Monday, October 25, 2021

A Milestone

This blog just reached a milestone - and I missed it!

A couple of weeks ago, apparently, I hit 3 million visits to The Retrogrouch

Understand that I'm the kind of person who gets a little kick out of seeing my car's odometer tick over a big significant number - like hitting 50,000 or 100,000 miles. I had one old car that turned over from 99999 back to 00000 (I doubt anyone born after 1975 will remember when odometers only went five figures before rolling over). I was stoked about that one for months. Yeah - I know - I'm kind of a dork.

Anyhow - I knew I was getting close to 3 million, but forgot to check for a while, then this morning I looked and saw that I'd missed it. Oh well. I should also point out that, on the scale of the internet, there are probably bloggers and other sites that reach those million-visit-milestones every few months, not years. 

Still - The Retrogrouch Blog may only be small taters. But they're my taters.

I first posted for this blog in August, 2013. I didn't know how long it would last, and I'm sure I never thought I'd still be writing it 8 years later - though admittedly I don't write or post nearly as often as I did back then.

Over the years, it's interesting to note, that the three most consistently popular articles in the blog's history were posted within the first 6 months since going online. Number one was a post about Tange and Ishiwata frame tubing, number two was on Bike Fit Then and Now, and number three was about the Bridgestone XO-1, a bike that still has something of a "cult-like" following. Month after month, those articles will still attract new readers, and occasionally generate new comments.

If I had to pick some favorite articles, I might pick the series I did about the American bicycle industry - and its shift from manufacturing bikes in the US to "designing" them here, and importing them from Asia ("Designed in America"). That one was in four parts and took a lot of research. I thought (still think) it was a pretty good history. I also enjoy the articles that explored vintage bike safety films or other educational materials - most of which would more likely convince people they'd be much safer not riding a bike at all. I long ago covered most of the bike education films I could find or had copies of, so there hasn't been a new post on that subject for a long while. But I had fun with those ones, being that they combined my interests in education (as a teacher), film (I teach a film class), and bikes.

I also enjoy looking back at articles about some of my vintage bike projects, documenting the process of taking a frame - possibly getting it repainted - and building it up like new. Those projects are very enjoyable to me, and covering them here in the blog, with pictures and descriptions of the process, is a great way to remember them. Some of those include my Expedition, 753 Mercian, and most recently, my Sequoia. I also covered the process of building bikes for my daughters (here, and here).

Well, now that I've hit 3 million, the question is, can I make it to 4 million? Hmmm. . . 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Rolling Coal - Open Season on Cyclists

If you want to kill someone - and get away with it - it would be hard to find a better way to do it than to get the person on a bike and run them down with your car. 


Maybe so - but statistically speaking, it's very unlikely that a driver who injures or kills a cyclist will face any jail time, and in many cases may not even be charged with a crime.

There's a pretty egregious case of this brewing currently in Texas - where a teenaged driver of a big modified diesel pickup truck ran over about six cyclists while attempting to harass them by "rolling coal." For those not familiar, "rolling coal" is what they call it when these neanderthals modify their diesel pickups to spew noxious black clouds of smoke on demand, and they typically do it to their perceived "enemies" on the road, including Prius drivers, suspected "libs," and (of course) cyclists.

I had a brief article about it some years back, including a cartoon of sorts:

In this case in Texas, the 16 year old driver came up on a group of cyclists who were out on a training ride, pulled alongside of them, then hit the gas to drown them in his smoke. According to witnesses, he'd run down at least three of them before even attempting to brake. Several of the riders had to be life-flighted to the hospital with serious injuries, ranging from broken vertebrae, collarbones, hands and wrists, as well as brain injuries, cuts, bruises, and road rash. Many of them required surgery. Thankfully none of them died, but there's no question that they all have a long hard recovery ahead of them - both physically, and psychologically.

The teenaged driver's parents showed up at the scene, the boy was questioned by police - and then let go. This happened on September 25th - and as of today the boy still has not been charged with anything. The district attorney of Waller County, where the crash occurred, has insinuated that the police have mishandled the case and may have given special treatment to the driver because of his well-connected family's prominence in the community. The police chief denies any special treatment, but local cyclists claim that there is a long history of animosity towards cyclists by courts and law enforcement. The story is still being covered by Houston area news, and recently made it into Bicycling Magazine as well. (Links to Houston Chronicle, Bicycling)

Stories like this one just drive home the point that cyclists are frequently marginalized - and targeted - and that justice can be hard to come by.

