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Monthly Archives: March 2022

One of those intuitive trainer rides… and a bit of magic

It was wet most of the day at work… well, damp is technically a better word. We had frozen rain for the trip into the office but, thankfully, the roads were too warm to allow the cold rain to wreak havoc. I traveled the entire way at the speed limit without worry or incident.

The temperature rose throughout the day but not by enough to matter. It was 41 when I left the office with a chance rain would skirt to our west. Chucker texted he was heading out at 5. I responded with a hard pass. This was at 4:10. Sitting puddles dotted my driveway and the road… but it was starting to dry out.

I did my bowling release drills in the bike room, both hands, about a half-hour before getting dressed for the trainer. I popped in Dune (2021 – and freaking fantastic if you’re looking for an epic) and tried not to think about what I was missing by riding the trainer. And this is where that little bit of magic happened. I’ve been pleasantly chubby and happy for the last several months and I certainly haven’t been all that motivated to push myself as I normally would. Oh, I’m pushing hard gears and sweating a ton on the trainer, but my heart really hasn’t been into it (admittedly, this isn’t all that bad… completely phoning it in, now that would be bad). In that last fifteen minutes, though, I felt like the Grinch when his heart grew… All of a sudden I felt like I was on board with this season again… even if outdoors riding has been sparse.

After my alarm went off, I dismounted the trainer and looked outside… it was raining again. It was 5:55 and we’d have been stuck out in it. The pass was the right move. Sadly, I had a pretty good idea Chuck was out in it. Call it intuition. He texted me a photo a short while later, mud up his back and wet, but added the commentary that it wasn’t too bad. I was happy to take his word on it and called it good.

And that’ll bring me to an interesting post Saturday morning… something I stumbled on whilst, and at the same time, driving to work. Stay tuned.

A Protest Ride On the Trainer… Against the Cold

It was 39 degrees (4 C), though wonderfully sunny when I walked out of the office to head over to a job site for an inspection of what happens when you apply WAY too much propane heat to a finished garage for months, then suddenly shut said heat off, letting the place go cold in a matter of hours.

Folks, it’s not pretty. Joints crack like a fault line – think San Andreas, only in a garage.

The thing that really concerned me was how the wind tore right through my fleece jacket. I had to throw on my winter jacket over it – a little much, but not really. What I didn’t want any part of was riding in that. To tell the truth, it really wasn’t all that bad. I was probably being a bit of a wuss, but I had zero want to for putting all of my crap together and taking it to the road.

I decided to ride indoors and stage a protest against the cold. Don Quixote comes to mind.

This morning I woke up to freezing rain. Oh, joy.

On a positive note, it’ll be 15 degrees warmer this afternoon when I get home. It’ll be an outdoor ride this evening. A much needed outdoor ride. So far, spring really sucks this year.

The Idea of “We” Over “I” in Recovery

A fine key to a happy life in recovery:

If you look into the Twelve-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, you’ll notice “I” is not mentioned in any of them. Not once. Everything is “we”, and we like to point that out on a regular basis.

Take Step Ten, a particularly important step: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

See? There’s the “we”. And isn’t it wonderful, in a “we’re all in this together” kind of way?

Let me throw a hitch in that giddyap. That “we” doesn’t mean “we” in the common sense of the word. As in, help us out, Oxford:

used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself and one or more other people considered together

That’s not good enough, though. That “we” is meant in the royal use of “we”. It really means I. When I, as a part of the greater AA project, am wrong, I must promptly admit it.

used in formal contexts for or by a royal person, or by a writer or editor, to refer to himself or herself.

My point is this; if I’m waiting for someone else to promptly admit when they’re wrong, I should do so whilst, and at the same time, holding my breath.

Oops. All of a sudden everything went dark. Nap time.

It says we, but I treat that as the royal “we”. It really means me. There’s a plus-side to this, though. Think about this a second; I only have to worry about keeping my side of the street clean when it means “I”. That’s why I can be happy – I don’t have to worry about cleaning anyone else’s street. Just mine.

The State of Spring Cycling in Michigan… SUCKS

Two weeks ago it looked like we had the bloom of spring on our hands. A couple of days in shorts, a few more on the road bikes with just arm and leg warmers needed. Ah, it was wonderful to be outside again!

