Monday, February 27, 2006

Long time, no blog.

Sure has been a while since I had any time to write here. Life has been pretty hectic for me lately. I feel like I haven't had time to do much of anything I really want to do, but this weekend the tides seemed to turn which is good 'cause I didn't know how much more I could take...

3M work has been kind of unbelievable. I've got a big rush project that is consuming far more of my time than I'm used to. Basically we're crunching an 8 month project into 2 months; piece of cake. So in addition to spending far more time at work than I'm used to, when I get home I'm pretty well fried and fall asleep. Not to mention I get to look forward to spending large amounts of time in Arkansas in the upcoming 2 months. yipee. Needless to say, this has put a crimp in my usual bike work/enjoying life schedule.

As a result of this I seem to be reverting back to my time tested (as being less than ideal) methods of binge training. You know going all out for about 1 day, then nothing for a week or two, then hit it hard again... President's day weekend we headed up north to Bayfield WI for what has become an annual event, the Book Across the Bay. This is a ski race across chequomegon bay at night. Well due to our unusual January, there was significant open water on the bay when we got up there, but they still held the event. However the night of the race it was about -10 and there was stiff wind coming across the lake which was going to make for a headwind the whole race. So between the idea of skiing that close to open water on Lake Superior and the cold wind, we decided to bail on the race. That was Saturday night. Sunday it did warm up a bit, so we got in a nice ski. I took advantage of the fact that there was real snow up there and I classic skied on beautiful freshly-set tracks. I think I got in about 20K in the couple of hours we were out and it felt great. That is until the next couple of days. That was the only classic skiing I had done since last year at this time, and my inner thighs reminded me of that for about a week. There were so tight I could barely walk. Then I had to go back to work, which meant no free time and no exercise during the week.
This past weekend I decided I had enough of this not exercising business, so I made time in my schedule to go out on a ride with a few Kenwood folks. It was a little more than I probably needed but it sure was fun to be out. We started out at One-on-One, rode down the river road, grabbed a quick bite to eat at Caribou (and some coffee for Stone) and made our way down tot he Kenwood enduro route. That basically consists of riding from one end to the other across the south metro on dirt trails, or in the case of this weekend, ice trails. The trails actually weren't all bad, there were mighty slick sections due to all the melting and refreezing lately, but there were also large sections of dirt that were a blast despite the 15 degree air. After about 4 hours, my legs told me they had all they could take of the 34-18 gear and needed a break, so I took the light-rail shortcut home. All in all, it was a great ride and I felt better than I figured I would considering how long it had been since I rode a bike.

As a side note, once again I want to say how rockin'ly awesome the light rail is. There are bike racks right inside each car, so you can just roll your bike in with you. Not to mention way faster and easier to figure out than the bus system. Apparently I'm not the only one that thinks so either since it was standing room only in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday! We gotta get the line in from downtown St. Paul to Minneapolis, it would be fantastic.

Sunday I finally got in some painting time on bikes. The paint work has really been piling up in the shop, so I prepped, primed and started painting 5 frames Sunday. I've still got a ways to go, but it won't be long before I can get a bunch of these frames out of the shop. It's pretty bad when I've got 10 frames in for work simultaneously in a one-man shop. There are literally frames everywhere!


Friday, February 10, 2006


What a trip.

I’ve been back down in Little Rock this week and it’s certainly living up to the high standard I’ve set for trips to the south. You may recall my adventures of the last trip I took down here about a month ago, car fires, ripped off bumpers, etc… I’m not totally sure, but I think I may have topped that. By the way if this writing seems rambling and bad, it’s due to a severe lack of sleep this week, you’ll understand if you make it through the whole story.

I was down there for an installation of equipment in the plant. A three day install of several small systems which had plenty of issues on it’s own merit, but I won’t bore you with any of those. Let’s get down to business, craziness that happens in Arkansas.

I’m driving home (to a hotel) across town Monday night, and I happened to be talking to my lovely wife Beth at the time on my cell phone (don’t worry, on my hands-free set). She asked if I had any crazy automotive tales from the road on this trip yet, to which I replied a calm, cool, no. Not 10 seconds later a crappy mid 80’s Chevy Impala passes me going at least 85 mph (in a 60 zone). The guys gets about 200’ in front of me, but still in the left lane when I see something happen, but I can’t quite tell what. He hits the brakes hard, almost skidding to a stop while sticking his head out the window. His hood latch had released and apparently the secondary safety latch was an optional feature on that car ‘cause the whole hood flew up and smashed in his windshield! So much for a non-eventful trip!

You would probably think that’s the strangest thing that would happen during the week, but my friends you would be wrong. Or maybe your right and this story was just more annoying, frustrating and tiring than the hood-latch incident, I dunno but it’s a good story nonetheless.

