It’s been a rough couple of
weeks months bike-wise. The Venge, after shifting horribly for a minute (frayed, and eventually broken, shifter cable) and getting new chainrings, chain, cassette and a rear derailleur, is now in the shop for open-bottom bracket surgery (this is a long story for another day). Then, after finally getting my Trek’s drivetrain figured out so it didn’t skip every time a mouse farted, I’d developed a nasty creak in the fork somewhere.
The shifting problem, or “chain skipping” problem to be clearer, ended up being a worn inner chainring. Don’t ask me how it got worn when I barely use it, but once I put the new chainrings on the bike, everything worked exactly as it should. The click/creak issue was a little more challenging.
First, the Trek’s click/creak wasn’t that big a deal. The Venge, that’s BIG. Second, we’re about a week away from full-blown gravel season so I’m almost ready to mount the Trek on the Trainer for the winter. Third, the Trek is 22-years-old! Should I be surprised if it creaks a little?
Well, it creaked a lot. Mainly out of the saddle, and I could recreate the creak by straddling the bike and torqueing on the handlebar.
It was simple deduction, Watson. It had to be the headset.
And I tried everything over two weeks. Specialty bearing grease (thick and tacky – not BBQ sauce!), tightening the grip nuts, loosening the grip nuts, regular lube, but lots of it… I even sanded some ridges of the fork race to make sure the surface wasn’t the problem.
That last item actually made it worse for a minute.
I was just about to throw in the towel and live with it until I got the Venge back so I could then take it to the shop and let them deal with it… when I decided to give her one last go. I thought, “Dammit, I know what I’m doing and I’m not about to let that creak win.”
As it turned out, the Chris King Gripnut, which is possibly on its last leg, has to be exactly the proper torque, or some pitting in the fork race from years of prior abuse, will allow the fork to move, ever so slightly, producing a click or creak when the handlebars are torqued out of the saddle. If the Gripnut is exactly right, and the locking Gripnut is tightened to within an inch of its life, the creak will go away. The trick is getting “exactly” exactly where it needs to be. Too tight and the steering drags (and the bike gyroscopes when the wheels roll). Too loose and it creaks.
I spent a perfectly quiet 22 miles on it last evening and it was glorious. Climbing hills, albeit small one’s, out of the saddle, gearing up for a sprint, it’s all good. I tried it all.
I almost got a little misty as Chucker and I were doing our second bonus lap around our favorite subdivision. I’ve got a lot of devotion wrapped up into that perfectly spec’ed out and kitted classic 1999 Trek 5200. I rebuilt it myself from the ground up, had it painted by one of my best cycling friends on the planet, in the exact colors I wanted, including having a nameplate set into the clearcoat on either side of the top tube… and it was my first road bike – a bike I barely had the cash for when I was only a few years into my first construction company.
I’m just as attached to the Trek as I am my Venge, and I’ve always used it as my go-to bike when I absolutely, positively need a bike I can rely on no matter what the weather throws at me. So, to get it back to “whole” again, and vastly superior to what it was when I brought it home (and 2-1/2 pounds lighter), is a relief.
I love that bike.
I’ve come up with a new writing project for the remainder of the year – something I’ve come close to touching on but haven’t quite hit the right tone. I’m going to put into words how good it feels, the doubt, exhilaration and the sense of accomplishment that goes with slogging it out with a group of good friends in the headwind, wanting to quit but taking your lumps at the front anyway, to make it to the tailwind and the homestretch as you struggle to keep your breathing calm… then glance at your computer to see it tick by 34-mph as you’re bridging a gap to get back to the lead group that dropped the tandem as they rocket for the City Limits sign… and make it.
It’s freakin’ awesome. Anyway…
Last night’s edition was a perfect example of exactly how gnarly it can get in the wind – and it’s been a while for us. Basically, we’re windy from March through June, then we get a break from July through much of September… but in October the wind, she blows again. Even the warm-up was a bit of a mess with the days dropping time faster than seems fair. We had a southwest wind – my favorite, if we have to have wind. One road in particular, sucks, but the back 40% of the ride is stellar (we chew up 10% with a crossing tailwind at the beginning of the ride).
