Friday, February 25, 2011

Rainy Day

You really have to love this time of year in New England. We still have a solid 12-16" of snow on the ground but it is raining like crazy. The local skiing is not great; the trails are typically either ice or slush and anything in the woods or exposed is getting thin. This rain may signal the end until we get some more snow, at least at Great Brook. Weston will be OK I should think, assuming they can chop up the sheet ice. Up north they are getting snow, so conditions there should remain good. We also found that the open fields were good yesterday and still have plenty of snow. Unfortunately, this rain is going to make the crust tough to ski on once it freezes back up, unless we get a little bit of snow on top of it.


As for riding, I got out yesterday for a quick 30 miles. It was cool but the conditions on the roads were not too bad. Primarily dry in fact. The banks are melting back and visibility is dramatically improving. Hopefully this rain will stop and we will dry up for a local road ride tomorrow mid morning.

Not exactly a flattering portrait.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Birthday

Today is the kittens first birthday, as far as we can tell anyhow. To celebrate we had a small birthday party for them last night with some friends, complete with excellent birthday cake from Concord Tea Cakes, our favorite local bakery. Opie was rather fond of the cake and helped himself.

"Hey, this stuff is pretty good!"

The kittens were very festive and had an excellent time. As you can see, they were so very excited that they could hardly contain themselves.

"Why are you doing this?"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

First Shot at Biathlon

This morning Cathy and I took a first shot at the sport of Biathlon. It combines cross country skiing with steel target shooting. Our friend and primary ski and bike purveyor, Chris, started a club that runs out of Harvard, MA. Today was a practice session at the range where they have a one mile loop set up along with a 150m penalty loop and a single range with 4 sets of 5 each, steel flip targets.

The basic principle is that you ski and then take 5 shots at 5" diameter target, 50m down range, using a .22 bolt action, 5 shot magazine fed rifle equipped with special peep sights. Typically the shooting stance will be an equal mix of prone and standing. Easy, right? For each miss you have to ski a penalty loop before proceeding out for your next full lap. For official competition I believe that the target sizes are smaller and vary depending on shooting position, with standing being bigger and prone being smaller. I've been away from shooting for some time now so lets just say, it was hard enough as it was.

We both had a great time and are pretty psyched to add some more variety to the mix. Cathy consistently out-shot me (again) shooting prone, until the end when I got my stance set and was able to shoot a 5 for 5, but of course, this was not directly after skiing. We're in the process of getting the licensing in place anyhow and will be in the market for some rifles soon there after. The down side is that the good stuff costs nearly what a respectable bike would cost. The up side is that unlike bicycles, firearms really are a good investment if you take care of them properly.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Now go to the Hallmark store and sift through the picked over, sappy cards and maybe get some stale candies that nobody actually eats, or god forbid hit the unmentionables store at the mall to buy something that in your perverted mind would look stunning lying on the bedroom floor next to the naked 21 year old sales associate. Then stop on the way home at the florist, who in exchange for $50 will give you a very, very few flowers that are sure to be dead within two days as they've been sitting stockpiled in a freighter offshore for the past month waiting to meet the demands of this one glorious day.

Bah! Humbug!

Sculpture from the DeCordova Museum

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Something Really Different

I grew up in north-eastern VT in the heart of hunting territory. As such, I was exposed to firearms at an early age, developing an appreciation as well as a healthy respect for them. They were viewed as both a tool as well as a means of healthy enjoyment and fun when used appropriately. Although their potential dangers were always made abundantly evident, it was understood that there is nothing inherently sinister about guns, only people. No different than cars, chainsaws, alcohol or trans-fats. In the wrong hands, they are all dangerous.

.9mm shot from an Isosceles stance

In moving to MA I was forced to surrender my weapons at the border upon entry. At one point many years ago I decided to obtain licensing and got an Firearms Identification (FID) card from the town of Lexington. This was stamped right on the card, "good for life". Well, apparently the life term is defined by the same folks who define life in prison. Thus, life ended many years ago. Now there is a new process and requirements. I've been meaning to get a new permit for years but as I have no firearms in MA, it hasn't been on the top of the priority list.

The balloons were no match for the AR-15 with a RedDot sight

This winter my buddy Chris has organized a biathlon club out of the Harvard Sportsmen's Club. This peaked my interest and gave me some new found incentive. Chris also hooked me up with a couple of his friends, De and Hanwei, who are NRA certified firearms safety instructors as well as competitive shooters. Their business is and they are really great guys. We registered for their class in pistol safety along with another couple. This class is a pre-requisite for application for firearms permit licensing in the state of MA. It consisted of a 4 hour classroom session and another 4 hour session at the range. We started with a safety recap and then progressed through the handguns from .22 revolvers up to .38 and .357 revolvers and onto .9mm and .45 semi-automatics. We finished off with some AR-15 .223 semi-automatic rifles, which Cathy was most fond of.

All in all, an excellent course taught by instructors that were extremely knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic. Everyone came away with a thorough understanding of the weapons, their proper handling and overall firearms safety. Everyone also had a really good time.

Great Service

These days, when you get good customer service you feel compelled to shout it out. It's funny how the simple things in life that people used to take for granted have now become things that we covet and extol. Be it friendly, helpful people at the grocery store checkout, in some sort of support role over the phone or in dealing with a product you purchased and have some concern or issue with.

I've had two such cases with cycling related components recently, both of which have work out perfectly and the individuals involved have been super helpful and friendly. The first case was with my 29er single-speed MTB frame. We have had frames from the folks at Soul Cycles entrenched in our fleet for a number of years now. We first learned of them from their sponsorship of and advertisement in the NEMBA Singletracks magazine. This past summer I decided to switch from a 26er version of the Soul Hooligan to a 29er Soul Dillinger. It was my first experience with 29ers and I was smitten. The frame fit perfect and worked really well. I even decided to race it once and it performed flawlessly, setting the fastest overall Cat1 time of the day.

