Ice- D

This past Thursday night and Friday morning we were pummeled with a crazy ice storm that switched to heavy snow midway through. It ravaged the region dropping trees and parts of trees everywhere a tree could be dropped- with a strong tendency to aim for roadways and utility lines.

In the game of “Fight the Power” it set a new regional high score. Over 60,000 people ended up juiceless. Refrigerator bacteria clapped their hands as the no flow of electrons is still going on for some 4 days later.

Our small part of the story started around 5am Friday when I noticed our internet, and subsequently our phone was out. So I took the dog for the usual morning lap. Upon return we noticed a few trees down across the lines just down the block. One of those lines had adopted a nice glowing look. And by 7:45am our power was off.

Since we were lacking internet and phone I didn’t know that the place of employment was without power as well, so I reported to work as usual. Me and about 5 other people. And 3 vans worth of copy repair machine guys.

I’m not sure what they were going to get done as work was out of power as well. This was REALLY weird to me as the building is designed for 2000 people and with the main power out, it gets switched to back up lighting and Wi-Fi and phones still being able to work. But no air handling. Which makes things eerily quiet.

Since I obviously going to be bothered I found a window seat, poured a cup of cold brew coffee, and set about getting some work done for a couple of hours.

After that got old and cold, I bailed and went home. Before doing that I checked our estimated power on status: Sunday, 10pm.

So I packed the freezer and fridge contents, a few sets of clothes, and the dog and headed for a place that still did have power and heat- Darn Yarn Needles and Thread. It’s my wife’s place of employment, and we figured we’d hole up there for a while. Well, at least 2 of the 3 of us thought that through. The dog has fur and wasn’t too disturbed by the lack of light or heat at the house. He was just happy to take a car ride.

Fortunately for me, there was space in the loft with a railing that would be adequate for Hammockville. Hammockville is a nomadic town with a low population count that springs up occasionally when sleeping in a bed isn’t a solid option. I’ve populated Hammockville 9 times since early July. Always a great place to visit. Although, this time the setup was less than ideal from a geometric standpoint. The railings are low and didn’t allow me to get a nice deep U shape for the hang (well, more gentle parabola, but you get the picture). This made it less stable than usual. No biggie, just a note.

So we spent Friday night, all day Saturday, and part of Sunday in the shop. Saturday I disappeared during business hours and headed to THICK Bikes (for some holiday shopping) and The Wheel Mill for some rad riding- after stopping at Target and buying some underpants as I’d packed everything else…

By Sunday morning I was itching for an outdoor ride so I headed home to wait for the power to return. I hopped on the fixed gear Cross x Check and roamed around the county for a few hours surveying the damage.

When I got home close to dark I took a nice hot shower (we have a gas water heater- HOORAY!). It was around 5:30 so I did what I usually do in a currently hopeless situation that I have no control over- I took a nap.

And then, around 7:30:

I heard the furnace fan kick on. Hooray! I called the other 2/3 of the household population and messaged a neighbor to let them know we could return to our first world status.

Knowing at this point that the food was not here to be cooked I ducked out to refuel the Toaster and grab some grub. In the gas station/ convenience complex that rhymes with “heats” I saw a couple of utility trucks in the lot. When I went inside I saw 3 guys standing by the MTO area awaiting their food. I felt compelled to ask them about the truck and thank them for doing their job. Seriously, I know I take the convenience of electricity and heat on demand for granted. I really appreciate these luxuries. Especially when we had been without for 60 hours. And I felt the least I could do was talk to a random group of guys who were doing their best to get these utilities back on line for us in the midst of a natural disaster.

So I figured I could thank them for their service. We both had to wait for our food anyways.

I came to find out they were from Raystown Lake Area, a fantastic outdoor destination, and had been putting in 13-16 hour days. They said our situation was bad, but nearly as bad as what they saw after Irene and a crazy snow system pummeled New Jersey last year.

Their food came up first, and got around to saying our goodbyes and asking them about their specific day. They said they had a couple of more jobs to go and just finished a job in town.

It turns out, they were the guys that restored power to our house.

Super cool.

A big thanks to the people who do their job in spite of the weather so we can have heat, water, and electric on a regular basis!