We rolled out into the wind with, if the count was correct, eleven riders on ten bikes. I was up front with Dave for the first three-quarters of a mile and that was enough for both of us. We retreated to the back for a break. After the next three-quarters, we turned northward for a little help and the pace picked up in a hurry, from 21-mph to 27. With the Venge in the shop for a major problem that needs fixing (and is entirely above my paygrade), I was on the Trek, which is quite a bit more work at those speeds (though it is a shade better in a crosswind). That was followed by another mile-long slog into the wind, and Dave and I were back up front for that one. One last mile north before the pain started and, as we got to the back of the group Dave said, “Hey, why don’t we ever get one of these?” (referring to a pull with a tailwind). I was too gassed to respond. I just nodded till I caught my breath.
And right on cue, Shipman Road. Dead. Into. The. Wind. Our pace slipped from 26-mph to 20-21. Turns up front were mercifully short, but the rapid turnover meant only a 2-1/2 mile break before we were back up front again. My heart rate would jump from the 140s to the mid-170s in a matter of a minute trying to hammer through the wind. More than once I thought about throwing in the towel and heading back early. I didn’t, though. I put my head down, gritted my teeth, and gripped the drops just a little tighter, and hammered that $#!+ out. And I stayed with the group. A couple of miles south and we were back into a cross-headwind and the beginning of the hills. Those first three hills suck with no wind, but we were close now. I was only a mile from a crossing tailwind.
I was at the front up the last hill, just a molehill of a thing, and down into the final stretch before tailwind… and even downhill into that wind sucked. Knowing another hill was coming as soon as we turned, I flicked off a little early so I could recover my breathing for a minute before we headed up. And it worked.
We crested the first hill with the group intact. The pace, with the crosswind, stayed around 22-mph. In a bit of a dick move, I switched lines in the double pace-line so I could hide a little from the southerly part of the wind. The first half of the ride took a lot out of me and I was struggling hard.
19 miles in, we hit the real tailwind. Most of us went short, four chose the long route, and Chuck had us slow up the main hill till we crested and the pace went from 20-ish to 30.
Rolling into Vernon, we were lined up single-file and I had no intentions of challenging for the sign – besides, we were at almost 30-mph on flat ground… why? And here comes Chuck, right off the front and he says as he goes by, “New bike!” We busted up laughing as he pipped us for the sign by about three meters.
The next few miles heading north were fairly easy, if fast, but the homestretch was where it was at. We made the right turn and the pace stuck from 23 to 28-mph depending on whether or not we had a slight grade up or down. After an intersection we were able to cruise through, we had one last hill and the tandem was up (which was perfect so they could lead the pack at their pace) and I was second with the whole pack behind, single file. The tandem flicked off as they crested the hill and I went by, giving them 20-ish seconds to get on the back… and then I slowly ramped up the speed from 21 to 26, and I flicked off for a rest.
This is the magical part of the ride – everything we’ve worked for through the headwind, our hearts beating against our rib cage… our lungs burning half the time… sweat dripping all over the bike… and it comes down to that last two miles. I was in awesome shape after my turn up front. I flicked off the front with just enough juice left to latch on at the back, behind the tandem. The pace, at this point, was my fault. The group held together and the pace was fantastic. Diane, Mike’s wife on the back of the tandem, is a wonderful, but little woman… they’re a great draft, though, but when the pace picks up, the drops are necessary to stay in the groove. I was in the drops as we hurtled down the road for the finish line, the Lennon City Limits sign. With just under three-quarters of a mile to go, we were at 27-mph, but someone up front put the hammer down. The tandem had made a move to lead out, but Diane smacked Mike square in the ass and he dropped the pace a little bit, creating a gap. Two others behind me recognized the problem and came around me. The lead four were pulling away and I got on Clark and Dale’s wheels to catch them. The pace went from a decent 28 to crazy, and was still climbing when I glanced down and saw 34-mph (55-km/h). Folks, that kind of sustained speed on flat ground is simply awesome… it’s like all of your senses are woken up… we caught the lead group with about 50′ (maybe 15 meters) left, and literally less than a second later, at just shy of 35-mph, we shot across the line.
35-mph is 51 feet per second. It doesn’t seem like much in a car, but on 18 pounds of carbon fiber and aluminum alloy, it’s 50 feet per second of pure awesome.
Ride hard, my friends. If it doesn’t put you in the hospital, it’ll put a massive smile on your face.
My wife and I went to see our daughter perform in halftime show with her university’s marching band over the weekend. It was an awesome, close game and the halftime performance was fantastic. And seeing my kid was special. They do a postgame performance and photo for posterity and my wife and I stayed till the very end, taking a couple of photos from our seats on the 45 yard-line, about six rows up… but I couldn’t tell what the formation was meant to be. My wife and I had the same thought at the same time; let’s improve the vantage point. We ran up the concrete steps to get a better perch. Three-quarters of the way up we were both turned to snap a photo.
