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Thursday, December 19, 2013


and going through withdrawal. My bike has gone to meet its maker. Literally. I've sent it back to Bill Davidson in Seattle to see if he can convert the titanium road bike he made me in 1995 to handle Shimano electronic shifting - the result of the July bike crash that's left my right thumb unable to use Campagnolo mechanical shifting.

While I've been walking my dog - the only exercise I've been getting - I've been thinking about my checkered cycling history. Things done wrong, things done right (mostly by accident), memorable rides, and memorable people.

Like most kids, I had a bike growing up. A black Schwinn with a tank horn. Heavy and slow, but kids have an amazing amount of energy. My friends and I would tool around Hamilton Township and Trenton, New Jersey, to see the dinosaurs at the state museum, to dig around in the banks of the Delaware River, and to annoy the cuter girls in our junior high school classes. Then, one day, I parked the bike in our garage and waited to get my driver's license.

I never thought again about bikes or cycling until the mid-70s, when I was living in Richmond, Virginia. a college friend, Merle Steelman, was getting his graduate degree at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and had bought a 10-speed French Motobecane. "Get a bike and come cycling with me in the Smokeys," he said. I only found one bike shop in Richmond that had two bikes to sell me: a brown Austrian Puch and an orange Swedish Crescent. I went with the Crescent, a beautiful bike with a French Ideale leather saddle, white cloth bar tape, and Heuret Alvit shifters. Only one problem - it didn't really fit me. About 2 cm too tall, a quick stop could result in a painful encounter with the top tube. I rode it a few times in Richmond, and then a few times on the rural roads of Vernon Hills, Illinois. Years later, when my stepson became tall enough, I gave it to him. He didn't much care for road cycling, and so, one day in Laramie, Wyoming, I gave it to the local Salvation Army. One day I saw it chained to a bike rack at the University of Wyoming grounds building.

Just like my Crescent.

Wind back the clock to the early 1980s. Karen and I were married and living in Crofton, Maryland. She was in the Army and had to go through a physical training test every year. She had to train for a two-mile run, and, having suffered a hip injury running track in high school, I accompanied her on the Crescent. I was wary of riding on the busy suburban roads, and then the city put in a boardwalk through the local park. I started riding that on a new Fuji I picked up at a local bike shop. "Fits you like a glove," said the shop owner. Actually, it didn't, I later concluded - 2 cm too short in the seat tube, way too short in the top tube. but, I rode it during our time in Maryland, equipping it with early Look clipless pedals I picked up at Proteus in College Park Maryland. I bought Karen a Fuji as well, a silver mixte. She rode it with me on vacation on the Virginia Easter Shore, and once to the National Zoo. She never warmed to cycling. Too dangerous. Too sweat-inducing. That bike also went to the Laramie Salvation Army.

Very similar to my Fuji.

Early during our 18-year stay in Laramie, I met Charles Pelkey, then a writer for the Casper Star-Tribune, covering the University of Wyoming, where I was public relations director. We became friends and started riding together. He steered me to a great deal on a British-green Bridgestone RB-1 with Shimano downtube SIS shifting. I'll never forget one of my first rides on it. I'd gone for a ride with a friend, Al Deiss, out Hwy. 230. On the way, we met up with Charles and some other riders, who were planning a 60-mile round trip to Woods Landing. Being younger and dumber, I decided to ride out and back with them. Big mistake. Took me 5 1/2 painful hours. Some years later, training for cycling camp, I felt good about completing in in 3 1/2 hours on back-to-back days.

OK, but what's with the seat post length?

The Laramie area was great cycling terrain: the flat ride to Woods Landing; the climb up Telephone Canyon to the Lincoln Monument on I-80; the undulating ride out Herrick Lane, through ranch lands dotted with pronghorn antelope that would sometimes race you along the sides of the road; the steep ride up from Granite Reservoir; and riding up through the Snowy Range to an altitude of 11,000-feet at Libby Flats, and then down to Lake Marie. The first time I made that latter ride was in June, with some friends from UW. I met them about halfway up from Centennial, and unloaded my bike from my car. They exited their van wearing jackets, gloves, leg warmers, booties, and warm caps; I was wearing shorts, a jersey, summer gloves, and a cotton cap under my helmet. Clearly, they knew something I didn't. It was my first summer in Laramie, having arrived the previous autumn. As we approached Libby Flats, the sky split with thunder and lightning, and snow began falling. Then sleet, which made the run down to Lake Marie more than a little treacherous. I returned with the rest of the group to the van, transferred to my car, turned up the heater full-blast, and upon arriving home ordered a jacket, booties, warm gloves, etc. Lesson learned.

