Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Past Is Never Past

Picture of me riding the 1999 Paris-Brest-Paris courtesy of the Internet Wayback Machine

A while back my friend Jon finally retired the section of the Mile43 webserver where I used to host a bunch of my old web pages. I have all that old stuff archived locally but I haven't gotten around to finding someplace else to host those pages. Every once in a while, I'll get an email from somebody whose gotten a 404 Not Found error while looking for http://www.mile43.com/peterson/rando.html or some other old page of mine. Eventually, I'll get around to revising and reposting the archives, but since I have a big backlog of new things I'm working on, revisiting the old stuff is definitely a back-burner project. And, thanks to the Internet WayBack Machine, I have a place to point people who are looking for copies of the old things.

The Internet WayBack Machine is one of the lesser-known treasures of the web. Hardworking geeks have been trolling the net since 1996, sweeping up all kinds of stuff and preserving our digital past. These folks are thorough, they've even managed to capture my old stuff. For example:

http://web.archive.org/web/20070623032738/http://www.mile43.com/peterson/rando.html

is a copy of my old index page.

The next time you get a 404 error, copy the address and punch it into the wayback machine at:

http://www.archive.org/web/web.php


As Faulkner observed, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joseph Frost is a winner!

Thanks so much to everyone who pledged some money towards fighting cancer with Team Fatty. As I promised, this morning I tallied up the pledges and for each $5 pledged, the pledger was giving a ticket in the virtual hat. Using a random number generator I found on the interweb, I randomly picked the winner.

That lucky person is Joseph Frost of Madison Wisconsin. Congrats Joe. And thanks again to everybody who pledged.

Kent

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Last Chance to win the TarpTent


OK Gang, it's the day before Christmas and your last chance to Fight Cancer and be entered in the drawing for a TarpTent. Remember the money goes to a great cause and if you don't enter, you can't win. Thanks,

Kent

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hibernation



The softest thing on earth
overtakes the hardest thing on earth.
The non-existent overtakes even that
which has no interstices.
From this one recognizes the value of non-action.


-- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, verse 43

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Cyclist's Christmas Story


(Yeah, this is an old one but I get asked about it every year, so I pulled it out of the archives. I took this photo tonight of my neighbor's window, but I wrote this story back in 1999, just after Shep passed on.)

A Cyclist's Christmas Story

Copyright © 1999 by Kent Peterson

Dedicated to the memory of Jean Parker Shepherd 1921-1999


It's been years now, but I'll never forget that Christmas...

The days had grown short, the snow had begun to fall and my friends and I were all gathered around old man Petersen's bike shop in the center of town. Flick had his eyes on a Raleigh Pro with a full Campy gruppo and my kid brother's heart was set on Redline BMX bike but I knew there was only one bike for me.

It hung from a pair of hooks above the window, gleaming with elegance and old world sophistication. Hand built by a man who was already an old legend when Coppi first won the Giro, the simple frame would not be cluttered with deraillers or an excessive amount of cable. No, this was a pure bicycle, the holy grail of human powered vehicles -- a fixed gear road bike.

Not a track bike, we didn't have a track in my town, but a champion's road training bike. One tiny front brake that gleamed like a jewel. A single chain ring and a single cog joined by the absolute minimum amount of chain into a mechanism as precise as a Swiss watch. The bike was the very embodiment of craftsmanship put into the service of speed and athletic excellence. It was a bicycle that had no business being in my small town, but there it was, calling to me.

Each day on the way home from school I stop by that window, longing to see the object of my mania, fearing that someday it would be gone, sold to someone less than worthy to appreciate it for what it was -- the perfect bicycle.

But each day I'd hold my breath as I'd round the corner by Petersen's shop and each day I'd see the bike and let my breath out slowly in something that was half a whistle and half a prayer. I'd carefully calculated the rate of my accumulation of allowance and the cost of the bike and determined that the odds were I would die of old age before I'd ever be riding that bike down the streets of my town.

But Christmas was coming and I'd been good so maybe there was a chance. I'd have to approach it just right, however.

My mother, knowing nothing of the subtlety and timing involved, caught me off guard.

"So Ralphie, what do you want for Christmas?"

I was young, I was impetuous, I was certain. Before I could stop myself I blurted out, "I want an Italian-built, Columbus-tubed fixed gear bike!"

A look of horror crossed my mother's face, "You'll blow your knees out!" She said this with a tone of absolute certainty, like she'd just predicted the sun would rise in the morning.

It was the classic mother fixed gear block. No amount of reasoning known to kiddom could counter that, so I beat a hasty retreat. "Oh yeah, heh heh," I said, "I guess a mountain bike would be fine."

A mountain bike? Good grief, what was I saying? She'll never buy it.

But she wasn't listening, "I don't want you riding around a fixed gear. They're dangerous and you'll blow your knees out."

My old man looked over the edge of the copy of Velo News he was reading, "Fixed gear, eh?" he grunted, "can't coast, you know."

Oh boy, did I know. No shifting, no coasting, no problem! A fixed gear would be the bike that would make me a man, a bike where every climb and descent would be a test of strength and skill. In one instant I would have to be strong and in the next I would have to spin like a caffineated phonograph record and always, always, I would have to be paying attention. It was a bike that would test me and teach me and make me into a cyclist.

Fortunately the conversation drifted onto my kid brother's desire for the Redline, so I was free to concentrate on new schemes to obtain my dream bike.


My next chance came from a most unexpected source, my English teacher Mrs. Brown. "I want you to write a theme," she proclaimed one day. We groaned. "The subject of this theme is 'What I want for Christmas'." Here, I brightened. This was my chance. An eloquently written them on the virtues of fixed gear riding would surely earn me an A. When I proudly showed the A plus theme to my mother, she'd be swayed by my powers of erudite persuasion and have no choice but to buy me the bicycle. Here was a plan that could not fail.

That night, I wrote fervently, like a man possessed. The first sentence came easily and the rest of the words tumbled quickly out of me like blood from a fatal wound. Oh yes, I was constructing a masterpiece!

This is what I wrote:

What I want for Christmas

What I want for Christmas is a fixed gear bicycle with an Italian-built Columbus tube frame. I think a fixed gear bicycle makes a good Christmas present. I don't think a derailler bike makes a very good gift.

Perfect. When Mrs. Brown reads this she'll have to give me an A!


It didn't work out quite the way I'd planned. Mrs. Brown hadn't seemed to realize the importance of my manuscript when I'd handed it to her and now 24 hours later it was judgement day. The papers were passed back and I looked at my grade. There must be some mistake! Here where it should have said A plus, plus, plus there was a big, ugly C. And what's this? She'd written a comment on the paper.

There in her precise, school teacher printing, were the dreaded words: "You'll blow your knees out!"

Oh no, this is horrible.

I was running out of time. I needed a new plan and a new ally.


