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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spandex Journey

They finally got me. Padded cycling shorts.

I could buy three Aloha shirts from my favorite source for what these shorts cost. Well, not quite, I could buy two with shipping and have enough money left to eat at Five Guys. I'm told I'll eventually want to buy a harder seat, which makes zero sense: it's the same contact point, what is the benefit of adding padding to the shorts and then taking it away from the seat?

They take some getting used to. I felt less pretentious than I feared once they were on. And less exposed. Tight, form-fitting clothes are not the sort of thing my physique calls for. And while in my early adolescence, my dream was to be Ozzy's guitarist, I always hoped I could get the gig without having to wear spandex pants.

Come to think of it, that's still the dream. Play with Ozzy but wear, I dunno, jeans or something. And a Hawaiian shirt, of course.

My Hawaiian shirts, I think, save me from being transmogrified into the invisible cyclist. I might end up with clip-less pedals and who knows what other accessories, but I think the jersey will be my last point of resistance. Cyclists are famously impossible for motorists to see, but fat guys in Hawaiian shirts...

Okay, my vow: no cycling jersey until I'm not the fat guy. Skinny guys in Hawaiian shirts aren't visible because they don't exist.

Oh, and no girls tonight. Mo is at Camp Encourage, Em is at the Jonas Bros. concert and a sleepover with a cousin. Which left me to wander 14.9 miles through the hollers of Shawnee in my new spandex cycling shorts. Ended up on 55th from Pflumn to Merriam Lane, speaking of hills. And down to 75th and over to Quivira again and I don't know where all.

At one point, I found I was on the hill I saw spots on in my first ride with the Trek group back in June. And it was easy. Laughably easy. If I was riding with someone who admitted seeing spots on that street, I'd call for an ambulance.

Though my almost fifteen miles took me 1:45, so maybe I haven't come so far.

You cyclists in town, you'll know this sign I'll bet. From this stop sign, you can only go downhill. Down Quivira (Pflumn becomes Quivira on the other side of 55th, down Pflumn or down 55th east or west. And we're talking mostly steep downhills where I start to wonder what sort of meatloaf I'll end up if I lose my balance. A grim thought that seems to inspire wheels to wobble above 30 mph.

Thing is, dangerous downhills don't scare me, only the lung-burning climbs that seem to always lurk on the other side. Coming up 55th from the bottom of this, I had to make a drink stop and catch my breath. I climbed the whole thing, but it took two stages.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Le Tour de Shawnee

Okay, I actually started in Merriam, and I was in Lenexa at one point. But the Tour de France, I've noticed, strays into Switzerland and Italy, and I was mainly in Shawnee.

My Dad watched Mo (Em was on an awake-over with friends) so I could get another training run in. I got an email from the MS people reminding me that there were 64 days to go yesterday, and that doesn't sound like very long to prepare. Seriously, folks. Sponsor me.

Plus, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to make Monday's ride, so it was good to get one in this weekend. Dad lives in a pretty hilly section of town, actually right off the route the Trek group has been doing Mondays. I started to follow that route but I think I conflated it with one we'd done back in June and I ended up in new territory.

And, surprise, I was riding on streets. Alone. Not trails, not the sidewalk, on the street. Jennifer's comments made me think, wait a minute, I always wanted a motorcycle and I sure as hell wouldn't ride it on the sidewalk. Plus, I think, I'm starting to be more comfortable out on the bike. Still very wary of traffic, mind you, and I did try and stay away from truly heavy car traffic.

No way would I do what I've seen some cyclists doing: putting on an iPod. That seems like suicide. Hard enough to hear with the wind in your ears on a downhill.

Ended up deciding to take 67th Street west, which meant climbing. Got to Lackman, and the downhill was just too tempting. I even timed the light at the bottom. I was flying. I had a mental image of this mountain biking speed record video I saw where the guy's bike frame brakes and it ends up being a speed record plus a record for the grisliest mountain bike accident ever.

Climbing that hill on Lackman, though, my head got so hot my helmet actually melted, and by the time I got to the top of the hill I had liquid styrofoam on my shoulders.

I took Lackman to 79th, then out to Shawnee Mission Park, then down Renner to Midland to Blackfish Parkway to the last section of the Monday route. Except I finished all on Switzer, which gave me a couple more hills to climb.

I'm still a full fledged granny gear artist, but I climbed several hills today that I wouldn't even have attempted a couple months ago. Not fast, mind you, 18.3 miles in 1:45, but I got over the hills. Feelin' it now when I go from sitting to standing or the other way around, and I'll sleep good tonight.

Marbre de Lune

Thought I'd just use French to keep my headline from looking like we're in a rut or something.

This is a place we visit often. With good reason. Moon Marble is a national treasure. Or a metro area treasure at least.

It was crowded, which kinda surprised me since it was such a nice day out. If Mo hadn't been specifically campaigning for this place, I'd have been planning something outdoors. Like maybe a rocket launch for the first time in months.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

High Point of the Week?

I've had better weeks. This week started with the workstation on my desk at work not wanting to wake up. I learned today, at long last, that it's either the motherboard or the CPU or both. In any case, more money than can be justified to resuscitate a computer that was, on it's best days, ready for the Antiques Road Show.

Anyway, meanwhile I'm making things work on an eMac of similar vintage. It's gotten busy at work, plus the new Xerox machine is sucking harder than the old Xerox machine, and that eats up time I could be using making our customers happy.

Band practice, we hadn't had that in weeks. Three weeks?

I hadn't practiced on my own since the 40 miler that numbed my fingers out a couple weeks ago. But getting to band practice, I wanted to leave straight up at 4:30 to account for traffic, and it turned out 5:15 was the new 4:30. The fact that I still have a glimmer of numbness in the skin of my ring finger, not so significant.

I was late, our singer had to leave early for work (night shift), and it all ran more smoothly than I would have expected. Even me, I still sucked but not as hard as I expected to. My pitchy singing, my misplaced chords, these are apparently the high point of this week..

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Breaking Some Rules

Monday's slow ride was rained out, my reschedule for Tuesday was kinda bumped around by me having the girls a day early this week.

I had an absolute shit day at work. Suffice to say, if I could get to an actual responsible party at Xerox, I could have done actual violence today. The DocuColor 700 hasn't entirely lived up to its sales pitch, and in a couple of specific areas it is, if I'm to believe the analysts and techs at Xerox, designed in a way that can only be described as broken. Which doesn't reduce our customer's expectations, and it shouldn't. If it was up to me I'd have this thing back on the truck. Actually, I'd have the thing out in the parking lot and I'd be ramming it with my car.

That scene in Office Space? This copier would not get off that easily. Especially if the decision makers who obviously never worked a day in an actual production environment, could be strapped to the thing.

So what better way to construct an imaginary gulag for antagonists so remote they might was well be imaginary, even if they aren't, than a training ride?

It was startlingly therapeutic. Not so much me attacking the pedals by pretending I was stomping the shit out of some Xerox executives. Because, really, I would have pulled muscles if I could have managed that fantasy. No, really, just cranking up the hills and figuring out where the hell the trail resumed, if it did, was plenty of distraction.

I parked at the park at 87th and Lackman, and set out on a trail that seems to abruptly end. Rode the streets (which is against my personal rule: ride the trails alone, ride the streets with a group) until I spotted trail a bit further north. Then when I got to 79th, a fellow rider convinced me to try climbing 79th and riding it into Shawnee Mission Park. Which I did, and next thing you know I'm below the dam on the Mill Creek Trail, a trail I know. And I know I have some serious climbing to pay for all that downhill action in order to get back to the car.

I took the trail 3 miles to the 95th/Prairie-Something-Parkway access point. Then found myself at the foot of a hill that goes at least 3/4 miles up. Then out of trail.

I could go back downhill, which was tempting, but then I'd have to climb back out of the valley somewhere else, and I didn't want to end up in the woods in the dark again. So I crossed 435 on 95th Street and went further south on Legler, winding through office parks that are blessedly light on traffic in the evening. Remember that rule about riding streets? There was no sidewalk for a good bit of this leg. I ended up on 99th, then Santa Fe Drive, then I spotted Widmer and thought, 'Didn't I pass Widmer near my car? Wonder if it goes through.'

It doesn't. But it connects to stuff that does. Much of it, actually, downhill, ninety-something, then Mullen, Acuff, 89th Terrace, Gallery, then I'm back at my car by the skaters on the ramps.

I drove part of it to check mileage, relied on maps for the trail portions. I think it was roughly 17.5 miles in two hours. Now I gotta go to bed so I can get up and tilt at Xerox's windmills tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Smallest House in Brooklyn†

I'm fascinated by tiny houses. I don't know if I'll ever downsize so radically, but there's something to be said for living well in the minimum space. Like the Tumbleweed Tiny Homes founder who spends less to heat his home all winter (In Iowa City) than I do for a month. Friend of mine forwarded me this email, a flyer basically for a home for sale in Brooklyn*:

This house, located near the intersection of
Ave T and Van Sicklen,
is Brooklyn 's smallest house.

Occupying what used to be a driveway, it's a one bedroom, one bathroom home that sits on a parcel of land 7.25 feet wide and 113.67 feet long. It's interior area is just under 300 square feet.

Here's the living room, looking towards the front of the house

Here's the living room again, looking towards the back

Here's the kitchen. Note that despite the small space, they've managed to fit a washer and dryer into the place.

Here's the bedroom. It has a Murphy bed, a necessity in such a space. This is what it looks like with the Murphy Bed down

And here the bedroom with the Murphy Bed retracted:

You also get some patio space out back. Here it is, looking towards the house:

And here's the patio looking towards the back:

Here are the home's 'Listed Features':

  • Completely redone top-to-bottom, front-to-back!
  • Tumbled stone entrance walk
  • Renovated Bath
  • Renovated Kitchen with new stove, new cabinets and new stacked washer/dryer
  • Bedroom with Murphy Bed + 'Built-ins' ... (doubles as a den)
  • Walkout to fenced patio
  • 100 Amp service
  • 2 Satellite Dishes and Receiver
  • Window Air Conditioner Available


You get all this for. . .

ONLY $479,900.00!

Only in New York !

*Another friend of mine, from high school, lives in Brooklyn. Talking to her husband at our 20th reunion, I made a reference to 'half million dollar houses,' think this adequately conveyed McMansion. Because here in Kansas City, you can get a fairly palatial estate for a half million. I always forget that same half million would not get your a coffin-sized walkup in Alphabet City.

[postscript, leaving original post intact] Nothing like an urban legend, huh? First off, if I thought about it, I know you could at least get a coffin-sized apartment in Alphabet City for a half million. No money left for furniture, but it's not like you'd have room for two chairs and a bed. But anyway, I guess it doesn't play as well to say it's a house in Toronto for $189,000. Which, it turns out, is closer to the truth. Still a lot of money for a closet with a roof, but there you go. Thanks to Jill Darlene Cieslinski Knox who posted the legit link to my Facebook...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy and Sad...

I went to boot up my Mac at work this morning and nothing happened. Well, not quite nothing, but it's acting like a hard drive failure or something along those lines. Won't boot from the CD even.

So, using the backup drive, working from an old eMac was not the funnest way to spend the day. Especially since we've suddenly gotten busy (a good thing, that).

On the up side, though, my boss had been sitting on the fence about a new machine, coming to terms with the fact that six years is old even for a powerhouse Mac tower. I understand, I do. Spend that kind of money, you feel like, 'Hope I never have to do that again!' This and the way his also-antique laptop has been running lately, it looks like I'll soon have a new Mac Pro tower on my desk. Very nicely appointed, too.

Five or six years out of a computer seemed impossible back when I was on a PC. I used to replace those every year, year and a half tops. Been over a year and a half into my iMac, though, and it's still a rock'n machine. Might seem less so compared with the new machine at work, but there's always a faster computer on another guy's desk, right?

Meanwhile, any happy dance I might do about getting a new machine is tempered by the hassle with getting the old one through the Genius Bar while hobbling through my in box with an eMac ready for the Antiques Road Show. That, and the likelihood that this next computer will still be on my desk when Em goes to College, and it won't be flamin' fast anymore by then...

Rained Out

Planned to ride with the Trek group this evening, but there was rain. I've ridden a trail when it was misting, but this was really rain and the Trek route is primarily on streets. Streets shared with cars. Cars that don't do that good a job not hitting other cars when it gets wet out.

Luckily, the group was as chicken as me about it. The bike is still in the car, the bottles are still filled and chilled, so maybe I'll hit the Trolley Trail after work tomorrow or something.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mill Creek From the River

Best laid plans, wanted to hit the trail at sunrise or soon after it. Even toyed with the idea of riding the whole trail, 35 miles round trip.

At the crack of 10:45 a.m., I was under way. It had gotten warm, though not hot. The weather could have passed for spring or fall, you'd never imagine it was July. I wouldn't have wanted to jump rope, but as long as you kept moving, the wind cooled you pretty well.

Even the hills in and out of Shawnee Mission Park didn't seem as sinister today. They're still beastly steep, I was still huffing and puffing and bitching and moaning the whole way up, but I couldn't get my heart in a full on hate of the hill. Okay, kinda on the return trip when I was almost up to the top, stood to try and get more cranking leverage and inadvertently shifted two gears higher. It was not pretty, and I almost fell over as I came to a stand still.

I took a second to cuss the nature of twist shifters, as this is not the first time I've accidentally shifted into a gear I didn't want to be in. The whole incident was made so much worse, though, by being witnessed by two strikingly pretty hikers coming down the other way. Since there was no dignity to be salvaged from the situation, I walked the bike up the final ten feet or so of the climb.

If I had to do that in front of people, why couldn't it have been in front of ugly people? Preferably people even more out of shape than me.

As Emo Phillips used to say, 'I'm mighty handy with the ladies, I'll bet...'

Don't get the idea I had a bad ride. It was fun, and I finished strong. 21 miles in 2 hours. My finger numbness is no worse (if no better), and has become an intermittent, nagging sort of thing anyway. So evidently the ridiculously tall neck, the padded gloves and being more aware of the need to keep the wrists straight and vary the handhold when I can helped. Hard to vary the hand position much on this trail, though. Few parts of it don't require regular access to the brakes.

As you can see, I did take my camera. Probably could have shaved a few minutes off my ride time if I hadn't played shutterbug every time I took a drink stop. I'd like to play with a real camera sometime, maybe draft my friend Julie to bring her pro gear along because these trails really do have some views almost as pretty as the hikers who witnessed my humiliation on the hill.

Shots to show people who insist Kansas is flat. I was actually scoping out some bike lanes on Woodland and 47th out toward K7, and for that matter, Johnson Drive in Western Shawnee that I'm not sure I'm fit enough to ride. More ups and downs than the Mamba, and we're talking steep, half mile climbs, and plenty of them. Maybe not like climbing a mountain, but definitely un-flat.

Friday, July 17, 2009


My brother has forgotten more about cycling and training for competitions than I'll ever likely know. He's diagnosed me as having more enthusiasm at this point than I can usefully apply to the bike. Maybe so.

I still have some intermittent tingles & numbness in my ring and pinky fingers from last week's 40 miler. I don't want to aggravate the injury, but I've popped for a super high gooseneck (I can turn it up a bit more but I'd need longer cables to do so), padded gloves, and so on. My shin splints have pretty much healed up, and it is supposed to once again be obscenely nice weather tomorrow.

The bike is in the car. The G2 is mixed in the bike bottles (found the powdered form, costs about a fourth as much as the ready to drink). Helmet, gloves, trail maps, air pump, all in the car. Plan is to try and make myself go to sleep early for a change so I can hit the trail while the day is young and the air is cool. I'm not a morning person—the way Liv Tyler is not ugly and Richard Simmons is not straight. I'm not a morning person the way Sturgis is not a mecca of sobriety. The way the Waffle House is not about health food, Peter Pan is not about growing up, the way the Dead Kennedys are not 'easy listening.'

I'm not a morning person the way soccer is not football. Ever.

But I want to rebel against my nature this time. Unseasonably cool weather to ride in should not be squandered. Plus I have work to do tomorrow, and I need to get the ride in first.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

Had dinner with my Mom tonight, along with my brother and his wife and my honyocks, all in celebration of Mom's birthday.

