Category Archives: Just Life

Northwoods

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I dragged myself up to Cable yesterday.  The first 6 hours wasn’t too bad, but the last 4 hours got long. Bill relieved me some driving. I woke up today not feeling much better.  I had thought/hoped this stomach thing would have passed as quickly as it came.  Doesn’t seem that it how it is going.  I had planned on riding the whole Chequamegon course today, but that ain’t happening.  I think Bill and Karl are still going to do it. This might be the first time in modern history that I haven’t ridden the course before the race.  I really like it, so I’m really missing out. Maybe another day of bed rest might help some.

Tucker was up and down all night, he was so excited.  Trudi already took him for a loop and they are heading back out again right now.

Tucker was up and down all night, he was so excited. Trudi already took him for a loop and they are heading back out again right now.

Mowing before Leaving

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Yesterday, it was supposed to rain some or most of the day.  It rained some the night before.  It was a good time to mow.  Karl, my friend from Louisville, told me that he always mows early in the morning when there is dew or after it rains, so it isn’t dusty and he doesn’t get clogged up.

Kris usually mows, but since he crashed and semi-destroyed himself, he’s off that program, so I’ve been around and doing it.

I’m heading out of town for Chequamegon and then Jinglecross, so am not going to be around for a while.  Thus, everything has to be mowed short.

We never seem to have a mower that just works.  Like you pull the cord and it starts. Something always has to be done for it to run.  You have to know that something or you’ll never get the mower started and keep running.

That is until Kris actually bought a new mower a couple weeks ago.  It was a junky new mower, but new, none-the-less.  It had been returned and needed about 5 minutes of repair to run like new.  Junky mowers, running like new, aren’t something to brag about.

But this one worked alright.  You just had to push the primer bulb a couple times and pull the cord once and it started.  I was pretty stoked with that.

The only good thing about cheap mowers is that they don’t weight much.  They are easy to lift in and out of the van.  I have to do that 4 or 5 times, depending upon how much I mow.

Anyway, I started a little late, after noon, and had three places to mow.  The first one went fine.  Kris usually cuts all the corners he can, so when I do it, I have to spend a fair amount of time doing the whole thing.  I understand his thought process, but don’t agree with it.  I like to do a good/complete job every time I do the job.

Anyway, I went over to this house in Central Topeka. Central Topeka isn’t the best part of town. I have owned the house since the mid 80’s.  I bought it because of a tax audit.  The IRS decided that I didn’t have a tax home since I lived with my grandmother, so I just bought a house and that was that.   It has pretty much sat empty most of the time.  I had a friend that worked at the bike shop live there for close to 10 years, but scared him off when I tried to sell it to him too cheap.  Not sure why that was.

Anyway, it is a really nice house, just in the wrong place.  Anyway, I mowed the front and then went to the back.  I hate mowing the backyard because there is some plant there, I’m not sure what it is, but when you mow, just in once place, it puts out a vapor that is nearly choking. Something like if you would be chopping onions except way more intense.  I skipped mowing the backyard last week when I mowed, so I had to be done.

I got about 1/3 the way through the back when I hit a small stump or a bush that had been cut off.  The mower just stopped, which isn’t that unusual.  What was unusual is that oil started pouring out on the deck.  Like running out in a stream.  I was pretty sure the crankcase was cracked.  I didn’t try to restart it.

I decided to finish the rest of the yard with the weed trimmer.  I had just rebuild a Honda trimmer and it is working so/so.  I put a new carburetor on it, but it is still running kind of weird. It has a fuel issue.  As you change the angle of the trimmer, it stalls sometimes.  I put a new fuel line in and thought maybe it was too long.  It has a filter and thought it was maybe getting stuck at the top of the tank, so I shortened the gas line a little.  That really didn’t fix it.  Maybe I just bought too cheap of a carburetor, but I needed it fast.

Anyway, I finished the back yard with the trimmer.  You’d be surprised, it didn’t look that bad.

I own 13 acres in South Central Topeka.  It isn’t as impressive as it sounds.  Same deal, I was looking for a home for my mom a while ago and sent my brother to a tax auction with a blank check. Kris calls and said he didn’t buy the house but bought this land, sight unseen.  It was a mess.  Bill, Trudi and I removed over 4000 tires from the land one summer.  It was a very bad job.  It had a railroad car and a couple semis parked there.  We cut them apart with a cutting torch and sold them for scrap.  Another really bad job.

So, I needed to mow along the street.  It is about one city block long, but half of it is a rock cliff, so it doesn’t need to be mowed.  The other half is just about 8 feet, but the 1/2 block, so isn’t much.  I just kept using the weed trimmer.  It is amazing how much trash is over there.  I go by pretty often and fill garbage bags.  I don’t get it really.  I don’t really know anyone that litters, like throws stuff out of a car window.  I don’t see it that often.  But it must be common or all the trash laying around wouldn’t be there.

Anyway, I’m pretty much done and am using a blower to blow the cut grass back out of the street onto the grass. (On a side note,  It is mor than annoyed when people mow their yards into the street and leave the grass in the street.  Where do they think it goes?  Do they think it just disappears?  I wonder if they realize that most of it ends up in the sewer and clogs it up. Then it runs to the river and clogs it up. If they just mowed with the grass going back towards their yard, it was decompose, it is good for the grass and doesn’t look like shit, plus doesn’t wash into our streams.)

I am blowing the grass when I see a young kid riding a MTB towards me.  I keep blowing and realize he never rode by.  I look over my shoulder and he is walking behind me, like really close. He acts like he wants to talk to me.

I turn off the blower and can’t really understand a word he is saying.  The only think I understand is the word bible.  I tell him I don’t know what he is saying and he says something about bible study.  I’m thinking he need some money or something, but am not sure what he is asking.

I say once again, I’m not sure what you’re saying.  He said in a weird accent, like Caribbean or East Indian, that he is going to bible study and wants to know if I want to come with him?   I tell him I am a little messy for that.  I have sweated thru my shirt and jeans and am covered with grass clippings.  I am a mess.  Then he asked if I want to pray with him.  I told him that I was good.

Then I ask him where he is from.  He tells me Chicago.  He says that is his accent.  I just looked at him.  There is no way he was originally from Chicago.  He must have been illegal and someone told him to just say he is from Chicago.  Maybe he had some other reason, but he isn’t from Chicago.

He got back on his bike and rode off.  I said bye.  It was a pretty interesting conversation.

So, everything is sort of mowed.  Cut at least.  The grass shouldn’t be growing that much now, but it has been raining all the time.  There are these oak mites around that are horrible.  They bite you everywhere.  We have two huge Oak trees in our front yard.  They have been there forever.  I have never even heard of oak mites and now they are everywhere.  They were here last year and back this year.  I don’t get it.  It makes being outside pretty awful.

Okay, working on cross bikes.  I glued a couple FMB tires on last night.  It took half a can of Vittoria glue.  I’m not sure what tires are best for Jinglecross in September.  When using tubulars, you are pretty much stuck with what you have on your wheels.  That is the only disadvantage of tubular compared to clinchers.  FMB’s work pretty good in all conditions.  I’m not all that much into file tread.  Especially on a course that has a sketchy downhill like in Iowa City.  But, it could be super dry and they would work fine.  I guess we’ll find out in a couple weeks.

The weed trimmer cuts it pretty short. The bushes look like they need to be trimmed too.

The weed trimmer cuts it pretty short. The bushes look like they need to be trimmed too.

Picking up other people's trash is creepy.

Picking up other people’s trash is creepy.

Broken mower piece.  These Briggs and Stratton engines are made out of very bad materials.

Broken mower piece. These Briggs and Stratton engines are made out of very bad materials.  The piece is $56 at Amazon.

This is an oak mite. It sort of looks like a tardigrade.

This is an oak mite. It sort of looks like a tardigrade.

The Belgian tape is hardly wide enough for these super wide rims. I'm hoping they keep the tires from folding over with way lower pressure.

The Belgian tape is hardly wide enough for these super wide rims. I’m hoping they keep the tires from folding over with way lower pressure.

These tires have a lot of tread, but I figure it is better to have too much tread than not enough, Belgianwerks has a whole selection of FMB cross tires.

These tires have a lot of tread, but I figure it is better to have too much tread than not enough, Belgianwerks has a whole selection of FMB cross tires.

One of the very few times that Tucker is acting like he is concerned where we are going.

One of the very few times that Tucker is acting like he is concerned where we are going.

 

 

 

 

Training in Tucson – A taste of travel

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I graduated high school early.  I decided, after about a semester of high school, that it really wasn’t for me, so I started cramming extra classes, taking classes during lunch, etc. to leave early.  I already knew that I wanted to race bikes and, for some reason, I guess, I thought I needed to graduate high school first.

My brother and I decided that we should go down to Tucson Arizona to train during the winter. I’m not sure why we picked Tucson instead of Austin or some warmer place closer, but Tucson was it.

We left Topeka with virtually no money.  We thought we had enough money to live for 3 months, but the housing prices in Tucson was more than double that of Topeka.  We had sticker shock.

We’d driven my 1964 VW pickup truck there.  The rear tires were so bald that you could see the plys.  We had a Sierra Designs two person tent sent up in the back that we could sleep in.  It was set up when we were driving and one of us would sleep in the back, the tent flapping in the wind, while we drove.  It was pretty cold.

We got stuck in a terrible ice storm in New Mexico.  The pickup built up thousands of pounds of ice which slowed it down immensely.  It wouldn’t hardly got 60 mph, but with ice build up from the bottom to the ground, it couldn’t manage 50.  That was probably a good thing.  We ended up spending a night in a hotel, a Motel 6 (when Motel 6’s cost $6), the only hotel night the whole trip.

As I said, it was too expensive to rent somewhere.  We didn’t have enough money.  We were trying to find a room to rent from someone, but didn’t have much luck.

We were mostly camping up on Mt. Lemmon.  Sometimes we would go to the University library, which was open all night, and find a couch, out of the way, and just sleep there, pretending we were students that had just fallen asleep while studying.  Then, in the morning, we’d go to the gym and shower in the locker rooms.

We got a fair amount of riding in.  The desert was so foreign to kids from Kansas, so it was always really interesting.

It all went south after a couple weeks.  We were camping up on Mt. Lemmon, sleeping in the tent.  We had our bikes locked to the bumper of the VW.  I guess the cable was too short to go through our fronts wheels, because they weren’t locked.  When we woke up in the morning, our front wheels were gone.  We only had one set of wheels each, so it made it pretty impossible to ride.

We drove into town to go to a shop to try to find some cheap parts to build up some new wheels.  Higher end race wheels weren’t pre-built then, you had to buy all the parts separately and build them up.  We stopped and bought a cheese sandwich with guacamole.    We were vegetarian back then.  The guacamole must have been bad because right after we ate it, we both were super ill.  Food poisoning.

Sometime, while recovering from the food poisoning, we both agreed that we needed to head home.  We were out of money, we couldn’t ride our bikes, and we figured we just had enough money to pay for the gas home.  So we started up the VW and drove home without stopping.

I don’t really have many good memories from that trip, even though it was pretty much my first real cycling road trip.  That is strange because time usually makes you forget the bad and only remember the good.  Maybe there wasn’t that much good?  Anyway, something must have went right, because I got the travel bug, plus the bike racing “disease”.   And neither have been cured.  Funny how life works out.

I’d like to go back to Tucson and do the Tour de Tucson.  That race has always been on my list, but it has never worked out.  Maybe this year.

I've ridden Mt. Lemmon since. Back then I might have had only a 19 in the rear, with a 42 small front ring. It was probably a little hard.

I’ve ridden Mt. Lemmon since. Back then I might have had only a 19 in the rear, with a 42 small front ring. It was probably a little hard.

Tucker saw a rabbit.

Tucker saw a rabbit.

 

Honey

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I eat a fair amount of honey.  I always have.  I think I “got into” honey back when I was a teenager and a vegetarian.  Back then, my brother and I went through a ton of honey. That and molasses.  We used to make whole wheat pancakes nearly everyday and cover them with molasses.  I don’t eat much molasses anymore.

I think that honey is good for you.  I’m not sure why I think that.  I really haven’t read anything about how honey is an antioxidant or anything.  I just feel better when I eat honey.