Over time, it became obvious that the Bridgestone was too short in the top tube, even with a long stem. After seeing an ad in Velo-News, for which Charles then wrote, I drove to Denver to the Clark-Kent factory, which was then making LeMond titanium bikes. I'd read about titanium bikes, and had even seen some early Sampsons at Velo Swap. I bought a LeMond with, if I remember right, Campagnolo Ergo-Power 8-speed, carbon fork. I loved it. Smooth, fast, and it fit. I climbed better and descended with confidence. Then, one day, I was hit by a car. Stopped at an intersection waiting for a green light, I waved to the driver in the oncoming left-turn lane to ensure that she saw me. She didn't; she said the sun had been in her eyes and she roared off the line just as I started crossing, blowing me out of the pedals. My helmet hit her windshield, embedding glass in the helmet foam liner - and my neck. The next day I had to drive to northwest Wyoming looking as if someone had tried to cut my throat. The bike was damaged; I didn't know how badly, but I knew I wouldn't trust it screaming down Telephone Canyon.

Loved this bike, but later read that the welds sometimes broke!

The driver's insurance company came and took the bike. They paid for my minor medical bills and a new titanium bike. I decided to go custom to ensure a good fit after years of a kind-of-fit. In one of the many cycling magazines to which I then subscribed, I was a gorgeous Davidson Stiletto, steel, in purple and white paint. I discovered that Bill Davidson also made bikes in titanium. During a vacation in Seattle soon thereafter, Karen and I stopped by Elliot Bay Bicycles to see Bill. He measured me up, decided on components, and gave me the estimate. Karen's always been supportive of my cycling expenditures, and I've always appreciated it.

With my Davidson, second-from-right at the 1997 Carpenter-Phinney camp.
The bike came while I was in Florida, visiting my parents. I unpacked it when I got home; it was beautiful. Campy 8-speed Ergo Power; Cinelli bars and stem; Mavic Open Pro wheels. I've ridden that bike for 18 years in Wyoming, at the Carpenter-Phinney bike camp in Colorado (thanks to Davis and Pete Penseyres for pushing me part way up Copper Mountain when I had a hamstring cramp) and here in Idaho and Washington. Along the way, I've changed out a lot of components (Selle San Marco Regal, to Fizik Aliante, to Specialized Toupe; Cinelli bars and stem to Deda; seatpost from Cinelli to American Classic; wheels from Open Pro to Mavic Helium, to Neuvation R 28; Campy 8 to Campy 9) but, as I once said, the Davidson was my lifetime frame.

With my Davidson at the 2012 Spokane Tour de Cure

This autumn, after a stray dog crashed into me while riding Washington's Centennial Trail (or so the ambulance crew told me) and I suffered a concussion, broken ribs and a dislocated thumb - thank you, Giro helmet - I found the thumb would no longer operate the Campagnolo rear cluster shifting without significant pain. The thumb, which was actually subluxed, wasn't going to heal. So, I test rode several carbon bikes with Shimano mechanical shifting and one with electronic shifting. The mechanical, which doesn't involve use of the thumb, was comfortable; the electronic shifting was very comfortable. I loved the Canadian Cervelo R3; liked the Specialized Tarmac and the Scott CR-1; and hated the Specialized Tarmac. Local bike shops that carried the Italian Pinarello, the American Felt and the Spanish Orbea had nothing in my size for a test ride. So, I put the whole exercise on hold. Winter was coming. Then I contacted Elliot Bay to see if Bill could convert my 1995 bike to internally mount Shimano's Di2 electronic shifting. Bob Hoffman, who runs Elliot Bay, said he could.

And, so, I wait, walking my dog, anticipating delivery of a new set of Neuvation wheels before Christmas, selling off my Campy group bit-by-bit on eBay, and hoping that the converted Davidson will arrive shortly after the wheels come. No time estimates yet. Maybe by the annual February thaw. I need to get in some miles before this year's American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure.