Still not good enough.
My wife saw exactly where I was going and handed her phone to me and said, “you go right ahead”. I ran up the last quarter and snapped the photo about eight seconds before they broke formation.
Now, we’re not talking “walked the steps fast”, “sauntered”, “trotted”… I ran those suckers. So, I’m thinking, afterward, how many 50-year-old men can run up 100 stadium steps to get a photo without having to take an oxygen time out in the back of an ambulance? Surely, I jest… but I will say it isn’t many and I was quite stoked I didn’t fall over in a heap.
We had an odd weekend for cycling last weekend. The day of the game, well before we left, my wife and I went for a sweet 41-mile ride at a 19-mph pace with several of our friends. I felt I could have ridden another 60 at that pace, easily. We had a 40-mile dirt road ride planned for Sunday but rain had us, wisely, sitting that one out. My weekday riding buddy, Chuck and I went out for an easy 20-some-miler for his “New Bike Day”, having just brought home his 2021 Specialized Tarmac SL7 the night before.
That left us in a quandry for what to do yesterday evening… we opted to save the legs for tonight and ride easy. We just lolled around the neighborhood along our normal route, kicking the tires on a few things that needed discussing. I rolled into the driveway with a 16.5-mph average over 22 miles and had barely broken a sweat. I noticed, as I was preparing dinner, how loose and good I felt.
While I do have my struggles related to fitness (I’m hard pressed finding the “want to” to get to a gym, and I love to eat good food), and recovery isn’t always a walk in the park, in the overall scheme of things, I’m feeling pretty fantastic about being me.
And I think that’s as it should be, really. I’m not “all that and a bag of chips”, but I’m content with who I’ve become. I’ll take that.
My wife and I started with an awesome ride with friends. It was really quite foggy at the start (we’ve had a lot of rain), but once the fog broke, it turned into a magnificently fun time. I was glad I didn’t decide to bail when the veil of fog descended… it had been clear as crystal before sunrise. We all had our best blinkie accessories and visibility wasn’t too horrible.
Then, a shower, lunch, and a nap.
Next, we were off to my kid’s college football game to see her perform in the halftime show. It was a wonderful time for us, and it was a tight game, though we prevailed when the clock hit zeros, by one point.
We finished the night up by taking our daughter out to dinner and driving home hand-in-hand.
passed out fell asleep seconds after heads hit pillows with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts.
And we slept in (even me).
Today will be another busy, fun day. A ride, a cycling club board meeting, bowling this evening…
Once over the shock and initial boredom that comes in early recovery (if you’re bored, volunteer for service work – you won’t be bored anymore), if one works for it, life will become so full you’ll need a master planner just to keep up.
And the best part is, you’ll be having so much fun, you’ll wonder how you ever had time to get drunk.
That isn’t overselling recovery, either. The key is putting in the work to make it happen. No farmer ever sat on his ass waiting for God to plant his fields. Recovery works the same way. You harvest only what you plant.
I’ve got about a dozen topics rolling around in my head but can’t make one of them gel. I’ve started a new post but abandoned it after a few paragraphs, to pick it up another day. I began work on an old draft, one of 72, but gave that up after just a few sentences.
Most days I can let the words flow and come up with a decent post. Most times it’ll have to do with cycling, but every now and again life throws me a great topic to cover that has to do with recovery. I try to keep it about life experiences, whatever I’m writing about.
Days like today, though, it just isn’t clicking. In response, I’m phoning it in with this post. Some days it’s better to just sit back and let life happen. Today I’m thankful that I don’t have to get in there and stir things up so I can have something salacious to write about.
The Goal for Recovery is Simply a Good Life; What’s Important is Getting There. How We Do Tends to Vary…
There are few tried and true aspects of recovery that can be looked at as “requirements”, but the few that are can’t be messed with. For instance, to be in “recovery”, you can’t used drugs or alcohol. This should be a no-brainer, but sadly it is not. The marijuana maintenance program is not a recovery program. It’s doing drugs instead of drinking. It’s like drinking whiskey in lieu of beer, or beer in lieu of vodka; you may be able to sell that as a recovery program to everyone sitting at the bar with you, maybe even the owner of said bar, but you’re kidding yourself in the end and that lie will hurt. Eventually.
