Monday, August 28, 2006


As usual there's been a awful lot going on and I haven't had any time to write about it! First, I got around to snapping a couple of pictures of the finished trim in the house and the new bed:

They really came out great I think. The Maple looks nice against the darker orange walls, and the pine windows came out really close in color to the Maple trim once it was stained white.

Here's the Bed:

Again, I'm thrilled with how this came out. It was a great chance to brush up my welding skills. Since I only braze bikes these days, I haven't been using my welding as much, so I had to do a few practice beads to get going. Especially since I was using a mig machine for this and I'm really more used to Tig or stick welding. The mig is so easy though that it came back quickly and I cranked this out in about a day. The frame is 14g 2" x 2" tubing, I had to make caps for the ends that would have been open, weld 'em on then grind it down to look like there's no cap as shown on the picture to the right.
To finish it off, I used a metal darkening agent to stain it but keep the bare-metal sheen, then I cleared it with lacquer. Overall, a very fun project, I'd do it again. It also made me anxious to get going on the new entertainment center we've been wanting.

Onto other topics, Saturday was the second annual Twin Cities Amazing Race (TCAR). Some of you may remember my report from last year when my 3 person team won the 7 hour race by less than a minute. Well this year the race took about 6 hours and we ended up second by about a minute! Unbelievable how close these have been considering the overall length and the fact that all the teams on on their own.
The format changed this year inorder to make it a bit easier to organize (a worthwhile goal). We were given all the clues right up front at the start and got to try and figure them out to determine all the destinations right away. They we plotted a route and hit each one. There was a team challenge of some kind at each station this year, which took some time and skill.
The clues were much more difficult this year and I think that ended up being out main shortcoming. We were the last team to leave the start by quite a bit and still didn't have one of the clues figured out! We certainly were not the brightest team, so we knew our riding would have to make up for it. Unfortunately for the rest of my team, they had me, so our riding was limited to how fast I could struggle along.
We chose a little bit different strategy from all the other teams, and plotted our course basically backwards of everyone else, and that part worked really well. We didn't have to wait in any lines at any of the skill stops which saved us a lot of time over a few of the teams (some teams waited up to 45 minutes for one station). However we made a fairly critical mistake in leaving without solving that one last clue because as it turned out that station should have been our first stop, but we ride right by it!
So in the end we had to go past the finish, hit the last station and ride back to the finish, unfortunately that delay was enough to cost us the win, another team rolled in a couple minutes ahead of us. Oh well, next year.

Sunday I spent the day working on the house again. Beth's folks and a few friends are coming next weekend, so we're madly trying to get the house inhabitable by other humans! This is actually a good thing because the clutter was taking over ever since construction was finished, and this is forcing us to clean it up. I for one am really, really tired of living in a house full of clutter and mess and I'm pretty sure Beth is too. So yesterday I cleaned a lot, painted a wall, caulked 2 showers, bought a new mattress for our new bed (and moved the old one into our guest bedroom) moved furniture and built shelves in a couple of closets.

My next mission is to start designing the shed Beth's Dad and I hope to build this weekend. It sounded like the big plan of action for the weekend was to shop and Bob (Beth's Dad) and I hold roughly the same views on shopping: if it doesn't involve tools, it's not worth it. So we're going to do something that sounds much more fun to me, build a shed.

That's about all I have time for now, write at you later.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

on the road

Well it happened again, I spent all of last week out of town. Traveling for work again, out east this time, which is better than down south but is still out of town which means I'm not here working.

But somehow I still feel like things are getting done here. I've been hitting the housework pretty hard. Beth's folks and a couple of family friends are heading here over labor day weekend. Therefore we need to have the house habitable for humans other than Beth and I. This weekend I finally finished up the trim inside the new addition. Man is that a great feeling since it was really the last big indoor item keeping us from claiming we're "done". Pictures coming soon.

I've been following the President's lead too lately and have declared war. War on the weeds in the new grass out front. We seeded the front yard this spring and the grass really is taking off great. However in one of my reseeding efforts it appears that a batch of seed I used was tainted with quackgrass and crabgrass. It's everywhere I seeded on the last go-round. Unfortunately it seems that there's not much you can do about this stuff until the first frost, but I knew my tender grass seedlings wouldn't make it that long, the weeds were choking them out too fast. So I took matters into my own hands, literally. I've been weeding the yard by hand as a way to end my day, which actually isn't too bad of a way to end off a hard day. In three days of about 1 hour per day I've managed to rid the whole newly seeded area of weeds, and amazingly it seems to be holding. If I see something sprouting, I pull it, but there's not much out there and the grass is back to taking over. Ironically I've never been much of a person to care about their lawn (just ask my neighbors!). In this cast it's more of a matter of me wanting to win by being able to get this seed to grow than some deep seeded (sorry) desire to have a lush green lawn.

