Friday, May 30, 2014

Team Weekend

Last weekend we had our first real team training weekend based out of our place in Bethel Maine. The team has come to be somewhat less that what I had hoped when first I agreed to pool the Bikeway Source Racing with the Bell Lap team, but still my wife and closest riding partner was in as was my closest teammate Kyle despite the family, holiday weekend and being in the process of moving away (the dirty bahstad). Additionally, the nicest and busiest person I know, PJ, took a red-eye back from closing half a dozen crucial deals, blew off work at his company, his family and the soccer team he coaches in order to make the trip up and ride. Respect.

As it played out, Kyle came up Friday morning with the plan being that we would do a nice opener loop over some gravel and paved with some good sustained climbing to prep for the planned big loop on Saturday. The Saturday route plan was robust, with four significant climbs and a bunch of smaller ones as well as lots and lots of mileage. Therefore, Friday would be taken with a grain of salt.

Cathy and I took it easy on Thursday in prep so as to not overdo. The week had been pretty solid for us so far with a MTB race Sunday, the fastest TVR ever on Tuesday and a good stiff dirt road ride for me on Wednesday from the camp in Kirby, VT. As luck would have it, Kyle got a bit of a late start on Friday Am which meant that he slammed right into Memorial Day weekend traffic. I tried to warn him how bad it could be. Additionally, the sunny skies that had been mostly present in the AM gave way to a intermittent rain. The good news was that despite the rain, it was warm.

We finally shoved off mid afternoon riding optimistically through town in some light drizzle. The route I chose headed out of town and up the nice, paved, rolling Grover Hill Road making it's way to Flat Road and then onto the gravel Forest Road in the National Forest. I'm particularly fond of that road as it is seasonal so has a very remote feel while still having very good surface conditions. From there we took RT5 to Hunts Corner, another good climb and then onto Picnic Hill Road, a nice rolling gravel road that turns into a solid class 4 road at best. We opted to turn off and descend back to RT5 rather than press on through the ATV trail/class 4 road, given the conditions which had turned to a pretty steady rain.

On RT5 we turned toward Lovell at the international sign. This was paved and we ran into a steady headwind to go along with the rain. At one point Kyle went to the front and unknowingly jacked the pace, and effort. I looked down to my Garmin which was showing 340 watts (thanks to my spiffy new Stages power meter which I installed on both Cathy and I's SuperX disc CX/gravel road bikes) holding his wheel. We were less than 20 miles into a 60 mile ride on the first day of a two day epic ride weekend. I could see Cathy was struggling as well so I backed off and let a gap open.

A couple miles later Kyle actually realized that nobody was on his wheel so slowed up. This is an interesting dynamic; the group ride dynamic. It is actually harder than it seems and in some cases, takes years to master. That is the ability to set speed and effort based on the other people in the group. It means being cognoscente of and paying attention to the way others are riding, their expressions and mannerisms. Rides like this, no drop, are not designed to crush others, they are designed to be fun for all involved. It also means that you need to be really good about keeping the effort consistent throughout, a difficult concept and task when you move from being sheltered behind a rider to the front to take a pull. Clearly you can't use wattage as an accurate guide else the pace will drop. Pace is a better indicator but you need to be careful to account for ups and downs. Like I say, this takes a long time to master and in reality, I know a number of people that have never gotten it.

After getting the pace sorted out we soon turned off RT5 and headed onto the Evergreen Valley roads. These are camp roads than turn from loosely paved to gravel as we move into the National Forest. This is a really fun section where you are again, pretty remote. This is the same area and in fact, some of the same seasonal roads that we did this past winter when we did the fat bike epic. We rode past an area of the park where you could mine for gems as well as a bunch of hiking trails as well as the defunct Evergreen Valley  alpine ski area. All this to a steady rain with warm and humid conditions, which afforded the luxury of not freezing to death despite being soaking wet. Eventually we came out onto RT113 and made the trek toward the final big climb of the day, Evan's Notch.