Santa Clause was my last chance. Sure, I was getting a little old to believe in Santa but when the days dwindle down to a precious few, even the most agnostic of kids realizes that it costs nothing to believe and the upside potential is huge. So, like every year, we trundled down to Lohman's department store and while mom and the old man wandered about the store, my brother and I waited in line with 400 other bet-hedging beggars to have a minute of pleading with the old guy in the red suit.

We were in the line for hours. The store was just about to close when it was my kid brother's turn on Santa's knee. My brother stared at the big man, opened his mouth and began to wail like a new-born fire engine. A surly elf scooped him up and sent him careening down Santa's bobsled run.

Now it was my turn, my chance. "Well, little boy, what should Santa bring you this year?"

I froze. Here was my chance. I was face to face with the big man and I couldn't think of a thing. I sat there, dumbstruck. I tried to make my mouth work, but nothing came out. The surly elf began to drag me away and Santa said "How about a nice gel saddle?" I nodded dumbly and the elf tossed me onto the iced slide.

What was I doing? Somehow I regained the use of my muscles and my voice. I grabbed the edge of the slide, looked up at Santa and declared, "I want an Italian-built, Columbus-tubed fixed gear bike!" I'd done it!

Santa looked down at me with a twinkle in his eye and a chuckle in his throat. As his big, black boot kicked me down the ice slide I heard him say "A fixed gear? You'll blow your knees out!"


Finally the big day arrived. Like every year my brother and I had pooled our resources and gotten the old man a big tin of Brooks Proofide. We got mom got riding gloves which said were just what she needed. She says that every year. My brother did OK, with his big gift being the Redline.

I got the usual assortment of chains, water bottles and a particularly hideous gift from my aunt Cora. Aunt Cora suffers from the belief that I am permanently four years old and a girl. This year the gift was pink helmet cover with rabbit ears and a matching pink jersey with a fluffy cotton tail on the middle pocket. My mom proclaimed it adorable and the old man said I looked like a deranged Easter Bunny and I wouldn't have to wear it.

We'd torn through all the packages and I'd lost all hope when the old man said "Say, what's that behind the desk?"

The box was big and the tag said "To: Ralphie from Santa." As I tore into the box with wild abandon my parents didn't think I could hear them whispering. My mom said, "I thought we'd talked about this..." but the old man waved her concerns aside with a simple "I had one when I was his age."

Surrounded by the torn wrapping paper it was even more beautiful than it'd been in the window of Petersen's. I ran my hands lovingly over the leather saddle and looked at the old man, "Can I...," I began to ask. "Go on," he replied while my mother looked concerned and said "I still say those things are dangerous."

I carefully wheeled it out the door and down the driveway. I clipped my right foot in, started it rolling and hopped on. As I tried to drive my left foot into the clip, I stupidly tried to coast. The bike would have none of that, but I didn't fall over. I just rolled down the street, pedaling one-footed while frantically stabbing at the left pedal with my left foot. Eventually, I got my foot in the left clip.

I turned the corner onto Mountain Park Boulevard and as I did one of the Bumpus's hounds came out of nowhere and gave chase. Our neighbor's the Bumpus's have a hundred and eleventy mean old coon dogs and this was the biggest, meanest hungriest one. He let out a bark and gave chase.

I punched the pedals for all I was worth and flew up the hill. The dog panted, slowed and then gave up. I was doing it, I was winning, I was invincible!

Mountain Park Boulevard gets really steep just before the crest and just as I was reaching the summit, I heard a "pop". Not my tire, my left knee. Oh no, I'd blown my knee out!

With tears in my eyes, I crested the hill. I had no choice but to pedal for all I was worth, frantically keeping up with the wildly spinning cranks as I descended. My knee was throbbing as I wound through the street leading back to home. As I pulled into the driveway, I could see my knee was swollen noticeably and I began to cry again.

My mom came rushing out, "Ralphie, what's wrong?!"

Oh oh, time to think fast. I couldn't tell her I'd blown my knee out.

"I, I hit a patch of ice and crashed on my knee," I lied. Not bad for fiction on a deadline, I thought.

"Those ice patches have been know to kill people!" Mom clucked in a worried tone, "let me take a look at that knee..."

"I'll take care of it, Ralphie," said the old man, stepping in and taking charge. He gave me a look that let me know that while Mom might have bought the story, he was having none of it. We walked, slowly up to the bathroom.

I knew I was in for it now. The old man closed the door and I braced myself for the yelling.

It never came. He took the liniment from the medicine cabinet and said, "your Mom's right about the ice Ralph, but you also have to be careful not to push too hard, too fast. You've got to let the tendons and ligaments develop along with those muscles. That's the way the pro's do it."

And that was it. No yelling, no being grounded from riding. He did mention that since I'd "banged my knee" I should probably take things easy and stick to smaller hills for a while.

And they let me keep the bike in my room. I went to sleep dreaming of riding across the Italian countryside or wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. And when I'd wake, there it was: the greatest Christmas gift I'd ever received or ever would receive.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Bike Works Shop Blog

I just launched a blog for the Bike Works Shop. The new blog will be where I try to convince you to come to my shop and buy stuff so Bike Works can keep doing all the cool things it does. This blog will continue to have tales of adventure, weird bike stuff and shameless pleas for money to fight cancer.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Problem of the Icy Commute


Last night the Puget Sound area got hit with sub-freezing temps and a bit of snow, something that doesn't happen too often around here. After listening to the dire forecast, I'd taken the bus to work. Standing around getting cold waiting for the bus, I remembered that I tend to get much colder waiting for a bus than I ever do when I ride places. Christine worries less about me when I'm on the bus and while I mostly have my own tractional issues resolved, I share her concerns about large SUVs slipping around on our shared roadways.

But Sunday is a lighter traffic day and this Sunday was darn close to a zero traffic day, at least at the time I was headed for work. And I have the ultimate ice-riding machine, a fixed gear bicycle equipped with carbide-studded tires. Special Ed is really special when he's shod with studded tires. Sure-footed as a sherpa we roll out of Issaquah, along the southern edge of Cougar Mountain, across the frosted trail over the Bellevue Slough, over the bridge, Mercer Island and the floating bridge.

It's on the west end of the floating bridge where I hit a bit of a problem. It's a sharp turn and a steep climb. I move cautiously through the turn so I don't have much momentum and I'm not really punching the climb. And things look slick as lizard spit here, so I decide to hop off the bike and walk the steep half block.

Big mistake. Special Ed has carbide studs to hold him on the hill, but the second my Keens hit the ice, gravity seems intent on having it's way with me. I think Charlie Chaplin should play me in the silent movie version of this incident. Luckily, I manage to keep a grip on the bike, if not my dignity, and using the bike as an ice axe, I claw my way up the hill. Remounting my bike, I recall Peter White's caution about riding with studded tires "remember, your feet aren't studded!"


The rest of the commute is lovely, but when I get to the shop, the second problem becomes apparent. Most folks have too much sense to come out to the bike shop on a cold, icy day. We do $40 worth of business (and $30 of that was my colleague Donald buying some stuff), before we decide to call it a day.