Kris and I once bought a 5 gallon tin of honey from our friend, Mike Hudson’s uncle.  I’m not sure how many pounds of honey that is, but it was super heavy.  I’m guessing it weighed somewhere around 50-60 pounds.  It took us a while to get through that in.  It crystallized and we had to reheat it over and over again to get it out.  It probably lasted about a year, which is sort of unbelievable considering how much honey we ate.  If my weight guess is close, that is nearly a pound a week.  It doesn’t seem like that much, but taking into account that is every week or the year, it was a lot.

I am kind of a honey snob.  All honey tastes a little different.  I’m not a snob enough to know what flowers the bees use to make the honey taste better.  I just like to try a ton of local honey, then when I find it, I try to stick with it.  It is funny how the better honey always costs the most.

I would like to have my own bees and make my own honey.  My friend Jeff Unruh, from Topeka ,has some bees and sometimes gives me some for Christmas.  It is so good.  A friend sent me an email and told me that each bee produces 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.  Man, it takes a lot of bees to make a pound of honey.

Anyway, I’ve been eating lots of honey recently.  I put it on just about everything.   I think that anything that doesn’t spoil on its own has to have some special properties.  I hope so because I eat a ton of it.

This is my favorite honey right now. You can order it online. It is a little pricey.

This is my favorite honey right now. You can order it online. It is a little pricey.

I pulled out this that had been kicking around the house forever. We got it in Europe. It is a little messy, but sort of fun to use.

I pulled out this that had been kicking around the house forever. We got it in Europe. It is a little messy, but sort of fun to use.

Tucker is acting all good, trying to entice me into taking him somewhere.

Tucker is acting all good, trying to entice me into taking him somewhere.

 

 

 

The Zen of Mowing

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It has been raining a ton the last couple years during the summer in Kansas.  That isn’t usual. Normally, the grass goes dormant for a month or so, thus it turns brown-ish, then starts greening back up in September or so.  That is unless you run automatic sprinklers, even when it is raining, all summer and your yard stays perty green.

This year is another big rain year.  So, the grass has been growing throughout the summer. Hardly anyone in my neighborhood mows their own grass.  One guy from North Topeka has a corner on that market.  He is in the neighborhood from 8 am to sunset everyday, including holidays.  He is a little automated, like he uses self-propelled Honda push mowers, but he isn’t riding around on a zero turn radius riding mower.

I’ve been mowing lawns since I was small.  I probably started mowing when I was around 7 or so.  This was mainly mowing our yard.  As I got older, I used to mow a lot of the neighbors yards.  I used to walk down to the gas station, which was 2 blocks away and buy 2 gallons of gas in the morning, then start out mowing.  I think the most yards I mowed was around 10.  I could do them all in one day if I was quick.   But, the problem was, everyone didn’t always want their yards mowed on the same day, the day that was convenient for me.

When I’m gone, my brother mows.  He does it on Sunday’s I think.  But now since he is hurt, he isn’t going to be mowing for a while.  I don’t like mowing as much as I used to.  Mainly because of the dust and it seems like I am more allergic to the dry grass than I used to be when I was younger.

That being said, I still like mowing.  I just don’t love it.  There is a certain satisfaction mowing. You can watch as your work is progressing.   It is sort of like shovelling snow or roof.  You can actively see how much you’ve completed and how much you have left to do.

I used to mow artistically.  I’d try to mow and make the yard look like a golf course.  I’d mow diagonal in one direction and then the opposite.  I don’t do that so much nowadays.  That is mainly because most of the places I mow the grass is so pitiful that it doesn’t look that great.

But after you start mowing, you can get into nearly a zen-like state.  After I start, it is like a craving, it is hard to stop.  It is sort of like cycling, my mind wanders as I go through the motions.

I really should get a good mower.  All the mowers we’ve had recently have been junky, garbage picked mowers.  There is a certain advantage of a junky mower.  Mainly,  they are light, so it doesn’t take much to load them into the van over and over again.  But, they are underpowered and generally shitty. The mower I’m using now is a brand new mower my brother got from Walmar,t I think.  It had been used once and was broken.  He paid $30 for it.  It took him about 4 minutes to fix it.  From my experience with mowers, a Honda mower is impossible to beat.

