Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Racking Rocinante

If you've perused this blog much you'll know that my family has a river place up north on the Kettle River. You might also see pics of our trusty old Toyota truck, Rocinante. This truck belonged to Liza's dad. He named it. He gave it Liza a few years ago before he died. It's really a perfect truck for us in the context of the river place. I load it up with all sorts of crap for projects up there. And while there, it's the main hauler for people and supplies on the back roads of Ferry County, where you're expected to load up the bed of your truck with people, coolers, and inner tubes for floating the river.

Since it was made back in 1983 when compact trucks were truly compact, it fills up quickly when I put a couple bikes in the bed. I've been bugging Glen for at least a year--in the subtle way that I do-- to help me get some racks going for it. Since he started the stock NFE project though, he's just slammed all the time trying to keep up with demand. That's great and I'm a part of machine that is generating orders for him and watching the schedule and trying to keep customers informed of progress -- so as a result, I've backed off in the last few month with my nagging about racking Rocinante.

Before racking: two fatties pretty much filled 'im up.
A couple weeks ago I had big pile of crap to bring up to the river. I wanted to bring *my* NFE for obvious reasons, but with all the crap, it was a pain to wedge in the bed of the truck. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention... and as a result, my jammed up truck resulted in what I like to think was a pretty innovated solution for hauling the bike. To wit:

For some reason this horrified Glen. Perhaps it was the zipties holding that grate to my lumber rack. Perhaps it was the thought of the grate grating on the NFE paint that got under his skin. Maybe it's a class thing: he didn't want his NFE associated with a dumpy-ass, Joad-looking pile of crap. Who knows. If you know Glen, you know he's not the most verbose dude in the world. All I know is that after posting that pic to Instagram, he sent me an email with a picture of a bed-mounted, side-load bike hauling solution that made me WANT. He told me to bring my trays over on the next Saturday and he could probably knock out that solution in about an hour. Had I know that just hacking my own solution would've motivated him into action, I would've done this a year ago. Handy bit of intel for the future, that.

Sensing the zeitgeist, I pushed it as I often do: "Hey, while you have your welding shit out in the driveway, how about you hook me up with a front hitch mount. There's a plate with holes in it down there and really, how hard could that be?"

He crawled around under the truck for a while, gave me a shopping list of two metal objects, one of which, of course, I screwed up. And told me to be there Saturday. He's always got home and yard stuff going on, so I told him I'd try my labor for his: I'd do his Saturday work of pulling out a little retaining wall as he racked the truck. Until the stock NFE project came along, he would normally  work through his honey-do list on evenings and weekends. But now he's working early and late every day. So weekends are really his only time to block off and get other projects done. So it's win-win.

His time estimate on the side racks was on the money: it took him about an hour. It's simple, elegant, and pure Glen excellentism.

The front hitch part, which he reminded me that he hadn't "estimated the time for this tomfoolery," (that's a direct quote, "tomfoolery") -- took about 4 hours. In that time I moved approximately 2 tons of rock, debris, earth, and trash (that's a direct Truth).

Sidenote: The supplies part that I screwed up was that I got the wrong receiver hitch. So it turns out that there's a 2" receiver and a 1 1/4" receiver. Everyone knows that. I knew that. What I didn't know is that there's a sleeve for the that fits in the 2" receiver that looks damn like a 1 1/4" receiver. They might as well be identical. Anyway -- looked good to me, but Glen wouldn't have it. No hacks for Glen when you're hauling bikes in front of the car. So it looked like he'd get mostly done with the project but not be able to put the actual receiver on. This was about 2 hours in. Getting this time with Glen and his welder out in his driveway was such an opportunity.... and it would be difficult to reconstruct as we're trying to get these NFEs out the door.  I was bumming but trying not to show it, when buddy Pat showed up to watch the progress.

The muddy ass on the left belongs to Pat. That's the most recent picture I have of him. It's from our recent Orcas ride.
Pat is an engineer in the outside world, but in real life he is a super nerdy problem solver ex-grease monkey (build, modified, and raced stock cars: fucker's legit) dude that loves building cool bike shit and being involved with building cool bike shit. He knew of this event and wanted to check in on progress. AND, like Glen, Pat's a solid. So he shows up. He and Glen barely exchange more than a few grunts and nods and Pat gets it -- understands the fix Glen is making. Totally sees the stupid wrong receiver that I bought and he's out of there. He shows up a 1/2 hour later with the right hunk of metal and a receipt for $25 for me. At this point I had moved approximately 1.5 tons of rock. It was hot. I was dehydrated. But I swear I nearly cried with joy when he showed up with what was of course the correct receiver and I realized that my project would complete.

It goes without saying that my "simple front hitch solution" was neither simple nor a solution. Click for big. One hunk of metal that I did get right is a 1/2" plate of steel. That's the money piece there wedged in between the receiver and the truck.

That's Glen's Pugs. Liza borrows it when we head to the river.

The rack is the best value hanger rack of all time: a Sun Lite. It's burly and super easy to hack/modify. Glen shortened it a tad to increase visibility.

In the end, I'm thrilled. Glen has asked for a picture with the truck loaded up with at least 8 bikes. That will come, but I want to happen naturally. Watch this space for that someday in the future.

Your standard bike pile at the river.
 There are 7 bikes here. Five of them came up with us on this particular hang: 3 in the truck, 2 on the car. This year: all on the truck.