On the way home, I stop off and buy a pair of these:




Keep 'em rolling,

Kent

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fight Cancer, Win a TarpTent

A couple of weeks ago, I joined up with Team Fatty to help fight cancer. I didn't really push things but a few great folks (thanks so much Beth, Donna and Peter!) pledged a few bucks. And thanks to Elden's evangelizing efforts, a bunch of other folks also signed up with Team Fatty to help raise money as well. One of those people, Jill Homer, managed to raise about three grand in the first week! In Jill's words, "Wow!"

Now admittedly Jill takes better pictures than I do, she writes better than I do and she's obviously better looking, but dang she's also one heck of a fund raiser. Ooh and she had a gimmick. She raffled off a camera.

Jill is one of my role models, so I'm taking a page from her play book and I'm raffling off my TarpTent. This is an awesome tent. Henry Shires basically gave me this tent for my 2005 single-speed ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race. The tent was great, and even though I managed to lose the tent in Colorado, Trish Stevens found it and returned it to me. The tent is a prototype version of a Virga, very light with a sewn-in floor and full bug netting. The later versions of this tent have more head-room but if you're under six feet and looking for a solo tent, this is an awesome bit of ultralight gear. I'm only getting rid of the tent for these reasons:
  • The tent is too small for when I go camping with my beautiful wife.
  • The tent is actually a bit too luxurious for my ultra-minimal adventures. On those adventures, I take an even more minimal bivy.
  • Henry gifted me with the tent and I feel I should pass that good Karma on to somebody else.
  • It's something of value I can use to help raise money for a great cause.
So here's the deal. Between now and Christmas for every $5 you pledge on my Team Fatty Page here, you'll get a virtual ticket into the TarpTent raffle. So if you pledge $5, you get one chance and if you pledge $50 you get ten chances. On Christmas day, I'll draw a ticket and contact the winner. Now the Livestrong software doesn't send me your email, so if you want to be entered into the contest send an email to me (kentsbike at gmail dot com) so I have your email address. If you just want to pledge and don't care about the tent, that's cool but I want the tent to go to somebody who will use and enjoy it. And Beth, Donna and Peter, I'll put you early birds into the drawing as well if you want.

OK, that's it so far. Go here, pledge and cross your fingers. Your money goes to a great cause and you get a chance to win a great tent.

Thanks and good luck,

Kent




Sunday, December 07, 2008

Retro-Direction Perfection?


I never quite know how my various bicycle projects will turn out. Once I'd gotten my retro-direct bicycle past it's initial proof-of-concept phase and into something I'd actually trust for my commute, I hit up against another problem. While the bike worked fine in a mechanical sense, my body didn't seem to like pedaling backwards to climb a hill. When I'd climb out of the saddle, I'd tend to slip into forwards pedaling and the leverage just seemed wrong. I gave myself a few days to adjust, telling myself that I'd spent years pedaling forwards and I tried different front chain rings in an attempt to get the low gear lower.

But the real problem was the bike didn't seem practical. It seemed always geared wrong and while the bike had a fun novelty about it, it really didn't feel like something I'd enjoy riding every day. I was pretty close to writing the bike off as "a good learning experience" when Jacob Slosberg stopped by the shop. Jacob is a former earn-a-bike student who also worked in the Bike Works shop a year or so ago. After hearing my problems with low-gear backwards pedaling, Jacob made this brilliant and simple suggestion:

"Swap the chain around. Make the backpedaling gear the higher one and the forward gear the lower ratio."

Brilliant, simple and the thought had really never occurred to me. Sure that Zoobomb guy had his bike geared as low forward, high backward but the Wikipedia article and most other articles I'd read describe having the lower gear be the one engaged by backpedaling so that's the way I'd set up my bike.

Oh well, it'd be easy to test. I rerouted the chain and went for a ride.

Not since Doc Brown installed a flux capacitor in his old DeLorean has a single hardware change had such a dramatic effect.

The bike went from being interesting to being wonderful. Instead of awkwardly thinking at a light "I'm starting from a dead stop, I'll have to pedal backward", I'd stomp the pedals in a normal, natural manner. As the bike picks up speed and I'd start to think "I wish I had a higher gear" and I'd recall that I do have a higher gear at my disposal. Engaging that gear by pedaling backwards is much easier and automatic when done in a moment of ease instead of a moment of stress. When the terrain resembles that Irish blessing and rises up to meet me, I pedal backwards until the effort seems wrong. And then, effortlessly, I switch to forward pedaling, engaging the lower gear. If the road steepens further, I rise out of the saddle. When I crest the hill, I settle into the saddle and backpedal down the backside. It doesn't feel odd, it feels natural. Those poor saps with their mono-direct bikes, they don't know what they're missing!

The first test ride was only 18 miles but within the first couple of miles I was sold on retro-direct, low-normal, high-reverse gearing. It suddenly made perfect sense, like back in high school when I learned to work an HP calculator. RPN and Forth programming expanded my young nerd mind three decades ago and now an old bike with an oddly routed chain has opened up a similarly expanded route through this wonderful world.

I did tweak one thing on the RetroTrek after that epiphany ride. I swapped the chainring out for something bigger. The RetroTrek now sports a 42 tooth front ring. With the 16 and 22 tooth freewheels, I have a low forward pedaling gear of 49.6 gear inches and a high reverse pedaling gear of 68.25 gear inches. My experience riding fixed gears had lead me to choose about a 70 inch gear for road, while my Monocog mountain biking had shown me a gear around 49 inches is right for me for that application. And now, those two gears (or at least very close approximations) are contained in a single bike. A bike that I pedal backwards sometimes.

A week ago I wrote: "I'm not going to try to convince you that a retro-direct drive bicycle is practical." I was wrong about that. I guess I am trying to convince you. Because I've convinced myself. No, scratch that, the bike's convinced me. Backwards is the new forwards. You heard it here first.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent

Monday, December 01, 2008

Join Team Fatty To Help Fight Cancer

I'm not much of a joiner, but I've joined Team Fatty to help fight cancer. Although I share Sheldon's view on 'thons (my riding my bike is NOT a sacrifice!), joining Team Fatty was a no-brainer for me. Elden and Susan are wonderful people, cancer sucks and this is something I can help with.

My own fund raising page is here. If you can contribute anything to this good cause, it'll be much appreciated.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent

Friday, November 28, 2008

2008 Turkey Burner


It was raining more often than not and if we were each left to our own devices we'd probably have stayed home. But the traditional ride on the day after Thanksgiving is, well, it's a tradition, and Matt, Mark and I had fenders on our bikes and snacks in our bags so we went out and east and up. We rode on nearly as many trails as roads and on at least one road, the road that went along the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River, that seemed intent on being more like a trail than a road. We talked and we rode and we rode until Mark declared that this was the spot to stop and snack so we stopped and snacked.


And then we rode home. We passed by steel-head fishers on Fish Hatchery Road and wondered if they were having luck. I commented that I was sure they were having some kind of luck, the sport is called fishing after all and not catching. Matt observed that we were having similar luck, our sport is called riding, not getting somewhere.



