Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Life On The Farm - Forestry Project

Moving from the city about a year ago to a farm in the country has been a life changing event to say the least.  In the past I spent much of my free time with my bikes.  Living in the city with only a small lot to take care of left ample time for velo-related activities. Never one to shy away from some honest hard work I've found that the farm provides a plethora of projects to work on to keep me busy and fit.

Since I'm not so focused on the bike world I have decided to start a new topic on the blog and call it "Life On The Farm". Over the past year I continued to document my projects photographically and I'm going to make an attempt to get back to posting these endeavors here.

The back of our property is made up of a small three acre woodlot. We have Oaks, Maples, Hickory among other deciduous species.   A few weeks ago because of the lack of snow and the fact that the ground cover is dormant I decided to start cleaning up the area of downded branches and trees.  Our farm sat vacant for nearly ten years so there is lots of sticks to be picked up.

I've always enjoyed being in the woods whether mountain biking; hunting or simply sitting still watching the birds.  Even though the woods is only a meager three acres it doesn't seem to matter and I spend a lot of time being back there. And best of all I can call it my own. Well, maybe eventually I can when the bank is paid off.

A couple weeks ago we had a few days of very strong winds move through the area.  The fifty-plus mph gusts brought down a large Ash.  Years ago the woods was filled with many beautiful and tall Ash trees.  Unfortunately the Emerald Ash Borer moved in and decimated the Ash population.  Several of these trees are on the ground but many more are still standing dead waiting for the wind and gravity to have their way.

The first weekend after the wind storms I headed back and with the help of Wyatt and the RoadQueen we got busy converting this giant to firewood.  I'd rather have a forest full of healthy Ash trees but I suppose the one consolation is we won't have to buy firewood for quite some time.

When the Ash toppled it took out a couple smaller trees one of which it bent over fully and held there under tension.  Anyone who's been around woods and chainsaws knows this is a very dangerous situation.  After cutting as close as I dared to the area where the two trunks made contact I rigged up my winch to a thirty foot tow strap and eased the larger trunk off the smaller.  This way I was able to keep well clear of the danger area. The Ash slid off easily enough but I wasn't sure what the smaller tree under tension would do once freed from the weight of the Ash.  In the end it only whipped up a few feet.  Its base was splintered pretty bad at ground level.

The next day we sawed the massive trunk into managable pieces (see opening picture) ready for transport back to the woodshed.

Here's a shot of Wyatt tending the fire.  We're in the process of burning out an old stump using branches that are too wet or rotted to be burned in the indoor woodburner.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Frank Roberson Knife

My Inlaws Butch and Missy who are some of the nicest folks you could meet gifted me this Frank Roberson knife for Christmas this year. The blade is a small custom made full tang sheath knife that right away I knew would be a perfect addition to my flint lock kit.

Frank Roberson is a knife maker from Irving Texas who has been crafting blades since 1991. He used ATS-34 steel and favored sheephorn, ivory and other natural materials for handle scales.  The knife is not new but came from the collection of Missy's stepfather Hollis "Howdy" Howes who was a collector of knives and Native American artifacts who lived in Mineral Wells, Texas.

The tang of the knife has carving of a vine motif on the top and bottom. This embellishment I really like.

Here's the knife secure in it's new home:

Colonial riflemen often carried a small "patch" knife on a thong around their neck that was used to trim patch material from around the ball as they loaded their muzzle loading rifles.  A good patch knife has been missing from my rig and I am pleased to finally fill in the missing puzzle piece with this fine steel.  I lashed the sheath to the strap of my shooting bag with a couple leather laces to keep the knife handy and at the ready.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ride With Wyatt

Veteran's Park - Butler, Ohio
Wow! time sure is a relentless rider.  My son is in the tenth grade now. Seems like just yesterday he was rocking the the twenty inch BMX.  He's become a fine young man and still rides his bike to school although now he rolls on 700c wheels.

Wyatt takes after his old man in that he's not of fan of ball sports but he does care deeply about his physical fitness.  When he noticed me messing about with my bicycle the other day he suggested that a nice long bike ride would be a great way to add some endurance training to his regular exercise routine.  He had my attention at "long bike ride"!  I said if your up to it let's ride the B&O.   

