Search Lobsterland

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Woodsweather Silhouette

Because I have a relatively long commute, I end up packing a lot on the bike, especially at times of year where the temperature might be 40 degrees different between my six a.m. departure for work and my 8:00 p.m. arrival at home.

Occasionally I get taken for a tourer: you know you're packing serious TMI when you are out running errands and someone rides up next to you and asks where you road from, then is surprised that you're local. Nick, the guy who crashed at our house last May, rode from L.A. to Boston with less baggage than I typically ride with.

The more common impression is, I suspect, that I'm homeless. There are subtle things an astute observer would notice: Brooks saddle, waterproof panniers, these are not the kit you see homeless guys ride with. Their bikes tend to be Wal-Mart mountain bikes, the sort of bikes many Americans buy, ride once or twice, then put out by the street on large item pickup day when they've sat around the garage gathering dust for eight years.

I meet a few of these characters on my commute, especially in the West Bottoms. Corinna and I were dinner guests of Donovan, White Hawk and Coop when they were camped out on railroad property last summer—the same White Hawk that was on the front page of the Kansas City Scar on February 1, 2012 (Coop's pic was on A8). The article was about them getting run out of a different camp than the one I visited; getting rousted every few months is just a fact of life for these guys.

I'm skeptical of the numbers some people throw around for the homeless population in Kansas City, but there are more than a few of them out there. You can't see them from cars most of the time (unless they're panhandling an intersection). That really is the giveaway that whatever else I have in common with these folks, I'm not one of them. I'm visible. Very visible, with my half dozen lights and helmet mohawk.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

RAAM / Oh Rocky!

After judging beer on Saturday, Corinna had texted me saying she'd bought us tickets to a documentary about Race Across America, aka RAAM.

Everything I ever knew about RAAM I heard from Corinna. And it all sounded vaguely impossible. As in, the Tour de France must be the consolation ride for pussies who can't hack RAAM. I've ridden as much as 108.5 miles in one day, and while these guys aren't carrying fifty pounds of kit on a thirty-five pound bike, that century and change was all I could do. And I didn't do anything close to a century the day after.

RAAM riders cover three to four hundred miles a day, most of it at a clip I can't sustain even briefly. They ride coast to coast in less than two weeks.

This is, of course, impossible. You'd have to not only average twenty plus miles per hour but also sleep no more than an hour or so a day. This would mean psychotic breaks, hallucinations, and the possibility of death.

Which is to say, if you're willing to sign up for psychosis and death, sure it's possible.

The funny thing was, I recognized some of the distressed thinking pattern competitors were coping with from my own riding, especially the Memorial Day three-state tour. Small beer by comparison, a bit over 200 miles in three days.

Near home, Corinna led me on a shortcut I thought we'd agreed not to take, then not only did way take it, but I realized it wasn't actually a shortcut at all. I thought she should be charged with war crimes. How far gone was I? I actually had the though that I might never want to ride bicycles with her again.

Laughable, I know.

I won't spoil the film for you, you ought to see it. To give you an idea how tough this trek is, over 4,000 Americans have been to the Olympics, but only 169 people in the world have ever finished RAAM.

Two of that 169 were on hand for a Q&A after, and I asked what might have been an insensitive question: What about doping?

I tend to believe that Lance probably blood-doped on the Tour de France. I don't think it takes away from his record because if U.S. Postal was doing it, so was at least half the field. But RAAM's extreme sleep deprivation, I'm thinking these guys must eat amphetamines by the fistful.

One of the veterans said he was clean and he thinks most if not all the riders who do it are clean. He said you reach a point where it hurts so bad to get off the bike you might as well keep riding. I don't doubt him on that, but anyone who wants something bad enough to compete that hard is a candidate for doping if it can be gotten away with.

I looked at RAAM's website, and I haven't finished reading the rules, but the FAQ doesn't even address doping, so I'm not sure if they test at all. I'm engaged to an Olympian, and her take on it is if they don't test for it (the IOC doesn't even allow caffeine or asthma inhalers—things they show RAAM participants using in the documentary), it's the same as allowing doping.