Then there’s the notion that recovery is just “not drinking or doing drugs”. The idea that, “as long as I don’t drink, I’m okay”, is nefarious and responsible for a lot of bad outcomes. Not drinking is not drinking. Not doing drugs is not doing drugs. Both are excellent ideas if you’re an addict or alcoholic, but recovery is a lot more than simple abstinance. Recovery takes work. Recovery is cleaning up the wreckage created during one’s addiction/alcoholism. Recovery is working on one’s life so as not to revert back to those habits and choices we used to exhibit in our addiction.
Think of it this way; we abstain from drugs and alcohol because we have to. Alcohol and drugs are wrecking our life, so we swear away – and maybe that works for a time, possibly even years. Recovery is more, though. Recovery is reversing the damage done. Eventually, in recovery we don’t stay away from drugs and alcohol because we have to. We stay away because our lives are so much better, we no longer want that life.
In recovery, there’s no longer a desire to escape. When you clean up the wreckage and stop creating more, there’s no need to.
Just a thought. Recover hard, my friends. You don’t always get a second chance at the good life.
It’s Not The Big Things That Will Wreck Recovery, It’s The Little Drip, Drip, Drip That’ll Bring On The Deluge
This is one of those funny times where recovery intersects with cycling. Generally speaking, I get through the big things in life pretty easy. For instance, our well went out over the weekend. The only thing that survived was the well pipe – and that’s a good thing, because that’s half the cost of a well. Unfortunately, most everything else was bad. New pump, new tank, new plumbing, new electrical… folks, it was a big check I had to write Monday afternoon.
Sadly, Brent, I am thankful I hadn’t bought a couple of fat bikes…
Because the good news is, I could write the check and be done with it. Not only that, I still have a reserve left. In a few months of frugality, we should be right as rain again. No financing, no credit card debt, no having to get a loan to cover the cost… we just have to live a little more wisely through the winter and things should be right back to normal, no big deal. It was a big deal, though.
On the other hand…
Last evening, I’m out riding with my buddy, Chuck. We don’t have many nice evenings left and it’s getting dark pretty quick, nowadays. We’re going to be on the gravel bikes with lights and reflective gear shortly, so we want to make the best of what we’ve got. I chose to wear a cycling cap under my helmet, a rarity now that I’ve got a Bontrager Specter helmet. I don’t have to worry about bees getting through the wavecell part of the helmet in one piece, so I normally don’t wear a cycling cap under that helmet. I do have to worry about the cold, though. And it wasn’t great out. A damp, gloomy, 67 degrees that felt like 55… I was in arm sun covers and my cycling cap in addition to my normal kit. Just fine for an easy cruise.
Well, we picked up the pace on the way home, though – mainly my fault – and I started sweating. With three miles to go, I was up front and hammering down the road into the wind at near 21-mph and all of a sudden, my cap hits full saturation. A drip hits my right eye. Then another. Then like a leaky faucet, drip, drip, drip, drip… at the speed we were going and my choice of glasses, the little drips I never have to worry about were hitting me dead in the eye.
In the space of a minute, I was about eight seconds away from hucking my $150 helmet into the ditch in a huff. I went from mild-mannered, just happy to be on a ride, to full-on, “motherf***er” in a half-mile. I squeezed the sweat out of my helmet pads and took the full mess right in the face… and it was done. I wiped my face off with my sleeve and calmed down.
Now, it’s likely a combination of having my well go bad, in conjunction with not knowing that I could have saved a grand or more if I’d have known our tank was bad, but that was a little beyond my pay grade… but it was that little drip of sweat from my helmet that completely raged me out.
There is a simple recovery explanation for this phenomenon: when those big things hit, the program kicks in. Am I working my steps? What do I need to look at? Where am I in my spiritual foundation right now? Do I have any amends to make? We do this reflexively and immediately as we grow in the recovery way of life. This protects us from the trauma of tough things happening in life.
But those little things can build up in a hurry because they’re “just little things” that don’t require a four-alarm “bring out the twelve steps” reaction. Pretty soon, all of that little crap adds up to rage and, if we’re not careful, we do something stupid… or worse, go straight to “I want a freaking drink”.
Fortunately for me, Wednesday is a meeting night and I got to bring all of this up – it even related to another fella who spoke before I did. In the end, I used my experience (strength and hope), in my normal self-depricating way, to show how it works for me… and how it doesn’t.
Today I thank God for the little things. They’re an excellent reminder of just how fragile sobriety can be. And that I’ve still got a lot of work to do.
And so I shall. Recover hard, my friends. You may not get another chance to come back.