Monday, March 23, 2015

S'plorin' w the s'plorer

I made a quick run to the Kettle River yesterday. This morning I got up early and had a couple hours to tool around. This is the end of the road. There used to be a bridge/raised roadway that continued here. You can't see the pilings in this picture, but they're there.

This is a little section of trail that my brother-in-law Andy and I revived last summer. It's an old road that shaves off a good chunk of road riding for a loop we like to do. Last summer we cleared away the deadfall and started riding it often. I'm guessing it's being maintained by the local game animals now.

Found an old root cellar.

It's cool to see how someone put a long time ago put this together -- they used the local rock, then mortared it all together.

Timber roof. Long since caved in. I wonder if there are any old jars of food under that rubble? I saw some busted crocks and jars in there. 

A few years ago a forest fire came through and cleared out all the undergrowth and tiny tree forests that were under these trees. That's a great method for making things very ridable. You don't need a trail with that set up.

In unrelated news. When I got home I found this odd situation in my garage. The hook holding the cargo bike broke/pulled out of the wall and the bike fell on its nose -- and leaned against the tires. No harm. No broken stuff. No big whoop. I left it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fly fishing... in reverse order

Packing it in. Skunked again. Live bait spinning is rarely this demoralizing.

You're done when you lose your fly. Or it's hopelessly tangled.
Or you're out of beer. 

I love the eyes on this wooly bastard. He's so delectable looking, I just about ate him. Somehow the fish were able to resist the lure.

Packing up. Optimism is high. The river is more than half full. The fish are surely eager and hungry... ready to hit anything, even a rookie's fly.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Saddle time

Maddie and I are slowly building up saddle time. Watching her ride over the last week or two has highlighted a few changes that still need to be made to the bike.
I'm going to find her narrower bars and get them a bit closer yet. 
She often rides with her elbows locked. We did a 16 mile ride today and her arms hurt. 

I'm also going to put some smaller rings on it. Maybe use the 74 for a 24 and then the inner 110 with a 38 and a bash guard on the outer. She never uses her big ring, which is a 46 or so. I let her set the pace, and on flats it's pretty relaxed. She never pedals down hill, preferring -- like any sane person -- to coast instead.

She stands on all climbs always. And hauls arse too. On dirt climbs she spins out a bit, so with a lower gear I'm hoping she will sit back and spin up without loosing traction on the rear wheel.

She's into dirt. We were traveling down this paved road when she decided to go jetting through the adjacent field instead.

Stopping and exploring is important. This can be hard for me and I need to go with it. I was pretty fixated on our destination today and I had to remind myself to chill. 

Our destination was an old blocked off road that I've ridden by a bunch and always wondered about. Turns out that at the end of the road there's an old train loader, long dead. 

Beyond that is the Kettle -- about a mile from the Columbia confluence. The Columbia is drawn down, so this section of the Kettle River is way more exposed than normal. This is the pre-mud picture.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Riding with Maddie

We're gearing up for our summer of touring and overnighting. If weird warm weather holds, we'll do our first S240 of the season in a couple weeks.

Glen found this bike a few months ago. It's going to be a great bike for Maddie for this summer.
I've spent the last month or two figuring out the right set of components for it. I swapped the drop bars for the Space Bars that Maddie loves. I put some ultra cheap thumb shifters on it. It had some great Suntour XC pro indexed thumbie, but it was too hard for Maddie to shift with her thumb. She always used her palm to shove it. The Sunrace friction shifters are about $10/set and shift like butter.

For rackage: I have a Tubus Cargo on the rear and a Bruce Gordon lowrider on the front. Lights, DT toplight in the rear and old B&M first gen LED up front, are dyno -- driven by the front hub. Good enough for be-seen, which is what we're after.

This was at Riverside yesterday. She's pretty comfortable getting down most stuff. 

Clearly: she's not digging it. She told me while we were out yesterday that she agreed to go because she felt bad for me, but to her surprise, it was really fun. Works for me.

The rigs. We'll be working these suckers out this summer. 

Maddie has the expert way of taking selfies: you prop up the phone, take a movie, then screenshot the frame you want. I stole a kiss right before she ran back to turn off the movie.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

River recon

My river trail over-wintered well.

Pugsley loves this area. Man does it love it.

Maddie is doing the no-hands thing now. This is how she does it. I've tried to explain the idea of just hovering the no-hands above the bars in case things go sideways.

This is her just as things went sideways. She did the hop, jump, and skip-off dismount.
It was pretty pro.

Lots of run-off up there.

Big sky.

Liza had her hands and bucket pannier full as she did her first trash round-up of the season.  

Some snow still on the banks.


My bucket overfloweth with trash.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


Spy photo: Me. Skiing with prototype invisible skis.

I like it. I want to get better at it. I want to get all backcountry about it.

I got these skis a few years ago for big snow commutes when I worked about 3 miles away. I did that commute on skis exactly twice. I've taken them up to the local park a few times in the last couple years on big snow days, but I've always wanted to dive in more.

My buddy, Kaaren, took me up to Mt Spokane this morning and let me loose on their nordic trails. I really suck at the basics, but I love the whole thing: super quiet, hearty workout, and lots of skills to develop. I'm in.

You may wonder how I took such excellent photos all alone up in the mountains?

I used my monopod: