degree in English which she did.

She took a little course on decorative gelatin desserts. Her desserts are popular at family gatherings.

She tried culinary school, but didn't like the chefs yelling at her and the other students, and decided it was too stressful of profession. She did get a good deal on some killer German-made knives.

Lately she has decided to pursue a career in nursing. She is now attending classes to become a nurse's assistant, and perhaps she will continue to become a full-fledged nurse. She seems to enjoy it, and I am very proud of her.

The latest thing she is pursuing is cake making and decorating. She is learning to how to make cakes and icing from scratch and to decorate them professionally. She has the idea of making this a side-business some day. This past week she bought pans, measuring cups, and the various tools needed to make a professional quality cake, and she made her first cake. The assignment was to decorate the cake with a simple illustration worthy of a children's birthday party. She chose Hello Kitty.
We cut the cake on Friday and we nibbled around Hello Kitty's face all weekend. She wanted to save the face to show her sisters. She's a funny woman.

I love my wife...big time!

Thursday, March 11, 2010 is in the works.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jose Hernandez

Jose was killed this morning on his way to work. Jose was riding a bicycle to school this morning when he was smashed and ripped to shreds by something big. It was a hit and run and there wasn't much left of Jose of what I have heard. A gruesome death.

Who was Jose? He was one of the day watchmen at our school. I didn't know him really, but he was usually the man who greeting me in the morning when I arrived to the building. He always said "Buenos dias!" and I think he meant it.

We have had somewhat of a revolving door of security guards at our school. The security company doesn't pay much, and the job is tedious. But Jose didn't seem to mind. He occupied himself by going beyond his job description and actually helped several of us teachers when we needed it. Just yesterday, he helped Daniel and I unload some sacks of soil for a campus beautification project that Daniel and his environmental science class is doing.

It seems that Jose died alone. This afternoon we went to the funeral home to pay our condolences to his family. The funeral home was empty, apparently there was a change of plans and his remains were in the morgue at the local hospital. No wake or funeral for Jose. No family member were to be found. His remains will be buried tomorrow in a local cemetery. I just want people to know that he existed and he seemed an honest and kind guy. A commodity that seems rare in these times in Venezuela.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Full Rigid Merlin

For the longest time I walked this section of trail. If I was still in my 20's, probably no hesitation, I used to ride down stuff way more technical, but now pushing 50, I am a little more cautious. About a month ago I looked at it and it wasn't quite as hairy as it used to be. I decided I could do it. Now I do it routinely, but dab free (putting a foot down) has only been in the last two runs down it. I still approach it with respect. Could lose teeth or skin on this if not careful.


Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Monument Maker

These things sprout up like mushrooms...
Today went for a ride and was happy to see the "monument maker" back at it. This time he or she made a delicate tower. About a meter in height, with a nice selection of rocks. Bravo!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Tour Divide Prep (post 3)

This week I hit the gym and the Internet. Rode the SpinBike, lifted weights, walked, and generally enjoyed myself. On the Internet, I ordered some more gear that I may or may not need. I have already reached that point where I don't want to spend any more money, but I still need the packs. I'm on the list for packs.

I am really getting jazzed about this. I've become obsessed with a map of the United States that is posted in the hallway of the school. I look at the route and imagine the landscape as I pedal south. This is going to be a great adventure.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Shelter for the Tour Divide

I've been fretting these kind of things. Trying to be light, but want to stay fairly comfortable. I've toured with bivy sack and a tent. The tent is a more comfortable option but heavier and having to deal with it after riding all day. Been doing some on-line research and shopping, and I think I found a good compromise. The Nemo Gogo. I just ordered one. This will be the ultimate test for one.

I also ordered a new sleeping bag since my light bag is 30 years old. I ordered a Mountain Hardware UltraLamina 45+, plus a Thermarest NeoAir.

So hopefully my shelter problems are solved. Everything is very high quality, very light and compact, and somewhat expensive...nuts!