A friend of mine used to say that it was not enough to assume that drivers might be inattentive, inexperienced, or clueless - he just took it for granted that drivers were actively trying to kill him - and rode his bike accordingly. I used to chuckle at that advice - but these days I can't help but consider them wise words.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Saddle Relief

Well, I finished my test period on the Brooks B-17 Imperial, or "Carved" saddle. I'd put several thousand miles on the saddle in that time, but when the year-long test period was over, I was actually glad to swap the saddle on my commuting mule. I took it off and replaced it with the Brooks C-17 I had been using previously, and it was a relief.

The C-17 saddle's top is made of rubber and fabric bonded together. Its look is somewhat more "modern" than the B-17, but the "feel" is similar. I find that it more or less "disappears" under me, like a good traditional B-17 (without the big hole in the top). I chose it for my commuter because it is more of an "all weather" saddle - more impervious to occasional rain showers.

The "carved" B-17 Imperial is supposed to relieve perineal pressure, but I hate to admit that I never got used to it. If anything, I felt that the big hole in the top led to more pressure - not less - and chafing. Even with padded riding shorts, I could feel the edges of the hole "digging in." I had hoped that it might get better as the saddle got more broken-in, but the sensation never really went away.

If someone is still tempted to try the Imperial, I'd recommend taking out the laces right from the start. Unlike regular versions of the B-17, the lower skirts on the Imperial are laced together from the factory, which is a trick people will use to firm up the top of an old saddle that has gotten too soft and saggy. But on a new saddle, it seemed to be overkill. I used mine as it was shipped, with the laces, for at least 6 months, and it made the top feel way too solid, as if it would never break-in. I eventually removed the laces, which allowed the top to flex more. It helped, but I could still feel that damned hole.

In the end, I'm just going to say that the regular non-carved B-17 - and also the C-17 (which has a similar width to its all-leather cousin) - are pretty hard to beat. Even if someone has concerns about "perineal pressure" I think these saddles - if properly set up for height and angle, etc. - will provide a lot of comfort, making the huge hole in the top unnecessary. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

An Invitation to the Undertaker

Okay - I'll start this off by pointing out that this isn't exactly going to be a typical retro-grouchy, vintage-bikey kind of post. There won't be any pictures of lovely old bicycles, or photos taken from bike riding adventures. There won't be any grumbling about modern bike tech, or nostalgia for the beautiful simplicity of vintage bikes. But there is some connection to my usual retrogrouch interests.

My now-teen-aged Retro-kid is an art student in high school, but so far has not learned how to do silk-screen printing at school. Silk-screening is something that I did many years ago and enjoyed, and she's expressed an interest in learning, so we decided to do a project together before our summer break ends.

Some time back, readers might recall I posted about an old bike "safety" manual from the 1950s. If the children who were given these manuals learned anything from them, the main lesson would be "Don't Ride a Bike or You Will Die."

My daughter was looking through the old safety manual and we were both getting a good laugh out of it. She found one panel in particular that she found especially ridiculous and said "We should put this on a t-shirt." There you go - the genesis of an idea.
The kid just looks so smug as he heads to his (apparently) impending death

I looked the image over, and thought it might work okay for screen printing. For one thing, it's all "one color" - black on white, which is needed for reproduction on the screen and ideal for a "first time" project (if you have a multi-color image, you need a separate screen for each color - then you need to make sure all the colors line up in the final print!). However, there are "shaded" areas in the original artwork which can potentially pose a complication. They're done with a "half-tone" process (that's the pattern of little tiny dots, which you'll also see in newsprint photos) which should transfer OK on the screen - but when inked up and printed onto fabric they would create a muddle in the final result. So I cleaned up the image with some photo editing software, and while I was at it, I enlarged the text to a size that would show up much better when printed on fabric. I also enlarged the whole image to a good size for what we wanted, and printed it off with our basic home printer. The next step was to take the printed image over to the local copy center to have them turn it into an acetate transparency.

(image cleaned up, with larger text)

We also needed to make a trip to the art supply store to get a screen printing photo-emulsion kit, along with a fine mesh polyester screen (actual silk screen is rare these days), a squeegee, and some inks. We would also need a good shop lamp with 150 watt bulb, which I already had.

