Friday, January 27, 2012

What Does Your Dog Do While You're Out Riding?

If you love dogs like I do, and have one or more at home, you sometimes feel sad that they miss out on the interesting things you see while you're out exploring on the bike. Photos just don't cut it for dogs ... and, although they pretend to be interested, I'm confident they don't truly understand what I'm saying when I tell them about the horses I saw.

Some people actually take their dogs out on the bike ... in a special basket equipped with a dog bed ... or running along the side on a leash. I've even seen some very clever contraptions that attach to a bike with a safety-release mechanism on a short pole that keeps your dog at the right distance from the wheels but breaks free in the event an accident occurs.

That sounds like good fun, and I've thought about trying some of those methods of dog/bike accompaniment ... but the truth is, my little dog whines even in the comfy car, so she probably would freak out in a bike basket. And my bigger dog ... well, let's face it, I'd just slow him down. So ... I take them out for walks a few times each day ... and, sadly, let them stay home when I ride.

But I often wonder what they do while I'm out riding. Yesterday, my return home offered a clue, at least for my smaller dog, Libby:

"Back so soon?  I was having such a nice dream ...."
It appears she jumps into our bed, rearranges the pillows to suit her needs, and then lounges among them for a nice nap. For some silly reason, I thought my leaving was a sad time for them ... but apparently I was mistaken. I have to admit, though ... it was kinda nice to (even mistakenly) think they might be missing me ... at least a little bit. Oh, well ... I guess that just means I don't have to worry about them when I take an extra long ride ... as long as I make it back in time for their dinner ... now THAT would be a problem!

What does your dog do while you're out riding?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Open Trails and New Friends

It rained here Monday ... a LOT. It was the most rain we've had in months. We really needed it, so no big deal, but generally the day after such a storm means bike lanes and paths full of leaves, dirt, and other assorted debris. So ... with that in mind and the weather forecast of "Windy & High Surf Advisory", my plan was to get out yesterday for a brief ride to go see the aforementioned high surf and then come back to do some work that's starting to pile up.

Well ... you know how it goes when you "plan" something.

The "high surf" wasn't really all that high. It was nice ... beautiful as always ... but not exactly the "wow, look at that" I was expecting. I rode on ... down to the other beach area, and was just about to head for home when I thought I'd take a look at the path entrance at the far end of the beach. If you remember from a previous post (along with its subsequent but still previous-to-this-one post, when it rains, the path entrance is usually flooded, like this:

Previous visit:  Flooded from recent light rain ... no passing without waders.
Since the rain yesterday was rather heavy, I was fully expecting to see a massively flooded path entrance. To my great surprise, I found this:

Yesterday:  NOT flooded after heaviest rain in months ... ummmm, huh?
Well ... since the path was open for the first time in over a week, I felt I just had to continue on. After all, who knows when it will be flooded again? The ride felt good, even with the fair bit of wind that was semi-accurately predicted by the weather-predicting people ... so I thought I should go a little farther to see what was happening with that path lane closure I wrote about in another previous post. If you remember, it was supposed to be open after December 30, but was still closed on January 5, and STILL closed, PLUS demoted from "path" to "lane" on January 10:

January 5 ... still closed ... with concrete

January 10 ... demoted from "path" to "lane" ... and still closed
Just imagine my grin as I approached the path lane closure area and found this:

Yesterday ... Open path ahead!  Well, I assume it's now called a "path" again ...
Hot diggity! It was turning out to be a good day! First, the path entrance was NOT flooded ... and then the path lane was NOT closed! Of course this meant that my original plan was now rendered null and void, as the newly opened path lane, to which I have now restored its former title of "path", was calling me to visit those places I've not visited for so long.

And visit, I did. I rode through the underpass and on to the old route I used to ride often ... where there are trails and animals to see. I didn't take a photo of the cows ... because they looked a little sad in the muddy area they were confined to as a result of all the recent rain. But they were there, just as I remembered (except for the mud). As I continued on, I greeted the first group of horses:

Hello, Fuzzy Horses!
I'm no horse expert, but I'd have to say this one is ... fuzzy. They, too, had a muddy corral. Still farther up the newly open path ... crossing a few roads ... through a park I haven't seen in years ... I reached another set of horse stables. There were many horses here ... some just hanging out in the sun:

Just hangin'
Others were involved in some form of horse aerobics:

Horse treadmill?
For the most part, they gave me a brief glance and then went on with their day. I understand ... they have stuff to do that's more important than some dude with a camera. But there was one horse who seemed to be rather interested, and immediately came toward me as I approached the corral:

"That sure is a funny-looking horse you're riding, Mister ... got any carrots?"
I felt it might be rude to ask, and even more so to take a visual inspection, so I don't know if this fine-looking animal is a "him" or a "her". It doesn't really matter, though, as it was just very warming to the heart to have this beautiful creature come to greet me from the far side of the corral.

"Would you like to be my friend?"

"Maybe you could scratch my head ... and pet my nose ..."
Those big eyes seemed to be holding some deeper thoughts than possible to physically express, and I took a few minutes to offer some head scratching and nose petting ... all returned with a nuzzle of thanks and a nod of happiness. It's hard to beat the smile of a horse ...

"Dude ... check out my whiskers ... they're awesome!"

"Aww, gee whiz ... leaving so soon?"
It was hard to walk away from this beautiful animal who didn't want me to leave ... but since I was only planning a 30-minute ride and had already been out for over an hour at the half-way point of the ride, I really needed to head back home and get to work. So I offered one more scratch of the head and one more pet on the nose ... and promised to return with carrots. I rode away, trying to not look back ... and followed the wonderful newly-opened path back to the beach, and then up the hills to home. I'm so glad I brought the camera ... just in case this horse is not there the next time I ride that way. You can never have too many pictures, especially when they capture the meeting of a new friend.

Days like this are why I love riding a bike. Exploring new (and old) places, being in a more natural environment, and getting to see the variety of animals along the way. Hope there are clear trails and paths where you are ... and new animal friends to meet!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Rivendell Sackville Bags - Part 1

If you're like me, you like to bring stuff with you when you ride. After all, it's not simply about pedaling a bicycle ... it's also about finding fun things to take photos of, stopping to write down some notes of the inspired thought that would otherwise disappear by the time you get home, making sure you're equipped for minor road or trail mechanical emergencies, and so on. Basically, you want to have the stuff with you that you might need or find useful for your daily adventure. And who knows when you'll find some kind of unique treasure along the way that you just have to take home ...

It follows that if you're going to bring stuff with you, you'll need some place to put it while you ride ... something to carry it all in. Sure, you could just grab a backpack ... but then you have all that extra weight hanging around your neck, shoulders, and back ... and that can be restrictive, hot, and tiring ... and it makes the riding less fun. No ... you need bike baggage ... and I have some product reviews for you today that might be just what you're looking for.

Here's my disclaimer:  None of the products reviewed here were provided to me by the manufacturer or any retailer for evaluation. Nope. I'm not one of those famous bloggers who gets stuff for free. I purchased everything with my own money, and without any sort of special interweb journalist discount, so you can rest assured that the opinions expressed here are unbiased and come purely through my own experience ... good, bad, or otherwise. That being said, should any manufacturers out there wish to provide some cool bike-related products for ... ummm ... testing and evaluation ... I would likely be open to offering my honest review.

Rivendell Bicycle Works offers more than just a fine selection of bicycles. Among their other products is a line of bags designed for use on your bike. This set of bags is produced under the name Sackville:

I like the slogan "Sacks for Cyclers" ... sounds better than "Cyclists", don't you think?
The Sackville line is made in the good ol' USA, and the bags are constructed with high quality heavy weight waxed and waterproof cotton duck, with leather trim and brass hardware. Non-leather versions are available in some models for the anti-leather folks out there. Several styles are available, from simple tool rolls to handlebar bags, rack-top trunk bags, saddle bags, and some unique bags designed for basket use.

Today's review (Part 1 of 2) will focus on the two bags I'm currently using the most on my Hunqapillar. These are the Medium SaddleSack and the SlickerSack.

First, let's look at the Sackville Medium SaddleSack:

Lots of brass hardware for strapping on what can't fit inside!

Zippered pockets on both sides for easy access! Leather flaps to keep water out!
This bag has a large main compartment and two side zippered pockets. It is large enough to hold my toolkit, small camera tripod, notebook and pen, picnic blanket, and lunch with room to spare for an extra layer of clothing or extra camera gear. The side zip pockets are great for my cell phone, keys, and wallet. The bag comes with a snap-on pouch that could also be used for small valuable personal items, the idea being that you can quickly remove it and take it with you, leaving the saddlebag attached. I like the idea, but generally don't use it, since I'm always with my bike when I'm out (this is not my shopping bike ... too attractive to would-be thieves).

The main compartment is accessed through a large rear cover flap that has a nice strip of reflective material sewn on for safety. It's very bright when lights hit it at night, but is also very useful in the daytime ... can't imagine anyone not seeing this. The cover flap is secured with adjustable-length leather straps, smartly equipped with sturdy brass snap fittings for quick and easy opening and closing. This was an important feature for me, since buckling and unbuckling of the normal strap closures is tedious (and I'm often impatient).

Snap open ... just guide through the D-ring for opening or closing the main flap

Snap closed ... strong and secure ... fast and easy.  I like!
For the same reason, I really appreciate the zippered side pockets. Many large saddlebags use buckle closures on the straps for those, and it's just too much extra effort when I want to get in or out of the pocket. Zippers and snaps are fast and easy.

Inside the bag, you'll find a Corroplast plate attached to the bottom with wide Velcro strips to provide a stiff and stable shape, keeping the bag from getting droopy. It works very well, and is virtually weightless, but since it's a hard material, things can rattle around on top of it without some kind of padding. For this, I purchased a clearance bin fleece throw blanket and trimmed it to picnic size, then used it to line the bottom of the bag. It serves double purpose for providing bag padding and occasional lawn covering for actual picnic applications or if I need to lay the bike down for a quick tube replacement, etc. The main compartment has a large inner cotton duck storm flap that also helps to keep your stuff secured, and might even help keep it in the bag if you forget to snap the straps on the outer flap.

Inner flap covers and secures your stuff!
Inner flap open ... inside: tripod, camera strap, tools, and more!
Tools, spare tubes, large portable pump, notebook, picnic blanket ...room for more
This bag can be attached to just the loops on your Brooks saddle, with a strap around the seatpost, as the Corroplast stiffener will maintain the bottom shape. There are rings on the bottom of the bag if you need to raise it or provide some additional support in this mounting fashion. Or ... as I prefer to do, especially with a smaller bike frame ... you can mount the bag to a rear rack. Almost any rack will work, but I've opted to use a Nitto R-14 Top Rack, which can be positioned lower and closer to the seat tube than a standard rack on my small frame. This rack also has a U-shaped loop on top that fits into a leather slot on the bag front:

Leather slot fits over rack loop to secure the bag.
The main straps wrap around a sturdy wooden dowel inside the leather strip on the bag for solid support and stability, and are attached to the bag loops on my saddle:

Wooden dowel anchored straps attached to Brooks saddle bag loops
The bottom of the bag has a leather surface for abrasion resistance, with slots for additional security when mounting on a rack. I used two heavy zip ties to secure the back end of the bag to the rack top.

Zip ties through leather slots secure the bag and prevent any movement.
I almost forgot to mention this, since it's generally not a huge concern of mine, but this bag is very light. Looking at it, one might expect it to add considerable weight to the bike. In reality, although it's made from heavy-duty materials, those materials are also quite light in comparison to the weight of comparable bags or panniers. When empty, it feels the same to me as if there was no bag there at all. The only weight I ever notice is that of its contents, but even then, it's not a problem, because it's positioned properly where bike handling is not affected.

I love the Medium SaddleSack! It has made it possible for me to go ride without ever having concern for where I might put something. It's never more than I need ... and never less. I must admit that when I first received the shipment from Rivendell, I thought I may have made a mistake. I was unaccustomed to seeing a bag this large on my bike, and it almost looked like much more than I needed. However, after using it for a few days, it suddenly didn't look so out-of-place to me, and the usefulness has made me wonder why I waited so long. It is now just a part of my bike ... I put in what I need, take out what I don't, and don't even think about it being there when it's empty.

The second bag I use regularly now is the Sackville SlickerSack, which is unfortunately now discontinued (but still available as of this post writing). That's a real shame, because it's a brilliant design. I almost never got it, because it was fairly expensive, but when Rivendell had their first ever sale and put it on their "going away" list, I figured I'd better get one while I still could.

