Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pictures from our 2012 Fall Tour

Christine and I just got back from a ten day bike tour of various parks here in western Washington. Our goal was to travel at a relaxed, wandering, wondering pace, to see various places, eat good food, enjoy the land and each other's company. The trip was a rousing success. We'll both be writing more about the trip in the days to come, but for now, here are some of the zillion pictures I shot. 

More to come.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Thursday, September 13, 2012

This is not about the iPhone

Yesterday Apple announced the iPhone 5. I'm not an iPhone guy, heck I'm not really a phone guy, but I know this because my Twitter stream filled with comments like this:

"Why am I holding this pile of crap? Oh yeah, it rang. Until an hour ago, it was great."


"Back in 2012, our economy was so bad people skipped work to wait in line for a $500 phone." "Sounds like bullshit, Dad." "It was, son."

There were also numerous "My God it's X% lighter and Y% faster!" and "It has a new connector!" comments delivered in the calm, measured tones that some teen girls employ while discussing Justin Bieber. As I said, I'm not an iPhone guy, but the shear volume and tone of excitement delivered by the discovery of the existence of this tiny glass and aluminum monolith made me feel that I must be some pre-conscious primate roaming the savanna. I sensed that if I actually beheld the device, I'd be overcome.

"My God! It's full of stars!"

I am not, despite a certain affinity for that philosophy, a Luddite. I spend a lot of time staring at screens, tapping at keyboards, gee-whizzing at gadgets. I like gadgets and I believe in progress via human ingenuity. We get better at making things through iterative design and experimentation.

Bringing this around to bicycles, as I tend to do and I should, because I believe that people come here to read about bicycles, every year the people at Trek and Specialized and Cannondale and all the rest bring out something newer, lighter, faster or better in some way. Even the retro folks, the Rivendells and the Velo Oranges of the world, will have some new old thing, a curlier lug, a cushier tire or a brassier bell that will be more desirable than whatever was the last thing their loyal customers bought.

And I'm not decrying this state of affairs, I do believe in commerce and progress and I make my living selling and fixing and preaching about bicycles. I think it is useful to keep this business in business. But I have a tip, a suggestion, an observation to offer those who tend to frugality but still like novelty.

The most frugal course, of course, is to stick with what you have if it is working fine for you. If your old phone or bicycle or whosit was fine before the new one came out, it's probably still fine now. But if we stick only with what we know, we would never travel beyond our own boundaries and there are new wonders in the world.

If the wonder of the new is overwhelming, let it overwhelm you and go for it. Grab your gadget with gusto and meet the future at its bleeding edge. Godspeed, Gageteer, Godspeed. You keep the whole system in motion.

Or do what I often do: move forward as a somewhat reluctant time traveler. This is my favorite way of meeting change. I tend to meet the future a year or so back. Buy the 2012 bike that you wanted last fall, this fall and you'll find it's still a good bike. If it was a great bike back then, it's still a great bike now. And it's a hell of a deal because the 2013 bikes are here now.

If you want to get really great deals on last year's cutting edge, find someone who has just bought this year's cutting edge. Ask them what they're going to do with their old phone, or bike. It may be junk to them and a bargain for you.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So I Went Automobile Shopping...

So I went automobile shopping the other day... I know, I know, you're probably thinking “Why would you do such a silly thing as that, a man of your age..” but hear me out. Automobiles are becoming quite popular, I'm sure you've seen them around. I understand in places like Portland they're actually more popular than bicycles. There are all those public service advertisements about sharing the road and it got me to thinking that maybe I should get one of those automobile things that all the hipsters are “driving” these days.

So I cycled over to one of my local “car” dealerships to see about purchasing an automobile and what I found was quite enlightening. When I first entered the shop a young fellow there was vigorously engaged in conversation with a customer about the merits of one particular transmission brand over another, something about how the latest electronic syncromesh whosits made last year's syncromesh hopelessly obsolete and how he couldn't believe anyone would still considering driving such junk. This discussion went on for quite a few minutes so I kept myself busy by examining the various automobiles displayed in the shop. They were shiny and looked expensive and frankly I had no idea exactly made one better than the other or why I might want to select the red one over the blue one. Eventually the car fellow noticed me and asked if I had any questions. “Oh yes,” I assured him I had plenty of questions. “I'm looking to buy a car,” I began.

“NASCAR or Formula One?” the fellow queried.

“Excuse me?”

“What kind of racing are you going to do?” the man asked.

“Uhm, I wasn't thinking of racing, more like maybe driving to the store. I understand people do that?”

The man sighed. “Well,” he explained, sadly, “you could do that. I mean, some people do, but once you get a car, you'll want to race. You're really better off getting something race-worthy to start with.”

I could tell I was fortunate to have come into a shop staffed by a man so willing to educate me. “I'm afraid I'm rather new to this whole 'driving' thing.”

“Oh, it's quite simple,” the man assured me. “Thousands of people drive, you'll pick it right up. Here," he said, "why don't you try this one.” The man opened the door of something very red, sleek and low to the ground. I settled into the seat.

“Um, the seat isn't very comfortable,” I noted.

“Well,” the man explained, “you're not wearing driving pants. Of course, you'll want driving pants.”

“Really?” I asked. “I was thinking I'd probably just drive around in my normal clothes.”

“Oh no,” the man laughed, “you'll want driving clothes. We have a nice selection in a variety of bright colors with a variety of logos on them.”

“I see,” I said, although I wasn't quite sure that I did see.

Looking at the floor of the car I was surprised to see there was no gas pedal. “Isn't there supposed to be something I push with my foot to make it go?”

“Oh,” the man explained, “the nicer cars don't come with gas pedals. That way you can select your own. We can install a test ride gas pedal for you...” He then went on to explain the virtues of the various gas pedal systems, how they would hold my foot in the optimal driving position and that all serious drivers had such gas pedals. I could get a simple pedal if I wanted to but...

I opted for the gas pedal that the car man assured me that he himself used.

Of course, I'd want a helmet. I mean for gosh sakes, who would drive without a helmet? Didn't I value my brain?

And so I got the helmet. It was red, like the car, and made from some material developed by NASA.

It turns out the stock tires were “junk” and I'd need to upgrade those right away. When I insisted that I might park at some time the car man sighed a very heavy sigh and told me he could install a parking system in my car but it would just be an extra thing to lug around and how often was I going to park anyway? He also vigorously worked to dissuaded me from any thought of fenders or carrying luggage but I convinced him I was willing to pay extra to get these features. He looked very sad as he added these items to my bill.

In the end it was my credit card that saved me. The car man actually looked rather relieved when it was declined. “Maybe driving's not your thing,” he consoled, “it's not for everyone.”

And so I'm back on my bicycle. It has a kickstand and fenders and lights. It has a rack on the back that holds bags that carry my groceries. It's got big plain pedals that work fine with my normal shoes. It's just a bicycle and I guess it's how I'll continue getting around.

I imagine if buying a bicycle was as complicated as buying a car they wouldn't be as popular as they are now...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Good Old Bike

I'm not exactly sure how old it is. My best estimate, helped by info I found here, is that it was new in 1978 or 1979. When it came to me it was dusty and needed some tires and cables and attention its owner was unwilling to give it. Did I know someone who could use it? Not offhand, but I knew I'd find somebody. I did know I was the guy who'd take it in and dust it off and get it rolling.

Years ago the bike had drop handlebars and those idiotic extension or "safety" levers that were anything but safe, but somewhere in the years between the bike's manufacture and its finding me, the levers and the drop bars had gone away, replaced by more back-friendly upright bars. The conversion hadn't been complete, however, and the old drop levers were barely stopping the brakes. My pile of things I keep just in case had flat bar levers of the proper vintage and cable pull and now the old Nishiki stops with certainty.

The derailleurs shift fine with the old levers and new cables and I replaced the rotting tires with fine little knobby treads. These old Japanese bikes came to the U.S. shores in droves, much like the Corollas and Civics of their day and they were and are reliable bicycles, intelligently designed and made to last.

This good old bike is still rolling strong. Now I just need to find somebody who needs a good old bike.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA