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Sunday, July 31, 2011


I heard a ruckus as I was coming up West Pennway to the top of Beardsley.

It sounded like a drum corps rehearsal, the 23rd Street Marching Cobras or one of several drill teams they seem to have inspired. Turned out it was just a couple of kids practicing.

They sounded good, but I guess if you're going to practice an instrument as loud as this, you better get good fast or your neighbors are going to start oiling your steps and cutting the brake lines on your car.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Trade Joke

Steve Martin did a bit that was supposedly just for the plumbers he heard were having a convention, with the punch line, 'It says sprocket not socket!' — beat — 'Were these plumbers supposed to be here this show?'

I guess this little piece of bicycle decor is from the same bin. I almost went with 'Verlag is the new Gill Sans' instead.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Trash Boat Regatta 2011

When Corinna started telling me to save my empty two-liter bottles for a trash boat it sounded fun, but I was hazy on the physics of it.

Sure, I drink a lot of soda. They were studying the long-term side effects of aspartame and, when they found out about me, they nominated me to be the canary. If I'm still alive, everyone else is safe.

At one point, we were discussing the debris we'd gathered with another possible entrant in the Trash Boat Regatta, and she said, 'Well, if you have a design...'

And I said, 'I don't have a design. I have a few hundred bottles.'

Owing to having to make a living, we didn't even end up competing with our own garbage, but we rode out to see the event.

Joel and Michelle, who are also the organizers of the event, were the only competitors this year.

I blame the flood. Normally the Regatta goes from Kaw Point to the Argosy on our local old grand river. But it's presently closed to recreational craft and I doubt a bunch of soda bottles held together by duct tape and bike tubes would pass for non-recreational.

So the boats were dragged up to Big Eleven Lake.

The race was declared a draw by the Dread Pirate Michelle. Her husband, who beat her by a wide margin, wisely* conceded it was a draw.

After, me and Melissa took turns on Michelle's boat, and I'll just have to build one next year. Too much fun even if I need one half again as wide to be stable enough to be comfortable.

Even with having to settle for a ride on Michelle's boat and no chance to win, the thing was too fun to ride.

I definitely have to build one for myself next year.

On my return I realized I'd committed a party foul by not putting a life jacket on. That's okay, I was told, the lake is posted no swimming or boating, and we'd done both without realizing it.

We learned our lesson, though: an old alcoholic fisherman told us not to jump in like Corinna because it was the only body of water in Kansas City that was 54% broken bottles.

Then there was the effects of being exposed to the water in a 'lake' marginally better-smelling than the turd ponds at the pumping station on Woodsweather.

Nothing life-threatening, but if I thought it was the newest dance craze to sweep the nation, I'd buy stock in Imodium.

*From what I hear, this marriage thing means she's the only woman he's allowed to sleep with, so if she says it's draw, it's a draw.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tender Moment at the Gates of Hell

I stopped to water the Scout on the way home the other evening, and I have to say I was proud to be able to produce urine. It was so hot I was drinking water instead of soda and had passed up a beer despite the temptations of Frizz.

I wasn't just drinking water, I was sucking it down at a pace that could affect policy decisions. Well over a gallon in the 13 miles home. Which meant, instead of worrying about heat stroke in the 100-ish temperatures, I had to worry about where to relieve myself.

There is an outhouse by the skate park, but if there's one thing worse than a johnny on the spot that's overdue for a pumping out, it's that same porta-potty in the middle of a brutal hot spell, at the end of a 3-digit day. Better to piss on the statue.

And is if I weren't there, this couple passed me carrying a blanket and small picnic kit. And then they sat down to enjoy the view as if it weren't hotter than a Rhode Island White Snake concert.

Here's to love. Reminds me of things that have driven me to ride levies in the dark in the middle of winter.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Broadway Graffiti

The Broadway Cafe beat Starbucks out of Westport, God bless 'em. I can see how, a 20 oz. ice coffee loaded with caffeine and flavor set me back about half what Starbucks would have gouged me for.

Plus, they have cool graffiti in their Men's room. And punk rock on the overhead speakers.

Plus, all the cool kids* hang out there.

*Cool kids is a general term for someone who: rides a fixie, does not wear a helmet and smokes cigarettes. Sometimes the cool kids do all three of these things at once.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Does My Garden Grow?

Last summer, I blogged detailed entries about every weed the popped up in Tomatosaurus Rex. I guess I've been busier this year. The replanted tomatoes have finally started bearing ripe fruit, and there have been plenty of beets, beans, Swiss chard, etc.

Guerillas Seek Permission?

I went by the Nelson one Monday evening to see about a 'guerilla theater' I'd heard about.

But they had PA's set up, awnings, and so on. I was hoping to see some outlaw street theater.

As far as I could tell nobody was even going to be impolite, let alone get arrested. What a bummer.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Not Much of a Rack, Either

I tried to lock up to this pay phone outside the convenience store at the bottom of the 12th Street Bridge. I take them at their word on the phone, but it's a shitty bike rack, too, I couldn't get my cable around it and finally just took my steed into the store.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Some $h1t Going Down

We were riding up Central on the way home but there was a barricade. And cops manning the barricade.

It was dark out, so we couldn't tell much what was going on, we just took the detour and rode on.

The next morning, on the way to work, the road block is still up. And a patrol car stationed at one end, two bored-ass cops sitting in the car watching the sunrise.

I asked the guys waiting at a day labor place, and they didn't know what was up.

Too many cops for Nothing's Wrong, not enough for an Operation 100.

At the other side of our little detour, I stopped and interrupted the shift-long doughnut break these officers seemed to be on.

No, they weren't really eating doughnuts. They were definitely bored, but being that there are assignments KCK's finest can draw where they literally have to fight, in the fisticuffs sense of the word, for their paychecks, I doubt they minded much.

A building had burned, though the damage seemed subtle. Broken glass on the sidewalk, some scorching around the window frames. But the building had been deemed unsafe by the fire department and apparently that stuck the boys in blue making sure no tenants tried to sneaky Pete back in to retrieve their autographed copy of Fight Club.

A day later the cops were gone and everything looked like a bomb or the crew from a reality TV show about rehabbing old, burned buildings had arranged things according to their needs.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I've learned a few things about bicycle wheels lately. Like they can wear out. I don't mean the tire, I mean the metal stuff the tire wraps around.

20/20 hindsight, the day me and Roj rode into each other and I finished a 18 mile ride probably didn't help matters. He fixed me up, replacing the broken spokes with ones he'd found in an alley. Without a truing stand, and on his first attempt at such a thing.

So I guess that's something else I learned, that was something of a miraculous repair job.

So when more spokes were breaking on me without my even doing anything traumatic to the bike, it was time for a new wheel.

I was looking on Craigslist for a bike frame, which has been a ritual in frustration. The bend in my frame is part of the reason I'm shopping, but more than that it's the realization that there are bike fit issues that can't easily be resolved to my satisfaction with the frame I've got. I keep hoping to find an old-school lugged steel frame with double-butted tubes and a geometry that matches my bizarre body (I'm fully a foot taller than my better half and my inseam is a mere two inches longer; I have to be careful not to bark my knuckles on stairs).

I've found bikes, but none that fit me. I came close to buying this Raleigh, but as charming as it was, it wasn't my bike. But while searching for my bike, I found, at least, my back wheel.

This Peter White built 700c wheel with, it was claimed, only 250 miles or so of use wouldn't solve my bike fit problems but it would solve my wheel issues. I had been told used wheelsets are an unlikely fix because people don't usually sell them until they're shot, but in this case the guy had bought it and then, almost immediately after, given up on getting his 700c bike to fit him and went with one that took 26's.

It's a 40 spoke wheel with double-butted spokes (see where it gets fatter near the ends?) on a rim that essentially has two walls. It is the wheel I wanted to have Joel or Bruce build me, actually a little better than the wheel I probably would have popped for, and I got a nearly 50% discount for having it filtered through another rider's case of buyer's remorse.

The guy I bought it from is actually a lot like me in terms of build, and after we'd talked for a few minutes he asked me if I'd like to come in and see his bike. It's the sort of thing most people wouldn't really appreciate, but he thought I might.

