April 7, 2014 Ride: Return of Rideblog!

First off, I would like to dispel any rumors that I am dead. T’was only a flesh wound!

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In fact, I have not been on a bike in a very long time… probably over six months. This will seem odd, as I run a bicycling website and own three-and-a-half (still counting The Shogun, darnit!) bikes. But a combination of things is responsible for this sad period of inactivity, and like many difficult situations, everything sort of built upon itself as time went on.

First off, I got sick. Now, if you have spent several years following me (and who hasn’t, really? At least in spirit?), you know this is not an unusual occurrence. I have described a few whopper-doosies of illnesses before, including dedicating a page of this site to my chronic illness. So what was different this time? Well, let’s start with that chronic illness.

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I should note, before I go any further, that my disease name has changed. I used to have “Benign Joint Hypermobility Syndrome.” Now I have “Joint Hypermobility Syndrom/Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type.” Because that just makes it so much clearer!

Among the many things that JHS/HEDS (no, really) causes are subluxations. This is sort of like a dislocation, but less severe because it mostly corrects itself. Think of pulling your joint out of the socket and then immediately popping it back in, like snapping the shoulder joint on an old-fashioned doll whose joints are connected with rubber bands.

I’m showing my age, aren’t I?

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I’ve had a few subluxations over the years, mostly to my fingers and toes. They resolved quickly, leaving just bruises and swelling. But this winter, something new happened. I threw my left shoulder out… in my sleep. Unlike past subluxations to minor joints, this didn’t resolve itself. I had to have it popped back into place (which makes it a dislocation? I think?). Then it popped out again. And again. For several weeks, my shoulder dislocated or subluxated every night.

My disease comes in phases. After a few weeks of popping out constantly, my shoulder decided to stay in place. But then the numbness began. My entire left arm started tingling and then loosing sensation. My right hand soon joined in the fun, though it was never as bad. I lost feeling in my fingers, particularly my thumb. My feet also began to experience long periods of burning and numbness. The area between my shoulders became a wall of burning pain. With the pain came chronic fatigue, nausea and lethargy. I found it hard to get up in the morning and get going. I stopped doing any exercise, for fear of more pain. I gained nearly 15 pounds over the winter, sitting on the couch and moping (okay, I was working, too). On the plus side, I watched a lot of British television!

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They look vaguely disapproving, don’t you think? Like: “Bloody Americans, wasting their lives away like stupid twats.”

As the numbness and burning increased, so did my sense of physical dislocation from my body. This began as a vague surprise that my hand was responding to my brain’s commands, and progressed until I felt as though my brain were the only “real” part of myself, and the rest existed only as a sort of fleshy suit.

At no point did this remind me of Silence of the Lambs, or anything.

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Needless to say, it was unnerving. I spent months dealing with all of it, including visiting several doctors. In the end, no one was sure what was going on (it was not the result of an obvious candidate, like MS), but the symptoms have eased up a bit the last few months. I started to feel better about a month ago. The fatigue lingers, but even that is slowly lessening as the seasons change. The fact that this has been one of Seattle’s rainiest winters has not helped.

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So it took awhile, but I was finally ready to ride. I’m working odd hours: part-time at a local high school and part-time tutoring privately. This leaves me with lots of daylight to burn. I first tried to go for a ride a week ago, but after spending 45 minutes angrily tearing up the garage looking for my pump, I discovered that it was in the trunk of The Handsome Fella’s car. Since he was at work, this was not good news. I drove to the store and bought another cheap pump, since I have always found my current pump hard to use. Then I drove to the trailhead, and learned that my new tires and tubes… had Presta valves. I couldn’t find an adapter. I decided that the Fate I Don’t Believe In was conspiring against me (shut up, I know it’s illogical!). I drove home and sat on the couch. I may have watched a movie featuring Benedict Cumberbatch. I don’t actually remember what I did, but statistically, that’s a reasonable guess at the moment.

Today, however, I had new adapters from REI (a reputable source!) and a sunny day and time. I set out to pump up my tires.

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The new pump broke within seconds, collapsing into a ridiculously twisted hunk of useless metal. I probably should have foreseen this, as it cost less than $12, but I live in eternal cheapness and optimism. Fortunately, I had the old pump back, and as it was not $12 to begin with, it held up to, you know, pumping stuff. But then, I couldn’t get the adapter to work. I was perplexed. Was I doing something wrong? I tried YouTubing what to do, but the video tutorials were surprisingly involved for such a simple operation. I found myself more confused than when I started. Again, forty-five minutes later (I could have ridden The Raleigh, you understand, which has Schrader valves like any sensible bicycle should, but I was On A Mission by this point), I was shrieking with frustration. Were all my pumps broken? Was there something wrong with the valves? Was I destined to sit, alone, on the damned couch, watching poncy English actors?