There are a few methods for creating silk screens, but the "photo-emulsion" method gives the most accurate transfer, and is what most professionals use. One nice thing is that, for beginners, there are pretty detailed instructions in the box.

We temporarily converted my bike workshop area in the basement into an art studio/darkroom - by covering the room's one window with cardboard, turning the workbench into an exposure area, and creating a makeshift drying rack over in the corner. I suppose at this point I should explain briefly that one thing about doing the photo emulsion process in screen printing is that it's a lot like photography. It uses light sensitive materials to transfer the image to the screen, which in turn creates a very detailed "stencil" which can then be used to print the t-shirts (or whatever you happen to want to print your design onto). Creating the "darkroom" isn't quite as demanding as with film photography, however, where every last bit of light has to be painstakingly "sealed out," because the light sensitivity of the materials is much less than with film. When working with film, even the slightest crack of light coming in from under a doorway can ruin the film. But with the silk screening process, a few cracks of light won't do much harm.

The kit shown above primarily consists of a 2-part chemical mixture: a large bottle with an emulsion (it looks a bit like blue Elmers glue), and a small bottle with a "sensitizer." Mix the two together (it turns bright green) and it becomes light sensitive. We then used a squeegee to spread that emulsion on both sides of the screen - smoothly covering the entire surface, front and back. That has to be put into a dark space to dry thoroughly. I created a little drying rack in the back corner of my workshop for that purpose, with a fan for air circulation, and I put an additional covering around it to ensure more darkness.

Once the screen is dry, it's time to transfer the image onto it. Here's where the process really starts to look like photography:

I cleared space on the top of my workbench, and clamped my work light about 12 - 15 inches above the surface. We put the screen down on the surface, placed the transparency of our artwork into the screen, and put a piece of glass on top to help hold the artwork flat against the screen. Set a timer, and turn on the light to expose the screen. The instructions in our kit gave us the exposure times, depending on the size of the screen, and the type of light source we were using. In our case, our exposure time was about 30 minutes.

So, here's what happens. Wherever the light shines on the screen, the emulsion gets "cured" or hardens into the screen. Wherever the light is blocked by the artwork, the emulsion remains softer and can be washed out, exposing the design in the holes in the screen. When the exposure is done, we took the screen to the sink with a sprayer and an old toothbrush - and washed the screen to open up the design. At that point, the screen is like a very detailed stencil, as already mentioned, and ready for printing.

Here's my Retro-kid with the screen inked up, and transferring the design onto a t-shirt . . .

. . . and the finished result.

We printed off a few t-shirts for ourselves and to give to friends. It was a fun project - and now that she knows the basics, she can experiment with more complex images and designs. 

Okay - so, not exactly a bike-related project but I thought folks might enjoy reading about how we spent our last days of summer break.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Biking Historic Virginia - part 2

If you read the previous post here in the blog, then you know that my family and I spent about a week in eastern Virginia, soaking up history in a part of the country that's just steeped in it. Well, our vacation is done, and we're back home in Akron - but now I have some time to write about how I spent my last day in VA.

In doing some reading about bike routes and trails in the area around where we were staying, I learned about the Colonial Parkway, which is operated by the National Park Service. The parkway connects the three main historic villages of colonial Virginia - Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown - all located on the peninsula between the James and York rivers. These villages form what is often known as the "Historic Triangle." The parkway provides a beautiful, natural landscape and scenes, and somehow manages to avoid views of modern development. The roadway is wide and paved in concrete which has a surface of what appears to be river pebbles - which is supposed to make it recall (somewhat) the look of a colonial-era road. There are very few intersections (it usually passes over or under crossing roads) - and instead has "exits" to access the few other roads it actually intersects. For cyclists, the parkway's features, and lack of big trucks, make it an excellent route - though I would highly recommend a steel-framed bike and with tires of at least 32mm (or more) in width, because that "pebbly" surface can really generate some "buzz." Luckily for me, the Sequoia perfectly fit the bill. 

The parkway is about 23 miles long from end to end. But for me to ride the whole thing, I needed to turn it into a loop that started and ended at our "home base." I mapped it out and ended up with a ride of almost exactly 50 miles.