Anyway, we enjoyed the film. One rider had to drop out because he had pneumonia completely infecting both his lungs. I think they described it as 'double pneumonia in both lungs.'

I whispered to Corinna, "I wonder how many people they get in a the E.R. with that who rode their bicycles to the hospital." In Kansas. Riding from California. Yeah.

It turned out to be a double feature: Screenland was doing Rocky Horror that night. I hadn't been to RHPS since I was in high school.

I made a Rocky Horror reference the other day to Corinna, and it went right by her. When I tried to explain, you know, Rocky Horror, she was like, That boxing movie?

Different Rocky. Really different.

If you think you've seen Rocky Horror because you got it on DVD from Red Box, allow me to disabuse you of the notion you've seen the film. This is an audience participation movie and you can't experience in the privacy of your own home. It's marvelous, but you actually have to go out and be in the same room with perverts, sluts and depraved degenerates to really see the movie.

That's it's selling point.

Screenland doesn't let you throw rice at the wedding scene (we blew bubbles like Michael Jackson instead) or toast when Frankie makes his toast to absent friends and bad B-movies, but they have a full troupe of actors with fishnets and tuxedos and whatnot, prop bags for sale (complete with cards for sorrow and pain).

Instead of every Friday at midnight, it's one Saturday a month at ten. I'll be there in March, with my oldest daughter if things work out right.

Yeah, I know. I'm a bad influence.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sitting in Judgment

One of my favorite things to do, though I normally only get to do it once a year.

Friday evening I got to judge English Bitters, a favorite category for me. Homebrewers have gotten a lot better, as a group, since I started judging in 1996. Back then, infected and wildly out of style beers accounted for upwards of half the entries in come categories.

The thing I love about Bitters as a category is there is nothing to hide behind in a small beer. With an original gravity of, say 1.040, everything is subtle and every flaw is obvious. The brewers who typically enter an Ordinary or Best, even an ESB, tend to be veteran brewers who really pay attention to detail.

Normally they pair the National judges with less experienced judges as a way of bringing folks along, and that's a good thing, I learned the same way: the first time I judged was on a panel with the great Jackie Rager and the late, great Steve Ford. But a no-show had to be substituted for, and the judge I was judging with was not only a National judge, but he was from Manchester, England. Before he ever judged beer, he was hanging out after work in joints that had six to eight local bitters on tap.

Saturday morning, I rode the FrankenSurly in, which was fantastic. It's a great way to wake up on the way in, plus it cleared my sinuses marvelously (I'd struggled on Friday night with some stuffiness: when you can't smell, you can't really judge).

After a morning of judging Scottish and Irish Ales, I was on a four-panel flight of Stouts in the afternoon. I love all manner of stouts, but as a category, it's one of the hardest to judge. It has a wide range, from Dry Stouts that are generally small beer all the way to Russian Imperial Stouts which are possibly the biggest of big beers. Barley Wines and Wee Heavies are in the same neighborhood, but the former is generally in its own flight and the latter tends not to be quite as over the top even if it is lumped in with substantially smaller beers in most competitions.

That finesse that it takes to make a good Ordinary Bitter; a stout can really benefit from that kind of brewing skill, but with all those strong flavors and armoas, the sorts of things that might take ten points off the score of an Ordinary aren't even detectable. Nobody can hear you fart in a Black Sabbath concert.

Anyway, it was all fun and as the aforementioned Steve Ford (you're still missed, old friend) was fond of saying, "It's just beer."

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Friday I picked up the FrankenSurly. I bought the frame last summer to replace the bent frame on the Foolkiller. The Foolkiller is the 1993 Diamondback Cross Campus I bought off a band mate (for fifty bucks) almost three years ago with the crazy idea that I'd ride Bike MS. An event that sounded, to my ears at the time, as extreme as Race Across America.