So we loaded up on a late Sunday morning and headed over to the trail.  Now I wouldn't think of riding a regular bike for 2+ hours without a pair of padded shorts and a jersey but Wyatt does not concern himself with the fredly trappings of a cyclist's kit.  His standard uniform of khaki pants and white tee shirt suited him fine.

He did make a great comment later after our ride: "Usually when we ride the rail trail we get passed by these groups of guys that look like you do with your serious bikes and a nod inferring to my stretchy clothes. But not this ride." 

I just let him set the pace for most of the ride and I think he was pretty pleased with himself that in 36 miles he was the one doing all the passing.  He's also learned how to meter out his power slowly and not burn up too soon.  

Foraging Whitetails

I felt pretty good also considering this was only my second time out.  The fact thatWyatt has become a good rider and can keep up a steady speed really helped to keep me spinning and lessening the pressure on the road bike saddle.

B & O Trail
Time:  2:42
Distance:  37.19 Miles
Average Speed:  13.73 mph

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Back in the Saddle Again

Yes I realize it's a little late in the season to be reporting my first ride but better late than never.  I do have a good excuse for my hiatus from the road though. Earlier this year The RoadQueen and I got hitched and bought a farm.  Needless to say whipping up a long neglected farm back into operational status; cleaning out the old house and holding down the old 9 to 5 has kept me pretty busy this summer.

Finally I had some time this morning to dust off the titanium Motobecane and don my stretchy clothes for a little shakedown ride.  After a summer of farm work; everything from chucking hay bales, fixing fences to demolishing a couple old buildings I've managed to stay in great shape and even lost 10 pounds. But I was curious to see what shape the old legs were in.

The property we bought lies a few miles west of town smack dab in the middle of bucolic North central Ohio I have photographed so many times during my rides around this area.  No more stop lights and traffic getting into and returning from my rides.  Right from my driveway is nothing but long stretches of lonely rural roads. A biker's paradise for sure.

The Motobecane and its twelve year old componentry performed reliable just as it had during our last outing.  It felt wonderful to back out spinning away and didn't feel as if I'd missed a beat.  My wireless computer's batteries had long since gone dead but my trusty smart phone kept track of the data which I didn't worry about until I'd finished the ride.

Parcher Road Short Loop

Bike:  Motobecane Le Champion
Ride Time:  1:02
Distance:  16.54 Miles
Average Speed:  15.77 mph

I was pleased with the data. My average was right up where it has been during past seasons on the road bike. Not bad for nearly a year off the bike.  Best of all the farm sits not far from one of my favorite routes: Parcher Road Loop. I shortened up the ride a bit since I forgot my water bottle and found it makes for a nice hour long jaunt.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Into Fall On Three Wheels

As always I love the transition from late summer to fall.  Among other outdoor activities I like to pursue I've gotten out on my Catrike 700 a few times.  Other than the Ti-GP bike which I ride to work most days I've neglected all my other bikes.  The trike is just plain fun to ride.  I keep waiting for the novelty to wear off but I keep falling further into lust with this sweet ride.

Periodically I make small tweaks and adjustments to perfect my fit to the machine.  I'm a big fan of Catrikes' overall design and in particular the steering system.  The grips and wrist rests can be adjusted forward and aft and tilted in or out to suit ones preference.  This design is a departure from many recumbents out there that rely on a more or less traditional handlebar setup.  After experimenting with the forward and back positioning of the hand grip I tilted them both in with just enough clearance for my hips during ingress and egress of the cockpit.  Like an open wheel race car or a fighter jet this cycle is a machine you get into rather than ride on. 

I missed the peak of the fall foliage with my camera but still beautiful in any event.  Recently I returned to Mt Vernon, Ohio to ride the HOOT trail and take a look from the observation tower in Founders Park.

Later back on the trail I was just riding along and all of a sudden my rear tire went flat.  Earlier when I went to top off my pressure the little insert in the presta valve popped right out the stem before I could attach the pump head.  I screwed it back in and inflated the tube as usual.  When the tire went flat on the trail I just figured the valve was broken so I pulled the wheel with the intention of replacing the whole tube.  For shits and grins I tried pumping the original tube back up and it held air fine.  I kept checking as I continued on my ride and had no more problems.  I have no idea what that was all about.

It won't be long now and the view will be back to cold grays and browns but even that I'll take over the view from the couch.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Catrike 700!