Bob and Dee's in Gardner is about the best combination of quality food, service and a pleasant environment we have going. It's not a chain, it's a real local establishment. Building is new, but the people who run it ran Mom's Diner before, and they took all that old school comfort food with them to the new joint.

I think I was the only one who didn't get fried chicken, and not without some remorse. They're fried chicken is up there: if Stroud's is 100-point fried chicken, Bob and Dee's is probably a 96. And probably half the price, which goes a long ways toward making that 4% gap up.

I had the liver & onions, which was my favorite at Mom's back in the day. Mom's Diner in Gardner, not my mother's house. She made liver and onions once that I recall, and she and I both liked it at the time, but I think it was right when she dragged me, kicking and screaming, to a cholesterol screening. I was still in high school, and she wanted me to see how all the fast food was racking up my numbers. My cholesterol was high, if I recall, but below 200. Mom's was something like 320, and in my memory she ate nothing but salad and pasta with red sauce for a long time after that.

Anyway, the liver & onions at Bob and Dee's is pretty awesome. I don't know if it's worse for you, health-wise, than fried chicken.

Mo charmed the waitress, ended up hugging on her. Made up for last time I was at this very restaurant and had to get dinner boxed up because I couldn't get her to quit hollering.

The waitress picked up that Mo was different, but didn't proceed to ignore her the way most waitresses do. People don't know how to take the vocalizations and strange, non-sequiturs so they pretend she isn't there. I think Mo basically decided the waitress was alright because she engaged her and then brought her a big plate of fried chicken.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I love this: front wheel drive, rear steering with grown-up big boy wheels (700c, which is Commie for 29 inches).

I'm certain it'd take some practice to ride as smoothly as this dude does, the lower center of gravity, plus I'll bet the steering is more responsive than what any conventional bike's is.

Then there's this amazingly long downhill video. I think this is, judging from what's in view, a short wheel base like the one I checked out the other day. There's a near death experience about 4:15 into it. Guys shot out of a canon crazy to ride that thing in that kind of traffic.

And if you're skeptical of the leverage and angles, check out the new world record holder for unfaired cycle speed: over 50 kilometers (that's Commie for over 30 miles) in an hour.

And finally...if I can't have a motorcycle, maybe I can at least have a bicycle that scratches some of the same itch...

Those of you viewing this on Facebook probably can't see the videos, gotta click on over to Lobster Land for the video.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Getting Stronger, Faster

Rode with the Trek group tonight and actually drew comments that I was riding faster and stronger.

Which I kinda knew, I was occasionally (on downhills) able to keep pace with the alpha dog. And while I huffed and puffed on the uphills, as usual, I didn't see spots and even had enough gas to stand up and crank some. But I didn't think the improvement was apparent to anyone else, it was too subtle.

Thanks to the encouraging words of my fellow riders (and don't get it wrong, I'm still the slow kid and Roj/Elvis still out-climbs me on his itty bitty BMX), I kept riding a bit after. I wanted to see if I could do one more hill, and I climbed Belinder and connecting roads until I ran out of uphill to turn to, then came back to the store.

Total 13.8 miles. Numbness in my fingers is at least no worse. I'm still suffering the effects of Friday's 40 mile with the seat tipped forward in an effort to quit numbing my brain. Trek store sold me some padded riding gloves, fingerless like Madonna's, and a taller neck. The taller neck was after the ride, but anything to get me more upright since I can't afford a recumbent at this stage in life.

Recumbents still make so much sense. If not for the fascist conspiracy to control the UCI by the Diamond Frame Industrial Complex, the occasional oddball would be coming into the Trek store complaining, 'What, no upright bikes?'

With a little luck, I can find a way to ride without numbing my pecker or my fingers in the meantime. But only until the day I can pop for a properly designed bicycle that puts your feet first and your ass on something a well adjusted individual would want to sit on.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another Tantalizing Option

I went and checked out this recumbent I found on Craig's List.

The guy built it himself with plans he got of the internet. It was his first, he's building his third, so I assume there are things he'd do differently on this one. But to my pleasant surprise, once we got the boom lengthened part way of how long I'd need it, it was easier to ride than the long wheelbase one I rode at Bike America today.

Now, that's not to say it was easy to ride. There would be a definite adjustment period, the center of gravity is much lower than on an upright. I've seen evidence (videos) that this is merely a learning curve, and I'm sure once you learn to ride a recumbent, you never forget.

You can feel the advantage of being able to push against your back right away, even as you're about to fall over because you haven't got the hang of the balance part.

I don't know where the guy learned to weld, so I guess there'd be a certain amount of faith I'd have to place that he's competent there. The paint job isn't baked enamel, but it doesn't look bad. And I don't know enough about bikes to have any brand snobbery, really. It's got Shamano shifters, and I've heard of those. I've heard of the bike makes he cannibalized for parts, but have no frame of reference for where they fall in the pantheon of bike manufacturers.

Not sure where I'd come up with the money for it, but he is asking somewhere between 1/2 and 1/3 what these things start at in Bikeshopworld.


I've always had a soft spot for recumbent bikes. But since the feeling still hasn't returned 100% to my pinky and ring fingers (which sucks for practicing guitar and typing, two important things) from Friday's 40 mile run, I've pretty much decided that, long term, it's the only way to go.

I'll keep riding the upright until I figure out how the hell I'm going to pay for a recumbent bike, and for that matter figure out for sure which sort of recumbent bike is the best fit for me. But the diamond-frame upright bike is a pure torture device between what it does to your butt, your lower back, and it turns out your hands when you ride any distance.

The long wheelbase one I tried out at Bike America today is tricky to start on and balance. The handlebars feel a little tight to the inside, too. Not sure how much is learning curve, it's a different configuration than what I"m used to obviously. I think I could get used to it.

The tight turns you have on trails, though, I wonder about a short wheelbase bike. I haven't found one to test ride yet, so that's still an unknown.

What I almost didn't try, though, was the Terra Trike. It just didn't look like something I'd enjoy. And it's so low to the ground and wide.

But when I did try it, even adjusted badly (I need the seat moved back about a foot from where it was), the thing was flat out fun. Fast, turns on a dime, and with disc brakes that stop you instantly. In fact, when I rode my brother's mountain bike, he warned me to be cautious with the brakes, and I can see his point. I grabbed a good handful of brake in the parking lot on the trike and stopped so suddenly I realized it would be possible to throw yourself crotch-first into the crank on this puppy.

The low to the ground part definitely requires flags and would confine me to the trail almost exclusively (a trail I might take more than half of in places), but yeah, this thing rocks.

Only drawback the sales guy said, climbing long steep hills where your legs end up higher than your heart isn't so much fun. But hills like that aren't much fun on any bike, are they?

Another angle I'd have to figure is how to transport it, since I'm pretty sure it wouldn't fit in my trunk or back sweat.

The Other End of the Trail

I haven't made it this far on the Mill Creek trail on bike yet. The closest I came was last week when I made it to mile marker 4 from 17.5 and back.

There's a trailhead around mile marker 1 and me and the girls walked part of it down there. Saw a guy on a raft in the river, fishing in the muddy water. Em said there was no way a fish could possibly live in such filth water, but I suspect the catfish prospects are pretty good down there.

Saw some cool graffiti, too. Not sure what God needs to save the kangaroos from, but some tagger thought that was important.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I didn't have everything I wanted for this recipe, but I made do.

2 avocados
1/3 large-ish tomato, diced
about 2 tbsp pickled jalapeƱos, diced
1/3 med. red onion, diced
2 tbsp. dried cilantro
salt & pepper
2 tsp. tamarind concentrate

The dried cilantro was a substitute for fresh, a regrettable one as there was no cilantro character in the finished gauc. The other sub was the tamarind concentrate. It's hard to keep limes around with Mo, who loves to eat the rinds off them, and I also found I was out of bottled lemon or lime juice. The tamarind concentrate was on hand for Putt Thai sauce for making Pad Thai. It's salty and tart, appropriate.

Turned out to be pretty good guacamole, all in all.