Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tough Saturday

Rode 18 miles today, 12 miles on Bluetiful, 6 on The Roadley. Day started out at Starbucks with this:

And me caught out in it without my sunglasses! At least it was over 50°F when I stood out in the elements to snap this shot! High temp when I finished riding was somewhere around 65°F! Brutal, eh?

Felt sorry for some other parts of the country. Mother-in-law called from central Virginia; 12 inches of snow there.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Huff! Puff! Outta Shape!

Rode Bluetiful into work yesterday. Even though I haven't been able to commute, because of the need to tend to Hawkeye during my lunch hour, I thought that taking a "constitution ride," or a quick run to Starbucks, in the mornings and evenings every day would be enough biking time to keep my fitness level up.

It wasn't. On the last little upgrade before the parking lot of my office I was huffing and puffing and could hardly manage 12 mph! Going home was better, but my quads were sensitive for about a half hour after I finished.

Getting on The Roadley and taking a Tour de Starbucks yesterday evening was very easy, however, because the legs had recovered and felt very strong. The Brooks saddle is getting more and more comfortable, too.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The New Steed

With the emotional roller coaster I was on with having to put our lovable old Labrador to sleep, it was good to have something to work on as sort of a therapy toy. My son brought his 2003 Specialized Hardrock mountain bike up from southern Arizona and gave it to me as sort of a belated Christmas present.

The bike is in fairly good shape. The rear brake was rubbing, a little lube on the pivot points, a bit more cable and a turn of the setscrew on the right-hand side fixed that.

The derailleurs were spectacularly out of adjustment. The front derailleur was mounted a bit too high and rotated in towards the bike too much. The B-screw on the rear derailleur was way out. Both limit screws on both derailleurs were set in too far, so much so that the rear cassette would not even shift to the largest sprocket and the large and small chainrings always rattled in the front derailleur cage. I spent a leisurely ten hours over two days just playing with the adjustments, going from front to back to front to back, fine tuning the shifting. A little lube on the pivot points and the chain and the drive train is nice and quiet now. Shifts pretty well, too.

There is a slight "tick" in the bottom bracket as the crank rotates, and some side-to-side play on the crank arms, but I'm a little leery of taking a wrench to tighten it. I think I'll ride by my favorite LBS one day and have them check it out.

This bike is going to be an errand runner, something I can leave locked up out in front of the supermarket, so I'm not going to be accessorizing it very much. The original saddle is not very comfortable, but fortunately I have the Specialized Expedition Plus saddle which was on The Roadley before I got the Brooks Flyer. And, of course, I have the Trekking handlebars which I bought as a present for my son for this bike. I added a Trek Flare 7/Ion 3 taillight/headlight combination just in case I get caught riding it after dark.

I'll be using my sling bag for carrying stuff. The seat stem clamp is quick release, so I can simply take that $50 Expedition Plus saddle with me when I leave it.

The Trek Flare 7 taillight is attached to the seat stem, so when I take the saddle it will go with it. I'm going to have to remember to unclip that Trek Ion 3 headlight and pop it into the sling bag, though, unlike I did on the errand in the picture above! (Probably want to remember to take my water bottle with me, also.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Farewell, Hawkeye

I knew, a long time ago, that this particular goodbye was going to be a hard one. My pets have always been special friends and when the time comes to send them on their way, whether because of illness or because the toll of age has removed most of their quality of life, it has always involved some tears for me and second guesses about whether I provided the very best life for them that I could.

Hawkeye was extra special, in so many ways. My wife and I came across him eight years ago, in 2002. We had just visited the new Humane Society No-Kill animal shelter in South Phoenix, just for something to do on a weekend but with no real intent on getting another pet. Our thirteen-year-old son was with us, and as we drove home he suggested we stop by the Arizona Animal Welfare League just to look around.

The Arizona Animal Welfare League was established years ago by a group of partners which include the actress Amanda Blake, who was Miss Kitty of television's Gunsmoke. It is a no-kill shelter and we had adopted a cat from there a year before. We drove over there, and as we walked down the sidewalk along a row of kennels, I had turned back to my wife to say something and saw her eyes light up. She pointed past me and exclaimed "Is that a yellow Lab?" I turned back. He was sitting just inside the door of the kennel, wearing the happy, tongue-filled grin I would become very familiar with over the course of his life. On a note taped to the door was "Hawkeye, yellow lab mix."

We requested a "meet and greet" session with him at the shelter's little open playground. As as my wife and I played with him, it took only a few minutes to realize we wanted to adopt him. I began to follow the shelter employee into the office to fill out the paperwork, and then turned back to see my son still playing with the big Lab out in the yard. The dog weighed over a hundred pounds, more than my son weighed at the time.

Sensing what I was thinking, the shelter employee smiled and said "If it was any other dog but than one, I would worry." That was the first of many instances which would confirm what a unique dog Hawkeye was. We took him home and he was immediately relaxed with our two cats. Later, when we adopted three more kittens from our front yard, whose mother had been killed by a pair of loose pit bulls, Hawkeye was almost like a big brother to them. They always played with him and were never afraid of him.

In all of the years he was with us my wife never heard him bark, and I heard him bark once: when he was startled by a lighting bolt which hit close to our house and let out with a single, surprised "Woof!" Whenever I came home from work, I would see his happy, panting face in the living room window, and he would be waiting just inside the front door, eager for me to play with him out in the backyard, or just be satisfied with my petting his big velvet ears if I was too tired to play.

