Monday, October 9, 2017

It's Cyclocross Season Again

I raced in Moscow, ID yesterday. I wasn't prepared for racing but I raced nonetheless. Well, I wore a bib number and rode around the course until I had to stop. I'm about five pounds heavier and I haven't trained for 'cross at all so it was no mystery to me why I wasn't as fast as I've been in the past. I usually do more than one race because I really enjoy being on the course. Yesterday I did the single speed and Cat 4 back to back. Then I had a couple of hours rest before the men's masters 60+.

To top it off, since I hadn't even ridden my cross bikes before the race, the single speed race was my practice. While approaching the barriers shown in the picture it was like I forgot how to dismount and I wiped out. It was pretty funny. Fortunately, the worst of it was a small flesh wound.

Me in my Sunday best.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Acoustic/Electric Cigar Box Guitar

I'm 99% done with my first full-fledged cigar box guitar. It's an acoustic/electric. I used a piezo for the pickup. It's hot glued directly under the bridge and it works great. I made a ton of mistakes during the build, which means I learned a lot. I hope my failing mind retains this new found knowledge. 

Lessons learned: Measure twice more again. Take more off the back of the neck and round it out more. Do a scarf joint and angle the head back so the tuners are not in line with the fret board. Drill the fret marker holes in the fret board before gluing it to the neck. Be more patient with the file while smoothing out the ends of the frets. The slightest slip will mar the fret board. Measure three more times, dammit! 

I was pleasantly surprised at how well installing the frets went. Of course, using a template to mark the frets and a fret board miter box to cut the slots were the main contributors to my success. Filing down the rough ends was tedious and there were a few moments when I got too confident and the file slipped and ground away at the end of the wood instead. 

Things to do for the next one:  Add a brace for the neck. Do a scarf joint at the head. Improve upon the height settings for the nut, fret board, and bridge. Install a proper pickup.

The jack, volume control, and piezo.

 Chiseled some of the inside so the volume control would fit.

Kinda sloppy.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Oregon Outback - Day Six

For our sixth and final day we stopped by the general store to buy breakfast and snacks and hit the road. Instead of the 90+ degree weather we had been broiling ourselves it was going to be 80 degrees. Most of the ride was going to be down hill so the last 60 miles was going to be easier that the rest of our trip. But it was also very windy so it wasn’t as easy as we were expecting.

We headed out on Highway 97. We flew when the wind was behind us, but most of the time we leaned into a side wind. Passing trucks added some sketchiness with the swirling air currents in their wake pushing us in unexpected directions. Fourteen miles later we left the highway and hit the gravel.

But now we were alternating between a head wind and a slightly back-to-your-left-tail-but-also-side wind. At least we didn’t have any traffic. We diverted from the established route to stop in Grass Valley to grab a bite. Unfortunately, it was Monday and everything was closed. So we had to follow Hwy 97 another 10 miles to Moro where we found a grocery store that had a small deli inside. We lingered because it was our last stop of the day before finishing.

Leaving Moro we had to climb. Into a head wind. Like a 20 mph head wind with 30 mph gusts head wind. The ascent wasn’t that steep, except for a couple of 6-9% spots, but that wind would almost stop you in your tracks.

John remarked that he would probably be faster if he walked his bike. Once we crested we had an easier time going against the wind on the long descent to the Deschutes River. We finished at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area and called Susan, John’s wife, to let her know we had arrived safely. She was about an hour out, which gave us plenty of time to shower and change into clean clothes.

The most enjoyable part of riding the Oregon Outback was riding it with John and Geoff. They are both great guys. We watch out for each other and we are good humored together. Next was the experience of passing through a countryside with a great combination of variety and solitude.

And then there were signs of the past. Worn and rusted machines setting out as if to display a greatness that once was. Buildings with weather-beaten boards held in place by nails hammered decades ago by the hands of men who had dreams. Untold and unknown stories swirl in the wind leaving you to conjecture about the physical objects before you. We pass by on our simple machines and find our own stories. Stories that may one day blow in the wind through forests, along rivers, across high deserts, and leave others to wonder about what they see.

Oregon Outback - Day Five

The next morning we left Ashwood behind and started climbing. About five miles later we kind of topped out and the countryside became more sparse. There were fewer trees. The heat was pressing down on us and we had very few opportunities to stop in the shade. 

I didn’t quite have my bearings but we could see snow-covered mountains way off in the distance. I think we were looking at Mount Hood to the northwest and the North and South Sisters to the southwest. Today we were passing through Antelope and stopping in Shaniko. Again, it was to be a 30-mile day so we were in no hurry. We rolled down to route 293 and followed that to Antelope where we stopped to take shelter from the heat.