I finally finished up another bike. This frame had been done for a while, but was waiting for a few hard-to-find parts to arrive. Nathan (the new owner) has a bunch of pics of it up on his blog. The chainguard was definitely the hardest part of the whole thing. I made it up from scratch and ended up making 2 of them as the first wasn't quite how I wanted it.

I also cranked out some furniture this week. I made a new steel bed-frame for our room. With the upcoming visitors we needed another bed and we had been wanting a new platform bed in our room. So I spent some time behind the welder this week. The frame is basically a modified version of a Room and Board bed frame, but it cost me $600 less. I mig welded the frame up, couldn't talk Beth in how incredibly cool a fully lugged bed frame would have been. Oh well, the welded frame looks great and is almost done. I just need to finish staining the metal and clearcoating it. I'll post a few pictures once it's in it's finished form.

well, it's bedtime


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The bad and the good

It's been a bit of a strange past 7 days. Last week we lost electric in 3 circuits of the house, but none of the breakers tripped! When I went down to the breaker panel to start working on figuring out what happened, I realized the carpet under my feet was squishing. We had a big rain/storm last Tuesday and one of our gutters fell down and just happened to pour all the water coming off the roof into one of the basement window-wells, which filled up and ran in the window into the basement. So I tore out all the carpet in that end of the basement and dried it out.

Meanwhile that electric problem didn't fix itself, so the next night after work I tackled it. Things just didn't make sense, wall switches were turning on lights that they weren't connected to, and I had one outlet measuring 240v! After removing many switchplate covers I found a bad wire junction. It was an aluminum to copper wire junction and somehow it wasn't properly insulated with the slimy goop you put on those kind of junctions, so the copper wire had corroded and broke. Also unfortunately this part of the wiring was from back when it was up to code to not only have aluminum wire, but to have more than one circuit feed wire share a common return wire. My whole house is wired this way (well except for the new addition, which is up to modern codes). So when that junction broke, the returns from multiple circuits were combined and sent enough voltage through one circuit to actually pass through the closed wall switches! not good.
I fixed that one up quickly.

Then this weekend the phone line went out. So if you've been trying to reach me at the shop phone # and the line just kept ringing, it's not that I don't want to talk to you, it's that we don't have a phone line. I knew this one was outside the house so I had to call Qwest to come out. They've run a temporary line, but still need to replace the whole underground line to the house. Honestly we've had nothing but problems with this phone line for the last couple of years, hence I've decided to officially change my business phone line to a cell line. So from this day forward the new Bob Brown Cycles Phone # is 651-247-1851. The website has been updated to reflect this. I'll be keeping the old number active for a while though since I've got a lot of business cards and information out there with that number.

Now onto the good stuff.

This weekend is the Bike-in at the Bell, a bike-centric event held at the Bell Museum on the U of M campus. Not only will my band, Derailleur, be playing the event, but I'll also have a booth set up. I'm putting together a booth to promote local framebuilding in general. Eric from Peacock Groove is going to be there with me showing off some of his wares and methods as well. I think it'll be a great event, so if you're free Saturday night, roll on over and say hi.

There is an entry fee to cover the entertainment costs, but it's discounted if you bike in, click on the image for full details.

In other news, I'm just about caught back up on shop work, finished up another frame and a few paint jobs this week. I also just got word that my first shipment of Reynolds 953 tubing should be on it's way very soon along with a few related goodies, so keep your eyes peeled for pic's sometime here. I've also completed the design and ordered materials for the first prototypes of my new semi-stock 29'er frames which will hopefully be sold a few select stores by the end of the year. I'll talk more about those later.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Feelin' the heat

For those of you that read this from afar, the twin cities has been living in a heat wave for the last week which seemed to peak this weekend. It's been in the upper 90's in temp and humidity which makes for some sweltering days. Yesterday it cracked 100 degrees for the first time in 10 years.

Saturday we planned to beat the heat by heading up north a little to the waterpark at Wild Mountain. Being me, I decided I would ride my bike up there and meet Beth and our friends at the park. It seemed like a great idea, and I planned on getting up early to get on the road before the day got hot. I awoke at 6am Saturday and first thing I did was go outside to check the conditions, which seemed to have not changed at all overnight. It was 80 degrees and about 90% humidity at 6am, probably not a good sign, but I'm not very good at reading signs like that.