My start/end point is at that big red dot, to the north-west of Williamsburg. To ride the parkway, I'd have to ride south to the settlement of Jamestown (which incidentally is also where the Capitol Trail starts, which I'd written about in the previous post) - then east along the James River. Then the parkway heads north to the village of Colonial Williamsburg, and then turns east again to the York river, and eventually to the village of Yorktown. At that point, I'd have to return along the parkway back to Williamsburg, and then take the regular roads back to our home base. One caveat for bicyclists riding the parkway is that in Williamsburg, the road enters a pretty long tunnel that passes completely underneath the restored historic village. Bicyclists are prohibited from riding in the tunnel. It is necessary for cyclists to "exit" the parkway just before the tunnel starts, ride on the surface streets through Colonial Williamsburg, then get back on the parkway. This is hardly an inconvenience because it lets you see the village by bike (which is nice). The National Park Service website offers a suggested route for that little detour - but on the whole, it isn't hard to figure out for anyone with a map.

I left "home" at 7:00 am, and arrived in Jamestown at about 7:30. Even at that early hour, the temperature was already in the 80s, with ungodly humidity, so within minutes I was already getting soaked in sweat, and dripping. Here, near the start of the parkway, I had a nice view of a marsh and a creek that flows into the James River.

Passing through these wooded areas at this hour, there were these lovely shafts of sunlight streaming through the trees. But the fact that the sunlight is glowing like that is also an indicator of how high the humidity was. Remember - that's water vapor glowing there in the sunlight. These pictures also give an idea of the parkway itself, which as I've said, is nice and wide - but also lacks any lines or lane markings. You can kind of see that pebbly surface I mentioned, which does generate a high-frequency "buzz." Most of the time my tires and frame managed to soak it up pretty well. Traffic was overall pretty light - especially early in the morning.

I mentioned above that the parkway has minimal intersections, and either passes over or under crossing roads. Most of the bridges one passes under are built of red brick, like these shown here - giving them an attractive colonial-era look. I should also mention that the parkway is very well maintained.

I spotted this flock of wild turkeys along the way. You know - unlike the bloated, genetically engineered domestic varieties bred for Thanksgiving dinners, wild turkeys deserve some respect. They are pretty ugly birds - but they "own" it. They are also clever - and they can defend themselves. It's a good idea to give them a little space. Though the frequently repeated notion that Benjamin Franklin had actually wanted the turkey to be the "national bird" is actually a myth, he did in fact have some thoughts on the subject - expressed in a letter to his daughter. An excerpt: “For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. . . The Turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red Coat on.”

About 25 miles into my ride, I emerged from the woods to my first glimpse of the York River.

Okay - so this was an unexpected sight. I came around a bend to see the flashing lights of a sheriff's car and a couple of tow trucks - looked out into the river, and saw this car about half submerged in the river. I have no idea how it got out there. I can't imagine a car getting that deep into the river on its own power unless it was really flying when it hit the water. Did it go in at some other point in the river and get pulled further out by the current? Did the driver go out there while the tide was low - then get trapped as the tide came in? (I'm not familiar enough with the area to know if the river is affected by the tides to that extent - but I assume there must be some tidal effects). By the time I'd be on my return ride, they'd have it out.

Seeing this bridge in the distance told me I was getting close to Yorktown. That's the Coleman Memorial - US Route 17 bridge from Yorktown to Gloucester Point. It's a moveable "swing bridge" that can open up to allow navy ships access to the Naval Weapons Station on the York River. At this point, I must have been about 5 miles from the end of the parkway.

Speaking of that Naval Weapons Station - here it is. 

The Parkway ends in Yorktown at the historic battlefield. If folks don't remember from their American History classes, Yorktown was the site of the final siege in the Revolutionary War - where Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Washington in October 1781, thereby ending the war and guaranteeing our independence.

Upon reaching the end of the parkway, I decided to ride around the village of Yorktown to see some of the sights before heading back. It's a lovely little town with some interesting stories.

This was the home of Thomas Nelson - signer of the Declaration of Independence, representative for Virginia in the Continental Congress, and a brigadier general in the Virginia Militia - and one of the commanders of American troops in the battle of Yorktown. Later he would be elected to follow Thomas Jefferson as Governor of Virginia. Some interesting history on Nelson, and his home: British troops captured Yorktown in August of 1781, took over the local homes to board their soldiers, and dug in for battle. Being one of the largest and grandest houses in the village, Lord Cornwallis selected Nelson's home as his headquarters. When the American and French forces arrived to battle the British, the American troops, led by Nelson, opened fire on Nelson's own house. Legend has it that Nelson offered a prize of 5 guineas to the first soldier to hit his house. Now that's what we call commitment to a cause.