Well I've taken the plunge and added this Catrike 700 performance trike to my fleet.  I always knew I would end up with a three-wheeler eventually but I figured it would be later in my golden years.  Over the past few years I've noticed the uptick in trike popularity and I have been seeing more and more of them on the trails.

My first experience on three wheels was with a little red one that had a fixed gear.  That was roughly forty years ago.  I probably put more miles on that thing with one foot on the rear platform and kicking off with the other than I did sitting properly on the hard metal seat.  I still remember the tiny crankset spinning madly by itself as I whipped up and down the driveway and neighborhood sidewalks.

That little red trike was the rabbit hole I fell through that landed me in the wonderful world of bikes.  Like most kids I soon felt the pull of two-wheeled freedom and quickly forgot about my trike once I mastered the ability to balance a regular upright bike.

A couple decades later as a young adult still immersed in cycling culture I had my second brush with the trike.  After work I would often hang out at the local Schwinn bike shop and shoot the breeze with my friend Jeff who ran the place.  One day I noticed a low sleek three-wheeler sitting there in the shop. It was a tadpole style; two wheels in the front and one trailing behind, with a boom mounted crank set at the front.  I don't remember what exclamation of wonder I uttered but Jeff noting my enthusiasm said "Take it for a ride." 

What!? really? OK! We wheeled it out the door and I took off on my first ever recumbent ride.  The trike which was in the shop for regular maintenance wasn't a home built but did not have any markings so I have no idea of what brand it was.  The trike had 20" wheels all around shod with narrow high pressure tires and a sporty red paint job.  I still remember the turn like it's on rails-go cart like feel that little scooter had.  The seeds were sown.

Jumping forward another twenty years along my trike timeline brings us to the present and I find myself once again under the spell of three wheels.  So what caused this sudden onset of trike madness?  I was just saying I figured my beard would be long and white by the time the circle of life was complete and I found myself back on a trike.  One word, well two actually: RoadQueen.

Even before we met the RoadQueen was thinking about a bicycle.  She did pick up a nice 700c equipped hybrid but after hooking up with a bike nut such as myself who regularly enjoys a 2, 3 or even 4 hour ride she quickly realized the standard bike seat wouldn't cut the mustard.  She discovered recumbent trikes on her own and said "That's what I want!"  

One day just for fun she spec'ed out her dream trike on the Utah Trikes website and sent me the details in an email.  She had no idea I was going to place the order and it resulted in a great surprise for her.  Initially I had planned to just ride my HP Street Machine while the RoadQueen developed her recumbent legs but who's kidding who I had to get in on the trike action too so I pulled the trigger on the Catrike 700 I've had my eye on.

Eventually a couple huge boxes arrived via truck freight after an excruciating month long wait.  The long lead time was due to waiting on RQ's Ice Sprint to be shipped from England to Utah and then even more time was required for the custom hot pink paint job.

Ultimately it was worth the wait for that sweet paint.  That's the reason we chose Utah Trikes over a dealer closer to home; They offer custom paint.

So lets get to the meat of this post and talk about the trike experience.  There was no question Catrike was my chosen machine.  I love the fact that these three wheelers are completely built in Catrike's state of the art manufacturing shop in Orlando, Florida.

A few well thought out details sold me on the Catrike design.  As with all the models in the lineup the seat frame is actually part of the overall chassis of the trike.  It's a unique feature that makes perfect sense.  No separate seat and attachment hardware to add weight and cause noise.  I cannot stand squeaks and tics coming from the components of my bikes.

The one caveat with the Catrike seat is that there is no adjustment of recline possible. This was not a concern for me because from the very first time I settled back into the mesh seat it felt as if the frame was made just for me.  The angle of recline may be a touch more laid back than the Street Machine I've spent the last seven years on but it feels perfectly fine to me.  

For control Catrike employs what is called direct steering.  Instead of a complicated linkage system the Catrike's steering arms are directly connected to standard bicycle size head tubes with a simple tie rod to hold the front wheels in alignment.

Some point out that this setup causes the steering to be too twitchy but I prefer precise and responsive handling so I like the direct steering.  Just like the Street Machine with its under seat steering the bars are simply a place for the hands to rest.  The trike responds instantly to the slightest inputs to the bars.  Steering is quick and intuitive.

A nice finishing touch and added creature comfort are the wrist rests mounted below the grips.  These oval foam pads are visible in the picture of the trike while still in the box.   

The 700 is Catrike's flagship performance machine.  It has no suspension and no folding capability which seems to be all the rage in the trike world these days.  The 700 name comes from the rear drive wheel size: 700c.  The big wheel not only looks cool but keeps the gear ratios the same as the typical road bike.

Because of the narrow high pressure Schwalbe Durano tires and no suspension I was expecting a harsh ride but it's not that bad.  It really doesn't feel any worse than my road bike.  Acceleration and ease at cruising speed is where the 700 shines.  Of course I'm faster on my road bike but the 700 is no slouch by any means.  On my last ride of 27 miles on the Heart of Ohio Trail I logged 15.8 mph average speed.  Sitting just inches off the ground enhances the perception of speed adding to the fun.

Years ago I purchased my full suspension Street Machine because its main purpose is long distance touring; something I thought I might be interested in pursuing.  While I do love the cushy ride the Street Machine is a heavy bike.  Because most of my rides are only 20-40 miles in length I don't really need a touring bike or the extra weight of suspension for that matter.  Taking on an extra wheel adds to the weight of a trike but overall difference between the 700 versus the Street Machine is only 2.8 pounds.  My body weight fluctuates that much.    

Since I've had the 700 I've put 140 miles on it and the trike has exceeded my expectations.  The thing is just plain fun to ride.  It didn't take long to notice that balancing a two wheeler be it a recumbent or traditional diamond frame takes up a good measure of attention.  The trike requires no sense of balance. This frees up the rider's mind to simply enjoy the ride and scenery along the way.

At cruising speed the trike tracks very straight making two abreast riding especially enjoyable.  I noticed while riding with the RoadQueen our front wheels would be only four inches apart and we easily maintained position while carrying on a conversation.  Eventually I'll get back to riding my two wheelers because they provide their own special kind of magic but for now I can't get enough of this cool laid back ride.

Here's a couple guys I've followed online for a while who I'd like to thank for sharing their knowledge and experience which really influenced my decision making concerning the Catrike 700:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A New Recumbent Rider Is Born

Here are some shots of my son on his first recumbent ride aboard my HP Velotechnik Street Machine.  One day I asked him if he had any interest in learning how to ride the bike and he was so we headed over to the school grounds where traffic wouldn't be a problem.

On his first attempt to get moving he faltered a bit but stayed upright and was off and flying on his second try.  Since I've taken these photos we've been out to the local rail trail and he did great on the bent for a 23 mile ride.  He described that riding the recumbent gave him a feeling like flying.  I agree and noticed that sensation right away too when I first started.  I think that comes from having your feet up higher.

Currently Wyatt rides a hybrid style bike with 700c wheels for transportation and fun.  He's grown a little since his first appearance on this blog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

1947 Farmall H

On the way to a ride the other day I spotted this classic old row cropper and had to stop for a closer look.  Some people see cute little puppies and just want to take them home.  I feel that way about vintage tractors but since I have neither a farm or a barn to keep it in sadly I had to walk away from this one.  

By looking up the serial number from the rating plate I was able to determine this Farmall H model was built in 1947.  A fresh coat of paint really helps cosmetically but a close look at the smooth sheet metal in the pictures shows that this 68 year old workhorse was well cared for.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Recumbent Update

The summer got off to rainy start for sure here in Ohio.  Fortunately my area escaped the violent storms that hit other areas of the country but we have received plenty of rain.  Creeks and rivers have been swollen and while farmer's crops have been growing great they will lose a little bit of their yield due to standing water in the low spots.

 Other than my regular commuting on the upright Ti GP bike I've been riding almost exclusively on my HP Velotechnik recumbent bike.  A couple weeks ago I hit a notable milestone and logged 4000 miles on the clock.  It's safe to say the bike is broke in now.  I've not had any problems in all those miles and I love this bike more now I think than when I first got it.

If Jesus were around today I think he'd like bicycles.  Recumbents especially; they would go fine with his beard and sandals.  I bet he'd ride on water too.

Here's a shot from a week ago while I was riding the flatlands of Marion County. Note the water in the field.

Last Monday I wanted to stretch my legs a bit and do a longer ride.  I mapped out a route that utilized the B&O trail that I've ridden countless times but to add something new I added a 13 mile loop off the southern end of the trail.  