Then it occurred to me that it might be the adapter. Now, many of you will have seen a Presta adapter. It looks like a screw, essentially. There are no moving parts or rubber gaskets to fail. It screwed neatly onto the valve, like it was supposed to, and fit neatly into the pump. It just seemed unreasonable that the adapter was the issue. But the REI pack came with two, so I figured it was worth breaking out the other one.

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Five minutes later, I had pumped up both tires and thrown away the faulty adapter. Then I opened up my saddle bag and my Emergency Zip Lock Full of Crap… and there was another adapter. I had owned one all along.

There may have been some anger.

At this point, there was nothing for it but to head out onto the damn trail and let bicycle bygones by bygones. I chose the Cedar River Trail, as it was close to my house and flat and I was a: 45 minutes behind schedule and b: pathetically out of shape.

It was beautiful. The bike performed perfectly, the trail was near empty, and the sun shone the entire time. There was nothing to complain about, and nothing really to note. I didn’t have any trouble hitting sixteen miles (though I noted that I was significantly slower than in My Prime), and my butt only hurt a little bit at the end. My saddle had not grown magically less annoying, but I suppose that after six months, I had to expect some level of discomfort no matter what. Otherwise, it was the same trail I remembered, with a few added smiles from the rider in question.

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It was glorious and vaguely anti-climatic, all at once. Much like my blog! And my life!

Most importantly, the tires stayed pumped!

 

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No, Really! That’s My Bike! On a Trail!

More coming soon!

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Vintage Bike Buying Guide: 3-Speeds!

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Why Buy a 3-Speed?

I know, there are bikes out there with lots of speeds. You’ve seen them in the store… 21-speeds, you thought… I could ride up any hill with twenty-one different gears! It’s true that owning a 3-speed is a different experience than owning a bike with dozens of gears. But I’m here to preach it: three speeds is all you need!

Most of the time, of course. For most people, riding a 3-speed isn’t about going thirty miles an hour, riding a hundred miles, or climbing up the French Alps. If you are someone who wants to just go for fun bike rides, isn’t interested in getting there at top speed, doesn’t like spandex (or doesn’t think the world wants to see you in spandex)… a 3-speed may be for you. Here’s a 3-item list of reasons you might like a 3-speed.

1. 3-speeds have the same (or similar) gear spread as bikes with more speeds. There’s just more space between each point in the spread. So if a 10-speed goes from 1-10, with ten steps in the middle, a 3-speed might go from 1-9, with three steps in the middle. But the top gear and the bottom gear are really similar to bikes with many more speeds. You’ll mostly lose the very lowest gears, but 3-speeds aren’t designed to ride up mountains, so this isn’t as big a loss as you might think.

2. Most people never use all the gears on their bikes. Honestly, if you’re just pleasure riding, chances are you will never utilize the vast majority of your gears. You will either stay in one third of the gear range (staying on 2 on the “big” gears and then shifting between grades of 2) or you will shift the big gears from 1-3.

3. You may use your gears MORE on a simpler bike than you would on a more complex one. I find myself shifting far less on bikes with more gears, simply because it requires more thought while riding to choose which gear to use. On my 3-speed, I have three choices. Do I want to peddle less hard on a hill? I shift down. Do I want to go faster on the flats? I shift up. That’s it.

As you determine what type of bike you want, you need to look at how you want to ride. In the end, 3-speeds are great bikes for folks who are just getting back into cycling, who are afraid of the typical bent-over posture of most complex geared bikes, or who just want to ride a bike that feels like the one you had as a little kid. Three-speeds are fun, and that’s pretty much all there is to it.

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Why Vintage?

For a casual rider, a vintage bike can provide much more bicycle for the money. A new, inexpensively-produced cruiser bike can easily cost $300-500, and it won’t be particularly well-made. A fully-tuned vintage bike with all the bells and saddle-improvement-whistles can cost about the same, or even much less, and will run forever on very little care.

Also, let’s face it: vintage bikes have a certain caché that newer bikes do not. Their proportions are often more thoughtfully tuned to the way people like to ride after generations of iterations, their lines can be more graceful, and their history makes them stand out from the crowd. If you appreciate great engineering, or you just like cool old things, vintage bikes are a reasonable way to indulge yourself, as opposed to that $100,000 Mustang Shelby you’ve been eyeing on eBay.