Signs of the battle are still evident all around the Nelson house - with holes and divots all over the outside bricks. Here, you can see a cannonball still lodged in the wall. Too cool. I was also told that the house was used as a hospital during the Civil War, and local legend says the house is haunted by the soldiers who died in it.

Anyhow - Yorktown was a huge tactical mistake for Cornwallis. French ships totally blockaded the York River, bottling up the British Navy, and cutting them off from supplies and reinforcements by sea - while American and French soldiers moved in by land to surround the British forces - then bombarded the hell out of them. The siege lasted a couple of weeks, during which time the British were weakened and ran out of ammunition, food, and men. By October 17th, Cornwallis was asking for terms of surrender.

Shortly after news of the victory reached the Capitol, Congress commissioned the construction of this monument. It wouldn't actually be built until 100 years later - which could be seen as evidence that Congress has always moved at a snail's pace. Fun fact: that figure of Lady Liberty on the top of the monument is NOT the original statue from the 1880s. The original figure was struck by lightning in the 1940s, which literally blew her head off. A new figure was created and put in place in the 1950s (apparently with a lightning rod running through it, and a pretty extensive grounding apparatus installed). 

Anyhow - after seeing the sights in Yorktown, I went back to the parkway and the ride back to the home base. By the time I was heading back, the temperature was in the mid 90s. I should mention that there are literally no places along the parkway to stop for water or other refreshments - especially on that long stretch (approximately 15 miles) between Yorktown and Williamsburg. So having plenty of water is key. I had an extra bottle in my saddlebag - but by the time I got back to Williamsburg, that was just about gone too. The "Market Square" area in Williamsburg has a number of places to stop for food and drinks - so that was like a welcome oasis.

Well - a 50 mile tour of the historic peninsula was a great way to finish up my vacation in Virginia. The next morning, we faced a 9-hour drive back to Ohio. I'll just wrap this up by mentioning that Virginia is a beautiful area for cycling - with lots of resources and amenities for riders - lots to see and do - and the people I encountered were genuinely friendly. Seriously - I got friendly waves and "hellos" from people everywhere I went. So overall it was a great place to take a bike and explore. 

That's all for now - Till next time . . .

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Biking Historic Virginia - part 1

I had mentioned in my last post that the family and I would soon be taking a vacation trip - and that's exactly what we did. We made a drive from Ohio south to Virginia, where we would be spending about a week in the Williamsburg area - in the eastern part of VA, near the Chesapeake Bay. Well, by the time this gets posted, we'll actually be wrapping it up and on the way back home. But since we were driving, it was a simple matter to bring a bike - which as far as I'm concerned, is the best way to explore someplace new (or in this case, someplace very old).

There is a lot of history in this part of the country - which has always been a point of interest for me. I mean - I'm an English teacher, but for me, History was also a possible path. Seriously - how many people do you know who read Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America at 17 - and not as a required reading assignment? I'd seen enough references to it in other books that I figured I should check it out. You know - for a little "light reading."

Anyhow . . . this part of Virginia is full of destinations for anyone interested in history. Colonial period, and Revolutionary War history and lots of Civil War history too. Everywhere you go, there are old battlefields, historic homes, monuments, gravesites, museums, and more. We had plenty of activities planned out as a family, but I also made sure to leave some time for riding during our stay.

On my first day out on my bike, I got out early while everyone else was still asleep to do some exploring without wandering too far from our home base. I planned out a ride to Colonial Williamsburg, which was about a 20 - 25 minute ride away from "home." Most readers are probably at least somewhat familiar with Colonial Williamsburg, but in case anyone needs the info - it's a fully restored "living history" village, where people dress in 18th century clothes, and give demonstrations on all aspects of colonial life. Williamsburg had been the capitol of the Virginia colony until 1780, when the capitol moved to Richmond. After the move, Williamsburg basically became just a sleepy little southern town until the 1930s, when a foundation was created to restore it to its 18th century appearance. 