He was right. His is an expensive solution, as far as he bought everything new and went with top shelf components. My Axiom racks aren't as wide (a nice attribute for loading certain things) as the Surley Nice Racks on Jeffrey's bike, but both of mine together cost about a third what one of Surley's runs. And as far as I can tell, I'm more likely to give up than the racks when it comes to payload.

And where my taste in bike decoration runs to the punk rock, Jeffrey is all set for a tweed ride with leather bar tape and shellacked hemp twine on the handlebars and to match on this frame pump.

I'm not a fan of drop bars — I don't think they'd work for me personally — but the monstrously wide ones on Jeffrey's bike looked inviting and comfortable. Partly, no doubt, because they are mounted on the tallest set of spacers I've ever seen drop bars hooked to.

I did wonder, looking at those spacers, if instead of a 1970s Schwinn or Raleigh, I need to be thinking in terms of a bike new enough to have a threadless headset. Turns out, there are 1" threadless headsets and ways even to adapt them onto threaded forks. So I'll keep looking for that Paramount or, the grail-like XO-1.

I got an idea looking at his Kryptonite New York lock. I know the lore of how they developed this lock by locking a bike in the East Village, the 'Bermuda Triangle of bicycles,' for a month. They had it down when the bike made it 30 days. But there were no cordless angle grinders in the East Village in the early 1970s.

Kansas City doesn't have the bike theft issues of New York, Chicago, Miami, etc. In fact, I've started referring to kickstands as 'Kansas City locks' because of all the bikes I see with nothing more than gravity keeping them in place. I pass a bike on my commute that has a combination lock barely tougher than a bungee locking only the frame to a street sign; all it would take is three turns of quick-releases to steal the saddle and both wheels (which might happen if the owner of this bike ever upgrades past obvious piece-of-shit components).

When I settled on a Wal-Mart clearance-aisle Kryptonite U-lock (speaking of POS components), I reasoned that in this town the main thing is not to be the softest target. It amuses me to lock my bike as if I were parking it between a methadone clinic and a pawn shop when I go into the Brookside Pricechopper, but I balk at spending upwards of $100 on a lock. As it is, my flex weave cable, bought for its stoutness, is too short to go around a lot of things I'd lock up to; I'd have been better off with a cable twice as long and half as thick even if it is easier to cut.

But, I reasoned, that poisonous tree frog yellow is part of the value of a top of the line lock. That color says, basically, Faghettaboudit. So I used about 35¢ worth of Krylon and gave my lock a $70 upgrade.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Bees Knees

I was riding out into the country to get some sweet corn, tomatoes (I should be eating home grown, Tomatosaurus Rex, tomatoes at this point, but thanks to the Great Tomatocide of 2011, we've only had one ripe fruit to date from the replanted batch), and I spotted hives.

Most folks would freak if they knew they were near the home of a few thousand bees. But the ladies only really get feisty if you stage a home invasion on them. I know because I used to do exactly that; it's what beekeeping is all about. It's hot, sweaty, back-breaking work and no matter how carefully you gear up and how much you smoke them, you're going to get stung.

The worst was when I was lifting a full super off and, while I was squatting, one of these six-legged bitches stung me on the knee through my jeans. I'm trying to slowly, carefully, lift about 60 pounds in 90ยบ heat with too many clothes on. When you get stung, the bee releases a pheromone that alarms her roommates into defending the hive, and when that happens, you better believe they'll find the chinks in your armor.

I quit because I couldn't keep them at home (due to people not understanding how benign and beneficial bees are—no matter how hard it is to remember that when you've been stung while provoking them), and driving out to my friends' spread to tend them was a hassle. And tend them you must—you have to be half veterinarian to keep a hive alive for a year or two these days what with American foulbrood, European foulbrood, Varroa mites, tracheal mites, nosema and so on.

And I got out, sold my woodenware and so on before Colony Collapse Disorder.

Bees are exceptional bugs, pretty much everything they do and produce is beneficial to people, but keeping them is like having a 100,000 high maintenance girlfriends.