Archive for July, 2008

In Praise Of My Back-Up Ride

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

There was a time when you were my one and only. The day I brought you home from the Sherman Oaks bike store on Ventura Boulevard in February of 2002, you forever changed my previous stubborn belief that a mountain bike was all I would ever need to get around. You were lighter, far more agile and maneuverable. And tough? Dang, you were. From that point forward you and I went everywhere.

Then came late 2005 and my venture into the single-speed realm of abandoned bike resurrection, and I hung you and your 24-speeds up in the garage like an old shirt in a closet. Sure, I’ve called on you from time to time, but not out of nostalgia so much as mostly when some sort of malfunction befell, such as the last time I rode you in January in the several days that spanned between the frame of my beloved The Phoenix fatally cracking and the arrival of its replacement, recently dubbed Le Noir.

On one of those days we were forced to ride home in a gusty deluge that left both of us drenched and dirt-encrusted and some readers questioning my sanity. I didn’t even give you the courtesy of wiping you off when I hung you back up on the garage rack. And there you sat being an anchor for webs of several generations of daddy longlegs, while Le Noir and I rolled out some 3,500 miles.

Well, last night while working on getting her some new handlebars, brake levers and tires I discovered that with the configuration of the new bars, her existing rear brake cable/housing was coming up about a foot short, and there’s simply nothing that can be done about that except to buy some new cable and housing.

So out you came this morning, to my embarrassment and self-disdain still caked with the road junk and long-fossilized grime that I left on you six months ago — and in need of some brake tweaking as I’d borrowed yours for Le Noir and only returned them to you this past weekend.

After apologizing to you profusely while getting you road-ready I outfitted you with Le Noir’s light set and took a cloth and cleanser to you out there on the porch, removing the layers of gunk that stuck to you like barnacles to a ship’s hull:

And you look grand my deserving and trusty friend. Even better: you got me to work safely this morning as if it had been only one day and not 180-plus since our last trek.

You are a remarkable machine my six-year-old entry-level Giant OCR-3. We’ve shared thousands upon thousands of miles on all manner of roads and conditions across town and the state, but other than chains, tires, innertubes, and an occasional worn out seat or spoke you’re still sporting your original drivetrain and components and everything works as well today as it did when I brought you home and you forever changed my perception about what a good road bike is and can do.

You continue to do so.

Barely Scathed

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

So it wasn’t until this morning that I noticed the only disturbance as a result of yesterday’s 5.4 earthquake. Apparently the shaking was enough to topple some artifacts on bookshelf display in the study, namely the baton bestowed on me for my heroic efforts stemming from membership on the Sparkletts Drinking Water team that ran in the 1990 Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon in Griffith Park, which timbered onto a saxophone mouthpiece not used since 1996 when, desperate for rent money during a particularly thin spell, I had to sell my beloved tenor saxophone for the lowlow of $300 (I paid $1,200 for it back in 1986). The baton also landed upon my childhood keepsake Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car  (with working wings!). Fortunately, none of the items appears to have suffered any damage in the “collapse.”

Well That Was A New Experience

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Los Angeles just experienced what news reports are calling a 5.8/5.1/5.6/5.4-magnitude earthquake centered in the Chino Hills area of the region, which is about 40 miles away from where I’m at in Westchester, which is a couple miles north from LAX.

In my entire life as a SoCal native, whose earthquake experiences go back to the 1971 Sylmar temblor, I’ve never gotten used to them. HATE them. One millisecond everything’s stable, the next it’s not. Factor in my location for this one being a new one for a shaker — on the 10th floor of a 12-floor office building — and all the swaying and creaking and groaning and popping and more swaying, initial and residual, left me yearning to be much more closer to ground level.

All said and done though L.A. seemed to ride out another reminder that everything we think of as permanent is far from it.

In Which The Author Ruminates Upon His Very Preliminary Reintroduction To The Game Of Golf

Monday, July 28th, 2008

I came late to the game of golf. I bought my first set of clubs in the early-mid 1990s, but beyond a few mostly clueless trips to the driving range off Burbank Boulevard in the Sepulveda basin I never moved with them onto a course. After sitting for way too many years taking up space I sold the basically unused set at a garage sale. For like $80 bucks.

Then in 2002, I really got bitten by the bug, fueled by the discovery that reasonably priced group lessons could be had at the Griffith Park driving range. So I got an entry-level set of clubs found at a nearby sports emporium, took said series of lessons, in the process reacquainting myself with a former elementary and high school classmate Florie and her main man Billy, and together we were pretty into golf for a few months until Florie became pregnant enough with her first child that golf had to take a back seat. Then after the baby arrived it was a whole new golf-less world for the freshly minted parents.

I kept at it individually without any real resolve or improvement, always being able to count on tallying up a score the triple digits whenever I stepped onto a full-fledged 18-hole course, such as those attached to the Inn at Ojai, Pebble Beach’s Inn at Spanish Bay or Death Valley’s Furnace Creek.