Getting to the restored village at 7:30 am on a Sunday morning meant that I was seeing it before the other tourists started arriving, and before anything was open. There were lots of workmen and maintenance people all over the village - cutting grass, trimming shrubs, making repairs - and then by 9:00 am, they all clear out, and the folks in period costumes take over the scene.

One of the major parts of the restoration of Williamsburg was to completely rebuild the Governor's mansion, restoring it to its former glory. Again - I was there before opening - so the gates made a decent backdrop for a bike shot. And yes, I did also get to see the place during normal hours with the family, tour the inside, and explore the gardens and grounds. It's impressive.

Another bike pic - just outside a paddock where historical re-enactors would be doing demonstrations later  in the day. As folks can see, I brought the Sequoia, which has become a favorite riding mount since its restoration last year.

I explored the village some more, riding up and down the various streets, checking out the houses and shops. One thing I found interesting is that Colonial Williamsburg is also a residential community. While some of the houses and shops are open for tours and demonstrations - some of the houses are actually private residences. The foundation apparently owns all the buildings, but they lease some of them out for people to actually live in - primarily some of the village's re-enactors. So it wouldn't be so unusual to see, for example, the village blacksmith emerge from one of these houses in the morning, dressed in period costume, and head off to work.

Just outside the restored village of Williamsburg sits the College of William & Mary, which I learned is the second oldest college in the U.S. (Founded in 1693 - only Harvard is older).

My first stop on the campus was the square where the original and oldest buildings are located. But honestly - the whole campus is gorgeous. Almost all the buildings keep a similar style architecturally, with the same style and color of brickwork. Seriously - even their football stadium is designed to blend in with the historical buildings (at least in as much as a stadium can).

After riding loops around the restored village and the lovely college campus, I headed "home" to get ready for a day of touring and activities with the family. I think my ride was about an hour and a half - and maybe 15 (mostly) relaxing miles.

My next excursion would be much longer. I did some checking about bike routes and trails in the area, and found that we were only about 10 miles away from one end of the Capitol Trail - which runs from the historic Jamestown Settlement to the city of Richmond. It's a little over 50 miles from end-to-end. The trail mostly follows a route beside some of the rural highways, though it is fully separated from them - and at least one section of the trail is on a former railroad line. The trail is paved, well marked, and has mile markers (which can be handy). And again - though many readers may already know it - Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in North America - and it includes the story of Pocahontas, Capt. John Smith, and all of that - though most versions of that story are highly romanticized and likely inaccurate. All I'm sayin' is that the Disney version is way off. So was the one I learned as a kid, for that matter.

Aaannyhow. . .

I drove down to Jamestown to start the ride. There was a large parking lot at the trailhead, and parking was free. Though riding the full length of the trail all the way to Richmond would have been great, I did not feel up to a ride that would end up being over 100 miles out and back. I determined I'd ride a respectable stretch of it, and turn back.

Shadow selfie. Much of the eastern stretch of the trail is flanked on one or both sides by trees - mostly pines, so there were many long stretches of shade, which was nice, since it was going to be a hot day. It was nearly 80 when I started out, and that was at 7:30 am! It would be well into the 90s by mid-day.

The eastern half of the trail is mostly flat (I was told by a fellow rider I met along the way that it gets a little hillier closer to Richmond). The longest and steepest hill I had to climb was the bridge over the Chickahominy River, which that same rider told me is known as "Mount Chickahominy" by the local riders. At least the path is very wide, and there is a very substantial barrier between it and the car traffic.

The view from the top of the bridge. Did I mention that I do not enjoy heights?

Okay - so there are historical markers or signs all along the Capitol Trail. I didn't stop to read every one of them (there were a lot) - but I did read this one, and it seriously bothered me. In case you can't read the text, here's the short and dirty version: This Paspahegh Indian chief resisted the intrusion of the Jamestown settlers, and their stealing of his tribe's lands - so the English settlers killed his family, and wiped out his tribe, then eventually they killed him in a "skirmish" near Jamestown in 1611. Jeezus.

Upon returning from my ride on the Capitol Trail, I wanted to extend my ride a bit by heading down to James Island. I found that by following the road just a short distance from the trailhead, there is a nice quiet road, called the "Island Road" or the "Island Drive" that takes you on a lovely loop around the island.

Most of James island is either woods, or tidal marshes. The "Loop" lets you see plenty of both. The tide was out, so the middle of this marsh was lots of muddy bottom and tide pools.