According to my obsessively maintained cycling log, I put 8,207 miles on this bike, and while I referred to it often as my $50 bike, I upgraded a few things as they wore out along the way.

But while I love the Foolkiller, I put a bend in its bottom tube crashing it into a wheel-eating grate and ever since, I've been urged to quit riding the thing before the bend becomes a crack.

After 5,095 miles, I promptly acceded to these urgings. It only took me six months to get the funds together, figure out how I wanted it finished out and who by.

I moved my Brooks, my wheel set, fenders and racks over from the now officially retired Foolkiller (I think I'm going to make it a garden bike). Also my brass bell, handlebar flower, and cycling computer.

Crankset, pedals, cassette, derailleurs, shifters, brakes, bottom bracket, headset, handlebars, pretty much everything else involved in a bicycle was new. Some of this was me upgrading from stuff that was frankly worn out: last time I had the Foolkiller overhauled, the mechanic pointed out that nothing could be done about the wobble in the crank because of wear, and my derailleurs were hit and miss because of springs that had been sprung and whatnot.

Where thing weren't necessarily whipped, there were good reasons to replace anyway: my old cantilever brakes were a pain in the ass to change pads on. It's a two-tool, three-hand job and frustrating enough that it was worth it to let bike shops install them. The new brakes should be easier for me to service, and what I save in shop labor will pay for them in a year or two. My seat post was the wrong diameter, so things like that couldn't come over, either.

And these funky looking handlebars are my best guess at what will keep my hand numbness/wrist pain at bay. If these don't work out, I may try mustache or albatross bars, the other designs I considered, but after a bit over fifty miles in the saddle this weekend it seems they'll likely work as planned. I'm not quite as upright as the Dutch, but it's getting close. I may need to find a way to get another inch of elevation, but I may be able to tweak my saddle angle or something instead.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


The thrift store across the street from my work was closed for three months. City Union Mission is the charity that owns it, and it was called Second Chance.

They reopened as City Thrift, and the joint was hopping.

Now a company that manages thrift stores runs it for CUM. They run the DAV thrift down the street as well, and I wasn't too happy to hear it. They run a more organized store, but they generally do too good a job of figuring out what they have so the bargains are fewer and less spectacular.

Some of the higher prices, I'm sure, are that this management company has to make a profit before City Union Mission gets their cut. And that's fine, like I say, they definitely run a more organized and generally cleaner shop.

I did manage to find some deals, though. I got a metal lunch box with Roasterie art stamped into it; a pair of Ray Ban Wayfarer 2's (with prescription lenses that aren't my prescription; I'll either have my eye doc put my script in or see about getting non-prescription replacement lenses) and a 100% merino wool Italian sweater. Under seven bucks for all of it.

They wouldn't tell me where the fast women shop, but now I know where the slow ones do.

River Market @ Night

Right at the top of the ramp to the river overlook by the Broadway Bridge, where the elevator will take you down to the riverfront trail if you don't want to walk your bike down a few flights...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Snow Tires

Last winter, Corinna put these on her road bike and I was dropping her like a bad habit. She's much faster than me, really, but steel studded snow tires slow your ass down.

Last night she rode out to meet me on the way home and nodded to all the slick, wet asphalt. It was pretty well treated, but she was right when she said, "Come morning, this shit is going to be a sheet of ice."

So we put her snow tires on my bike. Great idea. Fantastic. The roads weren't really that bad this morning overall—the temp didn't drop quite as low as forecast. But there were ice spots under bridges and on overpasses. And a train parked across Kansas Avenue that I had to take my patent-pending detour around, and that detour includes some parts nobody is ever going to blade off or treat with salt and sand.

They really shouldn't call them snow tires, they don't really help that much with the loose, fluffy stuff, but on ice, refrozen slush and all that, they give you billy-goat traction.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Letting Go

We're combining two households into the smaller of the two houses. Not much smaller, but a little.