This fall while adjusting the EBB the weld on the insert on the BB shell that accepts one of the set screws cracked. I was bummed but contacted Chad at Soul and had said that they would warranty it no problem. Unfortunately, the new run of frames wasn't in yet. No problem though as I purchased a Niner Bio-Centric EBB and with a little facing, got it working and was able to ride the rest of the fall and into the winter, until the snow started in earnest. Last week Chad notified me that the frames were in and mine was on the way. It arrived and is flawless. Now I just need to swap it over and I'll be back up and running, as soon as the snow stabilizes that is.

The second case of excellent service was from Niterider. I've used Niterider lights since exclusively 1993. They are in my opinion, the best lights out there. Last year we starting using the Minewt X2 Dual LED lights for some instances due to their ease of use and attachment as well as their light and compact designs. For dedicated offroad though, we still rely on our Niterider HID systems as they are really hard to beat in terms of performance.

This fall one of the LED systems failed. I contacted Niterider and Rich took my details and hooked me up with an RMA number. A quick trip to sunny CA and a couple weeks later the folks at Niterider had fixed her up and shipped her back to me, gratis. They were friendly and helpful in all of the communications and were a pleasure to deal with.

There are still good people and good companies out there. Make a point of supporting them when you find them.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

On Riding Rollers

This was written a number of years ago, in response to taunting from PK and others in terms of riding rollers, or lack there of, on my part. It later showed up in the NEMBA SingleTracks magazine. Who would have guessed that only a few years later I would be intimately familiar with them and their torturous ways.

Those rollers aren't fit for man or mouse
I do not want them, in my house.

I would not ride them, if I could
I would not, will not, though I should.

I'll ride my bike through snow and rain
although it gives my taint such pain.

I'll gladly take a butt that's wet
over riding those things I have not met.

They look so boring, snoring, bland
like counting traffic up by hand.

I'm surely fatter, weaker, slow
but the torture of rollers, I shall not know.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Something Different

It has been an odd year weather wise. Winter was, in my opinion, late in coming to New England this year. We didn't get our first taste of snow locally until just before Christmas. Up north, the snow has been reluctant to poke it's head out at all. While the snow kicked into high gear south, the north country has received barely enough for the winter businesses to survive. What this translated to for us was a total lack of snowmobiling, especially in the weeks leading to Christmas, which for me, is the best time of the season to be out on the sled, enjoying the snow.

As of this past week though, there was finally enough for the local trails to officially open and for grooming of what snow there was to begin. Cathy and I decided to give it a go on Saturday and spend a couple of hours out on the trails. After registering the two machines and $178 later we backed up to the trailer, got the miserable corroded trailer light connections working and headed to the head of Grafton Notch. Although this was only a few miles from home, and we could have ridden there, it allowed us to avoid the dreaded Mount Will trail that is a sustained like 60% grade which with low snow base is ice and can be a bit difficult to climb. Worse yet, if you don't make it, you get to go back down the hill backwards. That almost never works out well.

A little gas to the tune of another $50 and we were off, headed toward Andover from Newry. We made the trip out along the ITS trail, which was a mix of good and bad. Simply not enough snow, but it was what it was. From Andover we attempted a loop through Byron and over to Upton through Sawyer Notch, then back through Grafton Notch. This landed us on some extreme single-track trail that wasn't really ready for prime-time. We eventually made it past Lake Richardson via miles of plowed truck roads, which fortunately had a little bit of snow still on them.

A bit past Richardson we hit a parking lot and were flagged down by other riders, asking for reports. We told them where we'd come from and gave them the truth about conditions. They pointed us in the direction to head and told us to make sure and turn left. We questioned this but the alternatives were wide, really well groomed trail or more plowed road so we opted for the left. This netted us about 5 miles of excellent trail, and put us back in Sawyer Notch. Ugh, that meant back the way we came, minus the really bad trail. Oh well. Our two hour ride turned into a four plus hour ride, but it was still good to be out on the trails.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

It's not you, it's me

Some times it just happens. Things are going along well and then one small thing puts a minor kink in a relationship. Then, later on something else causes a stress or strain. Eventually, before you know it, the little things start to pile up and if you let them go to long without aggressively addressing the issues at hand, resentment can and often does build. The simple, basic things like communication break down and you end up avoiding each other all together, hardly speaking on those rare instances when you do find yourself in that awkward face to face confrontation. The faked preoccupation, distant gaze or simple eyes down stare at the floor in passing become the norm.

That is precisely where I am finding myself now. We have had a good long run and the past couple years especially have been filled with constant companionship and countless adventures. We've spent so much time together, watching movies and listening to music together. You have been very good both to and for me and our relationship has allowed me to grow and flourish in ways I could never have imagined. Sure, there were some rough points, and some mild irritations resulting in the occasional numbing of the senses, but we stuck it out and always managed to reconnect when the times were right and when it meant the most. Unfortunately, recently we seem to have drifted apart. This is especially unfortunate as this is the season where we typically have the most time for each other.

The trashy home wrecker.

I'm hesitant to say that this is because of someone else. That said, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that another has caught my eye, and my fancy. She is sleek and sexy and has introduced me to a whole new world beyond the confines of our relationship. As such, I think that we should spend some time apart, to evaluate our relationship. Possibly to see others. Don't be angry and I hope that you're not hurt as that was never my intent. I think you're fantastic and that it's not you, it's me.

I Hope that we can still be friends.

My Sentiments Exactly

This sucks!