Anyway, I think more people should mow their own yards.  I think it connects you to your property and exposes you to the neighborhood.  When no one is doing any yard work anymore, it is really hard knowing where anyone lives.   Garage door openers are the #1 reason that neighbors are strangers.  #2 is not doing yard work.

Anyway, I have a bunch of mowing to do, but it is going to rain most of the day.  I think I’m going to head out and start.  There is way less dust when it is a tad wet.  Too wet is a disaster, but just a little wet is good. I hope today doesn’t turn out to be a mowing bust.

Hope this stays North as predicted.

Hope this stays North as predicted.

Rain gauge from last night.

Rain gauge from last night.

Tucker likes to go just about anywhere the van goes.

Tucker likes to go just about anywhere the van goes.

 

 

Fixin’ Stuff / Best Part of the Internet?

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The Internet is a two edged sword for me.  For most people I think.  It really makes many things much easier and enjoyable, but there is the too much deal.  It really has replaced the television as the source of entertainment for the majority of people.  With that, you get the guilt of overuse.  Am I wasting my precious time on the computer when I could be doing something way more useful?

I’ve been trying to curb that by not “surfing” the net much.  I do go to a few websites on a daily basis, but I don’t sit on my computer for hours just for nothing.

One thing that I never regret when using the Internet is when I’m trying to fix something.  There is always someone out there that has fixed the same problem as I have and feels like sharing it. And it is getting more common.  I’ve never made a video of fixing something, but when I do run into something that I find an easy fix for, I feel it is my responsibility to share that with all the guys that have saved me so much time and energy by posting their experiences.

Case in point is on a project I’m doing right now trying to get my ice maker in my refrigerator working.  It has been broken all summer, so my insulated bottles are sort of valueless.  But, ice is a nice thing, energy intensive, but nice all the same.   Bill’s refrigerator has had sort of the same issue, so I figure I’d research mine and maybe figure out his.

I initially thought my problem was the water flow.  I’d had that problem before.  Those cheap ice maker kits that punch a hole through your copper water line are valueless.  I cut mine out and replaced it with a 1/2 inch T and a proper 1/4″ valve.  I decided not to sweat in a new  t, since the pipe was wet, I bought a removable Sharkbite T and valve and it worked awesome.  It cost about $8 more, but the whole process took me about 10 minutes.

Anyway, nearly all the icemakers in all the refrigerators are the same.  And there are multiple Youtube videos out the how to fix them.  I think it you get lucky, you could probably fix your ice maker for less than $5.  But even if you have to replace the whole thing, it is only around $45, which is a steal compared to calling a repairman.

My main issue with this repair is my knee.  It involves some kneeling, which isn’t conducive right now.  But, I persevered.  I had already ordered a new ice maker from Amazon for $45 and then I was making sure it wasn’t the water  solenoid or some other problem.  I used this Youtube video for most my information.  The guy seemed smart and covered most of what I needed to know.

It turns out the heating element that helps release the cubes somehow fritzed out on mine.  I learned this by disassembling it.  I thought that maybe I could have just gotten a new element, but it had melted the plastic and circuit board.  Whatever, a new ice maker is showing up tomorrow.

So, I’m stoked that I found the problem and that it is a easy, relatively cheap, fix.  Most things around the house are the same, you just need to hope it is a common issue that someone has posted a Youtube video that show you have to fix it, step-by-step.

Just cut the old plunger thing out of the copper cold water pipe.

Just cut the old plunger thing out of the copper cold water pipe.

It is the thing above the new piece.

It is the thing above the new piece.

It puts out some much more water pressure. The Sharkbite connection was slick.

It puts out some much more water pressure. The Sharkbite connection was slick.  It is removable.

Ice maker disassembled on my kitchen table.

Ice maker disassembled on my kitchen table.

Melted heating element.

Melted heating element.

It melted the circuit board, so it is toast.

It melted the circuit board, so it is toast.

Tucker usually rubs his face with his paws before he goes to sleep. It is very cute.

Tucker usually rubs his face with his paws before he goes to sleep. It is very cute.