Sixtyfour miles doesn't burn off a whole turkey but it's a start.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Retro-Direct Revolution


I'm not going to try to convince you that a retro-direct drive bicycle is practical. While spending several late nights and early mornings at the shop, plotting chainlines and Frankensteining freewheels, some other notions were discussed. What if we made a system where the rider only pedaled forward, where a system of levers and pulleys derailled the chain from one cog to another? Sure, something like that could work and in fact does work, even when people do really crazy things like cram 11 cogs onto a cassette and then charge you $500 for a hunk of metal that you'll wear out in just a couple of thousand miles of wet Seattle riding, but hey this is progress and who am I to disagree?

Well, I'm the guy who right now engages a lower gear by pedaling backwards. I rode the RetroTrek the 18.5 miles home from the shop to Issaquah yesterday and the system is pretty dialed in. While a hunk of wood, a few bits of innertube, a little metal and an old derailler pulley got the drivetrain working great, it's going to take a bit more to rewire my brain and my muscles to get get used to this back pedaling thing. But I think it's good now and then to take a step back, to shift not only our gear but our direction and the way we travel in the world. We travel not only to arrive, but to find delight along the way.

My pal Dan got his retro-direct bike debugged as well and posted photos here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/drboxer/sets/72157610220540976/


Is there a place in a world that contains carbon racing bikes and Xtracycles, recumbents and fixie folk, for bikes that pedal backwards but still go forwards? I think there is. Because everyone who has hopped on my bike or Dan's, from Janet to Mark to DeadBaby Dave, has come back grinning with delight.

We may not have a retrodex or be mocked by BSNYC (yet!) but with Locktite on our pedals we are spinning backwards to the future.




Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Building a Retro-Direct Drive Bicycle


November is the slowest month in the bike shop and last Saturday night around 5:00 PM Dan, Donald and I were found ourselves in the shop with no customers. Some of the day's discussion had involved internal hub gears, including the old Bendix 2-speed kickback hub. "Yeah, those were nice," I said, "but what I'd really like to try sometime is a retro-direct drive." 'Yep," Dan agreed, "that'd be something." "What's a retro-direct drive?" Donald asked. "The internet knows," I assured Donald and a quick Google search later we were all reading the Wikipedia article and following the various links. On a retro-direct bicycle engages one gear and drives the bike forward, while pedaling backwards engages a second gear that also drives the bike forward. "Weird," said Donald. Weird but also fascinating.

By the time we read on Pierre's page that there are about 8 retro-direct riders in the world Dan and I had decided that we'd be the 9th and 10th. Edison said that to invent you need "a good imagination and a big pile of junk." We weren't inventing, we were just building and while Bike Works isn't exactly a big pile of junk, it is a treasure trove of parts.

Our first attempt, involving threading a single speed freewheel onto a freehub body holding a single cog and some spacers, didn't work. We figured out that we really needed two completely independently spinning freewheels. While Dan worked on re-spacing a rear wheel and scrounging for freewheels, I got a sweet Trek from the warehouse and located an idler wheel I'd spotted awhile back in the attic.

A threaded bottom-bracket cup is the key to getting two freewheels onto a single hub and only a Dicta freewheel works as the rear freewheel. Shimano, ACS and all the other freewheels we found have a lip on them for the removal tool and this lip prevents them from threading onto the cup. But the Dicta freewheels have clear access to the threads.

Saturday night Dan and I stayed until around 8 PM, getting a proof of concept drivetrain running. Our only Dicta freewheel was a 16 tooth, which was the same size as our forward driving freewheel. So our two-speed drive was drove the wheel with the same ratio whether we were pedaling forwards or backwards, but it did work.

For the real drivetrain, we ordered three 22 tooth Dicta freewheels from J&B. One for me, one for Dan and one for the first person who is going to read about this on the internet and want us to build one up for them. The freewheels arrived today. I had my camera handy, some very cool Newk bar ends and a top-tube pad that happened to be perfect for the bike.

The pictures show how things go together. The bike is still undergoing refinement. The chainline needs work and the bike wants to throw the chain. Joe had a good idea to add a larger inner chainring to help keep the chain on, but I'll probably swap the cranks and come up with a better idler arrangement in the next couple of days. But as you can see from the video of the bike in the stand (Joe is turning the cranks while I do the narration), the retro-direct drive works.

And yes, it's pretty strange to ride. When I get the drivetrain more solid, I'll take it further than just around the block.










video

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Bike Geek's Day Off


Monday is the one day of the week that Bike Works is closed, so it's the one day of the week that I'm pretty sure I won't be working. But even when I'm not working, I'm still a full-time bike geek. So I emailed some of the usual suspects and convinced Matt Newlin and Brad and Thorvald Hawkins to join me on a trip to Bainbridge Island.

The 6:10 AM ferry gets us to an island still dark and fog-shrouded, so we decide to wait for Pegasus to open at 7:00 AM. Young Thorvald has quite a way with the coffee shop ladies and after he and Brad packed away a not-too-hot hot chocolate, we were on our way.

Our route was the kind of variant of the Chilly Hilly route that you make up as you go along, kind of paying attention to a map, mostly just rolling through the fog. We found our fair share of roads that end at incredibly picturesque enclaves and repeated proved that the answer to the question "how lost can you get on an island?" is "quite."

Brad and Thorvald, who it must be noted lack the goat-like climbing ability exhibited by Mr. Newlin and myself, had to take a morning ferry back to Seattle but still got to have the thrill of riding the entire length of Toe Jam Hill Road. Matt and I managed to continue a very vague circumnavigation of the island, ending with a trip to the wonderful museum/shop that is Classic Cycle. After lunch, we hopped the ferry back to Seattle and stopped by the Bikery.

Now I'm sure that there are people who spend their days off as far as possible from any reminders of their day-to-day workday world. I guess I'm not one of those people. And I guess I'm living in a pretty good place to be a bike geek.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pictures from the Coroplast Fender Party

Saturday night we hosted a coroplast fender making party at Bike Works. Using the basic instructions that I've posted here, Matt Newlin made a really nice set of fenders for his Bianchi.

Matt's Fenders

Jimmy Livengood couldn't make it to the party, but he'd dropped off some biggish sheets of scrap coroplast earlier this week. Jimmy works at a tradeshow/exhibit booth design and construction house and thus has access to some leftover coroplast pieces that are bigger than the scrounged campaign signs. I cut up some of a big piece of black coroplast to make a nice front fender for my Kona Explosif.

Kent's Front Fender

Davey made a ukulele case.

Davey's Ukulele Case

Jayanthi made a rear basket for her Miyata, while Mark made fenders.

Melanie made a couple of drawer organizers.

As the saying goes, a good time was had by all. We still have a lot of signs and zipties at Bike Works and I'll be doing a couple of more coroplast parties later this month with the folks from The Bikery and Sustainable Ballard.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Coroplast Construction Party -- Sat Nov. 8th, 2008


Here in the United States of America it's election time and tomorrow we'll all find out if Tina Fey will get to go back to just working on 30 Rock or if she'll be busy on Saturday Night Live for at least the next four years. I've been a fan of Ms. Fey for quite a few years but I'm really hoping she'll be back down to one job in a day or so...

But something else happens once the election is done. All those campaign signs that are all along the roadside are supposed to go away. I give the campaigns a couple of days to pick up their signs but any that are left past that point I figure are free for the taking. So I take 'em, at least some of them, the ones made from coroplast. And I make things out of them. Bike things. Things like fenders, panniers and handlebar bags.

Join me at Bike Works for a fender making party on Saturday, November 8th. Drop by between 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM, and I'll walk you through the basics of how to turn old campaign signs into fenders, which you will surely need for riding through the rainy season! I've already laid in a stash of over 1000 zipties and I'm going to harvest some signs but I sure encourage you to bring your old campaign signs, zip ties, and/or colored duct-tape. We'll definitely be making fenders but we'll probably make some other cool stuff as well. This event is totally free but we will have a jar there to accept donations to Bike Works youth programs.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Alchemy Goods Bike Works Benefit

The cool folks over at Alchemy Goods are presenting a nifty night of fun to benefit Bike Works. I stole all the details below from their website. Alchemy Goods makes really great bags and other things from recycled bicycle inner tubes.

Alchemy Goods presents a night of giving, a night of laughing, and a night of holiday fun all rolled into one. The Alchemy Goods workshop will host The Cody Rivers Show as a fundraiser for local non-profit Bike Works. Please come join in the festivities on November 6th, at 6:30pm. Beer provided by New Belgium Brewery. Reserve your spot today by purchasing a ticket here. Only 80 seats are available!

CodyRiversShowThe Cody Rivers Show, brainchild of Andrew Connor and Mike Mathieu, has garnered praise across the continent for their original, smart and intensely physical comedic innovations. Time Out Chicago claims “The Cody Rivers Show was absolutely mesmerizing. From moment one no one could tear their eyes away.” They will present 45 minutes of non-stop sketch comedy sure to knock your socks off.

Bike Works is a Seattle non-profit that promotes bicycling and bicycle education among local youth. Their signature program called “earn-a-bike” enables kids to work their way toward bicycle ownership. After donating 24 hours of bike maintenance, each kid earns their very own bicycle, a ticket to freedom!

Dress
This event will occur at the Alchemy Goods workshop which has a tendency to be somewhat cold, so dress warmly. A coat or sweater are in order.

Tickets
Tickets must be paid for in advance here. Doors open at 6:30 PM on Thursday, November 6th, 2007. Unused seats will be filled just at 7:25 PM, prior to the show beginning.

Traveling / Parking
Please enter our shop from the 1st Ave South side, through the main gate. Bike parking will be available inside the main gate courtyard. There is free public car parking on the north end of the building as well as along 1st Ave S. There is also street parking along the gravel strip on the east side of the building, though this can be muddy, so keep that in mind.

Speed Reader Summary

  • Bike Works Benefit
  • Comedy, Charity & Beer included - $30
  • Nov. 6, 6:30pm doors and beer, 7:30pm show
  • 3220 1st Ave S, Ste 400, Seattle, 98134
  • Only 80 seats available - buy a ticket here.
  • All proceeds donated to Bike Works

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Kent and Christine's Excellent Yurt Adventure


The smartest thing I've ever done in my life was to marry Christine. My wife is funny, smart, brave, beautiful, kind, patient, inquisitive, interesting and absolutely my favorite person in this or any other universe. She puts up with me and my quirks and most importantly, she knows that life is an adventure. For the past 24 years, we've been living that adventure as husband and wife.

Each autumn, around the time of our anniversary, we try to take some time off from our respective jobs and go somewhere for a few days alone together. In past years we've gone to Port Townsend WA, Victoria BC, and Portland OR. While researching possibilities for this year's trip, Christine discovered that various Washington State Parks have cabins or yurts. Given the variable nature of October weather in this part of the world, we didn't want to commit to what could be a few days in a damp tent, but a yurt would give us a dry and spacious place to hunker down if the weather turns nasty.

Palmer-Kanaskat State Park is about 20 miles south of Issaquah and as Christine pointed out, "we can bike there." While we've both been car-free for years, I'm the bike-centric one, while Christine tends to be perfectly pedestrian. Years ago, when Christine first met my parents, my mom asked her "do you bike?" Christine, not missing a beat, blurted out "well yeah, but not like him!"

Christine worries about being slow, but I assure her she'll do fine. After years of living with me, she knows that any distance is biking distance and as she says, "I can walk twenty miles if I have to." "You won't have to walk," I say. "I might have to walk some hills," she counters. "You can gear down," I say, "but if you have to walk some, that's fine."

Christine wants "a basket like yours" for her bike, so I deck out her Bridgestone XO-4 with a rear basket, a front snack bag and two water bottles. We both are pretty experienced at packing light. Christine carries all her clothes, her sleeping bag, her books and a bit of food. I have a similar load plus some repair tools, the bulk of the food and the Kelly Kettle.

Thursday October 23rd dawns with a bit of rain, but by the time we are ready to roll south the day has cleared. The riding is wonderful. I let Christine set the pace and I settle in behind her, taking what she describes as "way too many pictures of me." We look at leaves, the mountains, the wonderful day. Despite her reservations, Christine is a fine rider although she swerves occasionally to dodge woolly bear caterpillars making their way across the road shoulder. We stop for snacks. Christine does walk the steepest sections of some big hills but she can push her bike faster (3.5 miles per hour according to my cyclecomputer) than anyone I know. In her job (she's a shopper for Safeway.com) she regularly pushes a several hundred pound giagantic grocery cart, so pushing comes more naturally to her than slowly spinning pedals.

We get to the park in mid-afternoon. The sun streams through the yurt's skylight and we settle in. We explore the park, mostly empty of campers on this late season Thursday. We relax and enjoy our time together. Towards evening I fire up the Kelly Kettle, brew up coffee and tea and make stroganoff that Christine proclaims as "delicious."

In the morning we have our first breakfast and wander down by the river. We leave the bulk of our gear at the yurt and ride through the Green River Gorge to the Black Diamond Bakery, ten miles away. After a pair of huge second breakfasts followed up with a couple of slices of pie ordered up with to-go containers, we stop at Baker Street books. Both the bakery and the bookstore are world-class attractions, subtly pointing out that large cities don't have a monopoly on culture. Loaded with pie and books, we return to the yurt.

At supper time Christine again praises my skills at making macaroni and cheese, reminding me how endearing she found it back when we were dating and she found out I only had one fork and I made her mac and cheese in a hot-pot. Nowdays, of course, we live high on the hog and we each have our own titanium sporks...

Saturday is the return trip, another golden day. As we near Issaquah we see the paragliders riding the thermals off Tiger Mountain and returning home we find that both the cat and the "Maverick Boy" survived in our absence. The boy had even made some chocolate chip muffins.