About two years ago, he developed arthritis in his hips. The vet prescribed some medication, and he seemed to be okay, just slowed down a bit by the disease. Towards the end of 2009, he slowed down a lot and seemed to develop some additional problems. He developed hearing problems, and appeared to stagger every once in a while. Around Christmas, 2009, there were two instances when he slipped on the smooth floor and could not get back to his feet. He would have accidents in the house before my wife got home from work.

On January 12, 2010, we took him to the vet. The more he examined Hawkeye, the more tight lipped our longtime veterinarian became. Finally, he handed me Hawk's leash, sat down, and sighed.

He told us that Hawkeye had developed neuropathy, which, as I understand it means the nerves in his body are breaking down. "So," he said, "It's time. We can do it today, but if we don't do it today we should do it soon because he really is starting to suffer."

I almost did not hear anything else he said after "It's time." I told him that I needed to tell my son, so that he could make it up to Phoenix from his home in southern Arizona and we could have the whole family there.

On January 21, 2010, at 8 AM, my son, my wife and I brought Hawkeye into the same room where he had had his last examination. Our vet and his assistant put a nice blanket on the examination table and lifted Hawk up onto it. As our vet's assistant shaved his left rear leg and inserted a catheter, I wrapped my arms around him and put my lips close to his ear and told him how much I loved him and let him know he was more than just a good dog: he was the absolute best.

Our doctor came in with a large syringe filled with something pink. I turned back and put my cheek on top of Hawkeye's head. I could not think of anything else to say. I sensed, rather than actually saw, the vet fix the needle to the catheter and then put his stethoscope to Hawkeye's chest.

Hawkeye seemed to simply relax with a sigh, and a few moments later I heard the doctor say "He's gone, you all can stay as long as you like."

I've been trying to keep busy the last few days. I took two days off of work and have been puttering around the house. My son is going to be staying with us for a while to do some job hunting in Phoenix. He brought up his 2003 Specialized Hardrock mountain bike and gave it to me as a belated Christmas gift.

Even with my son here, the house sure does seem to be a lot emptier.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Brooks Flyer

I received the Brooks Flyer saddle on Tuesday, 1/12/10. I treated it with Proofide and got it installed on The Roadley:

I had to raise the seat post up a bit because the profile of the Brooks is slightly lower than that of the Specialized Expedition Plus. The Specialized will be moved to a another bike I'm getting shortly (more on that in a future post).

I rode it twice yesterday, 1/13/10, for a total of a little over six miles. It certainly is different than the Specialized. The Specialized saddle is all synthetic, so it was cushy comfort right out of the box. Of course, as it wears, it breaks down and becomes less and less comfortable. I figure on the other bike I'll get about 2,000 to 3,000 more miles out of it before it's finished.

The design of the Brooks is to get more comfortable, supposedly, the more it is ridden. Because of the natural leather seat of the Brooks Flyer, it's pretty stiff right out of the box and needs to be broken in. Reports are that it takes about 400 miles before it's fully formed to your anatomy. I can say that until it is fully molded to my butt I will not be doing any extended rides on it.

I have to add, however, that whether it was by scientific study, or inventive inspiration, or trial and error, the people at Brooks seem to have mastered the design of the saddle shape: as I ride, my sit bones are resting in the exact spot they need to be in order for the leather to properly shape itself to me. That has never been the case with any of the mountain bike or road bike saddles I have ever ridden.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

More Toys

I ordered a Nashbar 2-bike steel rack and got it in this week:

I also ordered a Brooks Flyer for The Roadley:

Although my Specialized Expedition Plus saddle is very comfortable, I've heard so much about Brooks saddles that I just had to give it a try. The Flyer should be in around Tuesday the 12th.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Holiday Week Ends - Final Scores

Sunday, 1/3/2010, I didn't use the car at all, but took advantage of every excuse I could find to put on the shorts and ride around in the 70° F weather! Took a couple of Tour de Starbucks rides during the day; took Bluetiful over to the bike shop to price some things; rode The Roadley over to PetCo and bungee corded a 16-pound bag of cat food to the rear rack.

Final score: Bikes - 18, Autos - 7.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Avatar in the New Year

Took my wife in my car to see the new James Cameron movie Avatar. My wife even liked it, and she usually is left cold by flicks with a lot of special effects. I loved it.

Did two Tour de Starbucks, one in the morning on Bluetiful and one after the movie on The Roadley.

Score: Bikes - 14, Autos - 7.

Just Pedaling on New Year's Eve

Did a Tour de Starbucks on The Roadley.

Did not drive a car, too many nuts out on the roads.

Score: Bikes - 12, Autos -6

Beery Wednesday

Took a ride on Bluetiful in the morning. The weather looked pretty threatening so for the beer run in the afternoon I used The Roadley (Serfas Drifter tires inspire much more confidence on a trash strewn or wet road).

Had to gas up both my wife's car and mine.

Score: Bikes - 11, Autos - 6.

Tuesday for the Lab

Ran over twenty miles worth of errands in the car for my dear old Labrador: included food, prescription refills and a consult with the vet.

Also took a ride on The Roadley and a ride on Bluetiful.

Score: Bikes - 9, Autos - 4.