 

 

 

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Mmmm Doughnuts

One of the fun things I ran across today (yeah, it’s been out for a while but I’m a bit behind) is that The Flat Earth Society has expanded their waistline to include the possibility that the earth may be better than just a pancake.

It may be doughnut shaped.

I see this as the culmination of a room full of 12 year olds playing the “But, What If” game where they endlessly refute science and logic with ridiculous practically impossible scenarios.

Regardless, this led me to construct some early morning haiku:

Our doughnut shaped earth

Some people believe it’s true

Hope we have sprinkles

Simply Stupid

Riding a bike to Mars always sounds cool. This bike and I have spent tens of thousands of miles together.

Recently, I’ve been revisiting parts in the basement. The Cross x Check was pretty much part of the mess. We hadn’t spent much time together for at least 6 months. I’ve been digging the versatility 3in tires and a few gears provide. Quite frankly, I’ve been struggling with a bit of neck discomfort as well.

So I went to the parts pile and grabbed another set of bars to put me in a bit more of a neck friendly position. And I ditched the clipless (that you actually clip into) pedals.

Lo and behold, I’m back in this saddle again.

Why simply stupid? One gear with no coasting. 42×18 fixed. It’s not racer fast- especially downhill.

Riding 80 miles in 40 sone degrees over 2 days supports the cause as well.

All in all though, I can ride a bike to Mars.

It’s cheaper than therapy.

Not Staind

It’s been a while. So long in fact that I forgot my password.

Alright, so that happens on a regular basis. Not as often as I change my socks, but pretty frequently. (FYI: I change my socks a couple of times a day. Before you judge, I also use a bike a couple of times a day too. Biking doesn’t necessitate a sock change, it’s just the road that the brain train was on.)

It’s been one of them days. Or a couple of the years. For reasons which may be come apparent over some future posts, or not, I’ve decided I need to- for now, get back to typing. And writing with far too many commas and side tangents.

Last I checked, the world contains 7.7+ billion people. I remember when 4 billion was the norm. Actually, I don’t remember that well, but 5 billion- yes.

Things have indeed changed. And they haven’t. With well over 3 billion people added in the last 30 years you’d think we’d evolve a bit. Or at least get the personal jetpack figured out.

Come on people.

I guess I don’t have a lot of room to talk. I’ve been reminded of ghosts past recently. There have been some pretty rad times in my life.

And they’re not over. That’s why I’m again putting words on a virtual page. I need to spread a few more breadcrumbs to be able to find my way back if I need to.

Then again, I’m not great at looking back. Or remembering passwords.

In all of this though, I really think Hip-Hop peaked in the 90’s. Argue with me if you like after you’ve listened to the facts:

I Love My 90’s Hip-Hop

Sampling legality can be a crazy debate, but the consumers definitely benefited when the past could be integrated into what was then current making something new.

That being said, this year’s had some notable music. This one caught me by surprise:

One last thought for the day. If you haven’t checked out Hip-Hop Evolution on Netflix, you haven’t. It’s an fascinating take on a few decades of recent history.

One thing for sure: if we as humans survive the next few decades the documentary should be interesting viewing for a couple future generations.

A Loaf of Bread, a Container of Milk, and a Stick of Butter

Many folks don't realize just how useful a bicycle and bike trail can be. Yesterday I Big Dummy-ed (or Dan Wilson-ed) somewhere around 60lbs of foodstuffs for 17miles (1/2 the trip).

The Butler Freeport Community Trail connects not only the endpoint towns, but makes it convenient to get to communities in the middle as well.

The trail allowed me to not have to deal with auto traffic for half the trip, but also average the climbing out over a longer distance- a welcome respite when I use a 34×30 as my low gear (Who's the Big Dummy?).

The takeaway? Bikes and local rail-trails are useful for MUCH more than pure recreation. You don't always NEED to drive someplace to get some exercise in. And, in my case, if I factor in the time the trip I would have spent driving a car, I saved about an hour of the day.

3-2-1…

penn st.png

On March 21, 2016 a Nissan Altima showed me and my Karate Monkey just who’s boss.  We had quite the lesson in physics that evening. F=u+cked. This is a pic I snapped last night from the car’s perspective.

It took a fraction of a second for the whole thing to go down. The inattentiveness of the driver to STOP before left hand turning started me on a journey that has already taken hundreds of hours of my life.

I don’t honestly believe the driver set out to hit a fellow human. There was no cyclist hate. He was simply in a hurry to get his daughter to an activity and wasn’t entirely focused on piloting a 2-ton vehicle for a few moments.

I couldn’t do anything differently. I was wearing hi-vis clothing and there was ample daylight. I had stopped, determined it was safe to proceed, and was starting. I was ½ way through an offset intersection heading eastbound (from the left) as the car was traveling westbound (from the right.) I was hit on the left side from the head-on direction.

penn st 2

penn st 3

It’s now been a year and a day. I’m not angry at the driver. Truthfully though, I am disappointed. And really confused. The way insurance works, there’s no room to admit fault or offer a true condolence. I should not have been hit by this person (I know more about the situation than I’m willing to disclose on the internet). I don’t know if his life was altered from this experience. I do know mine has.

I get tired of people telling me “Change is good.” whenever a situation doesn’t go as one would like. Change is change. It’s not inherently good or bad. It’s just makes things different. The change in my life as a result of this experience has been mixed. I definitely can’t say it’s all been good.

One of my first rides back was with a friend. He said, “Sometimes we have experiences for no apparent reason other than to test what we’re made of.”

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The above picture was from my ride last night- March 22, 2017. I broke out the ungeared 36″ uni and put in over 30 miles. The shot is blurry as I was running out of daylight and was still several miles out so I snapped it while riding.

As frustrated as I’ve been from being hit, I’m thankful I can still ride.

Cars are dangerous.

 

Unicycle Nerdery: NAUCC 29er Marathon Class?

No joke, I like racing unicycles.  Since 2008 it’s mostly replaced my need to bicycle race.  That’s changed a bit over the last couple of years as I’ve begun to again occasionally toe the line on two wheels, but high speed unicycle racing will always fascinate me as unlike bike racing, the sport is relatively new.  The first Unicon (unicycle world championships) wasn’t until 1984.  Before that, North America had the North American Unicycling Championships and Convention (NAUCC) which dated back to 1973 for the first one.  The 36″ wheel wasn’t available until the late 1990s, and the Marathon didn’t really take hold until at least the mid 2000s.  The 2 speed 1.54 overdrive hub, the Schlumpf, wasn’t available until 2005.  Since then, speeds have increased as well as participation in racing.  Just how fast?  The current world record speed for the Marathon (yes, 42.195km) is 19.9mph.

With all of this significant development in the sport, there is significant development in the sport’s rules.  As with any sport, some of the rules to unicycle racing are going to differ from those in other racing disciplines.  Since many unicycles are direct drive, the size of the wheel matters.  In theory, the bigger wheel goes faster.  This is mostly true in practice- in Road Racing.  Off-Road racing is a whole other discussion.  Things also get a bit messy when considering the 2-speed shiftable overdrive hub as it alters the virtual wheel size with it’s own changes in handling due to the transmission.  While that is part of this discussion, it’s not the focus.

Now that the background rambling is over, we can now get to the question:

Should there be a separate 29er class for the NAUCC Marathon?

The short answer: No. 29ers are welcome to race as part of the Unlimited class and placings count in age group placings as well (and also get counted towards the subset of overall Ungeared).  However, there should not be a separate class for the 29in wheel ungeared unicycle.

Reasons:

  1. Speed.  Road Racing is supposed to be fast.  For the most part 36″ riders on ungeared unicycles are much faster than 29″ riders on ungeared unicycles since most riders run out of cadence before strength.  36″ wheels travel 24% further every pedal stroke. Even though the 36er wheel is heavier, it’s incredibly difficult to spin 24% faster on the smaller wheel.  There is not a full Ungeared 36″ class yet as there aren’t enough Schlumpf hubs being raced to warrant splitting the Unlimited class fully into Geared and Ungeared, so why would a slower wheel get preference?
  2. Time.  Very few elite riders at NAUCC choose to road race smaller wheels.  This typically leaves the Ungeared 29er for those who are not comfortable on a 36″ wheel yet.  A 26.2 mi Marathon is a long race.  While the fastest riders are in the 1:30ish range (geared 36″= virtual 54″ wheel), the slowest ungeared 36″ riders sometimes still struggle to make 3:30.  Some riders have finished on ungeared 29″ unis ahead of some ungeared 36″ unis, but they have not broken the top 10 of the ungeared 36″ unis yet.  The Marathon is a long event.  Being part of an approximately 30 event schedule for a week, it needs a cutoff time.  By adding a 29er class (before 36″ ungeared) we would possibly be encouraging a few more riders to attempt the Marathon, but we would also run into more riders hitting the cutoff time and needing to be swept from the course.
  3. Geared (36, 29, 27.5, or 26) vs. Ungeared is a class designation that needs to develop first.  Being that geared hubs have proven to be a definite advantage in Road Racing over the past 10 years, we recently added to the rulebook a clause to recognize the top finishing Ungeared rider as North American Champion.  That clause is in effect when 5 or more Schlumpf riders are entered in an event as the Ungeared rider can get squeezed out of a top 5 finish.  Unfortunately, uni racing hasn’t hit the point where the geared hub is ubiquitous enough yet to separate into Geared and Ungeared categories.  It’s likely when the Geared vs. Ungeared split happens that the 36″ ungeared (the current biggest pneumatic wheel size) will be faster than the 29″ ungeared.  Then again, maybe something bigger than a 36″ wheel will take hold by then.  Giving the smaller wheel the nod now by making a 29er class would not make sense.
  4. For the good of the sport we should encourage racers to race at the highest, fastest level they possibly can.  While geared unicycles can typically be the fastest, geared unicycles are not for all unicyclists.  A single speed direct-drive unicycle is a very simple machine.  It’s pure in a running sort of way.  In a foot-running race, the person who runs the fastest wins.  On an equally wheel sized simple machine, it’s the person who pedals the fastest.  That has strong roots in the sport of unicycle racing and should be honored.  A geared unicycle is comparatively much more complex and expensive- pretty much tripling the cost of the uni.  And there’s a much greater chance of mechanical failure as well.  In the realm of road racing, geared riding is typically the fastest, which is one of the main goals of racing.  But, the addition of a transmission, extra expense and complexity skew the sport away from running races and more towards bicycle racing.  Uni racing occupies that unique space somewhere in the middle and we should continue to respect the past and look forward to the future.

Completing a Marathon- whether by running on foot or balancing on top of a wheel with not much more than a seat and pedals, is indeed a significant accomplishment and should be celebrated.  Anyone who completes the distance on any size wheel should always have their time and placings recorded.  Newer riders should be encouraged to ride the Marathon as it’s the longest distance race offered in many unicycling competitions.  However, until the ridership is large enough to support multiple class splits from what we currently have, we should not have a 29er class offered at NAUCC.

Now, the devil’s advocate addendum:

The 29 ungeared (instead of 36) is the Standard Class at Unicon.  I was on the Rulebook Committee when we debated the merits of it.  The reasons presented for the 29 becoming the standard before the 36 in the realm of intercontinental competitions were:

  1. Intercontinental air travel is the norm.  A 29″ wheel is the biggest that fits standard airline baggage restrictions for international travel.  A rider can also easily pack a frame and several wheels (29, 27.5, 26, and/or 24) and be able to compete in many of the events at Unicon.
  2. At the international level there are many 29er riders who are faster than many of the ungeared 36er riders attempting the Marathon for the first time who are not Road Racing Specialists.  Timing is much less of an issue.
  3. It may seem unfair that the Ungeared 36 did not get a class designation yet, but the top 3 Ungeared riders will now be recognized.  This was another rule that was voted into the rulebook the same time the 29 as the Standard size wheel was.

 

Maybe you enjoyed some of this nerdery, or maybe you tuned out.  It’s OK either way.  Unicycle racing is important, but not very profitable.  Being a North American Champion, along with $3, will buy a cup of coffee at a decent coffee shop.  This blog’s about the same as it isn’t about making money, it’s about making sense of the world around me.