Thanks to the local bike shops that let me test ride their frames: Wheelsport East, Fitness Fanatics, and Vertical Earth. Doesn't look as if I'll be buying a frame from them anytime soon, but they'll always get some of my business.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Long Autumn

Hawthorn Turning
Autumn's come in hard. Sweatshirts and gloves in the mornings when I take Pepper for walks in the hills. The grass is drying; the apples are crisping during the cold nights; hawthorn bushes and trees are turning yellow and red. Mountain bluebirds are feeding outside our living room, and the deer are bedding down in the meadows. The knapweed keeps flowering, and the wild asters are hanging on. The burn pile is growing, and the hot wire our neighbor strung to keep in his steers grazing on our land is being rolled up

Rolled-up Fencing
The Growing Burn Pile

A couple of days ago, Pepper and I saw a young porcupine in its black-needle phase, waddling among thin pine saplings, probably looking for breakfast. Given stories Karen has told about her mother's dogs' encounters with porcupines and the resultant vet bills, I was glad I had Pepper on a lead. Would he have gone after the porcupine? I don't know. He'll rush deer and turkeys, but only for a few yards. That's more than far enough to catch up to a porcupine.

Dying Old Apple Tree
We've been harvesting fruit for a few weeks. The plums have been picked and frozen. The old pear tree by the lower house has been picked clean, with some given to family and neighbors (we tend to share produce in our valley. One couple distributes eggs from their hens; another has given us home-grown tomatoes and vegetables). We've - well, Karen has - been picking apples; so far we've taken about five cases to the Post Falls Food Bank, and Second Harvest is sending gleaners to our place in a few days. Unfortunately, winter and time have taken their toll on one of our oldest, best eating-apple trees down by Anna Spring.

Donovan Caulking New Front Window
Old Window

Karen's son, Donovan, has taken autumn renovations very seriously. During the past couple of weeks, he's been replacing the 1950s single-pane windows with modern double-pane sliders. He's doing a really good, fast job. Makes the house look better and much more energy-efficient.

We've been in our house about 13 months now, and the builder's been here working on warranty repairs. One more visit from the electrician to secure a ceiling can light and from the job-site manager to replace some railings, and it's done. And everything from now on is on our nickel.

The steers and our neighbor's pigs have gone to the knacker, and today I picked up our pork ration for the year. The butcher was doing a great business today. Pickups were rolling in and out. That was my second stop of the day - the first was getting an MRI on my dog/bike-accident-injured thumb. Tomorrow's a follow-up with the orthopedist. He suspects cartilage damage, and if it is, I'm probably going under the knife, and cycling season's over.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger

This morning, I went for my first bike ride since my dog-induced accident two months ago. I'd recovered from my concussion a long time ago, but wasn't sure I'd recovered my confidence on two wheels. My broken ribs felt OK, but my dislocated/relocated thumb was still sore. I'd missed riding for most of a hot, dry summer. With autumn coming on strong, it was time to see how my body felt back in the saddle. It was also a good opportunity to try out a new set of tires - one had blown out in the accident.

I picked the Centennial Trail - the same general route where I'd had my July 19 accident. But, with the wind blowing hard from the east, I decided to ride in the direction of Coeur d'Alene, and away from my crash site near Mirabeau Park, Washington.

It was a hard go outbound. Long walks with Pepper hadn't given me the leg strength and endurance I'd had early in the summer. By the end of the ride, my shoulders and triceps were tired, but not especially sore. My right thumb was a different story - brief, sharp pains when downshifting with Campagnolo thumb-shifters, but those didn't last more than a few seconds. Surprisingly, the sharpest pains were removing a water bottle from its cage and squeezing out the Gatorade. Still, it was OK. The wind blew me back home after only 20 miles round-trip. Short ride, but an enjoyable re-start to the season.

Now, in homage to Stephen Colbert, here's my Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger.