The SlickerSack was, according to the product information, designed to be the ultimate commuter bag for carrying a small laptop, books, or camera gear. It was made specifically to fit the Nitto Platrack (also now discontinued ... but still available as of this post writing). The Platrack is an add-on "porteur" style platform for a Nitto Mark's Rack or Mini Front Rack. The Platrack platform, once initially installed and adjusted, can be put on or removed from the front rack in a couple of minutes, making the whole system quite versatile for quick changes with different front bag setups. Possibly the reason the bag didn't sell as well as hoped is the requirement for the two rack components, but the idea was that many people already had the Mark's or Mini Front rack (which I did), and so only need the Platrack and bag. I also already had the Platrack, which I used as a base for a large basket on my "grocery bike". It worked extremely well there, but has now been transferred for use with the SlickerSack.

Here's the SlickerSack/Platrack combination, mounted on a Nitto Mini Front rack:

Nicely designed ... great attention to small details ... notice the wrap-around reflective material

Even the zipper pulls are leather and brass ... awesome!
It's basically a nicely designed briefcase-style bag, but with some well-thought-out touches. It has a sturdy zipper around the top, with nice brass and leather pulls. There are two brass D-rings for use with the included matching shoulder strap, so you can carry it easily off the bike. The top has slots for attaching straps ... handy if you need some extra space to secure a jacket or yoga mat or whatever. There's a handle on the front for carrying, which is firmly sewn in ... I can't see it ever coming off. And there's some nice reflective material sewn all the way around near the bottom. It is an extremely lightweight bag, but is also very durable and well made.

It attaches to the bike with a leather slot that fits over the U-shaped loop of the rack, and four heavy-duty brass snaps on leather straps that attach around the Platrack rails.

Leather slot slips over rack loop
Brass snaps secure the bag to the Platrack rails
I got this bag to use as a case for my Olympus PEN E-PL3 camera, with extra lens, flash, viewfinder, spare battery and other accessories. I love the look of these bags, and it seemed like a nice way to go that would work well on the bike, but also be presentable off the bike for any of the more "professional" places that I would be taking the camera system. It has worked very well in that regard, although I did make some internal modifications for protection of my camera and gear.

The inside has a Corroplast panel, which is attached to the bottom of the bag with wide and strong Velcro strips. The side panels of the bag have some lightly-padded material, and there are two dividers included that can be placed with Velcro as desired. I did not use those, as I had other plans. Since I wanted the best protection from vibration and impact for my camera and gear, I used a set of foam pieces made for the interior of a Pelican equipment case. The foam had to be cut and glued to match the front curve and exact size of the SlickerSack, and sections removed to fit the camera, extra lens, and accessories. I used a 1" thick piece of foam as a bottom (which sits on top of the Corroplast), with a 2" thickness of custom cut foam for the camera/accesories, and a piece of 2" egg-crate foam in the top of the case. Once cut to fit and glued, it all worked perfectly, and the inside now looks like this:

Custom cut foam insert and top panel ... Olympus PEN E-PL3 camera and accessories ready to roll!

The camera is protected very well, and the entire bag (now really more of a "case") with camera and all accessories is incredibly light. The main foam insert for the camera can be easily removed if I ever need to use the bag in another capacity, since it isn't actually attached to the bag, but fits snugly and does its job well. The bag goes on and off the front rack quite easily, although I do need to unzip the bag and reach inside to assure a firm connection when snapping the straps (some pressure from inside the bag is required). When I get to my destination, a quick unsnapping of the straps and sliding off the rack loop frees the whole thing, and I'm off and running.

One nice benefit of this system is that I can stop and grab the camera relatively fast without getting off the bike. The zippers are within reach, and it's no problem to get the camera as its positioned in the case.

Having this bag on the front of the bike changes the handling in such a small way that I didn't even notice it after about 30 seconds of riding. Any front bag will change handling to some degree, but this one is so little that it's a non-issue. I only mention it because some of you may be wondering.

The only negative I have found is that the Corroplast panel tends to make some noise against the metal rack over bumps. I have resolved this little issue by inserting some light fleece blanket material (left over from the one I cut for the SaddleSack) under the Corroplast to give it a little cushion. The fleece is thin enough to fit, but cushy enough to buffer the Corroplast.

So there you have it ... the Medium SaddleSack and SlickerSack ... my two favorite Rivendell Sackville bags! Part 2 will include the Sackville Trunk Bags, ShopSack, and Mark's ToolWrap ... very clever items with many applications.

Stay tuned ...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mini Reviews: Brooks, Bell, and Brilliant Mirror

This morning brought sunshine and the promise of a good ride ... so off I went in search of clear paths and trails. And then I saw this:

Yep ... path still flooded.  Three days now ... stupid flooded path!
If you read my previous post, you'll know that there's no way I'm heading toward the "Wind Tunnel From Hell" again ... and I didn't really want to ride all the way back to where I started to take a completely different route. So, instead, I took a few photos of some things on my Hunqapillar that bring pleasure to my rides ... perhaps you'll give them a try for yourself.

Here's my disclaimer:  None of the products reviewed here were provided to me by the manufacturer or any retailer for evaluation. Nope. I'm not one of those famous bloggers who gets stuff for free. I purchased everything with my own money, and without any sort of special interweb journalist discount, so you can rest assured that the opinions expressed here are unbiased and come purely through my own experience ... good, bad, or otherwise. That being said, should any manufacturers out there wish to provide some cool bike-related products for ... ummm ... testing and evaluation ... I would likely be open to offering my honest review.

First, there's my saddle.  It's a Brooks B17 Select.  You can get them from many dealers, including Rivendell. The saddle is the same size and shape as the Standard B17 and B17 Special, but is made from organically raised cattle hide, which results in a thicker, more robust and durable (claimed) leather.

From the Brooks website:
This version of the B17 is made with our extra tough, organic leather for high mileage cyclists. It also features our hand hammered copper rivets.
Unlike the other B17 versions, the Select is not dyed or tanned, instead left in its natural color. This is what it looked like out of the box, after one initial coat of Proofide (the Brooks-approved saddle conditioner):

Brooks B17 Select on it's first ride (after 1 coat of Proofide).

And this is what it looks like now, after almost two months of riding:

Brooks B17 Select after almost two months of riding ... aging nicely!
You can see it's a little darker, wearing in to a beautiful tone. That's one of the reasons I felt the urge to buy this saddle for my Hunqapillar. Natural leather ages in a wonderful way and seems to just look better with time. There's nothing wrong with dyed or tanned leathers ... I just like the natural aging process better.

I have some other Brooks saddles, including another B17, a B68 (wider), and a Team Pro (narrower). I like all of them, and originally planned to move one of them to the Hunqapillar when it arrived. But as I was waiting for it to be built, I came across the B17 Select, and something just told me it was the right one for this bike. The beautiful natural leather and hammered copper rivets seemed to be more appropriate, and the description of the "extra tough organic leather for high mileage cyclists" sounded like the right idea.

The choice was not wrong. In fact, I couldn't be happier. This is, by far, the best saddle I've ever owned ... and the most comfortable. Better than any of my other Brooks models, and better than any other brand I've had the pleasure (or pain) to sit on. Although the leather is noticeably thicker and stiffer, it also has a better "give" when I'm riding it. It's difficult to describe, and I can't offer any reason for the sensation. Brooks saddles have a reputation for needing a lengthy break-in period where it will be very stiff as it gradually shapes to you during your rides. I've experienced that on the other models I have, but somehow not on this one. It has been very comfortable from the start, even on longer rides. I can just now see the beginning of the shaping on the saddle top after almost two months, so it is still breaking in ... and continues to be even more comfortable each time I get on.

Another thing I've noticed is that most standard Brooks saddles have a tendency for the side "wings" or skirts to spread out from the pressure when you sit on them. For this reason, like many other Brooks owners, I've had to punch or drill a few holes in the skirt and tie the sides together to prevent the saddle from prematurely sagging, or from just being annoying when the skirts brush my thighs . The Select, on the other hand, seems to retain its shape under pressure. I'm guessing there may come a day far in the future that I may need to perform the same skirt-tying procedure, but I can't see it being necessary any time soon.

In short, the B17 Select is a saddle purchase I will not regret, unlike many saddles before it. The place your bum perches as you ride is critical to your comfort. It deserves some effort to find the right shape, size, and material. If you like leather saddles, and think you might like to give a classic Brooks saddle a try, take a look at this one. It is a bit expensive, but very much in line with premium saddles from any company ... even a bit less than many other top-of-the-line models from quality brands. From what I can tell so far, it will last for many years, and continue to get even better with time.

Next up is a simple little thing that doesn't cost much, but is incredibly useful and always brings a smile to whoever gazes upon it. It is my Crane Copper Bell.

Pretty! Ignore the man in the reflection ... he's trying to be artistic with his photo-taking.
When you need to alert someone that you're approaching, you could simply yell "ON YOUR LEFT" at the top of your lungs, scaring the pants off anyone who might be in the way. I've tried that, and it almost works sometimes ... but mostly just gets me dirty looks. Such a vocalization seems to say "Get out of my way", which is never met with cheerfulness. On the other hand, the quite loud, but very cheerful sound of a properly made bell like the one in the picture above says "Pardon me ... may I pass?" I've yet to have anyone give me a dirty look when they hear my pretty bell. Yes, I said "pretty." Dudes like pretty things, too.

I really love the look of the classic and timeless Japanese bells. They come in brass, aluminum (silver), and the copper you see above. The striking mechanism is available in two styles. The one I have is a very simple tightly wound coil spring with a brass "hammer" end that collides with the bell with just a light flip of the finger ... easy and quick to do whenever a greeting or alert is called for. The other style ("Lever Strike" models) is a rigid metal piece anchored with a wire spring that requires a more deliberate action to press the striker and release. I prefer the simple spring, but either is effective and looks wonderful. There are also different sizes of the bells. The one I have is a smaller model, with a slightly higher pitch. The larger models have a deeper pitch and are a bit louder. Choose as needed for your ringing environment. The clamp that attaches the bell to your bike also comes in different forms. Mine has a simple metal clamp that is secured with a bolt, and will fit any tube from 22 to 26 mm in diameter, which makes it versatile for attaching to handlebars or quill stems as you see in the photo. I've added a strip of cloth handlebar tape under my clamp to prevent any possible scratches on the stem, but this is purely a cosmetic choice, and is not necessary for attachment. The bells are also available with a more modern forged aluminum clamp, pictured here, if you prefer. A third option is for the bell to be mounted on a headset spacer for direct attachment to either a threaded or threadless stem. Velo Orange is the the only source I'm aware of for this option, although there may be others. I've used this method on my other bikes, and it works very well, allowing selective secure placement, much like the clamp version in the photo.

Crane bells are available from lots and lots of bike shops and online retailers. Rivendell carries some, but is reducing some of their inventory, so you may not find all sizes or colors. Universal Cycles and SOMA Fabrications are also good sources for a wide selection of bells.

The ring of a bell is an almost universal greeting that alerts people to an approaching bicycle, and does it in a pleasant way. It's also a great way to just say hello as you pass another person, whether they're on a bike, pushing a stroller, walking a dog, or jogging. It almost always results in a smile. The only possible negative with this particular model is that the bell occasionally rings itself when riding over especially bumpy areas, since the coiled spring is lightly tensioned. At first, it was a tiny bit annoying, but I've grown to like it ... as though my bike creates a little music when the going gets rough. The "Lever Strike" models will not do this, so if you prefer to avoid the phantom ringing, get one of those. I happen to prefer the easier ringing of the spring models, and don't mind the bonus music.

The last item I'd like to tell you about is one of those things that took a while for me to purchase, not because it's costly, but because it required letting go of my insecurity and thinking it would somehow make me less "cool". Once I gave in and got one, I realized that its benefits far outweigh any insecurity I may have once had ... and now I absolutely have to have one on every bike I own. The item of which I speak is the UltraLight German Mirror.

UltraLight German Mirror ... it's aerodynamic!

Another use for a mirror: taking photos of yourself taking a photo ... now THAT's art!
For me, the idea of putting a mirror on a bicycle meant that I would officially become a nerd. At the same time, if I had to negotiate streets with cars and silent hybrids, and bike paths with crazy dogs and even crazier roadies who refuse to announce their passing until they're actually passing, it was something that I felt I really needed to try.

It was Rivendell's product description that put me a little more at ease and prompted me to buy one. It was very easy to install (and remove if necessary), easy to adjust, and stayed put once I got it in the right position. It mounts with a simple flexible plastic band that tightens into a clamp with a brass screw, which makes it adaptable to any handlebar type, as well as other places on the bike, such as a fork leg (seriously!) or even a front rack. The mirror itself is attached to a ball socket joint with a screw clamp for easy positioning.

Although I did have some doubts, it didn't get in the way of my hand placement on the bars. And it didn't look as dorky as I thought it might. It has made my awareness of traffic and surroundings better, with just a quick glance to see what may be coming from behind in the distance. The curvature of the mirror surface is just enough to provide a wide field of view without being too distorted. It is also extremely durable, dare I say "unbreakable" (a good thing with the whole 7-years-of-bad-luck-mirror-breaking problem). I now have three of them, and they have all survived being brutally bashed in doorways, banged on fence rails, and assorted other encounters, with no signs of damage whatsoever. The mirror just pivots on the ball joint and/or handlebar clamp, needing only a re-adjustment back to normal position and I'm back in business.

I still double check by turning my head before I make a move to the left in traffic, just as I would when driving a car. A mirror alone doesn't always reveal everything, and there can be blind spots on a bike as much as in a car. However, the mirror does let me have a more continual awareness of what's approaching behind me and passing. A little extra awareness is a good thing.

If you think a mirror might be your ticket to Nerdville, don't worry. Give this one a shot. It's inexpensive, and easy to remove if it doesn't work out for you ... and who knows, you may just find that you like having a better, faster, wider field of vision without always having to turn your head completely around to see what's behind you!

That's it for today! Enjoy your ride, if you get to go out ... I understand there are some pretty bad storms going on out there, so be careful!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

California Winter and the Wind Tunnel From Hell

Well, since I've posted so much about how nice the weather has been here, it seems only fitting that we finally received some California-style winter. Sunday brought us some light misty cold rain off and on through the day and evening, followed by a very cold (for SoCal) night and Monday morning. It was cold and windy, but not too much for a ride ... and the misty rain was gone, so I dressed warmer than usual and headed out.

The blue skies were nowhere to be seen, instead coated with varying shades of gray. The warm air was also missing, replaced with a chilling wind. Nevertheless, I pressed on ... seeing images like this:

Remember when this was pretty blue sky just a couple of days ago?
I rode past the beach to the entrance of the bike path that leads inland, wanting to check up on the path closure status. When I got there, I found the underpass flooded. You see, when we get rain here, no matter how small the amount, it all runs downhill from the mountains through the creeks and water channels to the ocean. Since the path entrance is at an underpass at the mouth of the water channel, it gets deep ... and floods the path at that lowest point.

This water is about hub deep ... and I was wearing sandals with wool socks.
Since I was without my river-fording knee-high boots, I decided to turn around and take a different route. There's a short detour that leads further south along the beach and connects to a separated bike path running between Pacific Coast Highway and the Amtrak train tracks, leading almost all the way to San Clemente. The path itself runs only for about 2 miles, but with the detour and beach sections leading to it, it turns out to be about a 6 mile round trip from the starting point at Doheny Beach. Being that it was cold and windy, I thought that would make for a nice little ride, combined with the 3 or 4 miles that gets me from my house to Doheny and back.

After a leisurely cruise by the  beach/RV area, I connected with the bike path and began the ride south.

It's cold. It's dark and cloudy. There are no motorized vehicles. And I'm wearing sunglasses.
It was relatively peaceful along the way, but a rather dull and non-scenic ride. It did seem nice and smooth, though, and with a nice relatively new path surface, the pedaling seemed light and easy. After the 2-mile stretch, I reached the end of the separated path. You can continue along PCH in a bike lane to San Clemente, but I decided to turn around and head back. Did I mention it was cold?

Turn around here or join PCH traffic to San Clemente
As I began to ride back toward Dana Point, I suddenly remembered why I don't ride this route more often, and realized why the pedaling seemed light and easy on the outbound portion. The return trip was what I can only describe as "The Wind Tunnel From Hell". It seems the combination of the rock cliffs on one side, houses and ocean on the other, and the path itself bound with tall-ish concrete barriers on both sides creates a super funnel for the wind that seems to always head south along this path. Needless to say, I was not excited to be riding into the worst headwind ever ... and did I mention it was really cold? I suddenly felt the familiar bite of winter on my fingers and face, my lips were becoming numb, and the fact that I had no handkerchief or tissue for my nose was beginning to concern me. Was I somehow transported back to the Midwestern winter?

With a lower gear and a determined heart, I pedaled the 2 miles back to the beach/RV area and snapped a photo with my frozen hands to document the evil path for you:

Remind me to remember this next time I decide to ride here, okay?
In the direction the photo is taken, the ride is fine ... but the return trip will feel twice as long and require several times the effort. Somehow I managed the "Wind Tunnel From Hell" ... and the cold ... and got back to Doheny Beach, then back through the hills and home. It took most of the day to recover from the chill. And for us here in Southern California, that's a traumatic experience. Do not worry ... I will survive.

I know ... for most of you out there, winter means snow, ice, and temperatures below freezing for at least 2-3 months. I used to live in a place like that. I think California has softened me, because what I'm describing above as frigid cold would likely feel downright balmy for many of you this time of year, and would have to me when I used to live in the upper Midwest. Times have certainly changed ...

I can't complain, though, given the amazing weather we've had for the month leading up to this cold snap. Last year brought us some horrible storms, and as a result, we were in the midst of repairs for most of last January. So a little cold and some very light rain is just fine with me. I'll just have to remember to save the "Wind Tunnel From Hell" for a warmer day ...

Hope your winter is progressing quickly into the coming Spring and that you can at least get out for some kind of ride, despite the weather!


Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK Day Thoughts

As I was riding today, I was thinking about the fact that it's MLK Day ... not because the banks are all closed and there's no mail or shipping ... but because his most famous speech about having a dream of change, and his death at the hands of extreme prejudice, have, in fact, helped to bring about a great deal of change in this country, and perhaps the world. We have a President who isn't a white dude from a long history of white dudes who were also politicians (although the current list of Republican candidates would love to see that revert). We have leaders in various positions around the country who are women, and others who come from quite diverse cultural backgrounds.

When I think about the way things were back when MLK was alive, it seems astonishing and shameful that our country (and our world) was ever like that, and even worse when we look back further in time. It really wasn't all that long ago that people were denied the use of a restroom or service in a restaurant or a seat on a bus, merely because of the color of their skin ... or that people were beaten, hung from trees, and burned alive for being the wrong color or having the wrong religious affiliation. Adolf Hitler was mass-murdering people in an attempt to completely eliminate anyone who wasn't the same color or had  different religious beliefs than him. And some people still believe none of that ever actually happened. Further back in time, but not too much further in the history of our fine country, the Native Americans were brutally forced from the land that was theirs, virtually extinguished in the process, told to adopt our way of life or face prison and/or execution. This, of course, was in the name of progress for the new America ... which was supposedly founded to achieve freedom from oppression. I guess that was THEIR freedom from oppression, not the oppression they placed on others. Oh, and let's not forget the founding fathers of our country who also "owned" many slaves, who were forcibly taken from their homes in other parts of the world to become the "property" of wealthy landowners here ... also told to adopt our ways or be executed. Think about that for a moment. Only 150 years ago, it was considered perfectly okay to own another human being as property here in America. Guess what? It still works that way in other parts of the world ... here, too, although it's not legal or approved of ... covered up until somebody finds out.

While we've made great strides in many areas, the world as a whole still has an enormous amount of prejudice and extreme hatred. To think that someone hates who you are/where you live/what you believe enough that they would commit suicide in order to kill you and your family is thoroughly appalling. And yet, that mentality still exists. The question that has existed forever is ... "why?"

I'm not really sure, but some thoughts were running through my head as I rode today.

The issues of bigotry and prejudice that lead to extreme hatred seem to exist from day one in our lives, and I think they stem from not being able to accept that there can be more than one right answer to any question.  It works sort of like this:

Every group of people has their own set of values and beliefs, or what is "right" and "proper". Whatever goes against the values and beliefs of a particular group is considered "wrong" by its members. That's fine with me ... I think it's good to have values and beliefs, and a sense of right and wrong. For example, if your social group/family/religious affiliation believes you should only eat foods that begin with the letter "P" and that you should only wear brown shoes, that's perfectly fine. If you want to remain a part of that group, then eat lots of pizza and pasta, and make sure you stick to the more traditional Birkenstock colourway. If you prefer to eat chicken and rice, and want to don your pink Chuck Taylors, then you'll have to find another group or simply head out on your own to establish your own set of values. Maybe others will even join your new group, because they want the same things. So far, so good.

Here's where it gets twisted. When a group believes their values and beliefs are the ONLY way, and that any person or group who doesn't share those values and beliefs is wrong, and therefore "bad" or "evil", then we have the beginning of prejudice and bigotry, especially when a group's value set includes a requirement for a member to be of a certain color or cultural background, or even a certain physical appearance. When taken to the extreme, this turns into violence and war ... to kill anyone who isn't the same as you are, or at least prevent them from sharing the same neighborhood and infecting your children. "Swear allegiance or die" and "Convert or die" have been common threats throughout time. It exists on the playgrounds at elementary schools and on the street corners in Detroit and Los Angeles ... and, unfortunately, in many homes of "regular" folks around the world.

What people don't seem to get ... EVER ... is that there can be multiple value sets ... an infinite number of them. What's right for one may not be right for another. What's wrong for one may not be wrong for another. The fact that someone does not believe the same as you or look the same as you should not threaten your own values. And yet, it strikes fear into the hearts of so many ... leading to hatred and violence. Sadly, it is often only after such violence that the world takes notice of the problem. Perhaps that's part of how we slowly ... very, very slowly ... evolve as a species.

Yes, there's a line. When your value set says that you can walk through my door and tell me that how I live is wrong, you've crossed the line, mister.  I don't do that to you ... don't do it to me. And I'm not talking about the laws of our country or the city and state where you live. Those things are in place for a reason, and hopefully arrived at by popular vote, and they can be changed in the same way. But for my personal beliefs and life choices, as long as they're legal and don't affect you, what gives you the right to tell me they're wrong? What would give me the right to do the same to you? Nothing. There is always more than one right answer. Science has proven over and over again that just when we think we know everything, we find something that shows us we don't. Does 1 + 1 always equal 2? Not if you're working in a binary numeric system. See ... that's what I'm getting at. It has something to do with perspective.

What does any of this have to do with bicycles? I'm glad you asked. Nice segue, huh?

One of the things that popped into my head as I was riding and thinking about prejudice is how people who ride bikes seem to have a lot of that very thing. Well, I should say "cyclists" often do. "People who ride bikes" are a different breed, and are the ones who smile and wave as they pass, ride varying types of bikes, and generally aren't in a huge hurry to get where they're going (although they can be coerced into a grinning sprint at any moment). "Cyclists", on the other hand, are always in a hurry, always have a "suffer face" (regardless of their speed), always ride a race bike, and almost always ignore me when I smile and wave or say hello in passing.  I've determined that this is all because being a "cyclist" means that if you're on a bike, you're "training", and can't be bothered with social trivialities. So, I suppose that might mean that they aren't necessarily exhibiting "prejudice", just being "preoccupied". But what I seem to experience is that even when off the bike and talking with a "cyclist", they seem to have an attitude of "Oh ... yeah, you ride an upright cruiser type bike", as though I couldn't possibly be serious about cycling when I don't ride a race bike. Of course, my use of the generic word "cyclist" to describe a certain group of people is in itself a form of prejudice, so I suppose I'm not immune to predisposition. I mean no offense to those who call themselves cyclists and are nothing like my description above.

And then there's the local bike shop. Go in almost any bike shop and ask someone to show you what kind of bike a "serious cyclist" might ride. I'll bet you'll almost never see a bike like mine. If you then showed them a picture of my bike and asked them what kind of rider would own this bike, my guess is that "serious cyclist" would not be among the words spoken. You see, to the mainstream, "serious" is equated with "race" when it comes to cycling and bicycle types.

And have you ever looked at the comments on some of the popular bicycle blogs? Holy cow ... I've rarely witnessed such vicious attacks, only because someone uses a component that isn't of their liking or doesn't fit their impression of a proper match to the frame being discussed. They range from being mildly sarcastic to outright calling someone a "f___king idiot" for using what they feel is the wrong part, or for the way a company designed the appearance of a component. Look up "helmet use" on bike blogs and witness the horrible debate over something that's simply a personal safety choice.

Prejudice is rampant in every walk of life. Some might say it's just a part of life, but I'm hopeful that our world is indeed changing. When I was growing up, there was no Internet. What we learned, we learned from books, the local news, and whatever we were told by those around us, which can be a pretty small circle of information, depending on where you lived at the time. Now ... wherever you are, you have instant access to information from around the globe, from an infinite number of perspectives. Despite its shortcomings, the Internet can be a very good thing. If you can begin with (and maintain) an open mind and explore a broad range of those perspectives, you can actually start to see what's really happening and form your own opinions ... not just those that were force fed to you as a child as being the only way to think. You can begin to see the many answers to what is right and what is wrong ... and maybe we can begin to build some common ground on which to live peacefully, without judging and condemning others for having a different perspective. Separation isn't the answer ... and trying to make everyone the same isn't the answer. It is our individuality that makes the world a beautiful and interesting place.  Do you really want everyone to be the same? I don't. If that were true, we'd never have any new music or new art or new fashion ... and that would be a shame. Those things come from seeing the world through different eyes, and we can't have that if everyone is forced to view the world in the same way.

I am grateful for MLK, Gandhi, Lincoln and all the others who devoted their life to peaceful change. I hope there will be more like them ... and I hope that as our world changes and evolves, we gain a deeper understanding of right and wrong in a broader sense ... in a more humane sense ... in a way that lets people from all cultures be who they are without fear of being murdered for it ... to appreciate those who are different than we are and have the ability to see the world from those different perspectives.

One of the reasons I write this blog is to offer a different perspective on what riding a bike means. You don't have to ride a race bike or wear a scuba suit or shoes that lock your feet to the pedals. You don't have to make every ride a training event. You don't have to race or ever want to. You don't have to monitor your heart rate, speed, and cadence. You don't have to do ANYTHING that anyone tells you you have to do in order to be a "serious cyclist". But ... you can if you want to. Because it's all about what works for you and what makes you happy on the bike. My Hunqapillar is a perfect example. It doesn't conform to any of the typical bicycle classifications. It's not a road bike. It's not a mountain bike. It's not a touring bike. It's not a commuter bike. It has elements of all of them, and can go where any of them go, but isn't limited to any category, which is what confuses many people who feel the need to place a label on it, and therefore me as the person who rides it. While it could be built in many other forms, the components I have selected make it work perfectly for me and the riding I do. It is unique, complements my style, and makes me smile when I ride it. That's my hope for anyone out there who wants to ride a bike. Find what works for you. Whatever makes you smile at the beginning of the ride, the middle of the ride, and the end of the ride ... and what balances your riding with the rest of your life ... that's what's right for you ... your Velo Zen!

Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts ... now go ride and do some rambling of your own!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stick Bugs and Doorways

Friday morning, I took the dogs out as usual, and came back home. Upon arriving at the door, I found a surprise guest:

Stick bug of some kind ... hung out at our front door for 3 days!
He's approximately 6 inches long ... and if he wasn't sitting on the porch step, I would never have seen him! It's amazing to me how many unique creatures are living all around me that I've never seen before. I watched him for a little while, but then had to get on with the day's task list, starting with breakfast preparation for the dogs, and coffee and breakfast for myself and my better and more attractive half (BAMAH?) ... followed by BAMAH lunch prep ... then getting myself organized for the day ahead.

Of course I wanted to get a good ride in before settling in to work, since the weekend often substitutes a long walk around the town with BAMAH, along with grocery and other shopping runs. It seemed to take forever to get to it, though. Before I knew it, half the day was gone, and I was still working on getting out for that ride.

It isn't the riding that I sometimes lack the motivation for. I always enjoy it, and I can always feel how nice it will be outside on the bike. Where my motivation gets lazy is just getting out the door. Some days it takes longer to actually get out the door than my entire ride. I have these stupid conversations with myself that go something like this:

"Okay ... I think it's time to get out for my ride. What's the weather like? It looks sunny, but the computer says it's only 50 degrees right now. Isn't it supposed to get warm today, though? Yep, the forecast says 70's. But should I dress warm now, since it's chilly or will I be too hot once I get riding? Maybe I can wear a second layer to take off if I get hot. What shoes should I wear today? I really want to wear sandals, but I have a feeling  my toes will get cold. Geez, what a baby ... I can just put thicker socks on. Should I take the camera or just go? Didn't you make a deal with yourself to ALWAYS take the camera so you don't miss great photos? Oh, yeah ... guess I should take it. Will I need the tripod, though, in case there's a video I can capture? Hmm ... nah, there will be a rock or something to set it on. Should I bring coffee or water?" 

See how it gets? I know ... worse than a teenage girl (no offense to teenage girls everywhere). In the end, I get just frustrated enough to throw my hands up, grab whatever is in front of me, and run out the door before I change my mind about something.

Granted, most days are not like that ... I've set up my bikes and clothing selection such that I can pretty much ride in whatever I'm wearing, so all I have to do is grab a helmet and sunglasses, put the camera bag on the bike, and go. And for the most part, that's what I do, leaving the chain cleaning and tire pumping for after the ride to be ready for the next one. Actually these days, the tires only seem to need air once every ten days or so. Big fat Schwalbe tires and tubes are great in that way. Their claim of better air retention in their tubes is really true. But that's another post ...

As for Friday, once I got out the door, it turned out to be a great day ... sunny and warm, but not hot yet ... and clear blue skies ... with nice blue ocean water and good waves to watch. For all the effort that went into leaving the house, I was rewarded with views like this:

The water and sky have been bluer than usual lately ... with nice fun waves

As the water hits the beach, the competing waves create some interesting swirls

I always love how the sun reflects on the water ... difficult to capture, though

Funqapillar loves the beach!
I guess in the end, there will always be those days when it's tough to get out the door. Fortunately, it always seems that when I push myself out on those days, there will be something to see that makes it all worthwhile ... like the reflection of the sun on the ocean that's beyond words, or thinking about how a creature like a stick bug came to be. That's the most rewarding part of riding a bike to me ... the time I spend riding clears my head of the day-to-day clutter, and fills it with new images and memories that serve to inspire me when I get back to the office and begin my work. It can be difficult to be creative all the time, even when my work demands it ... but an hour or so out in the sun and nature works wonders to restore my imagination!

More soon ... get out there and find something new to see!
  
  




Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Progress?

In a recent post, I mentioned the ongoing closure of our longest bike bath due to freeway and levee construction. As you may recall, on January 5, I saw this:

Bike path STILL closed, several days after Dec 30, as promised by this sign.
Well ... I gave them another 5 days, being that there were holidays and such. Maybe the construction people were still recovering from that New Year's Eve champagne, combined with all of the heavily spiked egg nog and holiday turkey/ham/pie/fruitcake/what-have-you. Today, January 10, which is 5 days later than my previous visit on January 5, I rolled up on the Funqapillar to see this:

Still closed ... but in a different way.
Although the path is still closed, the concrete barrier has been removed, along with the improperly dated closure notification sign. Replacing them is some red tape that says "DANGER" and a rather non-descript sign that simply says the bike path, its title now reduced to that of a mere bike "lane", is closed. No reopening date is offered, suggested, or implied. It also says the bike path lane is closed "AHEAD", which is confusing, since the DANGER tape is blocking (and therefore closing) the path lane right here where the sign is, not further ahead as the sign implies.

I'm not sure whether this change is an indication of progress or merely a horribly unstylish new look for the same infuriating closure. I do see path ahead ... but it seems to now be called a "lane", which could imply that it's being reduced in size ... or it could mean the construction crew can't tell the difference and just grabbed the closest sign that had the word "BIKE" on it.

Whatever the case, it's all making me feel, as Jon Lovitz used to say in the old Subway commercials, "ANXIOUS."

Eat Fresh!
If this part of the lane path were to be reopened, it would instantly connect me to several additional riding options. More paved paths, lots of trails and fire roads, plus horses and cows to visit ... all just up the lane path a tiny bit further. Without the lane path connection, it means a very long detour starting nowhere close, using busy streets that don't even have a bike lane, or even worse ... DRIVING to somewhere else to ride, which just somehow seems wrong to me.

It's been more than three years now since all of this started (January 2009), and since the full bike path has been open. It's close now ... or so it seems ... but I'm feeling impatient to have the barriers removed once and for all.

I shouldn't complain, really. After all, I have beaches and beautiful weather to ride in all year long. Just longing for some of those really long uninterrupted-by-streets-and-traffic rides I used to be able to take. Soon enough ... soon enough.

Until then, there are other topics on the way ... product reviews, photos, and more! Stay tuned!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hunqapillar Touch-Up and Epic Crazy Bobcat Story

As you may recall from a previous post, I experienced the worst horror an owner of a new bike can possibly experience. Yes, my beautiful Hunqapillar was brutally scratched for the very first time. The villain in this most heinous crime, as you may recall from that previous post, was the evil chainsuck, which left behind a most hideous scar:

Damn you, chainsuck!
Fortunately, it's in a place where it would only be noticed if you're really looking for it. Nevertheless, it is still a painful sight.

After giving myself a couple of days to recover from the anguish, I knew I had to look at it again, assess the damage, and push forth with some sort of treatment. You see, the Hunqapillar frame is made from fine quality steel. Fine quality steel provides a wonderful strength, durability, and ride quality that help make the Hunqapillar the amazing bike it is. However fine the quality, though, steel is still steel ... and what does bare steel do when exposed to the elements? That's right ... it rusts. So, to prevent such a calamity, fine quality steel must be covered with a protective coating of paint or powder coat. The Hunqapillar is hand-painted, and an excellent job was done on my frame. I didn't want even the slightest possibility of any scratches to open up the steel to oxidation, especially since I ride near the ocean virtually every day.

So, after sobbing one last time in a fetal position on the garage floor, I picked myself up and begged my better and more attractive half to accompany me to the local hardware store. She had things to get, too ... and our only car belongs to her, since I sold mine to be like David Byrne, who rides bikes but does not own a car (photo courtesy of Bike Snob NYC).

According to Bike Snob NYC, this man does not own a car

The hardware store had a small selection of rust-preventive enamel paints, including one that was labeled "Medium Gray", so I grabbed a tiny can of that, along with a set of artist brushes to apply it.

Yeah, that's right ... I'm gettin' ready to get artistic and stuff
We then got the paint supplies needed for my better and more attractive half's office project, for which she chose a very artistic white primer and fine-bristled foam roller. Then we browsed the tool section to ogle the various socket wrenches, rubber mallets, and bench vises, then checked out and proceeded to the local Ralph's, where we were charged for 3 boxes of Kleenex when we only bought 2, but were not charged for the special bottle of eucalyptus shampoo. We then returned home. Is it just me, or are some of my sentences getting very long?

Well, after sending my better and more attractive half off to the office with a nice snack of organic oatmeal with greek yogurt and blueberries, and providing the hungry dogs with food and a nice walk, I set out to the garage with my paint and brushes to tackle the task at hand ... touching up the Hunqapillar scratches with some rust-preventive paint. I selected a brush, opened the can of paint, stirred well, sobbed one more time while looking at the scratches, and was ready to begin.

My chosen brush and nice shade of medium gray ... stirred, not shaken
I applied the paint to the scratches and admired my work. Perhaps "admired" isn't the right word ... more like saying to myself "It's a good thing you didn't want to be an artist."  In any case, it was done, and although the paint color isn't a great match (or even a good one), the Hunqapillar frame is protected.

After touch-up. Paint always dries darker, right?
Bikes get scratches ... it's just a part of life, unless you never actually ride your bike. Grant Petersen, owner of Rivendell Bicycle Works, who made my Hunqapillar, has said (paraphrased from memory) that a bike with scratches is a sign of a bike that is loved and used well. I believe that to be true, but still this first one was difficult.

Usually with scars, there's some kind of interesting story of an epic event to accompany them. Although I've documented my epic chainsuck incident, I think if anyone asks, I'll offer a more exciting tale ... something like this:

"While riding along the trail one hot summer day, I spotted a crazy bobcat who began to chase me.
No, not this kind of bobcat ...

Yeah ... THIS kind of bobcat!! Look at his crazy eyes ...

I sped up, pedaling as fast as I could around the curve of the trail, heading toward the creek where I knew the bobcat wouldn't follow. He was gaining on me, but I raced on. I could see that he was eyeing my possum wool socks, thinking they might be small animals attached to my ankles, making a nice mid-day meal. Just as he was about to attack, I lifted the handlebars as I shot out over the creek to safety. The bobcat managed to get one razor-sharp set of claws out to my leg, but missed and instead clawed the chainstay of my bike, which resulted in the scratches you now see. I made it safely away on the other side of the creek, but my bike bears the scars of that close call."

Yeah ... that's the ticket ...

See you next time!