Then, after last Sunday’s glorious ride on the tandem with my wife, the weather went into the crapper.

We’ve had snow, rain, cold… and just nastiness in general. What a bummer.

My buddy, Chuck rode outside once or twice last week but he ended up getting soaked – he and his brand new Tarmac SL7. I saw the rain coming and opted to stay home. “Thankful” does not do my mood justice on the decision to skip that excursion.

The rest of the week looks like continued sucky with a chance of suckier. It’s currently 17 and feels like 4. And sadly, that’s in Fahrenheit… translated to Celsius, it’s way below 0… or too damned cold to ride. There’s snow on the ground for God’s sake. Though, on the positive side of things, we are supposed to get a couple of warmer days mid-week. But it’ll be raining both days. Then we go into the freezer again till next week, at which time it does appear that’s the light at the end of the tunnel.

But hey! At least bowling was pretty fun this weekend. #WouldRatherBeRiding.

My Morning Cup of Coffee Story

I don’t make my coffee the easy way. I don’t have an automatic coffee maker set up on a timer so that it’s ready when I roll out of bed. No, my morning two cups of coffee are vastly more important than a timer and an automatic drip coffee maker. We go old-school with a French press and a little high-tech with an electric kettle.

My favorite morning cup is Seattle’s Best Hazelnut. There are better morning brews, I’m sure, but Seattle’s Best Hazelnut, for my morning palette, makes my heart race in anticipation of that first sip. In fact, it’s often difficult for me to even wait the full four minutes for the coffee to properly steep.

It all begins when I roll out of bed and start moving. I don’t move as well as my younger self and it takes a minute to get wound up. Once moving, though, I start up my computer to write my morning entry, then, while it’s going through the login process, I head to the kitchen to start the kettle and wash out the press from my after-dinner cup… add a little water to loosen the grounds, dump in the garbage (one of the worst things you can do to your drainage pipes is dump coffee grounds down the drain), rinse… and then the magic happens. I open the bag and the aroma fills my nose. My heart rate picks up about 15 beats per minute as the kettle starts to hiss. Three heaping scoops and wait for the kettle to do its thing. Pour the perfect 180 degree (82 C) water over the grounds, making sure none remain dry… Most of the time, this is exactly where I lose my battle over waiting the full 4 minutes for my perfect cup of coffee. I’m lucky if I can make it half that. I did this morning, though.

I head out to the kitchen and I kid you not, my heart rate is double my resting in anticipation of that first sip. I pour that first cup, the natural oil from the beans making a thick foam that floats atop the dark brown, steaming cup of deliciousness. I sit down to type about whatever topic I feel like, often about something that I experienced through the week that had some significance… and that first piping-hot sip crosses my lips and I know that all is right in my little part of the world.

I’ve lost count of the days, how long I’ve enjoyed my morning two cups of coffee, but it never gets old. Every morning as I pour that first cup, it helps me remember that I’m grateful for being me. It may be a simple pleasure, but those are often the best.

I love being me.

How long does it take to (re)learn how to properly throw a bowling ball?

I learned how to bowl, I mean really bowl, during a college course. I chose the old style of bowling. Three fingers with a triangle layout, hand holding the ball on the side, arm swing, lift to impart rotational spin which will create a small hook as the ball travels down the lane. Bam. Bob’s your uncle.

That’s how I bowled from 1992 till December of 2021. There were different variations on the theme, of course, but everything changed a few months ago when I committed myself to learn the modern way of throwing a bowling ball. The original plan was to just get new equipment and keep my old college style but YouTube and Brad & Kyle messed that plan up.

I changed one little aspect of my release to start after buying my first brand new bowling ball (ever). Rather than start with my hand on the side of the ball, I started with it behind the ball and I’d rotate my hand to the side at the bottom of the forward swing and get some good rotational spin on the ball. That lasted a few weeks but I was quite inconsistent. I started watching videos from JR Reymond and Brad & Kyle after Googling how to throw a better hook. At first, it seemed too far out of reach for me to pick up the full modern way to throw a bowling ball – there were too many moving parts at the release that made the mechanics of it seem to difficult to bother with.