We hit the back side of Evan's and all decided to go our own paces and meet at the top. Nobody was looking for KoM's so Kyle and I rode easy up the steep grades climbing eventually to the top of the notch. I'd forgotten how long the climb is and was very glad to see it end. We climbed steady but were a couple minutes off the pace I did it at last summer on the same ride with Cathy. Again, planning ahead for what was to come the next day. Cathy was not far behind and without much fanfare, we began the long gradual descent back to RT2 in Gilead Maine and quickly across the river and onto North Road, a nice rolling rural road that sees little use. Back at home we cleaned up and reveled in the fun that we'd had, the sites we'd seen and the other people we hadn't seen. Despite the weather, it was an excellent ride, the type of ride that you feel good about afterwards and will recall and speak of for some time to come.

As you might guess, we ended up at Suds Pub at one point or another for a couple of drinks, some nachos and some socializing. Then it was back to the ranch for some chicken fajitas and a big old salad. And maybe a couple more drinks. Before we knew it we started getting messages from PJ that he was on the way and making good time, good enough that he would make it for dinner. Soon he arrived and we sat around, ate hardily and talked both of the day's ride as well as the ride to come in the AM. Oh, and Iron maiden. Hard to have a conversation with PJ that doesn't touch upon Iron Maiden in one way or another. I think it was because an Ozzy song popped up as we were streaming Pandora in the background. This started a lengthy diatribe on the topic. Good fun. Kyle chose to sleep in the new bunkhouse, it's first but hopefully not last resident, which meant PJ got relegated to the guest room in the main house

We awoke Saturday AM to a light drizzle Not the start that we were looking for but still, at least it wasn't pouring. Collectively, we all decided to skip the first 25 mile stretch of road from the house to the actual ride start in Gorham, NH. The plan had been for Cathy to skip the first section and drive to Gorham so we would have a vehicle parked there just in case. The loop in it's entirety as planned would be over 140 miles, but could be shortened to about 120 miles from and back to the house if need be. that is still a pretty tall order given the questionable weather. Starting from Gorham would cut the first and last 25 miles of Rt2 and North Road off. Fine roads but nothing spectacular, especially given we'd done North Road the prior day. I semi-reluctantly got in the van and drove to the ride. On the way over, the clouds literally parted and the sun came out. In Gorham it was gorgeous weather, good enough that we actually stripped the leg coverings off and decided not to take full rain jackets in favor of wind vests and arm warmers. The sun felt great, but unfortunately, would be short lived.

Underdressing is always a mistake. Doing so on a big epic ride can be catastrophic. I never, ever do that. I'm always the one to be way over packed. Well, not this time. We climbed out of Gorham over the two mile rise on RT2, a stout little 8% grade in and of itself, in the warm sun and made our way toward Jefferson Notch. This is a hefty climb with double digit percentage grades and it is all gravel. We hit the gate, which was still closed, and the sun had gone behind the clouds. That was fine for the efforts required on the climb. We would regroup at the top of the notch once again and on the gentle approach grades, laid down a good solid pace. Cathy peeled off to do her own thing and then it was PJ to fall back a while later. Kyle and I continued to press forward at a steady tempo without going ballistic. We could see tracks left just yesterday by Ray, who had been up doing the climb. He appeared to have narrower tires than the 32c file treads that we had on the CX bikes. All I could think was that I hoped he'd had lower than stock road gearing otherwise it must have been some painful.

When we hit the paved flood control sections of road, where the road crossed the river three times, Kyle remarked that this wasn't bad at all. I exclaimed that this was still the approach and we hadn't gotten to the real climb yet. Soon after the grade pitched up and we started the real climb. The conditions were pretty loose as well given that no motor traffic had been over the road yet this season. In winter the road is a snowmobile trail and had not been opened for the season yet. This is good as meeting cars on that road is scary but bad in that it was loose and soft, making it harder going and affording poor traction in some cases.

I could hear Kyle laboring, much like a bull moose blatting for a mate. I wanted no part of that action so keep the pace just beyond comfortable and soon a small gap opened. This was not a race but then again, as with all rides, it was. Over the countless steep pitches that you could barely turn the pedals over we pressed forward, upward, toward the top. At least I hoped. Eventually I saw the steep pitch the preceded the steep switchback followed soon by the gentled grade to the top of the notch. Kyle retained nearly the same gap the whole way back, within sight the whole way. We regrouped at the top and while we were doing so, it cooled and the light rain began. In the distance there were black clouds marching steadily to our flank, the flank of the rockpile. We descended into the cold quietly, hoping for the best.

As we hit the cog railway access road just past the gate for Jefferson Notch I decided it would be better to descend back to RT302 by Fabyans rather than take the cut through road that placed you near the top of Crawford Notch. This way, we got some more distance and so more climbing. About two minutes later, we also got some more weather. The skies opened, it turned nearly black as night and it poured. Buckets. I cursed myself, my decision and the weather. We were soaked and freezing and still descending at +30mph. PJ fell off the back on some of the rollers.

At the bottom we all regrouped and pressed on, up the gentle RT302 slope over Crawford Notch. The rain was horrific and the temperature had dropped a solid ten degrees. I suspect much of the humidity had dissipated with the storm coming from the north rather than the south. My hands went numb as resources were diverted to the core and to the legs to keep moving and stay alive. The next 25 miles would prove to be some of the most uncomfortable I've ever spent on a bicycle. We rotated on the long RT302 descent to keep the pace high but again, PJ was suffering. Just before Bartlett, where we'd planned to turn and climb Bear Notch, PJ hit the deck on the train tracks narrowly missing getting run over by a car behind him. It was still cold and pouring. We all decided to bail on Bear Notch, which would head us back into what looked like black clouds in favor of riding toward the light, the break the appeared to be over Conway.

Just before the RT16 turn up toward Pinkham Notch, the weather broke. The rain stopped and soon, by the time we hit Jackson, the sun was out. I was still having trouble with my hands though. For some reason, they were numb and didn't work well at all. I couldn't open things like food, squeeze a bottle or navigate my rear pockets. This had me a little concerned. the same had happened at the MTB race the weekend prior. Not sure what the scoop is there. Oddly, in Jackson we saw a white flash and heard a thud right in between our small group. It took a moment to dawn on us that it was a golf ball that had nearly smashed. As we approached the tee from which it came the smug owner of said ball offered no apology so I offered up the compliment of "nice f-ing shot" to which he replied, "hey, there are f-ing kids here". I'm reminded of the scene in the movie Falling Down where Michael Douglas is nearly hit by a ball, intentionally, as he walks across the green.

We stayed together on the run in to the Pinkham Notch ascent but then went at our own paces for the real climb. Kyle and I stayed together and pressed forward at a steady but somewhat less than blistering pace. Still it was a good sustained effort. I'd been thinking that if the weather was now going to be nice, we could still, those who wanted to, ride back to the house to get a few extra miles.

Over the top we regrouped at Wildcat ski area for the long descent back to Gorham. Shortly after Great Glen we could see dark clouds looming ahead of us. Within a few miles, it was again black as night and soon the torrential downpour started again. That sealed the deal for the extended ride. We got back to the van, changed up as best we could given that most of us had no spare clothing and then headed off to the White Mountain Cafe for some hot coffee. An excellent finish to a somewhat questionable ride.

On the drive back home to Bethel spirits were lifted and we commiserated about the good and bad of the day. As bad as the weather may have been we still got in a great ride with some very bright spots. Back home we cleaned bikes and everyone showered and then we headed off to the Bethel Inn for apps and taps, one of our favorites during the past winter. PJ then headed out to get back to the family and Cathy, Kyle and I headed over to some local friend's, Craig and Lori's house for dinner. A great end  to a great day and a wonderful, team building weekend. As I say, I'm hopeful that we can do more of this this coming summer and I'm hopeful that we can do so with some better weather conditions. Thanks to all who took part. This was great stuff.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Productive Day

I know that I have spoken of how the time gets away from me with all of the fun things that I have going. Yes, nothing major but lots of little things that keep me going and keep it all fun. Yesterday was one of those days that was simply jam packed with stuff.