Is Steel “Real?”

Vintage bikes are usually made of steel, it’s true. Does this make them higher quality than a new bike, or give you a “better” ride? Probably not. My vintage Raleigh Sports is made from very cheap, very heavy steel tubing and will proudly rattle my wrists off. My Gazelle Trimsport is made from higher quality steel tubing, and gives a much smoother ride. But all steel bikes will have a more visceral, rougher ride than a brand new titanium bike. This isn’t a bad thing — the “feel” of the road can make riding a vintage bike more fun, just like driving a vintage car. But there’s no reason to claim these bikes are superior to well-made bikes today (you should see the Raleigh Sports’ welds. Yike).

Where Do I Buy a Vintage Bike?

If you’re patient, and live in a reasonably-sized metro area, Craigslist is the way to go. Spend some time perusing what’s on offer, and how much those bikes cost (pay attention to condition, too, as you browse, so you know what a well-maintained bike is worth, as opposed to the “barn find” covered in rust). Every bike market is different, so there’s no way to say what a vintage 3-speed “should” cost in your area. What might seem like exorbitant highway robbery in rural middle America will be an unbelievable bargain on the mean streets of New York City. That said, rural areas are often small markets, which is where eBay can prove useful. You’ll pay more, but often this is the only market in town. Just beware: make sure the bike is sold as being in full running order before you buy!

What Should I Look For in a Vintage 3-Speed?

There are several styles of vintage 3-speed to consider.

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Dutch Bikes: The first is the fully-upright, Dutch-style bike, which is generally very heavy, designed for transportation, and virtually bomb-proof. These bikes are ideal for anyone who wants a bike that’s easy to ride: if you’ve ever ridden a bicycle successfully, you can ride one of these. As long as you don’t have to lift it onto the car rack, these bikes are also perfect for people with physical issues, as they are totally upright. If you can walk and sit in a chair, you can probably ride one of these bikes. Just remember that they are very slow, and very heavy. They are not built for significant hills of any size. They are generally weather-proof as well, and can be locked up outdoors with minimal maintenance.

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Sports-Class: These bikes are like my Raleigh Sports, and are semi-upright, with a slightly more aggressive posture. This type of bike is better for cranking up the occasional hill — they were made to be ridden on variable terrain, and they’re quite a bit faster. Almost certainly, if you remember riding a bike that you thought was wonderful when you were a kid, this class of bikes will make you feel like a kid all over again.

Other 3-Speeds: There are occasionally other types of vintage 3-speed available, some with drop bars or racing posture (particularly if you get into very old bikes). These bikes are perfect for someone who wants a bit more speed, but loves the simplicity of a vintage 3-speed. There are also 3-speed folding bikes, which are a fun alternative if you need something that’s easier to store and transport.

Factors to Consider

Manufacturers: There are many, but the best known would be the British makes like Raleigh (through the end of the 70’s, some early 80’s), Rudge, Phillips and Triumph (among others). Japanese three speeds can also be fun, and the Canadians and others also made great bikes during the 3-speed heyday. The Raleigh Sports and LTD are the best known (a LTD is a slightly less fancy Sports), and the Raleigh Sprite is a great 5-speed from the company. Raleigh Tourist and DL-1 are fancier, larger versions, requiring specialized tires, but glorious to ride. American manufacturers are dicier here. Schwinn has many fans, but Sears and Montgomery Ward are often just cheap Raleigh knock-offs. Research any unusual bike you find very carefully.

Condition: Vintage 3-speeds tend to be well-loved, meaning their paint can be pretty beat-up. Don’t worry too much about nicks and dings. Pay more attention to rust that compromises the tubing. I’d also rather see a beat-up original paint job than a cheap refinish. Even less important is the condition of the chrome. A beautiful, shiny finish can be restored to even horribly pitted chrome by rubbing it with 000 steel wool. “Mother’s Mag,” a wheel cleaner available at most auto stores, will shine up dulled aluminum parts.

Now it’s time to think about the bike’s working parts. If the bike uses an internally-geared hub in the rear, not a derailleur, you should make sure it will shift, at least a bit. Some hubs freeze up due to lack of maintenance and fixing them is expensive, plus it requires a mechanic with some specialized experience, which may be harder to find. If it shifts at all, it can probably be adjusted. Ideally, it should shift through all three gears before you take it home. Internally geared hubs, if properly maintained with a drop of lubricant now and then, can run virtually forever, so if you buy a bike with a working hub, you’ll quickly find that you love it. Derailleurs work the same way: can you shift? Does it stay in gear? As long as you’re getting a decent response from the bike, it’s probably rideable with a tune-up. If you have major gearing/shifting issues, you have to ask yourself how willing you’ll be to do a total replacement.