Tip of the Hat::

  1. Whoever invented the bicycle. Just a great way to get exercise and have fun.
  2. Courteous cyclists, joggers, and dog-walkers. Thank you.
  3. Davidson bicycles, Seattle. After I got hit by a car in 1996, I replaced my fatally-wounded bike with a Davidson titanium frame and Campagnolo components. They came through the July crash without any damage.
  4. Campagnolo components. See above.
  5. Neuvation wheels. When my Mavic Heliums started snapping spokes, I asked a friend who worked for VeloNews what he'd recommend. He suggested Nevations. They're made in Asia to John Nugent's specs, and they're virtually bomb-proof. Haven't had them go out-of-round or out-of-true in nearly 10 years. Not the lightest wheels around, but they're the same weight those climbing-specific Heliums weighed when new in 1997.
  6. Giro helmets. The Ionos I was wearing when I crashed in July saved me from more serious injury than a concussion. My replacement Atmos is even more adjustable and comfortable. Chapeau!
  7. Specialized Toupe saddles. If not adjusted properly, it's a virtual butt-hatchet. When it's dialed in, it's a hammock. When I swung into the saddle today, it felt as if I'd been riding it every day for the past two months.
  8. Tacx bottle cages. When I got blown out of the saddle in July, the bottles stayed in their cages, a far cry from a Specialized cage that broke when I hit a bump on its first ride years ago, spilling the bottle into the road and me over it.
  9. 25 mm tires. I'd read that studies showed 25s rolled faster, cornered better, and softened bad roads better than 23s. They're right, at least on the latter two.
  10. Clif bars. Tasty, nutritious, all 40 carbs, just right for an hour ride for this diabetic. Two-hour ride, two bars.
  11. Wheelsport East and other great local bike shops who know their bikes, how to repair them, and how to outfit them.
Wag of the Finger:
  1. People who don't control their dogs. Nervous when I saw two women walking toward me today, each with her dog off the lead, I slowed to a crawl. Eventually, they called back their dogs and leashed them up. Please, keep your dog on a lead when walking on a trail shared by joggers and cyclists.
  2. Campagnolo thumb shifters. Yes, I know that those of us with sore thumbs are a small sub-set of cyclists. And, yes, their electronic shifters take very little pressure - but I don't have a couple of thousand dollars to throw around.
  3. Centennial Trail Commission. Please finish the trail through Post Falls. And, please post "leash your dog" signs.
  4. Orthopedic specialists who can't seem to fix a dislocated thumb.
  5. Clif bar packaging. If aspirin manufacturers can come up with arthritis-friendly packaging, why can't nutrition bar manufacturers? 
  6. Bears. There you go, Stephen.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Change in the Air

The first chill of an approaching autumn was in the air yesterday morning as I walked Pepper down to the county road to get the newspaper. Time to start wearing long-sleeved shirts early in the day and in the evening.

Hawthorn berries - and thorns
Nice crop of pears this year
It's been a brutally hot summer with little breeze and about ten minutes of rain. The cattle have been off our grazing pastures for a few weeks now, and the grass is short and brown, except for the long meadow grass on the west and north sides of our driveway. The knapweed, thistles, and mullein are still thriving, of course. The hawthorn bushes are heavy with large purple berries, and the apples are starting to turn color. Perhaps the cooler nights will build some sweetness into them. This will not be a good fruit year. Many of our most productive apple trees are resting, but a few that haven't borne in a few years are producing - pie apples, in the main. Hard to tell about the plum trees, since they always are the last to show. The old pear tree down by the creek is heavy with fruit.

Cable Creek at "low tide"

Cable Creek is as low as I've seen it in the past six years. Poor Pepper can barely get his belly wet after a long, hot run. It's his only natural respite, since Anna Spring and the flats surrounding it are dry; no place for a mud wallow.

The deer are out in force. This morning I saw a young buck with its first growth of antler. It looked like a tall, skinny Pronghorn. The fawns are losing their spots. The new elk are nearly as tall as the cows. The turkeys are hatching chicks that look like baby ducks on the hillsides. There's also a pretty spooky creature we've seen twice. At first glance, it looked something like a dingo or a jackal. It's not, of course. It's a coyote with mange that looks like this picture I captured from the Web.

A lot of folk in this valley despise coyotes, and after one of them took three of our cats before we got Pepper, I understand the sentiment, even though I don't share it. This one, though should be put out of its misery. Since it's crossed our property lines each time we've seen it, I expect that will happen some day. Failing that, a hard winter should do it.

You want me on that hill; you need me on that hill
Next month marks the end of our one-year home warranty. Karen and I have already sent our repair punch list to the builder; first up will be repair of settling cracks in the wallboard. Nothing major, but lots of little things for the builder to fix. 

Not a warranty item, but something we've had to take care of, is an infestation of ants chewing their way through the expanding foam insulation flanking our front door. We've had the exterminator out twice, and we'll see if this takes care of the problem until the 90-day application. He's also sprayed for wasps and yellow-jackets. This has been one hell of a summer for those flying pests. We've gone through about a dozen disposable traps, and now I'm on to reusable ones with replaceable attractant cartridges. They just love the space under our front porch and balcony. Ants, wasps, sick coyotes - we can use a hard freeze this winter.

My stepson, Donovan, has been hard at work to make this a more comfortable winter for himself. Though he spent more than a few years in Wyoming, I don't think he ever lost the warm blood he was born with in Washington, D.C. and refreshed in California. So, he bought himself a used hot tub and has been spending the past few weeks refurbishing it, building a deck around it, and constructing a boardwalk from his front porch to the tub. He built it under the apple trees south of the old house by the creek, and I imaging in late fall he's liable to have a few Isaac Newton moments.

Our mothers are holding on, and I'm slowly healing from my bike accident. Karen's working hard on her third novel and haunting local thrift shops for eBay inventory. Preseason football is on TV. We're enjoying the porch in the evenings with no mosquitoes or yellow-jackets after dusk. It's all good - mostly.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dogs Bark

So, I found this note slipped into my mailbox today.

I sent the following to all my neighbors for whom I have e-mail addresses:

"Dear neighbor,

Anybody have an idea who might have slipped this silly note into our mailbox today?

The week before we got our dog, Pepper, a coyote took three of our cats. In the 15 months since we've had him, we haven't had any coyote predation. Pepper's a working dog, and I'd say that, statistically, he's doing a good job.

This is the country. Horses whinny, cattle moo, pigs crash through fences and root in neighbors' property, coyotes howl, roosters crow, and dogs bark. Life goes on.


Jay Fromkin"

Got the following responses:

"I would obtain an additional larger dog, if it was me Jay. Anything that thins the coyotes out is good by me."

"Wow!  It is unfortunate that this note was left for you. Apparently, no one is going to address the problem of the Tysdal dog barking at early hours in the morning. I agree, this is the country. Dogs are going to bark. It is their job."

"Whomever, they are cowards for not putting a name down. Maybe its the grumpy guy I saw walking this morning. He is always yelling at people if he thinks they are driving too fast. He lives on Quail Lane. Anyway, if its not your neighbor I think its none of their business."

We've got some good neighbors.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

In Praise of Bike Helmets

I woke up in an ambulance, EMTs fussing over me, asking me questions. What's your name? What's your phone number? I got them right; they could check from the information on my Road ID band. I could wiggle my fingers and feet, but I couldn't move my head; I realized I was strapped tightly to a backboard, a wide band around my forehead, pressing down on my Headsweats bandanna.

One of the EMTs said I'd crashed on my bike. Something about a dog hitting me. Couldn't remember a thing, but I thought of the race in which Marco Pantani broke his leg after hitting a black cat on a descent. Good long-term memory, no memory of the crash; I had a concussion. My left shoulder hurt, and I had a deep ache in my sternum. I could see blood on my stiffening right thumb. He said my bike was OK; they were taking it to their fire station where it would be safe until we picked it up. They were taking me to Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d'Alene.

I remembered thinking it was a beautiful morning: temperature in the upper 60s, sunny, calm. I remember passing two fit young women on road bikes, feeling good, finally having adjusted to my new Specialized Toupe saddle. I'd been riding along the Centennial Trail from Stateline toward Spokane, and I think I remember riding along the lower section down by the Spokane River, but I don't remember how far I'd gotten. An EMT told me I'd crashed down by Mirabeau Park, and that someone there who saw the crash called 911 - and mentioned the dog. I wonder what kind of dog it was, and why it hadn't been on a leash.

The trip to the hospital didn't seem to take as long as it should have. Maybe I slept, but the EMTs probably kept me awake. Maybe I just don't remember.

Karen, my wife, met me at the emergency room. She said I'd called her on my cell phone. I don't remember calling her. I had a CT of my head and neck. No damage to them, but I'd broken my left 1st rib, just below the neck. Lucky. A second CT of my torso. No internal damage. Lots of soreness; Hydrocodone every four hours.