It started out with the simple task of changing the water filter in the refridgerator before I headed to camp to spend the day working. What should have taken two seconds turned into a mess of flooded kitchen and wasted filters. The new filter that I replaced the old one with had a defective lip that didn't fully lock in place and seal. When I removed that, a small chunk of the depective lip stuck the tab on the water supply open. Not ideal. Much cursing and debug time as well as one more trashed new filter and it was finally operational. This meant a much later than anticipated start to the trip to camp but still, plenty of daylight.

Brushing out to make space for the apple trees at camp.
The drive up was good save construction on I93 in Concord and then at then the last 15 miles of NH including a long, slow detour off the highway. I finally rolled into camp at about 11:30AM. The first order of business was to crank up the water pump and see what we had. When last we left the camp, after the Rasputitsa ride a month and a half ago, the water was frozen. It had frozen during a cold night during that visit, just before the race when I had turned it on because we were going to be there. I'd hoped against hope that nothing had split. Fortunately, I got lucky and it was fine.
I'd brought the lawn tractor with plans of mowing. The grass wasn't that bad but I did do some moving before hitting the planned task of attacking the massively overgrown property. It looks like the previous owners hadn't trimmed any overgrowth back in the past ten or so years. As such, we have unbelievable numbers of maple, cherry, pine and fir saplings as well as many mature trees that are encroaching on other, more desirable trees, such as the old grizzly looking apple trees. My plan is to hack it all back and prune the apples out with the hopes that we can get some health trees going. These are not prize apple trees but still would be a nice focal point for the property.

Scenic Victory Road.
I cut for a couple of hours and then dragged slash into a couple more large brush piles. We are going to need to get a big wood chipper in at some point to deal with the piles. That said, I still have days worth of cutting still ahead. After that, I did a little ditching and repair on the driveway up to the camp. We'd had some washout of the gravel and crushed rock that needed attention. At some point in the very near future we need to get an excavator in to re-do the road as well as ditch and put in some better drainage. I'm going to attack it with some light machinery first to try and get by for a bit, hopefully until later in the summer.

The next project in the list is to level the camp. At present, it slopes pretty badly, side to side and front to back. The support beams that sit on the cement tube peers have seen better days and are also underbuilt at 4x6". My plan is to jack and crib with a small, 20 ton hydraulic bottle jack and then put new 6x6" PT beams in place one at a time. There are three beams that sit on nine peers. Then I level it up and should be golden. There is crawl space underneath to work in. When I have it set I think I will sister PT 2x10" onto the sides of the beams in order to help add more rigidity over the course of the maximum, 11' spans. Then I start gutting the inside. Should be a fun summer for sure. I love this sort of stuff.

The neighbors pay a visit.
Speaking of fun, I finished up working yesterday and left enough time for a ride. The day was absolutely spectacular so I headed out for a local loop from the camp that was 90% gravel road and made it's way around Burke Mountain via one of the nicest gravel roads in existence, River Road in Victory. This is the main route through Victory Basin conservation area. The road is in incredible shape and follows the river up through the valley basin. Great views, incredibly remote and little traffic makes this a favorite. Of course, to get there I had to spend the first four miles climbing and then the next few descending. Once there however, the road is very gently up and very fast. That is, until it starts to kick up, and then a little more, and then a little more.

The speed goes from above 20mph down to 17mph and finally a hard 15mph as you make the turn in Victory proper and start the next ascent. This one is paved at first because it is so steep. When gravel roads are paved it is never a good sign. The climb lasts for just over three miles and is pretty steep in places. You are rewarded after with some high speed descents on loose gravel and eventually hit the paved descent down to RT114 in East Burke. A few miles of road bring you down town but alas, I turned left and then crossed the river for the very steep initial part of Kirby/Ridge Rd. The climb flattens a bit after the first half mile but continues up for a few miles. After that the rolling gravel rewards with stellar views of the back side of Burke Mountain as well as the other side of the valley and Willoughby Gap.

Camp dog came to greet me upon return.
The ride back to camp finishes up with the toughest climb of the day. This climb is about 1.7 miles in total but the first 3/4 of a mile with an 8% average overall but starts out very gently. The steep section, which is also very loose gravel, has pitches that are above 15%. This makes for tough traction and a brutal finish. Ironically enough, I ran into another cyclist on a MTB starting the same climb. I said "hello" and smiled, glad to see another like individual. He didn't seem quite as happy at the impending challenge as I and was not exactly talkative so I pressed on ahead. The climb was tough but as I crested I knew that I had a little more than a mile all downhill, before I hit the driveway up to camp (which gains 55' in .1 miles and is now, a Strava segment). The neighbors all came out to visit as I arrived back as well. First I had the pair of horses from next door come down and then Sage, the camp dog came and greeted me.

A quick shower and then it was off to Maine to meet Cathy, who was just gettign ready to leave home herself after a long day of work. I'm glad that summer is here and look very forward to it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Racing Bikes

This season has been a bit manic in ways. Big ups and big downs. I guess that they all are, really, when you look heavily at your personal results to judge yourself. It started great with the fat bike race back in January coming off a very upbeat finale to the CX season last year. That set the tone for the entire winter. It was all good, all fun, all the time. Then the snow melted and the weather turned to crap. But before the snow was entirely gone we had the VOMAR ride up in Woodstock VT. Not a race but an excellent time on the bike in some crazy fun conditions, which kept the momentum and enthusiasm going.

Then came the weather shift and soon it was time for the first real race of the sprint season, Battenkill. I want to hate that race, mostly because it is just such an expensive hassle. Last year Kyle and I raced together as a team and we had an excellent time in the 45+ race. This year we had a bigger crew and chose to race the 35+ race to include everyone on the team. This was a mistake. The field was small and wanted to ride slow between climbs. I'm terrible at the off/on type of riding and was doomed from the start. I came away with my best finish ever but felt really, really bad about my performance and frankly, myself. Fortunately, Kyle absolutely killed it at Battenkill this year, a man truly possessed. He some times lacks confidence but I think that day, it was not the case and it showed.

That stuck and I was determined not to have the same thing happen again at the next event. Unfortunately, the next event was a crappy road circuit race down in Myles Standish state park. I'm terrible at that type of event, the ones that are not hard enough to promote natural separation. I tried some stuff and was very active but in the end, it didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. The second race of the day was even worse though and again, I came away down.

That all changed some after the Rasputitsa race in Newport, VT. This was promised to be a hard race with some features that played well to my skill set. It also got some big names and bigger horsepower. My kind of race, really, one that in all likelihood would start out hard and just get tougher as we went. It did not disappoint. The tough guys from all over New England as well as across the border coupled with a few professional cyclists made it an honest race with no place to hide out. Things went well and despite missing the final cut near the end of the race, I still finished up with my head held high, something I'd not seen in the past couple of races.

Next up was the first MTB race of the season. To say that I was ill prepared would be an understatement. I'd ridden my MTB exactly twice this year at that point, both times on recovery rides. The trails simply had not been dry enough. I was also still really beat from the Rasputitsa effort coupled with a hard week of training. Stupid mistakes but ones that get me every year. The start was a zoo of people crashing the front row and sensing it was unsafe, I chose to back up a row. This led to a horrible start that I hit too hard trying to make up space, leaving me gassed. Worse, I was behind people who, when we hit the single-track were unable to keep pace with the leaders.

Eventually I battled around them and began chasing the two still up the trail, who it took me half a lap to catch but left me exhausted. Second place was as far as I would get that day. Not even being a slight factor at the head of the race, I spent the day riding by myself, behind the leader, unable to progress any further. That left lots of time to reflect. MTB racing doesn't often leave me disappointed in myself but this race was an exception and in fact, set a new benchmark. On the up side, Cathy had a stellar race, one of her best in a long time, so that was a good take away at least.

All along I was still riding and training during the week. I typically train, or at least gauge my training, based on two criteria. Power output and my overall, general feeling. Neither had been particularly stellar. I'd not had that day of training where I felt invincible, the legs were just there and running full tilt. I'd had a couple of days that netted very good power output but I had to really struggle through them; they didn't feel natural or good. This had been contributing to my overall sense of melancholy in terms of riding and racing.

The next weekend we chose to do another MTB race. This was a new venue that we had high hopes for. Unfortunately, the weather was brutal that week and we got inches of rain. The course was a bit of a mess. On the up side, good friend and staple competition Frankie McCormack and John Foley were there as was new 40+ race addition and CX powerhouse Todd Bowden to name a few. This was the type of competition that I was used to and in the past has helped push me to some of my best performances. Off the line it was clear that this would be a tough race, with a big and steady surge. I struggled and started to question myself but then the four of us came back together on the paved climb after the run up and guardrail hop. Then John lit it up and Frankie followed and I was gapped. Todd was gassed from crushing the start all the way to that point so he fell behind me. On the super agro shale laden descent I lost some more space, still not fully confident or competent on the MTB.

When we hit the access road at the bottom I had some work to do in order to close the gap. The conditions were very wet with much standing water but there were long stretched of fast power section access road to try and take time back. For some reason I wasn't climbing that well but laying down the steady power on the access roads was fine and I was able to make up good time there. Soon I saw John on the side of the trail with a flat and no way to repair it, which meant only Frankie was up ahead. Frankie isn't the type of guy you want to try and chase down in a power section but I was gaining. It took me much of the lap but I finally reattached, briefly, then dropped off on the next climb. Struggling with the +400 watt efforts but OK doing just below that steadily. Could that be a result of all of the time I spent on the fat bike this winter laying down steady, slightly uncomfortable power? I wonder. Time for some more interval training I guess.

The next couple laps played almost exactly the same way with Frankie opening the whoop-ass on the climbs and me nailing it back on the flats. On the final lap we were a bit closer and I managed to get over the big climb and descent back to the access road with Frankie. Not having to close a gap at that point I was able to put some room in on the first section of road, but in the rolling single-track, which had gotten brutally bad with the mud, Frankie closed it right back up. My only hope was to hit the next power sucking marshy access road section as hard as I could to get some room. At this point Frankie's son Brendan was just ahead. He'd been fighting very successfully to stay ahead of us the past lap but I finally was closing the gap. I latched on then went around to his dismay, telling him "let's go" and thus we did. He never lost my wheel though I didn't slow at all. In fact we probably picked it up a bit as I was running scared from Frankie. On the final climb I was gassed and told him to go ahead if he was able. Brendan held until we hit the final pavement section then he made his pass. We flew down toward the finish, barely making the final corner and he sprinted in ahead of me. I couldn't have been happier for him. That man can suffer like nobody I know and dig to depths that few can, a very admirable trait. One I'm sure that comes naturally, from his dad.

So that is where we are. No racing last weekend but I did manage to crash on wet pavement while cornering on a training ride last weekend, destroying a bike. Fortunately, wet pavement is much more forgiving than dry in terms of skin loss and the personal damage was minimal. This week was another respectable training/ride week. Nothing incredible but good work for the long run. I'm planning to race the MTB this weekend, which given the rain coming, will likely be swampy. No real expectations, at least that is what I am telling myself.

Been a While

Time has literally gotten ahead of me again, leaving me floundering to try and play catch up on many, many fronts. How is it that someone who doesn't have a full time job can be at such a loss for time?

The reality is that I'm flipping all over the place doing a whole bunch of small, arguably insignificant things. Home related projects and chores, keeping the fleet of bikes in good working condition as well as keeping on top of both the weekly team ride organization and the social media presence of a "team" of individuals (also know as a club). I don't seem to have much spare time to sit in front of a computer and write any longer, which is kind of disappointing as I do enjoy that. I'd hoped to write lots of product reviews and tales of adventure for the team blog, but those entries have been few. I try and set time aside but it doesn't always work out. I've spent at least a day a week helping out at the bike shop giving back to the folks that help me out so much. I've also spent about 20 hours fighting my way through redesigning cycling team kits in Adobe Illustrator. I really enjoy that design work as it is where my actual (original) professional background is.

I'm guessing it is also poor management on my part, which is not a really big surprise. My list of projects is pretty big. Now if I were a professional plumber, electrician, carpenter, mechanic or project manager for that matter, I might be more efficient and have greater success. However, the net is that I spend a lot of time in the design phase trying to minimize the pitfalls in the implementation phase. That doesn't always work but some times it does.

