February riding

February miles: 222.31
Percentage of monthly goal: 133%
Percentage of annual goal so far: 22%

February worked out pretty well in the bike department. Even counting a nine day stretch when I only rode once — for which my excuse of “it was raining” is super weak considering that I went to the trouble to put fenders on my bike — I rode in to work more often than not. I even got a few longer weekend rides in: one about 18 miles around the neighborhood, another 26 to and from the arroyo/Rose Bowl where Stephanie and Fletcher were taking an archery class and the USMC marching band was playing. (The band was very cool. The silent drilling group was impressive, but I guess not my thing.)

The SGV continues to be a wonderful place to ride. Cars are, for the most part, cooperative. The weather, absent the rain, has been perfect. Also, thank god for casual dress codes at work.

One thing I’ve definitely learned is that not a lot of people around here go out for weekend fun rides with fenders and a rack trunk. Clearly what I need is a Serotta with SRAM Red, a Sella San Marco, and a pair of Zipp 808’s. Otherwise I’ll never be cool. (Or broke.)

In riding news that doesn’t involve me going very, very slowly to and from work, I went out to see the penultimate stage of the Tour of California last weekend. The stage in to Pasadena has ended with a crit around the Rose Bowl for at least the last two years. I had an odd day with some weird schedule constraints, so I drove out to see it. The pictures of the race are on Flickr. Here are some of my favorites:

I didn’t get there early enough for a spot by the finish, so I settled for a corner on the bottom of a hill. There was a pretty good crowd there, including a gaggle of MTB’ers.

Astana — race leader Levi Leipheimer’s team (also that Armstrong guy) — was pushing the pace of the main peleton all day. It was impressive that they were able to keep the pack behind them so effectively.

George Hincape was in the break. He won this stage in last year’s race. I was really rooting for him to win this year’s, but he got edged out at the very end.

I was able to get a shot with both Armstrong (first in this shot, with the yellow helmet) and Leipheimer (third, in the yellow jersey) in it. Also (I think) Christian Vande Velde just entering the frame on the left and <insert name of Astana domestique here> up by Lance.

The race organizers said that 2,000,000 people came out to see the race in person. (Counting all eight days, I imagine.) They said that it was the best attended sporting event in California history, which I find to be a somewhat dubious claim on account of we had the Olympics not too long ago. Either way, the little crowd at my corner was certainly enthusiastic.

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My Monday with Dick

To celebrate Presidents Day, Stephanie, Fletch and I took a trip down to scenic Yorba Linda and visited the Richard M. “Dick” Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. I’m a fan of Presidential Museums and my family is very, very understanding. Plus it meant getting out of the house. So everybody sort of wins, and especially me.

As soon as we got there we were knees deep in the awesome. It being Presidents Day and all, the library was waving the entrance fees for everybody. Of course this meant that it was an absolute zoo — we had to park in the overflow lot across the street, which is the exact opposite of how parking usually is at these places — but it also saved us $24. Braggable.

Further — further! — there was a gang of presidential impersonators hanging out in the lobby, including but certainly not limited to my all time most favorite president ever, Mr. Harry S. Truman.

Being a fan of the former president, I was very, very excited to whip out my “let’s mess with the impersonator” science and ask him to say hello to Tom Pendergast for me. But wouldn’t you know it, the second I told him that I was from Kansas City — an inexcusable rookie move on my part — he brought it up himself! Which was pretty cool, but less fun for me than him trying to make some assertion that he didn’t owe the entirety of his (character’s) career to the mob. Oh well.

Since Stephanie and I were last at the Nixon museum it’s been turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). It was formerly run by the private “Gosh Golly we love us some Dick Nixon Library Foundation” or something like that. I think NARA has done a really bang-up job with some of the other museums it runs, and the Nixon museum has always been a little less of a museum and a little more of a shrine, so I was really excited to see what NARA had done with the place. They mentioned in the (formerly mandatory) intro film that their mission was to modernize the museum and make it more interactive, which would be a big, big step forward.

From there they launched in to the same film that they old Nixon Library Foundation folks put together, that glosses over Watergate, Cambodia, etc., and highlights Dick’s missions to China, which is well and good. But then it went on to glorify his time at HUAC, which strikes me as kind of crazy, as that’s perhaps the least-good thing he ever did to our nation. Oh well.

Much of the first section of the museum is about Nixon’s political campaigns, as is pretty customary for these museums. You can find the customary array of pins and buttons, all of which I think are great. They also have some pretty wonderful letters from dignitaries and celebrities to the Representative/Senator/Vice President/President available. Fletcher especially found the letter from Dr. King to then vice-president Nixon interesting.

The whole time we were there, I had a really, really hard time keeping my inner-14-year-old in check. Seriously. How can you not laugh at something like this?

From the campaign years we moved on to Nixon’s foreign policy. Like any president, he had his ups and downs, but it’s really hard to ignore him opening a dialog with China. Even though we don’t really agree with them on all so much, it’s useful that we talk to them. You know: keep them involved in the world’s conversation. (If only that weren’t such a contentious notion today.)

Of course, as every cold-war presidential library does (and should), Dick’s museum has a chunk of the Berlin Wall.

Maybe now that NARA is running things they’ll find a better way to display this. Reagan has his mounted outside overlooking mountains and what have you. (Where’s my picture of that? I thought I had one?)

Probably the most unfortunate thing about the RMNM&L is that it really gives short shrift to some of Nixon’s truly great accomplishments. For example, Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency. Here’s the sum total of the mention it got:

Further, the reading of Miranda Rights became compulsory on Nixon’s watch. That didn’t even get a full display, instead just getting a blurb in his “tough on crime” display.

I think the contents of this are worth repeating:

When President Nixon took office, the cop on the beat had to carry an extra piece of “equipment” besides his gun and badge: the Miranda rules advised suspects of their rights. Richard Nixon changed the focus back to the victim’s rights

If you were Richard M. Nixon or his estate, wouldn’t you want to play that up?

Another brief 14-year-old moment. You all know the game with Spiro Agnew’s name, right? About how you can rearrange the letters? Yes, I’m aware that Dave Barry has been all over that one for ages.

Now, on to the Watergate room. Perviously this was a long, dark corridor with really small, dense and horrible white-on-black copy describing the events of watergate and “white house recordings” cued up to static. Now it’s not even that.

NARA is renovating the room, hopefully to include something that doesn’t make you want to leave as quickly as possibly, as was the intent of the previous exhibit. Notable missing pieces from the former exhibit: a letter from Ben Stein positively gushing about what a great guy Dick was. Notably still there: the best resignation letter, ever. I’ve patterned all save one resignation letters after this.

Rather unfortunately, it was raining and the birthplace museum was closed. This was certainly for the best, as tracking mud through a museum is rarely a win. A short recap, as I’ve seen the place before: it was really small. A bunch of folks lived there. Nixon played the piano.

New since I was last there is the Marine One that Nixon used. I heard from a family that was very excited about all things Nixon that George W. Bush himself rode in on the chopper when it was delivered to the museum. Mission Accomplished, I guess.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that neither Stephanie nor Fletcher are crooks.

Although Fletch is apparently a Vulcan.

Nixon’s final resting place is indeed on the grounds of the museum. It’s easy to bag on the guy, but at the end of the day he was still our president, and if you’re going to leave the world with a parting thought, it’s hard to beat the one on his headstone.

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2009 Resolution

My 2008 new years resolution was to ride my bike to work 50 times. I made it, but just barely, making it to 50 in the second week of December. Fifty trips between Monrovia and Pasadena is about 1,000 miles. That’s not a ton of riding in a year, but it’s a whole lot more than I usually do, and it was 50 fewer car trips to and from the office. So I’m quite pleased with how that went.

There was one drawback, though. I never really felt like riding on the weekend or just around town or whatever, because it “wouldn’t count” in some odd, self-imposed way. This is a crying shame, considering both that I live in Southern California where the whether is perfect for cycling 99 days out of 100 and that cycling just for the fun of it is damn fun.

For 2009, I’ve set a similar goal but without the silly “It has to be going to/from work” provision. I’d like to ride at least 2,000 miles before the end of the year. That’s still not a crazy amount of riding — I’d hit that if I just rode to work twice a week — but it’s still a pretty good amount for me, and it’s realistic even if I have to take a few weeks off for whatever reason.

Here’s where I’m at so far:

January Miles: 212.66
Percentage of monthly goal: 128%
Percentage of annual goal: 11%

Of note is that there was almost a week where I was completely out of commission due to a ruined wheel. Something that will probably help me a lot is getting on the ball as far as maintenance is concerned. (Also finishing the Bridgestone so I’ll have something else to ride the next time I do something horrible to my commuter.)

Along similar lines, Stephanie and I have signed up to do the Livestrong Challenge ride in Austin this October. Briefly, this is a charity ride put on by the Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise money for cancer research, screening and survivor programs. We’re signed up to do the 90 mile ride, which is more than either of us have ever ridden at a go. It should be fun working up to that.

Shameless plug: as with any charity sort of ride, there’s a fund raising component. If you like what the LAF does and want to support their efforts by way of sponsoring us on this ride, you can donate via the interwebs. Here’s a link to my donation page, and here’s Stephanie’s.

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Pizza Port

For the last few months Russ Roca over at the Epicurean Cyclist has been talking up Pizza Port something fierce. Stephanie and I decided to check it out a couple of weeks ago and weren’t at all disappointed.

It’s a bit of a schlep down to San Clemente, but oh my was it worth it. Their beer selection was right up my alley — they seem to focus on hoppy beers — and the pie was something else. Ours had grilled chicken, artichokes, feta, and (hopefully I’m remembering this correctly) sun-dried tomatoes.

After lunch we wandered around town for a bit. It was an absolutely beautiful day down there and a great little town to walk around in. If you have a spare Saturday afternoon and you enjoy beer and pizza, you really do owe it to yourself to give it a go. (Thanks for the tip, Russ!)

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Well crap.

I broke a pedal on the way in to work today.

It just snapped while I was getting started in to an intersection. I can still pedal the bike, but there’s a lot of give to it now, and I’m not entirely sure how hard I can push on it before it breaks further, which may make the last two blocks of my ride home (which is the only part that’s up-hill in a meaningful way) interesting.

The funny part is that on Sunday when I got my wheel back from the shop, I thought for a bit about putting the 20-year-old, aluminum (and completely bomb-proof) platforms that I took off the Bridgestone on to my bike. I guess I’ll be getting to that tonight.

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My votes for the 2009 Bloggies

Voting for the 2009 Bloggies is open now. My voting rules are as follows: If I don’t read any blogs in the category, don’t vote. If I only read one, vote for that one. If I read several: I don’t think this actually happened. So, the categories that I voted in:

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What’s your favorite song with brushes?

Lately I can’t get enough of drums played with brushes. The sound really resonates with me. It’s just so warm and intimate. What’s your favorite brush-friendly recording? Mine has to be “I’m Old Fashioned” off of Blue Train.

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Bridgestone rebuild update

I took the bike down to Stan’s today to get the bottom bracket and headset — the only to parts I don’t have the specialized tools to remove — off the frame. $10 later and I’m down to a bare frame and about twenty baggies full of component sets. So now I have to actually start restoring the bike. Somehow I think this will be more difficult than dissembling it was.

There were a few surprises, both good and bad, in terms of the condition of the bike. The frame and fork are much more rust free than I was expecting. There’s the standard rubbing on one side of the bike where it was most likely leaned up against a wall and spots on each of the chain stays next to the bottom bracket shell, but other than that they’re in really good condition. I have more hope that I’ll be able to make it look good without repainting it — which will save the decals, braggably — but I’m not quite to confidence on that front yet. We’ll see. (If I do have to repaint it, what color should I make it? Stephanie suggested racing green, which I think would work well. Maybe have the fork chromed?)

The freewheel and cogs look like they’re going to be more trouble to restore than to just replace. I’m also leaning that way for the wheels, in part just so I can move to 700c’s and have more readily available parts. If I can find the time, I’d definitely like to build the wheels myself, if only so I can get 36/40 spoke wheels instead of the 32/32 that seem to be most readily available. (I wonder how dumb it would be to try to go to 650B and get real touring wheels?)

The bottom bracket, headset and both derailers (Sheldon Brown 4evah) look to be in really good shape. Maybe I’ll replace the bearings in the headset and BB, but they can almost certainly all stay around. (In the case of the rear derailler, if I can find a six-speed cassette.) The crank arms and chain rings are without question good to go. They just need to be cleaned up a bit.

The brakes are probably a pair of pads and some new grease away from being perfectly good, but there’s a pair of Tektro side-pulls that I really have my eye on. (Although if the existing ones are wide enough to take a 700×30-32 tire, maybe I’ll stick with them.) The handlebars are much, much too small for me. Perfect excuse to get a fancy Nitto Noodle bar.

I’m going to start in on cleaning off some of the components and getting the rust off the frame within the next week. (Thanksgiving day while the turkey smokes will be perfect for this.) I’ll try to take pictures as I get the individual components cleaned up.

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Awesomeness Critical Mass Has Been Achieved

CC attribution: neoliminal

There is a Robocop on a Unicorn photo pool on Flickr. Nothing can possibly be better than that. (Thanks to Brad for the tip.)

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A brief comment regarding belt-driven bikes

CNN reports on some of Trek’s new chainless offerings:

Aside from the whisper-quiet ride, the lighter and longer-lasting carbon-fiber composite belts won’t rust, can’t be cut, won’t stretch or slip and won’t leave grease marks around your ankles. A guard over the belt-drive and the construction of the system makes getting your pants stuck an unlikely scenario, Bjorling said.

My Sawzall begs to differ.

Note: I think belt drives are very, very cool. I’d be very interesting in setting my bike up with a belt and an internal hub.

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