After meeting Susan in 2004 my enthusiasm for the game was on the wane. June of 2006 was the last time hitting them at a range, and though I kept the clubs readily accessible in the study for a long time, it was several months ago when I decided to the basement they should be banished — in part because of some sort of nagging weird injury to the backside of my left shoulder that I sustained somehow seemed destined to be aggravated and aggravating if I ever decided to get back in the swing.

Then came the news in May that an upcoming tradeshow I’d be attending in Savannah this September had a golf tourny attached to it. I got the OK from my boss to expense the registration fee as it would be a good way to rub shoulders with some of the industry’s bigger wigs, and set out on a four-month reacquaintance regime. Seeing how I did nothing golfy for the first two months, I recalibrated the timeline and this past weekend I began a two-month program.

And so after a Home Depot run and a stop at Orange 20 Bikes to drop off a wheel needing a new hub, I paid a visit to the Majestic Golf driving range on Melrose — the same place I’d last hit more than 24 months earlier.

I was presently surprised by two things. One, I hit better than expected — which is not to say I hit well… in fact, only about 10% of the 120 balls I whacked at were worthy me leaning back and whispering “that’s what I’m talking about” as I watched them sail out on target (or close to it). Two, my shoulder didn’t hurt afterward. That’s huge. There came a point last summer where I could barely throw a tennis ball overhand to play fetch with Ranger, and I was seriously concerned that the type of motion and extension that comes with a golf swing would exacerbate the issue and tissue. But other than some residual soreness mostly when I push on the point of origin, it’s fine.

So the aim is to make at least a weekly visit to the range, culminating with a round at the nine-hole Los Feliz par-three course in Atwater, followed by a nine-hole round at Roosevelt Golf Course up at the end of Vermont above Los Feliz in the weeks before I leave. I’m certainly not expecting miracles — hell I’m not even expecting I’ll break 100 out in the low-country of Savannah, I just want to hold my own.

Sunday Snapshot: Worshipper

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

On one of our latter days in Guanajuato, Susan and I entered the largest church nearest our hotel, known as the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato (Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato; built in the 17th century). There were few churches we explored that weren’t breathtaking in one form or another, but in this case, while making my way back from the altar area, any interest in the architecture or decor diminished when I found this Guanajuatan intensely praying in the brilliant illumination of a shaft of sunlight through a window in the dome that pierced the dim interior (click to enlarge):

I hope the gentleman’s prayers were answered.

On Average Not The Best Week For Me On The Roads

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

No doubt about it: with the 100-plus miles I ride every week on my bike across Los Angeles, any given seven-day stretch wherein I don’t get impeded or struck by an inattentive or pre-occupied motorist is a good one. And in fact other than the few idiots encountered the first six/seven months of this year and the spill I took in June that was entirely my fault I’ve strung together a succession of really good weeks  — which is all the more fuel for my disdain that redlines whenever I read of some would-not-be cyclist who trumpets the all-too-commonly held phobia that the streets are just too life-threateningly dangerous to pedal upon, be it around their neighbor or beyond it.

Me and the 3,800 miles I’ve rode around town so far this year are proof otherwise.

My street cred aside, the perceived lack of safety on the streets is an easy argument to make and not without some merit, but too often it comes from people who wouldn’t really know and instead are just subscribing to the easy out. To them I collectively ask “How do you know until you try?” But of course, the risk posing that question is that I’d get retorted upon from someone on the defensive who’d explain that they did “give it a try” and got hit or yelled at or a flat tire or sweaty or all of the above and summarily proved to themselves that biking on the streets is just not worth it.

And to them I’d ask “How do you know until you try again?”

Digress with me by having a seat in my wayback machine and come to my Christmas of 1968, and my first bike (pic, after the jump can be clicked to enlarge it a bit):

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Buster’s New Digs

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

At 10:08 a.m. and with little in the way of fanfare (or reaction from Buster), our beloved Russian tortoise was tranfered from the 3-square-foot indoor aquarium she’s long resided in to her new 25-square-foot playground where she promptly sat still and probably won’t move for the next hour. Maybe two, which is what tortoises often do.

But just look at her basking in all that awesome real sunshine instead of under the flourescent Vita-Lite she’s known since 2001 (click to triplify):

UPDATED (8:15 P.M.): From the What Was I Thinking files, I really have no idea why I thought simply flimsy screening material supported by wooden slats would be feasible as a floor. The weight of the dirt/beding alone made everything sag (and a couple slats pop loose), but it took putting the oh-so-burrowing tortoise in there to realize it just wasn’t a workable solution. So off to Home Depot I went to get some far more proper plywood cut to two  5-foot by 2.5-foot pieces and then back home I came (after a stop at the driving range to find out I hadn’t totally forgotten how to hit a golf ball not entirely badly) to remove Buster back to her old home inside, then find the energy under the rapidly setting sun to shovel all the dirt/bedding out into a wheelbarrow, tip the hutch up on its side and screw the new base in place. MUCH sturdier, but Buster’ll spend the night indoors and we’ll try again for a 24-hour visit outside tomorrow.