Then I picked up a stronger ball (in terms of the coverstock – the shell of the ball) that I could trust to hook if I rolled up the back of the ball on oily, slippery lanes. A strong ball grips the lane, even through oil, and I can trust it to hook. With that new revelation, I decided to change fully – and that’s when the serious practice started.

I did practice drills three or four nights a week in the spare bedroom, rolling my ball on the carpeted floor into pillows or an old mattress (the mattress was pretty cool, it actually returned the ball back to me for another throw). The key was learning the timing in getting my thumb out of the ball before my ring and middle fingers. Getting the thumb out early led to the ability to ride up the the back of the ball, putting more revolutions on the ball than I ever could have before, which helped the ball hook that much more.

After a week or two of drills, I started practicing a lot more. I’d go to an alley once or twice a week, in addition to my two league nights, to practice. I learned how to aim with the new release. I learned that I needed different bowling balls for different lanes. I couldn’t use the strong ball on two of my favorite lanes because it would hook too much and too early. Practice, practice, practice…

And now I’m comfortable with the new release. Enough I don’t resort to the old way of throwing a bowling ball and I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’m much more consistent.

All in all, with bowling three or four times a week, plus 15 to 30 minutes of drills in the spare bedroom a few nights a week, I completely changed how I bowled in about four weeks. I went from the way I learned in college to a modern bowling release, then learned how to aim that new release, in a month. The tough part was getting through the rough patch where I struggled with aim, hook and speed – while I was trying to put everything together. It took a lot of patience.

To my fellow bowling enthusiasts, my apologies for being a day late with my bowling post. I was too proud of my Cooter Yoga post to wait. I was laughing too hard to think rationally as I hit the schedule button. Cooter Yoga… now that’s funny.

Cycling, Soreness and the Key to Loosening Up Those Hips; A Humorous Look at YouTube Yoga.

So, every now and again I have a yoga instructional video pop up on my YouTube feed. Now, how instructional it is would certainly be up to interpretation. Generally speaking it’ll be a scantily clad woman, usually in some form of a thong, spreading her legs or putting one or both legs behind her head or sticking her butt out at the camera… It seems to me, the main idea is for the woman to generate clicks by flashing her barely covered vulva at the camera whilst, and at the same time, performing some form of yoga or stretching activity. We’ve all heard of “hot yoga” and “goat yoga”, right?

I’ve taken to calling this “Cooter Yoga”.

So here’s where this really gets funny (even more funny than “Cooter Yoga”). I rode my bike every day last week but one, after being stuck indoors on the trainer all winter long. I was sore. My legs, hips, knees, ankles… anything from my belly button down was giving me a hard time. So, after I showered up one afternoon, I laid on the bed in pain, just hoping for a little relief by laying there… and the thought hit me, “Wait a second, Cooter Yoga.”

Right there on the bed, I flared my legs wide like one of the Cooter Yoga girls on YouTube – or at least my approximation of what goes on there – let’s face it, it’d take a year of Cooter Yoga for me to be loose enough to emulate what’s on the video channel.

But… son of a bitch if it didn’t work. I couldn’t freaking believe how much better I felt, all of an instant. I did it again. Both legs, then one at a time, then knee bent over the other knee… it was better than two AdviNol (or TyleVil if you prefer).

And so it was, Cooter Yoga saved the day after a heady week of cycling fun!

If your hips, legs knees, etc. are sore after a lot of riding, it’s worth a try. I’m hooked. And laughing. Hysterically!

Now, in fairness to my wife and the PG nature of my blog, I’m not going to post a link here… but you hopefully got a funny enough idea to search to your heart’s content. Or content.

You say tomato…

Shimano 105 10-speed Vs. 11-speed drivetrains

This is going to be a straight up assessment between the old 10-speed and new(ish) 11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrains… with a little Ultegra mixed in just for fun.

First, if you don’t like reading about bike stuff and you currently have a 105 or Ultegra 10-speed drivetrain, I’ll save you the trouble. Finish this paragraph and be on your way. Stop everything else, immediately. Either hibernate your computer and head over to your local bike shop and have one of the employees order an Ultegra or 105 11-speed drivetrain or, if you can install the set yourself, order one online. Just remember not to take the stuff you bought online to the bike shop. That said, upgrading will be worth every penny if you can reasonably afford those pennies – and there will be a lot of them involved.