We showed up early yesterday. After a day of epic rain, another damp day, and clouds all morning long, the clouds parted and sun shone brilliantly. We had a bit of a breeze from the northeast, but nothing horrible. Todd, Chucker, David, Brad and I rolled out for the warm-up. It wasn’t “hot” by any stretch, but it wasn’t cool, either. Just above room temperature – a little cool for my liking (I had arm covers just in case), but certainly not bad. The warm-up started slow but picked up pace in a hurry. Todd and I were gabbing up front about bikes… obviously near and dear to my heart, I didn’t even realized we were doing 23 with a slight crossing tailwind until I looked down at my computer a few miles in. Chuck and I split off for a couple of extra miles as we were going to be early getting back. We took the pace down a bit and enjoyed the ride back to the parking lot, still arriving with an 18.6-mph average, where we waited for the start.
One of the Elite guys was running late so about ten of us in the A Group decided to roll out in front of the Elite gang. In all the years of the B/A Group, I can’t ever remember going first. I gave us eight miles before they caught up. We rolled out easy, but with a tailwind to start, the pace picked up quickly. Three miles in we were already up to a 22-ish-mph average… and that’s about where it stayed. We were in a double pace-line and we were dealing with some crossing headwind for much of the first six miles, but after that we had a massive stretch of tailwind that we took full advantage of, pushing the pace beyond 25-mph. I kept expecting the Elite guys to roll by, but it never happened. Looking at Strava’s “fly-by”, they never got within a mile of us until we stopped at our regroup point and stopped to wait a minute for a few guys to catch up who got chewed up in the hills.
The last eight miles was going to be entirely into the wind, but it had calmed down considerably – I’d be surprised if it topped 5-mph (maybe 8 km/h). We rolled out and quickly singled the pace-line. This stretches us out and makes it a little more difficult to pass, but we were on less-traveled roads and the longer break between pulls up front was quite nice. We hammered the pace for the parking lot like we were being chased… technically, we were. We hit the homestretch and the tandem I was behind had a hard time keeping up with the lead tandem with just 2-1/2 miles to go. I jumped in and gave them a little 40-watt push every chance I could, then I’d drop back and catch my breath for a few seconds, then give them another push.
Once we leveled out, the lead tandem and three others were putting some distance on us. I made a decision to take the lead and try to bridge the gap and pull them up. I came around them at 24-mph and told Mike, “I got you” and I went by. I took the pace to 25 and held it for a short dozen seconds before ramping up the pace to north of 26 (42 kph). I burned every match I had as I closed the distance to zero. Then the lead tandem came off to head to the back for a rest and that left me third bike and way into the red. Dave picked the tempo up and I held on for as long as I could, but I was too smoked to match him.
I signaled I was out and dropped off the back. I took an easier stroll back with the tandem I’d been riding with as they’d fallen off, too.
We crossed the line with a 22-mph average and no sign of the Elite Group.
A group of girls from the church was there handing out water and Gatorades to anyone who wanted. They’d been there almost every Tuesday night, all year long. Some of the nicest, most thoughtful kids I’ve ever met. I said hello, as I always do, and we made small talk for a few minutes before I headed over to my car. It was already dusk and getting dark fast. We’ll be able to manage 5:45 for one more week, then it’ll be down to 5:30. Another week after, we’ll be doing the night ride, and it’ll be all over but the shouting at that point.
This is one of the few years that I’m really bummed is coming to a close. It’s been a great, fun year.
How to Post Photos In WordPress and Get Around The 3 Gig Storage Limit (without resorting to 3rd party storage – PC Edition)
So, if you’re running Windows, and if you have a PC… anyway, Windows comes with a “snipping tool” app that allows you to take screenshots.
Well, those screenshots are a fraction of the size of a normal photo off a cell phone. Mine typically run around five or six megabytes. If I open a photo on my pc, then use the snipping tool to copy the image, when I save it to my desktop, with very little degredation in quality, I’m looking at 200 kb instead of 5 MB.
Better, if I really want to go low, if I post the photos on Strava first, then use the snipping tool to make a copy of those photos when I open them up on my pc, I can post a decent photo at a cost of a whole 100 kb.
You can imagine how long it would take to use up 3 Gigs 100 to 300 kb at a swing. That’s 50 photos for the price of one.
Now, there are other ways around the WP limit (Dropbox is an example, though I’ve never bothered to fully learn how to use it), but I find the Microsoft snipping tool to be easy enough not to bother with anything else.
Given the 3 GB limit, you’ll be able to post between 10,000 and 20,000 photos before you eat it up. If you upload standard photos, you’ll burn through your limit in about 600-ish.