So I get my bike all set to go, mount up some new tires that I'd been meaning to install for a while, fill up three bottles and hit the road. It didn't seem too bad actually, as I left the city and got closer to the river the temp was dropping. By the time I rolled into Stillwater, it was 75 degrees, but still oppressively humid. I was soaking wet with sweat and the couple of times I had stopped to make a few small adjustments on my bike, I could hardly see from the sweat rolling into my eyes.

I figured Stillwater might be my last stop until Taylor's Falls where I could get Gatoraid, so I stopped and refilled my bottles at a gas station. I rested for a few minutes and ate a powerbar, hoping I'd cool down and stop sweating, but no such luck. I decided the only way I could feel cooler was to keep moving and have some wind on my skin, so I pressed northward up Hwy 95.
95 is actually a really nice ride north, some smaller rolling hills, nice changing scenery and not too many cars once you're out of town. Things were feeling better now, I was hydrated and rolling at a good clip, then about 15 miles out of Taylors the rain started. It wasn't much of a rain, just enough to be miserable but not enough to break the humidity. It actually felt more like I was riding through 100 % humidity and the water was simply condensing on my body.

The roads were wet and since it had been weeks since our last rain there was a lot of sand and grit on them. However it just wouldn't rain hard enough to was the road spray off me, so I just got covered in sand and grit clinging to my sweaty body like velcro. Great.

I had been looking forward to the descent into Taylors Falls on Hwy 8 all morning, but by the time I got there, it was raining, the roads were wet and slick, the sky's were dark which made for bad visibility and there was a ton of traffic on the Hwy. I quickly started dreading this 3 mile drop into town which I had been looking forward to all morning. I was secretly hoping Beth and the others would drive by me soon and give me a lift into town so I didn't have to deal with the traffic in the rain, but unbeknownst to me, they were about a half hour behind me yet. I pressed on.

I got lucky and found a break in the traffic and jumped into the lane for most of the ride down to town, so it really wasn't as bad as expected. Once in town I decided I should call Beth and find out where they were at, but she beat me to it. As I was getting out the phone is started ringing and I was informed that they were still behind me. They offered to pick my up in Taylors, but I was only 7 miles away now and I figured I'd be more comfortable riding in the rain than sitting around town in the rain, so I finished it off and waited at Wild Mountain for them to arrive. Ironically, once they got there I was chilled from the rain and had to warm up before I was ready for the waterpark!

The rest of the afternoon was spent frolicking in the water on the same three slides that have been at Wild as long as I can remember. The place could really use some updating and cleaning, but judging by how packed it was, they're still making money in it's current condition so I suspect nothing will change... By late afternoon we were all pretty well beat and headed home with a longer than planned stop in Marine on the St. Croix for dinner at a place with horrible service.

That night I slept well!

Sunday I thought I'd relax, but then the side of my that can't relax got the better of me. I decided to once again fight the heat and set-out to cut down the rest of the tree that had a large limb break off last week. It was a medium size Ash tree, probably about 40' tall, 14" diameter trunk and of course placed in an area where there was no hope of falling the whole thing in one shot. So I spent several hours on the extension ladder working some chainsaw artistry while Beth stayed near the phone ready to call 911. It all came down safely and without any real damage to our garden, the neighbors rotting fence and myself. Several more hours of cutting it up and hauling it off and we were down one less tree in the back yard. I'm hoping to take at least one more down this year yet when the neighbors tear down their rotting fence.

Again, Sunday night I was quite beat.

Monday: last chance to fight the heat. The big heatwave peaked on Monday and is supposed to be pretty much ended after the rain/storms we're supposed to get all day today. So naturally we had to prove that Kenwoodies aren't that smart, so we had our Monday night ride. Thorny had gratiously offered to have us over to his place afterwards for some Brats and High-lifes, so we had to have the ride. Both Freidells and myself met at Thorny's house and rolled from there. We hooked up with WW, Billy and the Chef (yes, the Chef rode his bike!) at the site of the old Shoppe. The ride was hot, really hot. As I mentioned earlier, it broke 100 degrees that afternoon and was still humid as hell. I was expecting to put in a lap at Wirth and call it, but then we did a second, and then a third. By the third lap, it was all I could do to just stay on the trail, I was cooked. Somehow WW pulled off a fourth lap, that man is a machine.

I did learn that I don't think the Crow's are the right tire for the heat, they seemed to have some issues. The pressure was normal, but the sidewalls were so soft, I felt like I was continually rolling the rear tire off the rim. It never came off or lost any pressure, but it was super-squirrelly. Oh well, made it back to Thorny's and feasted on Brats.

Monday night, I really slept well.