Time passed as the doctors and nurses worked efficiently, but carefully. The trauma had pushed up my blood sugar (insulin pump survived intact), so no food. Full bladder from drinking Gatorade on the road. Needed a catheter; nurse had to cut the straps on my bib shorts to remove them. Castellis. Still have a few pair.

Yesterday evening, my stepson, Donovan, picked up my bike at the fire station. Haven't seen it yet; he hung it up in the garage. It's a Davidson titanium, so the frame should be OK. When I feel up to it, I'll give it a good examination and see if anything needs to be replaced.

I did have to replace my helmet. There's a dent in the left front of the shell, and a crack all the way through the EPS foam liner of my Giro Ionos.

This is the second time a Giro helmet has saved me from serious injury. When I lived in Laramie, a driver turned left in front of me. I rode into the right side of her car, smashing her windshield with my Giro Ventoux. The sun was behind me, she said, and she didn't see me. The impact blew me out of the pedals, killed my bike, and left windshield glass embedded in my helmet and neck. I still have the scarring in my neck, but the helmet went back to Giro under their now-discontinued crash replacement program.

I honestly don't understand bicyclists and motorcyclists who refuse to wear helmets - too hot, too uncomfortable, restrict vision, like the feeling of the wind in my hair. My advice: get a helmet and wear it. They work. I ordered a new Giro Atmos this morning. Should be here by the time I can get back on the bike. I don't have Tyler Hamilton's pain threshold. Then again, I don't have his history of performance-enhancing drug use.

Slept last night in the living room recliner, no lights, no sound, no computer, no books, no cats to fight for position on the bed. Let your brain rest all day, the ER doctor said. Brain feels OK, but I'll  let readers of this blog decide how OK I really am.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Project #1 - Done!

So, what have I been doing the past month, other than logging miles on my bike? Finishing the front walkway. And, as of today, it's done!

After building up a low spot in the walkway with thicker rocks, yesterday I filled in the spaces among the rocks with dirt piled up from scraping the ground from the concrete deck pad to the gravel driveway and used rocks that were too thick for the walkway to line the path. More filling and brushing today (in 94-degree heat), and a light hosing to pack the dirt.

All of the rocks, in and flanking the walkway, are from our property. Couldn't have done it without an ATV, trailer, and crowbar. Oh, yeah, Tylenol, Diet 7-Up and Glucerna bars.

Next up, gathering large flagstones from a neighbor's to prepare for building a patio for the grill that's still down at my stepson's house. Should be barbecuing again this football season.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

2013 Tour de Cure is History - So are Chainrings

My Jersey Number
Back from the 2013 American Diabetes Association Spokane Tour de Cure, and it was fun again this year. But, not without hiccups, all of my own doing.

Me! Wearing the 2013 TdC Jersey

Props to Ted Duncan and his volunteers for organizing a good event. Plenty of parking at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex - part of Spokane Parks and Recreation (pay attention Ms. Knope!), pre-ride snacks, a special tent for Red Riders (those of us with diabetes), and the promise of a post-ride lunch. Didn't get in enough miles this cold and rainy spring to do the 50-mile route, so settled for the 20 (more on that later). The hilly ride, with about 600 feet of climbing, ran mostly along the Spokane River, partly on the Centennial Trail, partly along good paved roads.

On the second climb, I dropped my chain and had to stop. First hiccup. I'd had some signs of wear on my old Campagnolo 9-speed chainrings, and they're just about impossible to replace with original equipment. So, I bought some French TA rings sized for Campy. However, unlike Campy rings, the TAs don't have a forged pin to prevent chain drop; instead, they have a screw-on pin using a torx bolt. One one of my rides, apparently, the pin fell out and was missing when I shifted down to the small chainring on that second climb. While I put the chain back on the ring, I was passed by about five riders. I caught two on later climbs, and had a third in my sights on a flat stretch, in the big chainring, down in the drops, when he just disappeared.

Everyone Got a Public Address Greeting
When I came to a familiar on-ramp, I realized I'd missed a route sign for a turn. I doubled back and - since it was a ride, not a race - took my time riding back to Dwight Merkel. Added about five miles to my ride, but that's OK. I crossed the finish line to applause and cow bells, and the announcement of my name by the public address gal (OK, everyone got the same enthusiastic greeting).