If you like to read about bike stuff, let’s continue with the always important why.

Shimano’s 10-speed drivetrains are famously flawed. Or perhaps that’s infamously? How about notoriously?. The simple reality is, the springs in the rear derailleur are reportedly, and quite obnoxiously, too weak so the shifting, when viewed against the 11-speed drivetrain, is suboptimal once the springs start to… erm… get sprung (stretch over time). This isn’t to say the 10-speed is crap, because it isn’t. It’s just not as good as the 11-speed because they worked out the spring tension issue in the eleven speed edition.

How this flaw manifests itself in the 10-speed system is that, once a rear derailleur is “of a certain age”, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep enough friction out of the system enough for the weak spring to allow the drivetrain to shift properly all the way up and down the cassette. You can install brand new cable housings, new end caps, stainless steel cables, new cable liner (at the entrance and exit points of the housing/frame interface points). You can literally do everything right and the derailleur won’t dial in unless the barrel adjuster is dialed in perfectly, within a quarter-turn.

Eventually, that quarter-turn won’t be enough and you’ll need a new derailleur.

Now, for the time being, you can still pick up a 10-speed 105 derailleur but how long this will last is anyone’s guess. You can also pick up a refurbishing kit, something I was supposed to try over the winter but never got around to, that comes with a new spring. I’ve heard refurbishing the rear mech helps considerably.

As I alluded to earlier, this flaw was rectified in the 11-speed drivetrain. My wife has 105 11-speed and I have the 10 on both my Venge and Trek and I can tell you unequivocally, the 11-speed is vastly easier to keep operating smoothly. It’s not a night and day difference, but it’s big enough to notice. Especially when that tensioning spring starts to weaken after 20,000-ish miles.

To wrap this up, go back to the top of the post… once your 10-speed drivetrain starts to wear out, I’d make the jump to 11-speed. It’s worth the headache savings alone.

Road Cycling: Diagnosing and Fixing a Chain Line Issue in a Modern Road Bike (Easily, Quickly, and Permanently).

So, I had an interesting conundrum pop up with the Venge. At the end of last season I bought and installed two new chainrings for the 10 speed drivetrain. I also picked up a new rear derailleur, a cassette (11-28) and a new Dura Ace chain for the refurbishing of the bike as the crankset required some hefty work and new bottom bracket bearings. I figured if I was going to get the bottom bracket fixed, I may as well go all out and really give it the business. I had knockoff SRAM chainrings on both my Specialized Venge and my Trek 5200 that faired quite well but wore out quickly. The rings on the Venge were still quite good but the rings on the Trek started giving me skipping problems when I tried to climb a hill.

I opted for Shimano 105 chainrings so I could have a full Shimano 105 system on the Trek and a 105/Ultegra mix on the Venge.

The change on the Trek was flawless. Not so much on the Venge. For some reason, on the Venge, the new 105 chainrings rode outboard of the knockoff SRAM chainrings they replaced. This meant a chain skip when the bike was shifted to the big chainring and big cog in the back. Now, for those puritans among us, I am quite aware we’re not supposed to cross-chain and ride in that particular gear but I’m also a realist. There will be five or six times a year where I need that one last gear to crest a hill without shifting to the baby ring. I will cross-chain in that situation. Every time. If I’ve got a skip, though, I’m worried about the chain dropping from the big to the little chainring whilst, and at the same time, putting some decent power to the pedals. That just won’t do.

The fix for this is simple, but a little complex. You have to change a lot, simply.

Now, if the chainrings need to move outward, a shim at the crank will work well. If, however, the chain line needs to move in, toward the bike, we’re limited by the crank. The easiest fix is to move the cassette out and to do this I simply added a shim to the cassette body. With the cassette moved out, I had to change the set screws on, at the very least, the rear derailleur, but possibly both front and rear (I did both in this case). If you don’t check the set screws, two very bad things will happen. First, you’ll be able to shift the chain beyond the last, biggest cog into the spokes of your wheel. This can be a costly mistake. So, for the big cassette cog, you adjust the outer set screw for the rear derailleur clockwise to move the pulley wheel outbound so the pulley wheel lines up directly below the biggest cog. To check that it’s out far enough, turn the pedals and shift all the way to the smallest cog. Then, without touching the shifter, turn the pedals slowly and operate the derailleur so the chain slides up the gears to the big cog. If the pulley wheel is set correctly you won’t be able to push the chain beyond the big cog (if you can, be very careful here – if you push the chain into the spokes, the chain will damage them big time which is why you were pedaling slowly). Then you have to adjust the pulley wheel for the smallest cog as well, especially if you’re experiencing a little click that won’t go away when you shift into the smallest cog and the barrel adjuster won’t make it go away – or the adjuster will make the click stop but the bike won’t shift properly in the rest of the gears. For this adjustment, you turn the inner set screw counterclockwise until the jockey wheel is just outboard of that smallest cog.

Then adjust your front derailleur if necessary.

At that point, Bob’s your uncle. Give the bike a spin to make sure the fix is right (there’s a chance you may need to double check the set screw adjustments).

How God Works In Recovery… My Personal Experience

My name is Jim. I am an alcoholic. I’ve been recovered, or in the process of recovering, for 29 years. When I was just two weeks in, I asked for a deal with God. I’d give recovery everything I had if He would help me.

The next morning I woke up a free man, though a young and dumb one at that. God had removed my desire to drink and get high. Just like that. It was, in a nutshell, a miracle. I hadn’t gone 30 minutes without wanting a drink for years.

That’s a pretty big thing, though, right? Of course it is.

God will help with small problems as well. All I have to do is humbly ask (Humbly is the operative word in that last sentence, in case you missed that).

I have a massive project due tomorrow. I am beyond an expert in my field, but this one is hard. The specification manual is just one page shy of a thousand. There are more than 200 relevant blue print pages I’ll be responsible for, and I’ve only had a week to work on the job while attending to my other responsibilities as well. It’s an impossible task. The project is due Thursday so I need today to be massive so I can get the project completed.

I stayed up 20 minutes later than I should have but went to sleep 45 minutes before my wife wanted me to, knowing I needed to be up and at it today. That’s the discipline. But I woke up at 1:40 in the am. Just 3h:50m after falling asleep… and my mind started cranking up about the day ahead.

This is trouble. This is a recipe for me sitting out on the computer at 1:50 working on a couple of posts. I said in my thoughts, “God, I can’t do this today. I need your help. Please clear my mind so I can get the sleep I need to do good things.” I laid down in my most comfortable position, straight on my back, pillow positioned perfectly and I was asleep 30 seconds later. I woke up at 4:28. Two minutes before my alarm went off.

I thanked God as I rolled out of bed and started getting ready. I had to be a little motivated, too, because I never sleep in that late. I had to skip my morning coffee, though I made a pot to split with my wife so I could take some in my travel mug. I didn’t write my morning post till I got to the office, then cranked it out in 20 minutes while checking emails and getting the office ready for everyone else to show up.

Now, there will be skeptics who would point to all manner of reasons it wasn’t an act of God to help me sleep. I know it was, though. I don’t possess the ability to fall asleep like that, on my own. It takes time for me to slow the thinking down – as much as an hour. Last night, the gears didn’t wind down to a crawl when I asked for help. They stopped. Immediately, as if someone stuck a wrench in the gears.

The other night, while out with my wife, mother and sister at a wedding reception, a glass of wine got to looking a little too attractive. It caught me by surprise (but not by too much). I asked God to take away any creeping desire. It was gone, just like that. I didn’t think about it again till just a few minutes ago.

And that’s how God works. When I ask for help fulfilling His will for me, I get what I need to make it happen. Every time, without fail. That’s how I know to go to the well when I need water.

So who’s right, me or the skeptic?

I say who cares? I’d rather believe and find out I’m wrong than not and find out I was wrong. Wouldn’t that be the biggest “oops” of your life? “Wait a minute, Pete. Those are some shiny gates… you mean all of that God stuff was real? Oops.”

You know that aphorism, there’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole?

My life as an alcoholic was one giant foxhole that I couldn’t climb out of alone… and my beliefs don’t require everyone’s participation. I don’t believe in tooting my saxophone on a hilltop, but I won’t be ashamed of or hide my beliefs, either.