Other issues to watch for include brakes that don’t work, “frozen” cranks or bottom bracket, stuck seat posts and the eternal threat of a bent fork. However, if your brakes stop, at least pretty well, the cranks turn, you can adjust the seat, and the front forks look like the are at the correct angle, you can adjust the rest.

Though it’s nice to get a real leather Brooks saddle on your bike, that can also raise its price. Things like bells, baskets and other accessories are just nice extras.

Fit: Look for ridability — does the bike fit you? Vintage 3-speeds came in several sizes. Try one out before you buy! Raleigh Sports came in 19″, 21″ and 23″ versions, but sizes vary by manufacturer. You will also need to determine if you want a step-through frame or a diamond frame. Ideally, I like my legs ever-so-slightly bent on the down-stroke when peddling, my arms to be comfortably stretched but not feel like I’m reaching to get the handlebars, etc. If you can find a bike where your fit is in the middle, you can tweak it later. Never buy one that’s a hair to small or a hair too big right at first, or you’ll end up regretting that you can’t make it fit you later.

Once you’ve purchased your 3-speed, take it to a good bike mechanic. Expect to spend at least $100 to get it in good working order, but probably you’ll spend more like $200. This should include:

1. A general tune-up

2. New brake pads (salmon Kool-Stops are the best)

3. New chain

4. New tires and tubes (this can be anywhere from $15 a tire to $100, depending on your preferences. Cream tires are generally more costly).

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Other fun stuff you could pay for:

1. Lowering the gears, so it’s easier to peddle uphill (very cheap to do, especially if you’re having other work done)

2. New Brooks saddle ($90-150)

3. Brass ding-dong bells, baskets, and saddle bags.

Maintenance on a vintage 3-speed is easy: buy a goose-neck oil bottle at the auto store and fill it with automatic transmission fluid. I like to add a bit of Phil Wood’s Tenacity and a few drops of automatic transmission fluid twice a year. That seems to be plenty, though you can also wait for the hub to start sounding like it’s clicking more loudly before you add more oil.

Otherwise, your 3-speed should run forever with few, if any, issues. That doesn’t mean you can’t improve the bikes. Here are a couple “extras” you can eventually add to improve your bike’s performance:

1. Aluminum rims — these will lighten the bike considerably. A front dynamo hub can be easily added at this point, if you want to, for automatic lighting.

2. New calipers and cables for the brakes — help improve the braking. There are some brands available that look reasonable authentic. I haven’t found authentic looking brake levers yet.

3. Add a coaster brake! This solves the above issue, and is fun to have. 

3-speeds are great bikes for almost anyone, as long as you aren’t expecting to ride them fast. I highly encourage folks to snap them up!

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Don’t worry, I haven’t disappeared…

I will be back (as Arnold would say). Just busy as all get out right now, and not riding much due to pain and busy-ness.

I have started my own wee Etsy shop, which you’re all encouraged to visit, and of course, support me by covering yourselves in darling crocheted jewelry which has nothing to do with bikes (it’s all very pretty, though!).

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Otherwise, hand in there, biking friends. I’m coming back, I promise!

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Oops.

On a ride with friends, and the Gazelle Champion Mondial has a spectacular tire and tube blowout. Fortunately, we are close to Recycled Cycles, and half an hour layer, the bike has new Panaracer gumwalls and my friends have seen the Fremont Troll

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July 10 2013 Ride: Quickly Serendipitous

Now that our lives are ruled by The Pup, I have to squeeze in my rides when he is either a: worn out and okay with being caged or b: with another family member, preferably A Child. Last Wednesday, The Fatherly Guy and The Girls were at home. I was working until four, then again at seven, in the same area of town. Since I had no responsibility to The Pup, I threw The Gazelle Chaimpion Mondial on the bike rack, and figured I’d use that three-hour gap for a long ride.

Of course, by the time I had prepared for the following day’s lessons at work, grabbed a drink, and run a quick errand, I had less than two hours. By the time I drove to the building where I had my next appointment and parked, I had just over an hour.

Where to go?