Wednesday was a terribly long day for me. I worked nearly straight thru from 7am to midnight with one half-hour break in there for lunch. I spend almost 7 hours straight drilling precision holes in some structural steel for a strain gauge installation. I won’t talk about the details but I basically spent 7 hours on ladders 15’ in the air trying to drill various ½” plate steel beams (damn I love engineering). Needless to say by the end of the 17 hours I worked that day I was beat, or maybe more accurately a zombie. I was also hungry as was my partner on this project, who shall be named J for our purposes. So we decided to grab a bite to eat on the way home, but it was after midnight in Little Rock AR on a Wednesday night. The only thing open was the IHOP across from the hotel. So we went in and got a table. I went to the rest room to clean off 17 hours of dust, grease and rock that was covering me, and upon my return John told me he ordered coffee and the waitress was coming back to get my drink order. A guy came over and took my order and brought J’s coffee. Then a gal came over and brought my OJ and coffee as well. Hmm, oh well, just crossed communication. She was kind enough to leave us a couple straws though, one for my OJ and apparently one for J’s coffee…

I ordered some French toast and J ordered the Banana nut pancakes. They were out of bananas but that didn’t stop them from offering banana nut ‘cakes, they put fake banana flavoring in the cakes, and then provide banana syrup (?). Whatever. The food came some time later, seemed like an eternity and it was about as good as you would expect from an I-hop in AR at 12:30 am. Pretty much everyone working at the restaurant disappeared after that. We waited till 1am for them to actually let us pay, which sucked since we knew we had to get up by 6:30 the next day. We walked out of the restaurant, went to our cars, got in and started them up. Then, J noticed that I had left a couple of wrenches on the front seat of his car. He walked around the car to open the passenger side door and get the wrenches to had them to me, but somehow his driver’s side door closed. Of course the keys were in the ignition since the engine was running, and somehow the doors were all locked. So now we’re at the I-hop at 1:10 am with a running rental car inside of which the keys are locked! To make it worse, we’re in Arkansas. Damn.

There happened to be a group of about 8 police officers eating inside while we were there, and two of them happened to be leaving just after us. We flagged them down and inquired about getting one of them to pop the door open with a slim-jim. Unfortunately the Little Rock police force has been required to stop carrying slim-jims because too many people were suing the police department for damage to their vehicles while trying to open them. Again, damn.

So J calls the rental car place. Lemme tell you, 1am in Little Rock, there’s nobody at National rental car. You’re lucky if there’s a person working there in the middle of the day much less the middle of the night. He got through to an 800 number which was about as useful as the police force, kindly informing him they would call a locksmith for him, but he would have to pay for the service as they don’t have any spare keys for their cars. It was a great customer service experience to have in the middle of the night. So finally he got a 24 hour locksmith willing to come out, but it would be 30 minutes before they could get there… At this point we had gone through my whole car trying to see if there was anything we could use to pop the lock, but didn’t find anything. The car was brand spankin’ new (4 miles on it when he picked it up) so we really would have felt bad smashing in a window for this. So we went back inside and waited. J decided there was nothing I could do to help, so I took off to go back to the hotel and told him to call if he needed me to come back over and get him. He waited and finally at 1:50 the locksmith showed up and popped the lock. I had made it to bed by about 1:45, J made it about 2am. We both were back up at 6:30 the next morning.

I’m going to sleep.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

a long day

I had a pretty long day trip yesterday. I had to run up to Hibbing for work to meet with a contractor. For those who ain't from these here parts, that's about 225 miles north of here, in the heart of mining country. If you've seen the movie North Country, you've literally seen part of Hibbing and you have a very good idea of what the town is like.

I got an early start, leaving the house about 6:30. Made a quick stop in at the office hoping a drawing had been emailed to me overnight, but it wasn't so I pressed on northward. The drive up was uneventful. I made a quick pit-stop at the Hibbing McDonalds and went on to my meeting. Side note here: I couldn't help but notice pretty quickly that is seemed all the retiree's at McDonalds were staring at me (pretty much everyone who's retired in Hibbing hangs out at McDonalds or Hardees all day long, don't ask why, it's just what they do). I also noticed that out of the 25-30 cars in the parking lot (there are a lot of retiree's!) that I was driving the only foreign car in the whole place! Granted there was a geo prism, which technically is foreign built, I doubt I'd win that argument with any local. It seemed they really know how to spot a city-slicker up there!

Meetings went fine, got things wrapped up in about 4 hours. But rather than head straight home, I decided it would be dumb to be this close to Giant's Ridge and not go for a ski. The snow in the cities is shot, and it's not that much better up north, but the trails at the Ridge were in far better shape than I expected. I skied the Silver, Summit and Bronze trails and all of there were fantastic. The best part was the whole time I saw one other Nordic skier. If you want to ski up there I highly recommend the middle of the day on Tuesdays!
Just as I was packing up to hit the road, the Stillwater high-school team showed up and headed out. They probably have their region meet up there this week.

We were supposed to get some rain/snow mix last night, but my drive home was uneventful, the snow didn't start till pretty late so I was home in bed before anything fell.

I did treat myself to some new listening for the drive up, I picked up the latest (sadly, last) Johnny Cash album: American IV: The Man Comes Around. While it's not exactly a new release, I hadn't heard much of it yet. Man, he doesn't disappoint. This album is mostly covers, but the title track is an original. I don't honestly think I've heard so much emotion put into existing songs as this album does. It's definitely not an uplifting album as most of it deals with death, misery and suffering (as many of his songs do) but he really powered it up. Honestly listening to this then knowing it was his last recording you can't help but feel like he knew this would be the last one. The last song on the album "well meet again" seemed like a more than fitting ending to a remarkable era. In short, if you haven't heard it, you should.

that's about all I have time for today,