Early in the trip, Christine had been thanking me for my patience with her speed, or more accurately, what she perceived as her lack of speed. I think I finally explained it to her our last night in the yurt. I wasn't being patient. Impatience is something that happens when you want something to be over, when there is someplace else you'd rather be, something else you'd rather be doing. Being with my beautiful wife in this wonderful world, who'd want to rush through that?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Philosophy of Adventure



Years ago, when I wrapped up my college days with a degree in philosophy and no firm plans, I was often asked "what do you do with a degree in philosophy?". The words I gave in answer were ones I borrowed from Henry Thoreau:

"There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust."

Like Henry, I was more interested in being a philosophical human rather than a professor of philosophy. Henry's answer was not his words, it was his life. He lived and thought and wrote. I try to do the same. His path settled for a couple of years in a cabin in the woods by Walden Pond, while my more restless route involves bicycles.

Bicycles and lots of friends. While the current work load at Bike Works often keeps me spinning wrenches at the shop on Saturdays, I usually spend Sundays and Mondays elsewhere, often awheel. And I'm fortunate to have a couple of pals who've also managed to avoid the too harsh rigors of completely conventional employment, knowing that the best lives are not so tightly packed as to allow no openings for adventure. With broad plans, we hit the road.

Broad planning is one of our key principles. My friend Mark and I have often noted the inverse relationship between information and adventure. You need only a goal to get going and general skills to get back, but too much planning and preparation ensure only that you execute a plan while losing out on adventure. Mark, or more formally, Dr. Mark Vande Kamp, is probably the most generally smart guy I know. I can never remember what his advanced degree is in (statistics maybe?) but his undergrad work was in "General Studies." "General Studies?" I ask, "so you basically majored in nothing?" "Oh no," Mark corrects, "I majored in everything." Riding and chatting with Mark is like hanging out in a really good used bookstore that was just struck by a minor earthquake. The fiction and history and pop culture and science and art and how-to sections all fell into one another and you never know what the next thing is that's going to turn up.

My other pal on this particular adventure is Matt Newlin, Matt describes himself as being independently poor and also has let slip that he spent way too much time studying engineering in his younger days. Somewhere along the line he worked on a contract for something big where he managed to sock away a pile of money. He only talks about the project in the vaguest of terms, so Mark and I have concluded it is either very dull or very dangerous and probably both. When we lob out guesses, "Cruise Missile Guidance", "IRS audit software", "DeathStar", "Area 51", "Google's Search Engine" or "Diebold security system", all we get are enigmatic assurances of "no, that's not it," followed by some annoying detail like "and besides the exhaust port much smaller than a womp rat" or "Area 51 is just a PR cover location anyway." The one thing we do know for certain is that whenever one of us suggests some adventure, Matt is always up for it unless he is off doing something even cooler. "Oh, I'd like to go riding in the Cascades, but I'm kayaking up the inside passage that week" or "That sounds great, but I'm in Moab that weekend" are typical Matt Newlin excuses.

Matt must not have had any sailing trip to Tahiti planned for this past weekend because when Mark suggests a Sunday/Monday trip to Port Townsend and Dungeness Spit, Matt quickly replies that he's in.

Our buddy Jon will not be joining in on this adventure, since he'll be busy with the Port Townsend Film Festival, but his input does shape the precise timing of our trip. The documentary, Long Road North, is showing both on Saturday and Sunday, so we decide to be sure we're up in Port Townsend in time to catch the Sunday September 28th showing.

Packing adventure into a modestly busy life involves some sacrifice and what I routinely sacrifice is sleep. Again Thoreau has wise words, stating that "We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep." I haven't used an alarm clock in years, a fact my wife still finds amazing, although she's more amazed at my ability to drop into slumber at will. Alarm clocks, like automobiles, are mechanical devices which bring me no pleasure and thus I do what I can to avoid them in my daily existence.

So I'm awake around 4:00 AM and prime the motor I call myself with a quick breakfast of coffee and steel cut oats. While I'm certainly not a nutritional role model, the steel cut oats are one of those things I eat that gets nods of approval from even most conscientious vegan friends. Unlike mushy, quick cooking rolled oats, steel cut oats have a coarse, nutty texture. They are slow to cook but provide a great long, steady source of energy to keep the pedals turning. Years ago someone taught me the handy trick of cooking the oats in a thermos, a stunt that only requires a bit of forethought the night before breakfast.

Oats and coffee get me out the door and a bit of pedalling propels man and bicycle from Issaquah to Seattle. Matt, Mark and I all meet at the ferry terminal and wait for the first boat of the day to take us over to Bainbridge Island.

"Is that another bike?" Mark queries. I admit that it is, in fact, an older Joe Murray designed Kona Explosif that had been sitting for far too long in the Bike Works warehouse. "I bought it Friday, painted it and built it up yesterday." Mark makes his usual comment about drug addicts running pharmacies and then adds, "you know, you keep building up the same bike." "Variants on a theme," I point out, "some have more gears, some have less. Some have fatter tires, some skinnier." "Those skinny tired bikes don't seem to stick around long," Matt notes. "I guess I'm just not a fast, pavement guy. And besides, our infrastructure is deteriorating at an alarming rate. You know anyone who wants to buy a Fuji?"

The sun is cresting Capitol Hill as the ferry departs Seattle. We chat of tires and tubing, novels and non-fiction, minor details and world events. Mark tells us that in his young daughter's pre-school, "condo" has become a term of personal insult. Apparently there was a disruption to the neighborhood, a family or business that had to move because the facility was being converted to condominiums. The kids picked up on the adults talking about the bad things happening because of the "condos" so they naturally extrapolated, so now a kid who is mean or a bully or just generally nasty is told "gee Bobby, you're such a condo!"

Bainbridge Island connects to the Kitsap Peninsula via the Agate Point bridge and the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas are joined by the floating bridge over the Hood Canal. We roll past golden fields, over water reflecting a sky that is cool and clear and blue. The conifers stay green regardless of rain or sun or snow but today the leafy trees demand to be noticed, their leaves dying in every shade of red, orange and gold. A day such as this invites one to ponder Philip K. Dick's question, "What if our world is their heaven?" If that is so, then we are living the life others pray for and it is good to give thanks.

We roll past places with names like Paradise Bay with views that are familiar to us that others would put on postcards. The land wraps around the water here in hills and coves, creating safe harbors and dangerous channels. For men on bicycles, the hills remind us that sometimes we will only crawl slow as turtles while other times we will swoop like eagles.

We stick mostly to the smaller roads. Matt had made the discovery that Discovery Road is a prettier, if hillier, way into Port Townsend than coming straight in on Hwy 20. Wiser men than us have noted that you don't have adventures by sticking to the main roads and staying at the Holiday Inn. Our planes and automobiles have made it possible for us to go anywhere and see nothing, but our simpler, slower means of conveyance, our feet and our bicycles and wind-powered boats, still connect us to this earth that is not ours to master, but to treasure.