The past couple of weeks for instance have been good examples. Last week I decided I was finally going to plumb a utility sink into the basement. We had hot and cold water as well as a drain off the main waste stack in the area of the basement that used to be the laundry. All that I had to do was plumb in new ball valves to remove the old leaky stop valves, then add my various hardware connectors, install the sink and plump the waste trap. All pretty straight forward and in fact, the project went pretty well. I had to extend the legs on the sink to meet the height minimum for the waste but it all worked out fine in the end. I took that a a success.

This week I was faced with the task of dealing with a faulty, leaking water heater. My options were to either pay someone to put a new one in, which we did 7 years ago to the tune of nearly $1000 given that we opted to go with a "better quality heater with a longer warranty". Money wasted in reality and thus I decided to just snag the cheapest heater I could and put it in. This is basically the mantra we have started chanting with all appliances, get the cheapest we can to minimize the net loss WHEN they crap out in five years as they all seem to do, regardless of the brand or the price. This has been the case with our Bosch dishwasher, our Fischer and Paykel dryer, our Bradford White Jetglass water heater and literally countless other things. Junk, all junk, but unfortunately junk that we simply are unable to live without.

The install went great and took no time at all. But then when I turned the cold water input back on I had a leak in one of the joints. That meant draining the now closed system back out. The ball valves that the plumbers used at the cold/hot water in/out for the old heater did not have clean-outs so the lowest point in the line could not be drained. It was a mess of failed attempts to get it all dry and buttoned back up from there but I finally got it done literally a couple of hours later.

Other projects this week included fixing the deck on the ride lawn tractor. This was the tractor that came with the camp we bought in VT last summer. It is actually a pretty good rig but has seen some abuse. The front right side of the deck, at the guide wheel and discharge, had taken a blade strike which made a mess of the deck. The guide wheel was barely attached and the lower support for the discharge opening was cracked off and swinging in the breeze. The net of that was that the mower deck was not running level and ran lower on the side with the broken guide wheel, naturally. Fixing it would be pretty easy with some added material (1/4" steel rod) to bridge the broken strut and fill part of the cut from the blade strike and a bunch of welding with my trusty old PoS Lincoln wire feed flux core MIG. The project only took an hour or so and worked perfectly leaving the deck now self leveling once again, which was good as I needed to then go out and mow the lawn.

Earlier this week I also started another project, adding a door to the garage from the front entry way. We should have had one put in when the garage went on but they never presented the option of having the door where I am putting it, an area that minimizes wasted space. So after much planning and thinking and measuring and more planning I finally got under way and framed and headed the rough opening. Now I just need to knock out the hole through the outside wall, put the door in and then re-do the steps on my front entry.

Beyond these somewhat larger tasks I have been planning the myriad of projects on the VT camp, which start next week and will take at least all of the summer. As I mentioned, planning for stuff like this is what keeps me up at night as I like to visit all of the details over and over and over in my head. Again though, fun stuff, at least when it is complete. I've also spent about a day a week doing custom bike work for friends who need stuff turned around in a hurry.

I finally got around to planting the garden yesterday. Actually, given the weather that we have had this spring, we've not had all that much opportunity to get the garden planted. It has simply been too cold, or at least cold enough that I have not wanted to get the seeds in. Anyhow, I bought seed and some seedlings this week and yesterday got them in. Of course once again, I bought and planted too much. Hopefully we get better luck this year or at least, at least better luck with some of the stuff, like winter squash. I put in lots of lettuce again as that worked well. Some peas, some summer squash, some cherry tomatoes, some broccoli, onions that came up from last season and some cucumbers, of course. The cats love their cucumbers. A couple weeks back I added peat and garden soil to what we had in the raised beds and tilled it in. I need to throw some manure on it as well.

Then there are the normal chores that everyone has, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, doing yard work, scooping the kitten poops every AM which has come to be a metaphor for my existence and of course riding bikes every day. I'm not sure how I used to get all of this stuff done before, when I had a full time job. The answer of course is that I didn't get all of it done. Things slipped, or took longer, or didn't get done or we paid someone to do them.

I know, it's a tough life in my world. Yea right :)