Since my blood sugar was in my zone, I treated myself to lunch (pulled pork and cole slaw on a bun, with Diet Coke, courtesy of American Deli), a session in the portable photo booth (my new Facebook profile shot), and a neck and shoulders massage, courtesy of Inland Massage Institute; I think I proposed to the masseuse.

Don't Try This at Home
Lots of riders, some seasoned veterans, some young and just starting out. This guy was my favorite, and not just because I looked like him at his age. This is the second year this young Red Rider piloted his unicycle along the 2.5 mile loop. Looking forward to the day he rides with us geezers on two wheels.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Walk of Life

Finishing construction of a house is not the end of a process, but rather the beginning. Meadow grass is growing across the former construction site, as are the wildflowers - Grass Widows, Shasta Lilies, May Flowers, and Love Darts - but the area between the front of the house and the gravel driveway is still mostly dirt. And when it rains, it's mostly mud. Time to build a walkway.

We'd talked for some time about using rock from our 66 acres for paving stones, and during the past five years we've collected them into piles at the bases of two large pine trees. We've also identified some areas near our top meadow where there are a lot of flat granite slabs.

So, last week, our good friend and neighbor, Dave, brought up his baby Bobcat and scraped down about 4-6 inches from the concrete front landing to the gravel road, piling the soil for use later in the process. During the next two days, I shoveled about a ton of gravel from the edges of our half-mile driveway into a large yard cart, and drove the yard cart up and down the driveway - maybe 20 trips - in a trailer hitched to my ATV.
5 Buckets and 8 Bags of Sand

5 Buckets and 43 Bags Later
Two years ago, after a hard spring flood had subsided, Karen had shoveled sand the flood had left behind near our spring into five 5-gallon buckets, which we'd tried - largely successfully to keep out of the rain during the home construction process. That was the first sand to go into the walkway hollow. Not nearly enough. Off to Home Depot. I figured eight 50-pound bags would be enough. Was I wrong. 43 bags and two additional trips to Home Depot later, there's just enough sand to provide a stable base for the rocks.

Next step: collecting and placing the rocks. Maybe tomorrow morning, when the day is cooler.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Week at the Spring

You're too close. Step away from the camera.
Last fall, we bought a trail camera at Cabela's to capture some of the wildlife ranging on our north Idaho property. During the months, we've moved it around, finally settling on the spring below the house. It's the closest we've got to a watering hole.

The first day we had it up, we got a bear. But since then, mostly turkeys and deer - but, they're everywhere - and my Brittany, Pepper, on one of his rambles.

But last week...

OK, the ubiquitous deer
Neighbors Dave, Theresa and their two masfiffs (Australian out of frame)

Karen on a search-and-destroy mission to uproot mullein

Probably one of the dozen cow elk that were up at the house earlier in the week

And a young moose that Dave and Theresa had seen near our back fence line

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Flying the Flag

2012 Tour de Cure Finish Line
I'm something of a serial donor. When I had cancer, I donated primarily to cancer research. When I developed kidney disease, I donated primarily to kidney disease research. Those are both in deep remission, but I'm always going to be diabetic. So, since 2010 I've donated primarily to diabetes research and education. This year, I've also started to do volunteer work for the American Diabetes Association, marrying  it with my love of cycling by supporting the ADA's Tour de Cure.

Last year, I rode in the Tour and was fortunate that quite a few friends donated to the ADA in support of my ride. I'm riding again this year but I've also canvassed local bike shops and fitness centers to encourage their support of the Tour. This morning, I staffed the Tour information booth at Spokane's Bike Swap.

Flying the flag, wearing my 2012 Red Rider (cyclist with diabetes) Tour jersey.

Flying the Flag at Spokane Bike Swap
The tour was one of several charity rides, all of which competed for attention with area bike shops, cycling-related small businesses, and folk who were selling old bikes and parts. Quite a few folk of all ages were interested in the Tour, and several took entry forms and brochures they could use to enter via the Internet. The Tour has three routes this year, one of 20 miles, one of 50, and one of 100. By the time my shift was over, all the 50-mile route maps had been taken - as had a couple of dozen TdC water bottles. It was good visiting with fellow cyclists and encouraging them to ride the Tour de Cure.

Beautiful Steel Pinarello

I also managed to find a great cycling jacket for my     stepson's 42nd birthday. There were a slew of nice   bikes, but the real beauty was an 1990s steel Pinarello with a gorgeous pearlescent fade paint job. If only it had been in my size.