Port Townsend is a place whose past is not quite past, whose present is not quite now and whose residents proudly proclaim that "we're all here because we're not all there." It's a town where hippies have become capitalists to survive, where the guy who fixes your manure spreader has sculptures for sale in SoHo, where the old fort serves as a movie set and where the waitress at the diner may live in a Victorian mansion or a tin shack back in the woods. It's a place that's a little hard to get to, a little hard to explain, damn hard to leave and even harder to live in. If it was closer to Seattle and not protected by twisty roads, long bridges, flakey ferry service and the sulphurous scent of a working paper mill, the town would be overrun with tourists every day instead of just every weekend.

Guys like Matt, Mark and me are, of course, part of that tourist throng, thinking at least on some level, "man, it'd be neat to live here." Right now we are living here, at least for today. We stop at Jon Muellner's place but nobody is around so we roll down the hill. It's a bit after 10:30 AM. My hearty breakfast of oats and coffee was more six hours and sixty miles back and Matt and Mark both agree that trading dollars for calories at the Landfall Cafe sounds like a fine idea.

The Landfall not only has bacon, eggs, hash browns, juice and coffee, we also find a film festival schedule there and verify which local theatre is showing Long Road North. Our minimal planning had concluded a few days ago with my email comment of "maybe we should get tickets in advance" but none of us had actually matched that prudent thought to any kind of action. But how many people in Port Townsend would want to see a movie about a bicycle trip the southern tip of Patagonia to the Arctic Circle? As it turns out, damn near all of them.

Yesterday the movie had been playing in a 500 seat theatre and sold out. Today, the film has "buzz" and is playing at the 300 seat Rose Theatre. We approach the milling throng with a sense of doom and are told that maybe we can buy tickets. We are given yellow vouchers, which let us stand in the long yellow line, next to the long red and blue lines. The blue line is very special, season ticket holders or something. The red line is not quite so special, but they are donors of some kind and more special than us. We yellow people are the huddled masses. We spend our time in the yellow line bonding with our fellow peasants, discussing how we hate the red and blue people, what with all their fancy money and advance planning. It's mostly good natured talk of revolution, but anyone with the ability to count can see that we are doomed.

Except for one thing. One person, really. Tania Lo. When Tania sees Matt and I, she lets out an enthusiastic "Matt, Kent, you made it!", runs up to us and gives us each a big hug. Mark's eyebrows shoot up in his "fascinating" impression of a mid-sixties vintage Leonard Nimoy, while Matt and I explain that the enthusiastic young woman with the huge smile is one of the dynamos behind Momentum - the magazine for self-propelled people. A year or so ago, when Momentum was looking to expand its coverage and distribution into the states, Tania and Mia stopped into the Seattle Bikestation to research our local bike scene. Matt and I are so damn committed to bicycle advocacy that we immediately spent several hours at Asia Ginger over Wild Salmon Bowls with these delightful young women, telling them everything we could think of about cycling in Seattle. Yes, Matt and I are just that dedicated to the cycling cause.

Tania's partner, Gwendall Castellan, is the star, instigator and camera man behind the film we are hoping to see. Tania had been back in BC as part of mission control for the first part of the journey, but traded a desk for a bike in the last year of the project. She explains this as she introduces us to Gwendall and Matt and I in turn introduce Gwendall and Tania to Mark. Needing a short form of introduction for Mark and not wanting to get into the full under-employed generalist story, I say "this is Mark Vande Kamp, he writes for Bicycle Quarterly." "Oh," Tania says, "you must know Jan." Of course, everybody knows Jan.

Tania and Gwendall have to do more meeting and greeting and do star stuff like chat with red and blue line folks. Matt, Mark and I all think, but don't ask, if Tania can some how get us in.

We don't need to ask.

About three minutes before show time, with our doom all but certain, Tania comes running up and whisks us out of the demoralized remnants of the yellow line. "C'mon," she says, "I got you press seats." Sure enough, five seats at the back of the theatre. We don't even have to pay to get in. "Kent's Bike Blog counts as press?" Mark hisses to me as we settle into our seats. "At least as much as Bicycle Quarterly does," I reply. Matt must have gotten in on pure charm alone. I was just glad that I'd followed my usual custom and was packing both a pen and a small notebook.

I only have two problems now: the small problem of taking notes in the dark, and the large problem of what I say to Tania if I don't like the film. The first problem proves to be minor, while the second problem proves to not exist.

The movie is wonderful. It's not just the best bicycling movie I've ever seen, it's one of the best movies I've ever seen. Gwendall hadn't shot a single frame of video prior to starting this project, but it turns out he's a natural. And he doesn't just keep the camera to himself, he has family, friends and the world wrapped up in this project.

Here's how I know the movie is good. Just when I start to think, well the scenery is nice, but I wonder what people he met, the film cuts to a scene about people. When I'm starting to wonder about some logistical thing, the narration comes in explaining the trip logistics. And the over-all arc of the story pulls you along. The movie is most certainly not a look at this tough guy do this tough thing kind of story. It's a look at this amazing world and here's how a nice guy and his pals, including his girlfriend and his family, took a really neat journey.

The trip took 18 months but Gwendall, Tania and co-director Ian Hinkle spent longer than that in post-production making the film. And the result is astounding. The difficulties of the trip definitely show on the screen. At one point Gwendall mentions that the wind and terrain in Patagonia slowed them to 18 kilometers a day. Next to me I hear a small gasp as Mark takes that in. We ride, we know how hellish that must be. And Matt, of course, has been to Patagonia. He knows that Gwendall got it right on the screen.

The screen is filled with ingenuity, tenacity, scenery and humanity. I cannot overstate the loveliness of this film. Love of the journey and the love of the travellers for each other and for the people they meet shows in darn near every frame. It is a story that doesn't make you say "I could never do that" but rather one that makes you see that a world of adventure lies just down the road if you are willing to do the work to roll out the door.

After the movie there is lots of applause and a question and answer session. When asked if they are still a couple, the obvious answer, the one illustrated by the way they hold hands and look at each other, is given by Tania. "Yes, we got married three weeks ago." Tania also gives my favorite answer of the day when asked how she trained for the trip, "I didn't train," she explains, "I just went."

While we'd like to linger, Matt, Mark and I have miles to go before we sleep. We thank Tania and Gwendall profusely not only for their kindness at getting us into the film, but for their kindness in making this movie.

Before we leave town, we stop again at Jon's house. He's back from a bike ride now but we can't pry him loose to join us on our trip out to the Dungeness Spit. He does give us maps of the region where we're headed, probably a handy thing to supplement Mark's general notion of where we're headed. He also tells us we may see weird things out there, recounting a story of how he was once out there walking his dog late at night and heard some screaming, followed by another voice saying "you can do better than that." Following the sounds, Jon comes upon a naked man and his coach doing some sort of primal scream therapy in the woods. At least that's Jon's story. On the ride out of town, we all agree that this is one of those "I have a friend" stories. "So Jon does primal scream therapy in the woods," Mark comments. "Yep," I agree, "that's the way I figure it."