The Antelope Cafe sported an ancient Closed sign and there was no sign of a gas station. We stopped a woman driving by and asked her if any amenities were available in the area. Nope. Nothing. I asked if she knew where we could refill our water. She invited us to stop by her mobile home just down the street. I thanked her and we got back under a shade tree and ate a snack. There was a historical display in front of the house we were by. Antelope had a storied history back in the 1980’s. A guru from India named Rajneesh practically rook over the town by importing homeless people from elsewhere and using them to pad the voter rolls in his favor. His chief deputy was involved in an attempt to poison people with anthrax and from all accounts seemed to be a pretty psychotic person. The whole thing turned into a real shit show and I’m sure the locals were relieved when Rajneesh and his followers departed and the clean, quiet, country living returned. 

While I was reading the display a woman came out of the house and told us the “park” next door, named "Bolton Place", was for cyclists passing through. We noticed the half shelters, but not the water spigot, and there was no clue that this was for public use. 

In the meantime, the woman we spoke to earlier drove up and handed us a gallon jug of water with ice cubes in it. That was very nice of her and we thanked her profusely. We filled up from the gallon jug and topped off with the spigot. Then we started climbing in the heat again but this time on asphalt. John and Geoff had triple chain rings but I was grinding away on a double. On the bright side, I got a good shot of them well ahead of me on the switchback near the top of the climb. If you squint you can almost see Geoff's yellow jersey and John's white one.

We arrived in Shaniko in the early afternoon and headed straight to the ice cream shop, which also sold sandwiches. While we hung out a lot of people came in for the ice cream. One couple got ice cream for their two children and went back outside to their VW van. 

John pointed out to me that the dad was checking out my bike. I’m always ready to put in a plug for the Elephant National Forest Explorer so I went outside. Alex, from Santa Cruz, saw a write up on the NFE a couple years before. (All the components on that bike are on my bike. Glen gave me a deal on them.) Being a bike builder, Alex built his own bike patterned after the NFE. It was hanging on the back of his van. 

He even had the same Gevenalle shifters that I had. He told me the paint looked so bad because he made the paint himself. He needed to repaint the bike but hadn’t gotten around to it. It was cool to find someone with an appreciation for bikes coupled with the ability to make them.

John, Geoff, and I explored Shaniko. The town has many old buildings, a couple of which pass for museums. One contains dusty and rusty relics from the first four or five decades of motor vehicles. You could hear the bats up in the rafters. Faded track prints lie alongside the old train station, boarded up and festooned with Danger signs. 

The Shaniko Hotel has a classic look but is no longer open. A notice from the Board of Health stated the hotel’s café was now closed because of code violations. An old chapel could still be used for small weddings if it wasn’t used for storage and had a little upkeep done. 

A woman runs an antique and gift shop. She lives about 120 miles away but stays in town on days her store is open. A gas station looked like it had been closed recently but the fire extinguisher on the building was last inspected in 2005. Other than the sandwich and ice cream shop and a restaurant down the block, there didn’t appear to be a lot of commerce going on in Shaniko. 

The kind people in the ice cream shop said we could camp overnight in the vacant lot next door. A “No animals allowed” sign meant we were not likely to come across any droppings, and we didn’t. They had a spigot outside we could use, too, so that was a sweet deal. We bought a couple of beers at the general store and got a kick out of the guy running the place. No response to any greetings or questions. He would just tell you your total. We joked about ways we could make him speak but we left him alone. 

The town closed up after 5:00 pm and we essentially had downtown Shaniko all to ourselves. Geoff used his climbing skills to get on the roof of the hotel to take some photos. I wandered around near dusk and took more pictures. That night I woke a couple of times as a truck or car would pull in and the driver would get some sleep.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Oregon Outback - Day Four

Our ride into town the next morning was one of the most pleasant parts of the entire trip. We followed the Crooked River and zig‐zagged our way to Prineville.

Two doe and four fawns were ahead of us in a field off to our left. I asked John and Geoff to stop so I could stop and take some photos. As they were stopping, John, always the quick-witted one, remarked, “It’s a good thing our brakes don’t squeak.” 

This was a dig at me and my squeaky Avid BB-7 disc brakes. Sure enough, my brakes squeaked and that got the deer running.The does jumped the barb wire fence and ran across the street. Two fawns followed and one of them almost took out an oncoming cyclist who was out for a morning ride. The other two fawns ran back and forth along the fence line looking for a way to follow the others. Hopefully, their moms waited for them. 

In Prineville, I ate one of the largest omelets I’ve ever seen at the Crossroads restaurant. Afterwards, we stopped by the Good Bike shop. A dog came up to me and I politely scratched it behind the ear. He apparently took that as a sign that it was time to play and started jumping on me and snapping at my hands. One of the employees yelled, “Hank, no! Sit!” The dog stopped pestering me. I said, “The dog’s name is Hank, huh? So’s mine.” The guy looked at me and with a smile said, “Hank, sit! Stay!” One Hank is enough for any one place so I didn’t stay. I signed the log book and stuck a push pin marking my home town of Spokane on the map. The shop was leading a ride to camp out that night and invited us to camp with them. We were inclined to do so but didn’t make any promises. We picked up a couple of items at a grocery store and started the climb out of town on the paved McKay Creek Road. 