The Days of Real Head-tube Badges

Winter Training - Yuck!
After a week of setting fence posts and braces and cleaning up deadfall and slash, I'm going to get back on the bike this week. We're due for some nice weather after an early cold and rainy spring. I've got to get a lot of miles back into my legs before the 2013 Tour de Cure.

Helping to find a cure for diabetes is motivation enough for me, but I'd sure appreciate your support for my ride, the Tour de Cure, and the American Diabetes Association. If you can, please make a donation to the ADA at my Tour de Cure Web page

Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your help and friendship.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Something to Bark About

When we started building our new house, Karen was concerned that it might disrupt existing migration patterns, particularly for elk. Apparently, that isn't a problem. This morning, while catching up on BBC America's adaptation of Alan Furst's Spies of Warsaw, I saw out of the corner of my right eye, a patch of light fur. A deer, I thought. No big deal. Until Pepper started barking as if the world's largest flock of quail wandered past the sliding-glass door. Not quail. About a dozen cow elk, following their path from the meadow behind our old barn, past the house, stopping for an early breakfast in a small meadow just south of our house.

I found a camera and stepped out onto the front porch. They saw or smelled me, and ambled toward our southern neighbors' place, over the fence line and into their meadow.

I'm still trying to find out about the mouse. Last night, Geordie spent the night in our mud room on a very important mission - to find the field mouse he'd brought in from an evening's stalk in the garage and then brought in to the mud room when Karen let him in for the night. Geordie, who's about seven and came to his mousing heritage later in life, seemed confused about what to do with it, dropped it, picked it back up, dropped it again, and watched it scuttle behind the washing machine. We kitted up the mud room with a sand box and a bowl of food for Geordie and went to bed.

This morning, I opened up the mud room and found no evidence of mayhem; no corpse, no blood, no signs of struggle. I propped open the door from the mud room to the garage, opened the garage door, and let Geordie back into the house. Maybe the mouse will take the hint.

It's been a cold and rainy spring, but we're making progress on the place, consolidating burn piles, sinking corner posts and clearing brush for new fencing (a handyman's coming to string the fence on Monday), and ridding ourselves of Lake Stratford. Last Tuesday, the sink hole near our heat pump was filled and re-graded. On Thursday, the excavator brought up, dumped, and spread a load of gravel. The next day, our Stratford representative came up to survey the work and take a look into the crawl space, where we'd had water off and on since the autumn rains. And what did he find? That neither the Foundation Kings nor the the plumber who installed the water line, sealed up the space around the water or electrical conduits, providing a sluice way for rain and snow melt. With any luck, we'll start having some dry weather, and soon Stratford will be able to seal up the spaces around the conduit with non-shrink grout or elestomeric concrete. Then, he can replace the ground tarps and we'll be done until the one-year warranty repairs.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Day at the Lake

Last week, my people took me to Lake Coeur d'Alene. They told me it would be fun, and it was. Lots of new sights and smells. It didn't take very long to get there in the little car, so I wondered why we just didn't run there.

We parked by a big area of grass with lots of trees and paths. My man joked that there was a sign that said dogs couldn't walk on the grass. I'm guessing it was a joke, because we walked over the grass to a big wooden bear. I knew it wasn't a real bear, because it smelled just like a tree that I lifted my leg on near our house. And, it didn't growl at me.

Next, we walked over to a big wooden eagle. At least my man said it was an eagle, but you couldn't prove it to me - it didn't have a beak. As you can tell from the photo, I wasn't

My people got tired - I don't know why, we'd only been out there a few minutes, or a few hours, I can't tell time - so they stopped at a big metal moose. My man said it's name was Mudgy. What a stupid name for a moose. None of the moose on our land have such dumb names. I've met Morty and Millie, and their little mooselet Mikey.
Finally, we made it to the lake. I was very impressed. It was much bigger than our spring, or even our creek. It was even bigger than the duck pond at Duke's place (I don't go there much now since two mastiffs moved in). I got to pose by the lifeguard's stand, and that was fun. but my man kept me on a lead, and I couldn't go for a swim. Eventually, it got cold, and we left for home.

But, I paused just once to give the camera my best "Jack London looking out to sea" pose. Nice, huh?