Archive for September, 2010

Troy Train

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Since Susan and I took that 4,500-mile Western U.S. road trip in the summer of 2006 there’s one thing I kick myself for not doing: recording a train as it came through Troy, Montana, where Susan’s grandma lives, and where we spent July 4.

There was something super awesome in the horn blasts that registered as the Best I’ve Ever Heard. Part of it was their proximity as the trains regularly barreled straight through the small town. But there was something beyond it just being loud… a peel-like clarity to the sound augmented as it reverberated off the nearby mountains. I’m not an authority on Gabriel’s trumpet, but there was something heavenly about it.

Well I can quit kicking myself about the second one, because this weekend Susan paid a weekend visit up there to Troy with her mom to see her grandma, and I she went there with my digital recorder in the hopes of capturing that distinctive sound.

She did — beautifully. And while I can’t vouch it’ll sound the same to you as it does to me, feel free to crank this soundbite up and let her roll:

Hear how after the first wail it just continues on through the pass? Damn. I mean hallelujah!

UPDATE (9.27): Upon repeated chill-inducing listenings, I’m SO figuring out how to make this my iPhone’s ringtone.

And Now A Few Words About Bama’s Victory Over Arkansas Yesterday

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

I watched the first two quarters increasingly anxious. The Razorbacks took a 20-7 lead into halftime and it seemed the momentum was aaaaaall theirs — especially when the Tide began the third quarter with a punt following its first possession.

But something happened, and I don’t know what exactly. Bama’s defense, something of a sieve the first 30 minutes just about absolutely stifled Arkansas in the second half. It also helped that QB McElroy, who threw two interceptions in the second quarter (including one in the end zone), didn’t throw any more.

In the end, Bama won 24-20. And while I’m prepared for local sportswriter Chris “Doof” Dufresne to ramp up his deathless disrespect against my favorite team and it’s No. 1 ranking over that narrow margin of victory (last week he hated on them for winning too big), fuck him. You come to expect nothing more from such mono-dimensional haters, who won’t see much less even acknowledge that such a remarkable come-from-behind roll over its first true test of the season on the road against a very good 10th-ranked Arkansas team, might just be the catalyst that powers them onward to another undefeated season and shot at repeating as national champions.

Sure, it’s early yet and there’s a lot of football left to play and win. But yesterday Alabama showed me something with a hard-fought success that is bigger and more telling than any blowout. On both sides of the half they respectively fell apart and came together, and on both sides of the ball after the break they regrouped and  demonstrated cohesive patience, poise, and resolve — and all so very quietly and methodically as to leave me surprised at the final outcome and no doubt every Arkansas fan in shock and ready to file a police report over the Tide’s theft of victory from their beloved Hogs.

Roll Tide!

Something Old, Something New

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

In August I passed — without note — the fifth anniversary of the wheel-building class I took at the Bicycle Kitchen, an event which proved to be the catalyst that got me to create my first single-speed road bike, dubbed The Phoenix. I mention that not just because I’ve been riding one-gears since 2005, but more importantly because since The Phoenix’s untimely demise in January 2008, the Mercier bikes I’ve been riding have had their rear brake cables held to their top tubes by an old school BMX style wrap-around nard cushion.

This because apparently no one — and I’ve done some serious searching — made cable clamps for over-sized bike frame tubing. Such a prehistoric fastener is somewhat understandable, in part because rear brakes are pretty much useless on fixed-gear track bikes that are all the rage now, and most multi-speed road and mountain bikes have brake and derailleur cables threaded through attachments welded to their frames that keep them in place.

So the pad and zip ties on my single-speed track bike were pretty much my only option — at least until last May, when my buddy Hap rolled up to one of my Bike Every Saturday In May rides on a Mercier single-speeder practically identical to the one I ride — yet instead of a bulky top-tube pad his rear brake cable was held in place by a shiny trio of lovely old-school cable clamps.

The ensuing question to him may or may not have gone something like this:

“Good sir! Perchance might you bestoweth upon me the name of the master metalsmith who hath created your most excellent cable stays which I now do most extremely covet?”

And Hap’s answer was Wabi Cycles.

“Wa-who?”

He repeated the name and much to my further amazement added that they weren’t located in Indiana or India, but rather in our very own downtown at 12th and Hope. I’d had no idea.

Now you’d think at the first opportunity I’d be either banging on Wabi’s door or at least all over the Wabi website ordering me up a set of my very own. Instead, I came home from that ride, wrote “Wabi Cycles – clamps” on a post-it note and stuck it to my desk, where it soon got covered up by other post-its and forgotten throughout the rest of May, all of June, July, August and on until the 23nd of September when I did some desk cleaning and excavated the note and slapped my forehead and went to the Wabi website and ordered me up a set.