My private tutoring appointment was arranged to meet in a conference room in south Bellevue. The office complex is prettily situated in the Mercer Slough, a large wetland. The buildings are built on stilts and there are trees and marshes surrounding each one. It’s quite lovely. Might there be any interesting trails in there?

No, there aren’t. So moving on.

I headed out onto the road, after a couple hopeful circuits of the parking lot. There were two ways I could go: down the street and onto the freeway (generally a bad idea on a bicycle), or out along the slough.

I have ridden along the slough several times. It’s part of the Lake Washington Loop. It is also, despite being a marsh, situated near a giant hill. Perhaps this is related to the marshiness. Who knows? But I did know I wanted to avoid that damned hill, if possible.

But it was a choice between the hill, a ride downtown during rush hour, or the freeway.

I went with the hill.

And you know what? On The Gazelle, it wasn’t that bad. My previous attempts had been on The Raleigh (remember The Raleigh?). I lost to a perky-butted commuter who zoomed in front of me half-way up when I had to stop or die, but let’s face it — that’s all about my fitness level, not the bike or the hill. After I gained the top, I rode down via a pretty little walking trail through the woods. There is a bike lane out on the street, but please. Woodlands trump road.

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The Raleigh has also posed here.

The end of the trail deposited me near the entrance to the fabled I-90 trail, which I rode the other day (I am chillingly self-referential right now!). I didn’t have the time to do that ride, but I decided I’d head out a ways on the trail just for variety, then turn around and head back.

As I crested the super-tall bridge over the wetlands, I spotted a sign. One direction led toward I-90, and the other was labelled: “Blueberry Farm and Park & Ride.” Here’s the funny thing — my office is just a few blocks from the Blueberry Farm. I had discovered a loop!

Yes, it’s a real blueberry farm. There are u-pick bushes and a there’s a small fruit stand.

So that was the direction I headed, taking a small trail under the freeway and emerging where I would have assumed would have been my stopping point, had I ridden the other way from the office park.

When I reached the actual farm, I stopped and purchased, of course, some blueberries. I had plenty of room to put them in the Carradice, next to my camera and purse and repair kit.

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By the time I arrived back at the building, I had just enough time before my appointment to stop sweating. Perfect! The blueberries, alas, tasted rather like… well, all other blueberries on earth. I mean, that’s not a bad thing, but you expect more, somehow. But loops!

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June 30 2013 Ride: Carrying Capacity

A few days ago, I turned forty-two. While this may not seem significant to most people… okay, it didn’t seem particularly significant to me, either. I’m not big into birthdays. Last year, I was in England on my birthday. In fact, I was riding a bike. I was so busy touring and riding and dealing with my trip that I didn’t notice that I had turned forty-one until two days after my birthday.

This year, The Handsome Man was sick, The Boy was gone, and I was left to hang-out with The New Pup, who was not especially cognizant of my supposed Big Day. My present was late arriving in the mail, so essentially my birthday passed without much acknowledgment. I didn’t particularly care.

No really, I wasn’t hurt. It was no big deal. You shouldn’t feel bad about it. Seriously. I mean it.

Three days later, my present arrived, and last weekend, I was finally able to strap it onto the bike and head out for a ride. The Adorable Pup was supervised, the kids were gone… the only problem remained the weather.

And for once, I’m not talking about bitter blasts of frozen rain or malicious mists or even dank overcast skies. I’m not bemoaning gusty headwinds. No, the problem here is so unusual, so startling, that I hardly know how to describe it. The reason I hesitated to take my bike out into the wild is that it was…

Too. Darn. Hot.

Yes, you read that correctly. I know, we’re hardly talking the scorching temperatures of the southern states here. We’re not even talking the muggy humidity of Portland on a warm day. But it was over 90 degrees in the shade, and let’s face it, at some point the weather just swings far enough to the other side to push even the most stoical of Seattle residents into a sweat-covered state of apathy. If we can’t wear fleece, my god, people, how can we function?

Anyway, I ignored the heat and bravely set out at midday to take in the entirety of the Cedar River Trail’s paved portion, which extends 14 miles. It was very, very warm. I kept thinking that the river trail would be cooler than it was up at my house (why I was thinking this is a mystery to me in retrospect, as we’re up on top of a hill where cool breezes blow year-round, and the trail is down in a valley, but you know how illogical I can be). I seemed to recall long stretches of shade. I was partially correct in this remembrance: there are stretches of shade, punctuated by much longer stretches of bare asphalt and bitterness.

At any rate, I was really there to try out the new bag.