And mine, the larger was the fuller of the two houses. While the moved stuff is being sorted, the effect is Hoarder Palace, though mainly just in the basement at this point.

My idea was keep Daisy, someday I can afford to have her outfitted with wheels that will withstand the stress of her turns, shiftable gears, working brakes, all the things she'd need to be rideable in the city.

As it is, I decided to return her to Pastor Kurt who gave her to me so I could ride with Mo.

He didn't say it in quite so many words, but I took the gift to be one with the caveat that if it didn't work out for me and Molly, Daisy should come back or be given forward. In other words, I shouldn't profit from getting rid of her.

I think Pastor Kurt was glad to have her back. And if anyone has a few dozen wheels to replace her taco'd back wheel, it's him.


Spotted in the Broadway Cafe men's room.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

When Art Speaks

The night my bottom bracket cup broke and I ended up taking the MAX back to the car, I walked my back past a gallery showing some of the Kemper's collection.

And somehow, I thought of Corinna.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I found miniature hamburger buns the other day when I was planning to cook burgers in the first place. So we had sliders.

Your average sliders don't, of course, come topped with alfalfa sprouts, provolone cheese and onion. Nor are they garnished with pineapple, red cabbage and carrots.
Actually, they look a lot like my regular hamburgers, just slightly smaller in diameter.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sweet Sixteen

The best laid plans, you know? We started out planning a surprise party for Em. Not my idea, the credit for it goes to the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster.

It was the first time we'd planned a birthday party jointly since our divorce. The last one was her tenth, when we were still freshly separated.

But the cat got out of the bag, and one thing and another we ended up having a surprise party for the un-surprised Em that was mostly friends and an even less surprising family party the next day where nobody had to even pretend they weren't in on it.

Beforehand, Corinna thought it would work better to keep it just one party. More people, more fun, right? After, I started to think that maybe it would have been better that way, too, but by then she'd come around to see it was probably better to split up the chaos.

Em seemed fine with it either way.

I'm not sure why it wouldn't seem natural that my ex-wife and I would plan and attend the same party. Both my parents were there, and they've been divorced for going on thirty years.

The cake was enormous. I was still moving my cookware and couldn't find my cake pans. Wal-Mart had some spring form pans that were supposedly non-stick. They were super cheap, so I guess I have myself to blame that of course the cakes stuck. I'll use a visible layer of butter next time I use these pans.

Anyway, since we were planning on a larger number of guests, I doubled the batch and used all three pans. The resulting cake was a monstrosity so huge I cut it in thin wedges and then most folks only wanted a half a wedge.

The frosting alone took three pounds of cream cheese and two sticks of butter.

I made Em some notebooks as presents.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Don't Make Me Angry...

Or maybe you should. One thing or another has pissed me off before I've ridden three times in a row, and I have to say, I've never been faster.

Okay, I've been faster, but only with an unloaded bike.

We're talking a 25% difference in average miles-per-hour. One person aggravated me so badly I averaged 13.2 mph for twelve miles. I was stomping on this person, I think, but with my pedals.

But dig it, even though I was at least as aggravated tonight, I wasn't quite as fast. Still faster than usual for me, but I'm sore and tapped out. I can't be full of piss, vinegar and baking soda tomorrow morning: training has to include stress and recovery.

Smart Phone

I've been digging the whole smart phone thing. I was skeptical, I resisted, I thought I seriously might be taking them up on that fourteen day window to back out of the deal...

I was hooked in about three hours.

I took these photos off the lower deck of the Central Avenue bridge with it, in fact. It's not a fantastic camera, but you can get some interesting shots. And if you're so inclined, take them straight to Facebook.

I haven't paid for any apps, but I have GPS navigation, a chromatic guitar tuner and metronome, homebrewing apps for calculating hop bitterness and alcohol content, numerous addictive games and I don't know what-all.

I said to Corinna, "This thing is more powerful than anything they had when they landed a man on the moon."

"No," she said. "It's more powerful than everything they had."