Causation of Disquietude

I had a friend once who, as I left to go ride home, would occasionally call out loudly, "Hey!...Hey! Hey Tarik... Be Careful!". The seed was planted, I would think to myself, hmmm, what does he know? Was I not privy to a meeting among all car drivers where they decided to target cyclists that day? Or is it crazy driving tuesday again?

I am not sure where I am going with this. Anyone else find these friendly admonitions a bit disquieting?

The reason I bring this up is that I have a new cubiclefarmmate at work who usually leaves at about the same time as me. He always tells me to "Be careful", "Lots of crazy drivers out there", as we leave. Pretty much every day.

I know it. Really. Thanks Pal.


Looking good on the bike

Over at Hen Waller , a nice blog on bikes and sustainable living, Patrick has one great post on looking good while riding. It is so good I am sure it is going to get the heck blogged out of it, but what the hell... See the post here.

One of the most frequent questions I get about bike commuting is about what to wear, what to do about changing, hair, etc. Now, it is true that I dress, uh, science casual. But I am presentable at work daily. I can wear shorts to work and do in the summer, but I have ridden to every job interview I have had in the last 10 years. I rode to my PhD defense. I have ridden in suit and tie in the summer in Tennessee to give presentations. Etc. etc. The trick is to pick your fabrics, have a spare pair of clothes stashed if it all goes wrong and just keep trying things. If you have a long ride in, maybe you should change, but for less than 10 miles, you usually can get away with anything. Most people use the clothing issue as a handy excuse not to ride. If they would just try it, the learning curve is quick, and you can succeed and look good.

Anhoo, if you were wondering about looking good while commuting to work, surf on over to this post and read away.

Patrick and Holly looking sharp for a night on the town. Click for source.

Patrick also started a flickr pool for stylish cycling called velocouture


So very wrong

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Ok, I think march 20th is too early for this kind of apricot nonsense here in the mountains. This will end in tears.

You too daffodills:

Update: Ah I just browsed through my blog from about a year back (3/22/06) the day we had the ONLY appreciable snowfall all winter. Two years ago, I am pretty sure I was xc skiing until April 10th, just after the last big storm. Woo hoo, them blossoms better hope there are no late season cold snaps...

The flowers are screwed


Out to the Valle Grande

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It has been damn near 70 degrees lately so I busted out a road ride to the Valles Caldera. It is 14 miles and a whole pile of climbing, including a nice painful 4 mile climb, from my house to the caldera pull off above. It was fun to see that much snow while I was in short sleves and shorts. That big meadow was left when a volcano went boom a more than a few centuries ago.

I probably last did the ride in July 2006. It seems they did alot of clearing of dead trees on the climb leaving the road more open than before. It also seems like they made the entire climb steeper, especially the last mile. The road was completely clear of snow, but there was a fair amount of sand and grit, so the 4 mile descent on the return trip was no where near as fun as usual. The little culvert alongside the road was filled with snow runoff and there were multitudes of elk track everywhere.

Because of the steeper hills it took me 1:22 to get out to the second pull off at the caldera (via the ice rink canyon). It usually takes me 1:15 or so. We will see how that progresses as the high altitude sun evaporates the steep parts away.

That big blue mess in the middle is the normally tiny Jemez River swolled up with melt.

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Cumbres and Toltec Narrow Gauge Railroad

A few weeks back when Elena and I went up to Chama so I could race the Chama Chili Classic (here), I spent some time tromping and photoing about the Chama station for the Cumbres and Toltec Narrow Gauge Scenic Railroad. It is a vestige of the massive NM-Colorado narrow gauge rail system that used to serve the ranches and mines all through the rockies. The narrow gauge railroads (3 feet) were able to traverse the high passes in the rockies where it was cost, curve and grade prohibitive to send a normal gauge (4'8") railroad.

Chama station is up at 7863 feet and hops over the Cumbres Pass at roughly 10,000 feet before dropping down into Antonito, Colorado 64 miles later.

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They keep the coal fired engines in here during the winter

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The Cumbres and Toltec Narrow Gauge Railroad was on the same line as the possibly more famous to cyclists Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The Antonito to Durango part does not exist anymore. The rail line was part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railway. The cyclists know of the Iron Horse Classic where you can race the train between Durango and Silverton. But thanks to my buddy Clay, I learned that there was once a Chama-Antonito bike race where they raced (and easily beat) the train from Chama to Antonito. Clay is a long time NM resident, ex pro bike racer and handily, a civil engineer who spent some time working for the railroads. Thus he is a font of info on pretty much anything I don't know about regarding trains, bike racing and New Mexico. (Wikipedia filled in the rest, see here).

Anyhow, I got really excited when I saw these puppies:

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Check it out! Turbine rail engines! My mind just about exploded, fortunately Clay set me straight, they are rotary snowblower trains for clearing the track, often taking 14 hours to clear the pass when the line opens for tourist season. Not quite mind blowing, but cool nonetheless.

The yard in Chama had a huge number of cars. Pullmans, cabooses, stock cars, etc. They also had a huge rebuilt stockyard down the road from the station a bit.

Some pullmans:

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Hmm, I am running out of entertaining facts about Chama. They had a truly insane number of cars for a tourist line, including this thing:

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A nice pullman in front with possible long shot president Gov Bill Richardson's name painted on it:

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A long shot of the trainyard, there were so many more, but the 2-3feet of snow made it hard to get around:

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Anyway, maybe when the parents visit we will take the long rail trip up to Antonito. We drove through Antonito last week on the way to the Stampede ski race. It did not look quite as nice a little town as Chama, but it looked OK for a visit.


Return of the son of the zia caboose...

A month or so ago I spent a Friday in Santa Fe, dropping the car off to get some maintnance way down south. I packed the Picnica in the car and rode up the arroyo de las chamisas trail to the lamy trail. Alas the going was slow as the trail was really muddy with the rapidly melting snow:

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I was reduced to walking a few miles as the bike became encrusted:

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But it was worth it as when I got to the zia caboose as the owner, Hunter, was hard at work inside. He generously gave me a tour and explained his plans for the train and some other insight on the area.

I learned that the cupola was not originally part of the caboose, Hunter fabbed it out of the ceiling panels and some other steel bits. He and his friends have put in a full hot water on demand water system for the shower and sink and wired it for electricity a-la a motor home. He is planning on having an office/bed/bath and kitchenette and placing the caboose along the tracks near the second steet brewery along with a his future restored train car projects.

Hunter in his caboose:

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Another shot of the inside and Hunter here

Although it really does not look he did that much on it since the first time I photographed the inside, the amount of work in wiring and plumbing were pretty impressive. He is getting ready to start finishing the inside. He is in a constant battle with the local graffiti artists to keep his caboose clean. The "do not hump" pullman parked next to his caboose is loosing that battle:

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Hunter says that the "do not hump" car is getting a $50k new suspension system and will be restored for the santa fe southern (warning clicking link yields extremely obnoxious music) tourist line from Santa Fe down to the amtrack station at lamy. I was glad to meet Hunter, he has lots of ideas and fab skills and I am eager to see how the train finishes up over the next months.

After more hiking, I rode downtown for a lunch at tia sophias and parked my tiny wheeled burro next to the iron one near the lensic.

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See previous entries on the zia caboose here


Crappy Book Review: Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson

I could not finish this book. It is hard for me to describe how much I hated it, but for you, I will try.

It is now obvious to me that historical sci-fi is just not my cup of tea, especially not bloated "works" of this magnitude. I did enjoy Snow Crash a fair bit when I read it many years ago and had high expectations for this book, all of which were crushed fairly quickly.If you are interested in exploring Neal Stepheson's work, I recomend reading Snow Crash and skipping this one, unless the words Historical Fiction quicken your pulse.

There was one flash of a ripping good pirate yarn in the early going that kept me reading for the first 2/3 of the book searching vainly for similary compelling prose, but I finally stopped reading as Stephenson digressed in to historical minutia designed to cloak the fact that there was pretty much no plot, or reason to keep subjecting myself to this novel. All I could think of was, where the hell is the editor? I am guessing all three books could have been condensed down to one 900 page novel and moved along quite swimmingly, instead of getting bogged down with Stephenson showing how much irrelevant shit he knows about the late 17th century.

This was the first 900 page volume of three. In additiona to its laughably self important heft, it was furthermore marred by quaint and pointless "historikal" spellings. Anything that ends in "-ical" becomes "-ikal", "fancy" and "fantasy" become "phant'sy", "surgeon" is "chirurgeon", "jargon" becomes "zargon", "phanatique", "coelestial" etc. etc. etc. The rest of the dialogue and text is written in anachronistically modern style.

One gets the feeling that the original manuscript was written entirely in Chaucerian English, but his editor traded further oversight in exchange for a mostly intelligible novel.

There were three or four fictional protagonists in the book, but nearly every other person is the book is an actual historical figure. Often to no end but to add more pages to the swollen narritive. Example:
The book opens with one of the fictional characters seeking another in Boston in the early 1700's. He enlists a small lad on the street to help him. A clever lad. Dangerously clever, no doubt. His name is ben. Why it is a young Ben Franklin. How tewwibly tewwibly clever! Fucking pretentious drek. The whole book is like this. Every little plot twist pivots on an interaction with a real person, even if it is completely irrelevant to the course of the novel.

I am sure some of you reading are excited for this book. I have no desire to read this further or even keep it in my house. I will make a deal with you, fine readers, I will trade this book (paperback, last third unmolested by human eyes) for an interesting coaster brake hub. Failing that, best offer over $4 dollars shipped and the book is yours. Email offers to "tas" at tariksaleh :dot: com. I will decide by wednesday noon and mail the book by friday...

Alpina Snow Mountain Stampede 21k Skate Race 2007 report

Like I says, Elena, Paul and I drove up to Colorado to race the Alpina Snow Mountain Stampede. This is a race of constantly morphing nomenclature. The race is the Stampede or Alpina Stampede, or the Colorado Stampede, or the Snow Mountain Stampede that takes place at the YMCA of the Rockies, at the Snow Mountain Ranch, near Granby Colorado. Are you going to Granby to race? Heading to Snow mountain this weekend? Doing the Stampede? Once I figured out that all those things referred to the same race, I signed up...

After the 7 plus hour drive including the blizzard coming out of Leadville, we got to our nice little motel in Granby. Unfortunately the rooms were not ready yet so we headed up to the wonderful nordic center at the YMCA of the Rockies. In addition to 100k of groomed nordic trails, they have a very well stocked ski shop. As this was the last event, near the end of the season, they had a useful %40 off everything sale. I, uh, saved hundreds of dollars and now I have all my own waxes and brushes as well as some other xc ski gear that my life apparently was incomplete without. Despite bitter cold wind and snow, the ski shop and Wax reps were recommending a warmish wax (Swix LF6) as the snow was wet and would ski warmer than the temp. Which sounded good to me as I waxed earlier in the week based on 15 and sunny at the race.

After the shopathon we had a good german dinner at the Longbranch restaurant and then turned in amid -16F temps and blowing wind. The next morning we met other losalamoosans Clay and John for breakfast the next morning:

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Since there were four races on tap and Paul and Clay had the 9am start, I was able to eat a pretty large breakfast a full three hours before my 10 am race. I chowed down sans abandon on omelet, toast and really awful coffee. Yum!

We got to the race site around 7:30 and it was -8 degrees and sunny. Hmm, not all that ideal. As it was really cold I kind of lounged around not all that concerned about warming up, more concerned about staying warm. We watched the start of the 42 and 21k classic races and then the start of the 42k skate race:

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I put on my gear and watched with dismay, as the zipper on my ski boot popped apart. Elena and I spent some minutes attempting to fix it before we realized I had 10 minutes before my race. I borrowed some tape from the ski shop and taped the boot to my foot. Problem solved. If you look carefully at my left boot, I was even able to get matching tape. What elan, no?

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Since I have only been skate skiing this year, I choose to do the 21k skate race. It was one big beautiful 21km (13 mile) loop which is pretty impressive. I was a bit apprehensive about the race as I had learned a week earlier that I pretty much was skiing all wrong. I could go fast and inefficiently, but not for long. But thanks to the efforts of Koach kisiel, I got straightened out a bit, but only had one day to practice before the race.

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During my brief warm up I concentrated on getting my weight shifted over the skis as I glided and getting my arms swinging forward correctly. It helped to watch the experienced skiiers skate along as well. I noticed while skiing to the start that the snow was pretty squeaky. I am guessing it was right around 0°F and sunny at my start. Not a good sign. At the start most people were exclaiming what good grip they had. Another bad sign. Skate skiis are glide beasts, grip and squeak are bad bad bad. But what can you do. The race started and immediately went up a long gradual hill. The start area was really wide, so I had no problems getting going, except for the truly pitiful glide I was getting.

It seemed that most of the racers passed me immediately. There were just over 100 racers at the start of my race, 75 doing the 21k skate and 30 people doing the 10 k. I am estimating I was in the 70's shortly after the start. The course started with a a couple k's of climbing, and then a couple k's of descending and then a really long climb, and then a scary long descent and then rolling stuff for the last 5k to make the big loop. The first few kilometers of climbing were demoralizing, I had no glide whatsoever, most people around me did not either. I spent a fair bit of time double poling uphill in the classic track, but that still sucked. On steeper climbs I ended up herringbone running up the climbs rather than skating. Yuk.

As the first descent approached, the sunny spots of the course were warming up and gravity kicked in and I was able to get moving pretty well. I slowly started passing people in droves. By the time the big climb started, I felt as if I was skiing well and began moving up in the race. The shady areas in the trees were still pretty rough going, but I was cruising along OK. By the top of the climb, I fell in with a three people who really knew how to skate, which in turn made me a better skier.

The three of us leapfrogged back and forth as we hit steep hills (favoring me) or long descents (favoring people who did not need to snow plow) for most of the middle of the race. Toward the end of the long down hill, the snow was warming up a bit and I was becoming a better and better skier. At one of the aid stations I finally found out that I had a mere 6 kilometers left, so I really started pushing it.

I dropped my companions and started picking off people in front of me. I felt tired but really good otherwise. As I was speeding up, a woman came out of nowhere and blew by me on a downhill. I had not seen her all race. I spent the rest of the race attempting to ski with her as she slowly gapped me. In the process I went way into the red zone and passed a lot more people. Some people were classic skiers I caught from the earlier races, some were 10k skiers and some were people ahead of me. The final stretch of the course was the same long uphill that we started on. It hurt a bunch and my arms and legs were burning, and I looked like this:

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I felt a bit euphoric at the end, it was much longer than I had skied continuously before. It was by far the best I had skated. My lungs were burning and tight from that dry cold air. My arms were really sore and my legs were like jelly. I had frozen sweat all over my head:

It turns out I finished in 1:47. My goal was something under 2 hours, so given the cold slow snow and the miswax I am really really happy with the time. I finished 38th out of 75, and by some statistical quirk, second in my age group, a mere 30 minutes behind the winner. I think next year, with some more training and better waxing and the like, I will be able to improve measurably. There were a ton of people less than 10 minutes ahead of me as well, although I could not really see any of them for most of the race. Apparently Connie Carpenter finished 5 minutes ahead of me, which is pretty cool, I met her briefly after the race, which was also really cool.

See the irritatingly fonted results here.

Of the los alamoosans at the race, Clay busted out a strong top 10 in the 42k classic, Ken was 24th in the 42k classic, John was 24th in the 42k skate and Paul finished somewhere in the back of the 42k classic. He then retired from racing to play minor league baseball, but then made a comeback by dinnertime.

After the race, most of us headed back to the Longbranch for ales and schnitzel suffixed food. A good bet if you happen to be in Granby, Co.

The next morning we got up and hit the excellent trails at the golf course atGrandlake Co for some lovely skate skiing. After a couple of hours, we hopped in the car and dodged elk for another 7 or 8 hours before getting home.

What a good race. Maybe I will do more of these next year. The two races I did just whetted my appetite for more.


Loaded basket breeze

I try, about once a week, to take a day off from cycling. If I am on the road, fixie, or mtb I usually am tempted to take the long way back from work, or go to luch somewhere that adds 10 or 15 miles to my daily ride. But if I take the Schwinn Breeze, I am really not all that tempted to go long, so I chalk up a slow 6 mile day and very little workout.

This bike, the Schwinn Breeze, was a sturmy archer, rim braked, Schwinn S-6 steel rimmed bike when I got it. It was, typically, geared way to high and stopped horribly especially in the wet, it did not handle that well either, and the s6 rims (597) had few options for replacement tires. I spent some time a few years back fixing it up with a Sram 3 speed coaster braked hub, laced up to some Sun CR-18 rims in the 559 (mountain bike) size. This allowed me to put some huge 2.0 slick tires on it. The tires barely clear the fenders, but it works pretty great. I think the pneumatic trail that these tires provide improves the handling immensley, doubly so with a big load.

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I got a new laptop at work yesterday and brought it home along with a couple books and lab notebooks so I could hole up and work on some proposals. I had a fair bit og clothes in the bag as well, plus a krypto lock and a tupperware of half finished rice perched at the top. The total load was just shy of 30 pounds in the wald front basket.

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It really has a magic steering when loaded. The action is light and I don't need to wrestle it at all. It does have some tracking issues at low speeds (less than 5mph) but again, there is no wrestling, just tacking about, no sore arms, whatsoever.

It handles pretty well unloaded too. I can ride it no hands (if the headset is snug, pesky knurled headsets are hard to keep well adjusted...) which I could not do easily with the stock wheels.

Many years ago, when I worked at Kelly Bikes, I would go visiting other framebuilders to check out their shops and try to learn a bit. I visited independent fabrications and had a great time sitting down with Mike Flanagan and discussing trade secrets. This was in 1998 maybe? I think at the time, IF was making slightly more frames than Kelly, but they were tooled and employeed up to grow alot, which I think they did shortly thereafter. At some point we got talking about bike geometry and fork rake and trail. Mikes eyes got big and he got really really animated and blurted out "its all in the trail, right?". I am pretty sure I was not quite there with him yet, but it made me think.

Fast forward a few years to 2002 or so, I was in knoxville, and had just built up this Breeze, and I visited Mike at his ANT workshop in summerville and saw his burgeoning array of load carrying bikes and city bikes. We had a short discussion of the pro's and cons of fat tire handling on bikes and the impact of trail again. I was starting to really understand this from a practical point of view, between the schwinn and the raleigh twenty I had fixed up, but it was clear Mike was at another level in understanding.

Fast forward again a few years to the here and now and there is a resurgence of interest and understanding of the effects of trail and loads on handling. Thanks to the efforts of Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly and Matthew Grimm at Kogswell, there are lots of resources for understanding and buying low trail forks ideal for converting your old sport tourer into a haling townie.

Every time I see email discussions on rake and trail and handling, I think back to Mike Flannagan and his wild haired blurting of "Its all in the trail! Right!". Hot damn mike, you are right indeed. It is a good time to be a cyclist in america.


Indigenous Coloradan Female Humans

laden with their offspring, ski in hunt of wooly mammoths.

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Armed only with insane aerobic capacity and a pair of narwhal tusks they often are found skiing the wrong way ON the race course in their quest for sustenance.

The lack of males in their tribe suggest reproduction by parthogenesis, hitherto unseen in higher primates.

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Elkicide Racer

Went up to race the Colorado Stampede XC ski race up near Granby this weekend. A nice little 7 hour car jaunt with Elena and Paul. Good company for a nice long trip. Raced saturday, skied a bit more today and did a bunch of driving. The harsh winter brought the elk and deer herds down to the valleys. It was cool to see an elk herd of 200 plus somewhere near Buena Vista Co. Less cool to see many hundreds of white tail everywhere including in the road as night fell. Much much less cool to see three enormous wild eyed elk cows about three feet from the right bumper as I crested a rise at 70 mph just north of tres piedras NM. At least the moose have not made it to NM yet...

We stopped in Leadville, Co (10,200 feet) for meals on the way up and back. It was -3 degrees F and blowing crazy snow on Friday at noon. And maybe 30F and sunny Sunday afternoon. What a difference. They were setting up some sort of main street horse-skijooring competition with jumps on it, but alas, we had to motor on and we missed the event.The Tennessee Pass is a nice lunch and dinner joint and at 4 hours from Los Alamos, a good middlish point on the drive. Today there was a sweet Schwinn Racer 3 speed parked outside, that possibly belonged to a local xc race promoter, should have talked to him a bit more.

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The bike had a nice Schwinn Cablelock on it (the chromed bit in the main triangle) that hold two lengths of retractable cable, also the requisite wald basket and nice golf bulb generator light. Pretty nice.

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Hopefully I will get on the race report and some other blogging backlog this week, now to sleeeeep.