Mark's general notion that Dungeness Spit is only fifteen or so miles from Port Townsend is wildly off, a notion with as little relation to reality as our impression of Jon's primal screaming tendencies. As we roll west, three amigos riding into the setting sun, our sense of urgency grows. I think we've all been somehow thinking of dinner at the campsite around 5:00 PM, but as the long roads fill with long shadows we see that tonight darkness will come before dinner.

My problem is that my new bike isn't quite set up to this deal with this eventuality. I've neglected to set up my usual feed bag full of snacks up front and I've eaten through all the PayDay bars I'd stuffed in my pockets. I have more PayDays buried somewhere in my panniers, but I don't want to slow my companions by stopping to reconfigure my load of snacks. And as the miles roll along, my speed drops.

Matt is smart enough to diagnose the problem and offers me a shot from one of the bottles on his bike. "You won't like it," he cautions. He's wrong about that. It's some brew he concocts in his home lab from some long-chain semi-complex sugar. It's got the texture of honey and it's flavored with vanilla. It's wonderful and brings me back from the dead.

It's just past 7:00 PM when we roll into the Dungeness Recreation Area. There is just enough light to find the hiker/biker camp area. For the past twenty-some miles Mark has had to put up with Matt and I saying things like "15 miles, eh?" or "Forty miles is not fifteen miles" or the classic "are we there yet?"

We're all ravenous at this point and set up camp quickly, by the light of headlamps and flashlights. Matt travels most minimally, living on his special goo and a sandwich while Mark and I chose to fiddle with our various cooking devices. Mark has brought two tiny Pepsi can alcohol stoves, neither of which seem to be working at the moment. After a bit of fiddling, Mark deduces that he'd grabbed the wrong kind of alcohol from home. Fortunately our campsite is rich in the kind of twigs my Kelly Kettle thrives on, so we not only use the kettle to boil water, we use its flame vortex properties to cook Mark's supper as well. Matt is suspiciously skillful at keeping the kettle fueled and going and he let's slip that he owns one of the kettles. "But you never bring it on any of our trips," I say. "Don't need to," he replies, "you always bring yours!"

It's true, I pretty much always bring the kettle and a thermos. My latest cheap, easy and filling meal is a double serving of Hamburger Helper Microwave Singles packed into an old Tang container. For about 1/4th the cost of a "backpacker" meal, I've got something that just takes boiling water and five minutes of sitting while I brew up a thermos worth of instant coffee. I always wind up sharing some coffee with Matt but he also confesses he's got his eye on some portable cappucino machine. We travel light, but we each have little luxuries we bring along. It might be a novel or a notebook or a camera. Or maybe even a very tiny cappucino maker.

After dinner we walk to the beach, listen to the surf and look out at the universe. It still gets dark out here the way it used to in the days before Edison but the sky is filled by the minds of men. Mark remembers more astronomy than I and Matt is suspiciously good at sighting satellites, but the night sky mostly reminds me that when seen from far enough away all our adventures are tiny, whether they span the globe or linger in our back yards. And if we step back far enough, we see we're never any place but home. But even when we think we are not moving, we are turning toward something, writing some story that someone else may want to read. The adventure lies not just in the going with the companions on our journeys but in returning with the tales to tell our friends who didn't roll with us on this particular trip.

We're up early on Monday. Mark cooks breakfast and then we pack up quickly and roll east into another day of autumn splendor. It's almost as if the whole Olympic Peninsula is saying "sorry about that last trip, guys." Mark's underestimation of the distance to Dungeness combined with a 3:00 PM appointment with his daughter back in Seattle means he has to speed off, but Matt and I have less pressing schedules and choose not to resist the lure of the Gardiner espresso stand. Later, on Big Valley Road, I have the traditional flat that must figure into every trip, the random staple on the roadside that reminds me why I travel with tools. I'm back home a bit after 4:00 PM and already planning the next trip. The first thing I do is rig up a feed bag on the front of the bike.

Gwendall spent 18 months on his trip and a longer time editing and producing his movie. Now he and Tania are on another journey, wandering from film-fest to film-fest showing the movie. He tells me to keep an eye on their website and that copies of the DVD will be available by Christmas. I know what I'll be giving some of my friends this year.

And I think I've spent more time writing this story than I did riding the couple hundred miles over a couple of days. But no matter how busy it gets at the shop or how much I love it, at least once a day when I'm out on my bike, I see something I didn't notice before or I wonder where that road or trail leads. Adventure is more than planning and going and reporting what we've done. Adventure is what fills the spaces we leave empty on the map. Adventure begins with the words "I wonder" and it really never ends.

A rack that works with a front shock


A customer brought his bike into Bike Works the other day for a tune up. The most interesting thing about this bike is the front rack, which mounts to the crown of a shock fork and the top of the headset. The bike's owner couldn't tell us much about the rack, other than it works quite well and he's logged lots of miles on it. If anybody out there in internetland knows who made this rack, please leave a comment.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Re-installing the Bike Works sign

Over the years I've had the great fortune to work with lots of very creative people, but when you get a creative people together with a very small budget, you wind up with some really neat stuff. Here you see Rose, Tina and Joe re-installing the big Bike Works sign, which the kids and staff made from recycled bicycle reflectors.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pictures from Park(ing) Day


Friday, September 19th was Park(ing) Day, a one-day global event to celebrate parks and promote the need for more urban green space. Seattle had about 30 of these mini parks installed in places that are used to park cars the other 364 days of the year. Several of these parks were in the Columbia City and Hillman City neighborhoods of Seattle were within walking distance of Bike Works, so I took a little break from work to take these shots.

Recycled Spoke Key Ring


Donald, Bike Works Recycling and Reuse Coordinator, came to us from BICAS in Tucson, AZ. I recently noticed Donald's cool key ring, pictured above, made from an old bike spoke. "Yeah," Donald explained to me, "At BICAS we scrounged everything."

Using the picture I took of Donald's key ring as a guide, I made myself a couple of key rings this morning. A few twists with the pliers and a snip with the cutters and I had a pair of key rings ready to clip onto a belt loop or backpack and serve all my key-holding needs.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bike Works Bicycle Caps


When people think of Bike Works they might think about our programs for kids, our bike recycling efforts, community outreach and the low, low prices at our shop. But that is not the entire story. At great personal risk, I managed to sneak these spy photos of the appalling conditions in the Bike Works sweatshop where the oppressed workers (Tina, Rose, Joe and Davey) toil at the silk screen machine on fine Italian-made 100% cotton caps making them into marketing propaganda for the corporate empire that is Bike Works.

If your conscience can live with knowing that these pour souls subsist on bread and water (OK, the bread might be light, flaky croissants from the Columbia City Bakery, while the water is heated and filtered through shade-grown organic coffee beans) you could buy one of these caps for $13. Actually these capitalists are so crafty that they managed to create this supply of caps on payday, so I wound up buying both a black cap and an orange one for myself. As of this writing we have a good stash of caps in at the shop but if history is any indicator, they'll sell out quickly.