Some of the loop around the island is made up of boardwalks like this one - that extend out over the marshes. 

I did map out the day's ride - which ended up at right around 40 miles total. A respectable ride for the day.

That's all I'll cover for now. I'd manage to get out for one more "epic" ride before heading home, and I'll cover that in the next post. 

Till then . . .

Monday, August 9, 2021

An Early Morning Ride

I haven't had a lot to post about lately - this summer has had me off the bike quite a bit for various medical things, minor surgeries, and other procedures - Nothing too serious or alarming - but it has meant that I haven't been able to ride as much as I might otherwise. For a guy who rarely gets sick, and almost never goes to the doctor, it seems like I had to have a lot done all in one summer.

Anyhow - I'm doing better - and I did finally manage to get out for a nice ride, early in the morning, just a bit after sunrise. We had some mist in the lower lying areas, especially down in the valley - and I needed to stop a few times for some pictures.

At one point, on a narrow and twisty stretch of road that is mostly closed to traffic (or at least, car traffic) I came down a short hill, around a bend - and damn near ran head-on into this buck standing in the road. I swerved, and he bolted - but he didn't go far before stopping to look back. That was a bit of a scare - but a good one.

Had to get at least one bike picture in here - it is a bike blog after all. 

Passing by a marsh - known as "the beaver marsh" - though truthfully speaking, I've never actually seen a beaver there. I know they do live in the marsh, as one can see where they've chewed some of the trees, and there is definitely a beaver hutch out there in the marsh if you know where to look. But an actual living beaver? Strangely, I've yet to see one. But the sun coming up, just behind the trees, cast an awfully pretty glow over the scene. Those flashes of purple you can see out there - that almost look like purple flames rising out of the water - are actually a non-native, invasive species known as "purple loosestrife" that the national park service would like to be able to control. It's apparently harmful to the native species - but it does look pretty.

There are cornfields like this scattered all over the valley, along both banks of the Cuyahoga River. Here you can see some fog just starting to burn off as the sun is coming up. Passing by the fields at this hour, you can really smell the corn. It smells sweet, which shouldn't be a surprise. They've been harvesting and selling the corn at the little farm market for the last couple of weeks, and I think the corn so far this season has been the sweetest I can remember. We've had a lot of rain this summer - especially earlier on - but more recently, we've been getting a lot more sun. Evenings have been cool, and the days have been warm and sunny - and something tells me that those are probably the perfect conditions for the best sweet corn.

Well - that's all I've got for now. We'll be heading out for a family vacation very soon - and I'm taking a bike, so there will be a report coming up. 

Until then - happy riding.

Friday, July 16, 2021

We Have Identified the Virus - And It Is Us

How long after the Covid 19 pandemic ends will we still be finding discarded masks littering the ground?

It's probably an impossible question to answer, but I have a feeling we'll be seeing them for a long time to come. Every time I go for a ride (or a jog, or a walk . . .) I'll see them everywhere I look -- soggy, dirty, and gross -- on the sidewalks, streets, and grass.

Just one of a dozen or so that I spotted
on my ride today.

I should emphasize that the pandemic is far from over, but it's hard to tell from looking around at people shopping or dining out. I still wear a mask when I go into a store, but often I'll be the only one. I've had the shots - but many people still haven't, and cases are actually rising again. Needless to say, new cases and deaths are rising the most where vaccination rates are the lowest -- that's not a coincidence. As soon as the pandemic (even just the belief in the pandemic), and the wearing of masks, or getting a vaccine, became cannon fodder in the culture wars - a declaration of one's political alignment - the idea of "getting back to normal" became an illusion. If all these anti-vax folks were only taking themselves out of the gene pool, I'd say good riddance - but unfortunately, it's not just themselves they're putting at risk. All those folks who can't get a vaccine because of a medical condition, or age, or whatever - they're at risk too. And the more people pass on the infection, the greater the risk becomes that new variants will emerge - and eventually one or more of those could render the vaccines useless. We still have a long way to go to get "back to normal."

Then again - is "normal" really something we should be aiming for?

Like I said - I still wear a mask when I'm indoors with strangers. The risk of infection for a vaccinated person is low, but it still happens. But I can't imagine even for a moment taking that mask off when I get outside, and tossing it on the ground. Even if it ripped, or became otherwise useless, I can't imagine doing that. Then again, I also can't imagine tossing any kind of garbage out on the ground that way, but on any bike ride, I'll see all kinds of litter along the side of the road. Fast-food bags and packaging, plastic soda bottles, cans, drink cups, and cigarette packs (and butts, of course) make up the most common items. In the past few months, though, face masks have joined that list.