For 12 miles we labored and found our way into the Ochoco National Forest. There were more cattle, including a couple of rambunctious bulls who threatened us from their side of the fences. Reaching the crest of our climb, the paved road turned right. But our route followed the packed dirt and rocky Trout Creek Road. And it was almost all downhill from there for the rest of the day. 

The first time we rode through the road’s namesake, Geoff stalled out after hitting a large rock. He fell over sideways and got a thorough soaking. I wasn’t quick enough with the camera so the photo I got of him was taken after he stood up. We rested there for a while and determined we had not passed by the campsite The Good Bike folks invited us to so we resigned ourselves to going it alone that evening. 

Subsequent creek crossing went without incident—I had the camera ready each time—and we obeyed the many No Trespassing signs posted on both sides of the road. We took on extra water at the first creek crossing and I filled a spare 2‐liter bladder since we weren’t sure what lie ahead in Ashwood, which was that evening’s destination. Wikipedia—Geoff has a downloaded copy on his smart phone—says it’s a ghost town. It turns out that isn’t true. Arriving in Ashwood we saw a small field with picnic tables and shade trees next to a grange building. We could hear people talking at one of the handful of houses there so we went over to see about camping in that field. We saw a few adults, each holding a can of Hamm’s beer, and a little girl who was 3 or 4 years old. The oldest gentleman got up and asked if we needed water. We thanked him and told him we were fine and asked about camping at the grange building. He told us we were welcome to camp there and informed us there’s a water spigot and two pit toilets in the back of the grange building. We chatted for a while and the girl, Allison, introduced herself and told us where her house was and asked us where we were from. 

We rolled over to the field to make camp and found a sign posted on one of the trees. Potential Snake Habitat. We had been warned there were rattlesnakes along the way but hadn’t seen any yet. I got the idea to buy three cold beers from the people at the house so I went back to them. “Excuse me,” I said. “Sorry to bother you but I have two questions, if you don’t mind. First, has the potential snake habitat ever lived up to its potential?” One of the guys said, yes, they find a rattler every once in a while and he’d just killed one last week at the creek just behind where we were camping. Then I asked, “Can I buy three cold beers from you?” They all thought that was pretty funny and laughed out loud. The woman spoke up and said, “We have Keystone and Hamm’s.” I told her we’d take the Hamm’s. They all laughed again and said I passed the test. The older gentleman retrieved three beers and said, “That’ll be a hundred dollars.” More laughter. I said, “How about two dollars apiece?” He agreed and I took the beer to Geoff and John. As nasty as Hamm’s beer is, it hit the spot after a day of riding in the hot sun. Later we found that a 12‐pack of Hamm’s can be had for $12.89. So two bucks was a pretty good price. 

As we set up camp I found that the 2‐liter bladder of water I had strapped to my rear rack and slipped out somewhere on the roads we traveled that day. I was always worried about our water supply and tended to carry extra just to make sure. Now I couldn’t. But we were ahead of schedule and our next day would be a short 30 or so miles to Shaniko.

Oregon Outback - Day Three

At 6:00 am, we awoke to the sound of spraying water. We pulled our tents off the lawn, turned the sprinkler heads back to where they should be, and packed up. After a big breakfast at The Watering Hole we headed out for what would be our longest ride of the trip. 

It was another sweltering day and there was less water available along this part of the route. I would ride on the edge of the road just to catch a moment of cool by passing through the shadow of a tree. We suffered through the miles and miles of loose red dust of National Forest Road 22. Our back tires would spin out on the climbs. The deep parts would grab our tires and bog us down like we were stuck in quicksand. With the increased effort and the heat we consumed most of our water. 

When we arrived at Sands Springs we found a fenced off puddle of murky, stagnant water with a cow pie at the water’s edge. We filtered some of it but the resulting green liquid was too unappealing for us city boys. We decided to do without. 

Arriving at Highway 20 with barely a pint of water apiece, we had two choices. We could ride the 25 miles to our camp site and water or we could take a 14‐mile round‐trip detour to The Stage Stop east of us on the highway in Brothers. We chose the latter. 

The food wasn’t anything to write home about but it felt good to eat and rest. When it came time to leave they allowed us to go back to the kitchen to fill our water bladders. Had I seen that kitchen earlier I would have skipped on the meal. 

We cruised seven miles back to our route and had a pretty easy ride for quite some time on Crooked River Highway—a gravel road where you could see a car coming from miles away. Sometimes the drivers slowed down to reduce the dust clouds trailing behind them. Sometimes they didn’t and we'd be treated to another coat of nature’s sunblock. We reached State Highway 27, a paved road, but then we had to climb for about three miles. 

One last bit of suffering before coasting down to the Prineville Reservoir. We arrived at the BLM Big Bend Campground near dusk. The campsite was a bargain for eight bucks. We slept the sleep of the dead after an 84‐mile day.