Seeing as “local pickup” was an option, the next day biking back from the office I did just that, stopping off at the store and meeting owner Richard Snook. We recognized each other from past volunteer efforts with the LA County Bike Coalition’s Los Angeles River Ride. Anyway, I gushed about how awesome he is to run practically the only company in the world to recognize the need for oversized cable clamps, and then I fell in love with his bikes. We had a great conversation about the triumphs and travails of urban cycling. Dude knows his stuff — even pointing out a solid reason what the cause might be why I’ve been experiencing my semi-regular chain jumps off the freewheel.

For now, 8Ball’s shed its bulky pad in much favor of it new set of clamps. But when that time comes to get my next bike, you can bet I’ll be rolling a Wabi.

The Freddy Krueger Of Bike Flats

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Having come into downtown from Westchester to finally make a long-delayed stop at Wabi Cycles (for some cable clamps my buddy Hap pointed me to that would fit 8-Ball’s top tube), I was in the homestretch having crossed Beaudry on 2nd Street for the last couple miles home.

Then out of nowhere the rear tire flatted. LOUDLY. It was so fast and so catastrophic there was no tell-tale “pssssssssh” of air escaping a tiny hole. Just a “BLAP!”and I was rolling on rim.

Dutifully I pulled off the road, turned 8-Ball wheels up and prepared to change out the damaged tube.

Then I saw the damage :

Whoa. With a side of WTF!?

The entire tire was slit wall to wall. It didn’t look like I ran over anything. It looked like the tire was attacked and assassinated. No way to repair that, it also looked like I was walking the rest of the way home. And I did.

Before I left I backtracked the scene of the crime, trying to find anything that might have inflicted such a fatal slicing… razor blade, machete, roadside explosive. Nothing.

Just an echoing kah-kah-kah ah-ah-ah in my mind.

Well, When You Put It Like That…

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Needing to go into the office yesterday, I did something I used to do about 20 times a month for more than two years, but hadn’t since the beginning of May when I started working from home: I biked the 30-plus roundtrip miles to and from.

All in it was a little more than 31 miles over a combined time of 2.75 hours (14.5 miles to Westchester in 1:14; and 16.7 miles back to Silver Lake in 1:28, to be exact). And for the first time since I started dieting in July, I plugged in those numbers to the Activity Log section of Fitday.com, and put a calorie-burn estimate to what had once been such a regular exercise: 1,900! No wonder I was able to consume so much food (healthy and otherwise) and keep my body loitering around the 220-pound zone. And no wonder it only took me a couple months out of the saddle and into such a far more sedentary lifestyle to move me up to 236.

As it stands this morning, the scale told me I weigh 222.4 — my next in a continuing series of new lows. It’s a shame patience doesn’t burn calories as quickly as bicycling because overall it’s been a slower than expected journey downward. Sure, my goal is 215 by November 1, but secretly, based on my 2006 dietings when there were months that I’d shed upwards of six to eight pounds I figured I’d either be knocking on that door already — or at least on the walkway up to it.

Instead I’ve only averaged a loss of 2.72 ounces each of these last 80 days. Not that I’m complaining, just eager. That daily loss may only work out to not-quite 1.25 pounds a week, but it’s far healthier to drop it slowly and allow your body to acclimate to the difference than to surprise your body with more drastic losses.

We Have Liftoff

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Didn’t catch the launch of the Atlas 5 rocket out of  Vandenberg AFB last night, but I managed to capture Pepper’s pretty much daily post-breakfast routine in which after finishing eating he crosses from his bowl onto the stovetop and then jumps the gaping 3-foot maw between it and the kitchen island.

Rocket, Man!

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Word out of Vandenberg Air Force Base is that an Atlas 5 rocket is scheduled for launch at 8:29 p.m., and with anticipated clear skies tonight its trajectory into orbit to deliver its classified payload should be visible to the unaided eye within a radius of 150 miles.

“The 19-story rocket should be visible across the region as a flame in the night sky, streaking southward to orbit,” reports Justin Ray at the launch’s Mission Status Center page on the Spaceflight Now website.

Because I’m known to geek out about witnessing things like that, and have a decent view of the western skies from up on our roof, you might just find me up there around that time hoping the launch goes off as planned and trying to record the event — not to be confused with “The Event” on TV, which I will neither be recording nor watching.

UPDATED (9:33 p.m.):

Delayed until 9:03 p.m. (because of a reported vehicle parked within the unsafe zone of the launch pad, but I think it was because the Saints/49ers Monday Night Football got really exciting at the end), the launch was a complete success on Vandenberg’s end, but a total bust on mine. Too much of an onshore-flowing marine layer obscured any opportunity to see the Atlas fly. Fact is, even on a crystal clear night it wouldn’t have been all that dramatic. The launch vehicle may be almost 200 feet tall, but from my rooftop about 150 miles away fromliftoff it probably wouldn’t have been more than a scratch of light across the night sky.