Tossing trash on the ground - whether it's a drink cup, an empty cigarette pack, or a medical mask - refusing to bear even the slightest inconvenience for the good of our neighbors, refusing to get a shot to help stem a pandemic, driving a hulking gas-guzzling SUV as we see the west burning up, watering lawns as reservoirs dry up -- these things might seem unrelated, but I figure it's all connected. They're all manifestations of a kind of selfishness, and they're all like symptoms of a disease. A virus, if you will. And the virus is us.

Sorry if this all seemed pretty negative. It's all just some thoughts I was having on my bike ride this morning.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Remember 7/11

I've long been a fan of the comic strip "Frazz," by Jef Mallett. Mallett is an avid cyclist (and very competitive triathlete, if I recall correctly) and he frequently works bicycling into his comic strip. The main character of the comic, Frazz, is the custodian at an elementary school, who happens to be a fount of knowledge, wisdom, and experience - and like the strip's creator, is also an avid cyclist.

Mallett's comic strip often incorporates bicycle-related content (and it's notable that Mallett is one of the few comic strip artists who can actually draw a bicycle accurately). I had the pleasure to meet him once and get him to sign a copy of a book that he had illustrated, Tales from the Bike Shop by Maynard Hershon.

So, I was thrilled to see his comic strip for Sunday, July 11, and had to share it here:

That's right - Mallett cleverly makes the case that July 11th - or "7/11" should be a day to honor the 7-Eleven bicycle racing team.

Two fun things to note in the strip:

One: The depiction of Andy Hampsten riding the Gavia Pass in the 1988 Giro d'Italia - in which he became the only American to ever win that race.

Two: Frazz is wearing the iconic red/green/white 7-Eleven team jersey in the final panel of the strip.

I just need to applaud Mallett - and agree with Frazz. July 11th - or "7/11" should indeed be the day we cyclists honor the greatest American racing team. 

Bravo, Frazz!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

New In Box

I thought I'd take a moment to share a recent find that I've added to my collection of vintage parts: a first-generation SunTour Cyclone derailleur, new-in-box - or NIB.

I've always been a SunTour guy, and the Cyclone has long been a favorite. I have a couple of them, both in short cage and long-cage GT versions, and one of them gets pretty regular use on one of my vintage Mercian bikes. I have a second-generation version (M-II) on my Sequoia. Clean or lightly-used examples come up for sale frequently, but finding one like this is rare these days.

The box has seen better days, but it doesn't matter because what's inside is still perfect.

Lift the lid, and there's this clear plastic display cover, and a red plastic tray that is form-fitted to hold the derailleur. Notice there's also a little compartment to hold the hanger "claw" that one might have needed if their bike didn't have an integrated derailleur hanger. The original manual is tucked underneath the red tray, out of sight.

It's really very lovely packaging - it isn't hard to imagine the components in a bike shop's glass display case, tempting a younger version of myself.

With the clear plastic cover removed. 

And here it is, freed of its packaging. The date code on the back of this example is "R D" which, according to the Vintage Trek site means it was made in April 1975 - well within the first year of production.

There were some very small changes made in the first generation Cyclone derailleurs during their production run - mainly in the design of the upper pivot arm. These very first versions have a shorter, more compact upper arm, while later ones have a slightly longer arm that drops the parallelogram a few more millimeters. It was a subtle difference, but it probably increased the largest cog size they could handle. Or at least, that's my guess.

These early Cyclones were one of the lightest derailleurs a person could buy, at only 175 g. They were beautifully finished and detailed, and cost less than anything in their class. In 1975, a Campagnolo Nuovo Record cost $40, as did a Huret Jubilee. A Shimano Crane (Dura-Ace) was $20. The Cyclone was $16, and shifted better than all of them. I think they get more respect today than they did when new. Price-snobbery tended to make people think SunTour was "lesser" somehow because they were cheaper, when the only "lesser" was the price.

I don't have any immediate plans for this one. It was just one of those things where I spotted it for sale and the price was too good to pass up. Not much else to say about it - so I guess that's bye for now.