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In selecting a new bag for The Gazelle Champion Mondial, I wanted something relatively small, but not as small as  The Raleigh’s wee saddlebag. The Champion Mondial thinks baskets look dorky on it. It’s a fast bike, relative to the other two I own, and it wants something more sporty.

I spent far more time considering this than I wanted to. There is an absolute paucity of small bags out there. Oh sure, there are saddle wedges, but those are too small. I needed to be able to put a camera in there, my purse, a small repair kit, and a jacket. The Raleigh’s wee bag barely holds my camera. But a bag like the Carradice Barley, which I’ve owned before, would be far too large for my day-ride purposes. So what to do?

I settled on the Carradice Junior, which is the smallest bag they make that still met my minimum needs. To me, it’s a bit on the big side, but I had few choices. I sent a link to The Birthday Present Guy and he ordered it for me.

I bought the black and cream version, as the green/tan one didn’t seem like it would look as good with The Gazelle’s yellow-gold paint. When it arrived, I was once again struck by the quality of Carradice bags. It’s beautifully made, with tight seams and stiffly waxed fabric.

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Guess I won’t be covering it with buttons anytime soon (that would, I realized, make the waterproofing pointless). Perhaps at some point, I’ll put one or two on the light strap, since I have no need of a blinky.

The interior is, as I said, a bit big for my purposes, but I’ll survive.

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This shot includes: my purse, a replacement tube, my full repair kit, and my camera bag. I had room for a coat, gloves, snacks and anything else I might require. It’s a pretty darn big bag. The little rack on The Gazelle works nicely to stabilize the bag and support it.

It didn’t seem to slow me down with enormous rear-end drag or anything.

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In fact, the only thing slowing me down on this ride was the fact that it was rather like riding through a furnace. There was very little shade (contrary to these pictures. I wasn’t stopping in the hottest places), and by about mile 12 on the way out, I was pretty pooped. Now, normally adding 4-5 more miles to my ride and knowing I’d completed the trail would be no big deal, but in this case, I decided that heat was simply too much. I turned around and headed back.

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Two more memorable events occurred when I was essentially done with my ride. A mile or so before the end of the trail, there’s a small grocery. I popped in and grabbed a fudge bar, then headed next door to a small park with a gazebo, hoping for the cool. There was an older couple there, with their two grandchildren out trying to hit a baseball to each other. I sat down in the gazebo at the other table, and smiled at the old man across from me.

“Nice day,” he commented, and I agreed. “We came here to get away from the crowds,” he said. I noted that the small park was indeed, not crowded.

“Don’t like the crowds at the other parks these days, if you know what I mean.”

I stared at him. I was pretty sure I did know what he meant, but was really, really hoping I was mistaken.

“Yeah,” I said pointedly, “those kids with their loud radios and such are really annoying.”

“Oh no… I don’t mean them.” He was nervously conspiratorial now. I had a real desire to get up and walk away. He looked vaguely like a redneck Santa Clause, in red suspenders and with a big white beard. I sighed internally as he continued: “I mean… there’s too many Somalis and Mexicans, you know? They’ve just taken over everything. I don’t mean to be prejudice, but…”

I narrowed my eyes. “Can’t say I agree with that, but the parks are crowded on sunny days, I suppose.”

He gave me a smile and at that moment, his granddaughter came over to ask for money for a fudge bar of her own. His OBVIOUSLY MIXED-RACE granddaughter.

I left.

Back on the trail, I headed over the trestle bridge. I’ve photographed this bridge numerous times.

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That’s it about a month ago. It goes right over the Cedar River, about 40 feet above the water. There are signs clearly posted on it reminding folks not to jump in the water. Now, it was hot. Did I mention that it was hot? The river was packed with people, paddling, intertubing and swimming. As I rode over the trestle, I saw a group of men standing on the other side of the guard rail. The wrong side. Down below, a woman was standing in the water and shouting up: “Let him do it if he wants to!”

Let’s reread that, shall we: “A woman was standing in the water,” encouraging her friend/lover/greatest enemy to jump down into the water from 40 feet over her head. The waist-deep water.

I rode another half a block and called the cops. “They’re what?” the operator said.

“Jumping off the Cedar River trestle into the river. It didn’t seem like a very good idea to me,” I noted, “as my tax-dollars will pay to treat their paralysis.”

She gave a wry laugh. “Yep, not a good idea at all. Patrol cars are on their way.”

I saw them as I drove home. I was covered in a thin veneer of sweat and nausea from too much heat and casual racism and stupidity. But hey, the bag was very useful. So happy birthday to me!

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