 Sometimes I ride east from the trail's end at Butler, Ohio a short distance to Mohican State Park and enjoy a big helping of hill country.  But I wasn't feeling like covering the same ground I've been over before.  Luckily it's hilly in every direction from Butler so I struck out east and then headed south on a country way called Bunker Hill Road that travels through southern Richland County .

I love exploring new places and it's always interesting the things one finds along the way.  Soon I came upon a miniature horse ranch and found this guy munching some fresh green grass.  He couldn't see me because he was wearing his mask to keep the flies out of his eyes but he heard me pull up.

Spread around the picturesque hills are little homesteads.  Some of them are modern and some have been around a while.  Below it's easy to spot the Amish farms because they have no electrical lines running to the property.

On that ride I finally accomplished something that I've always struggled with.  The first 25 miles of the ride was smooth sailing on the bike trail.  On the relatively flat surface of a rail trail it's always tough to hold back and not get rolling too fast.  I occasionally glanced down at my cycle computer and backed off the effort every time I drifted up over 14 mph.  I haven't used a heart rate monitor in years but I'm sure my system was running a pretty low BPM.

That all changed when I hit the hills.  Contrary to the rumors recumbents can climb hills just fine.  They don't climb fast but they'll climb.  The first few miles didn't feel so good but after a while I got into my groove and started even to enjoy the climbs.  And of course climbing big hills has a sweet payoff; that's descending down the other side.  On the decent into Butler on the last hill I hit a top speed of 45 mph.

Back on the bike path I noticed I had plenty of gas left in the tank and held 16 mph for the last 12 miles.  This was another benefit of the conservative effort expended during the first part of the ride.    


 This morning with coffee I was watching the second to the last stage of the tour.  I wasn't planning to ride today but needless to say watching the riders racing the stage that determines the winner of the tour in the Alps struggle along a route culminating with a climb up the Alpe d'Huez I had to go ride my bike.

Periodically I like to do a time trial style ride where I put it all out and go as hard as I can for time. Kind of a test to gauge my fitness over the long haul.  Usually I ride my road bike when doing and all out effort but I've not even got on my road bike this year so I said hell with it and loaded up the recumbent.  

I headed to the B&O trail which even on a Saturday isn't terribly crowded and provides the greatest distances between automobile crossings.  I decided the distance would be 30 miles and started from the northern end of the trail.  This time instead of holding back on the southern slightly downhill leg of the trip I easily managed 20 mph cruising speed and even with the crossings and slowing down for safety around other trail users I managed 18.3 mph average speed for the first 15 miles.

Of course I knew the going wouldn't be so easy going the other way but I persevered and contemplated on the spectacle I had just witnessed on the tour and figured my ride would be a simple warm up or the equivalent of a ride to the store for those guys.  But the inspiration payed off and I logged the best time I've ever ridden on the recumbent even bettering many of the times I set on the road bike.

 30 Mile Time Trial
Ride Time:  1:43:43
Distance:  30 miles
Avg Speed:  17.3 mph


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Aerial Views from the Heart of Ohio Trail

On the fourth of July My son and I went south to Centerburg, Ohio to ride the Heart of Ohio Trail.  The Last time I rode the HOOT I found out about this observation tower being built around an old smokestack.  I wanted to make a point to return for the opening event so I planned our ride putting the park at the midpoint of the journey.

The observation platform makes an excellent vantage point from which to look down on the newly constructed Ariel - Foundation Park located in Mount Vernon, Ohio and the surrounding Knox County. 

Being flatlanders it is always a big deal to have something tall to climb.  Up, up and around we went. Climbing the steel steps was a thrill.  Naturally when climbing steps one has to look down or eventually stumble.  Because the steps were nothing more than steel grates it was easy to see directly below perfectly negating the old saying "Don't look down!" 

If it were up to me these spiral stairs would wind their way to the very top of the smokestack but once we reached the top we found the views and vertigo satisfying enough.

The park grounds look a little shabby but the weather has not been the greatest for growing new grass.  I'm sure it be much greener in a year or two.  Ariel - Foundation Park lies on an old industrial complex that was home to the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Works #11 which operated from 1907 to 1976.  The factory produced a host of glass products from bottles to architectural plate to automotive glass in later years. 

Rather than bulldoze the area flat removing all trace of the industry that once flourished here the park planners wisely incorporated materials and structures from the glass works into the park to serve as sort of a memorial.  I think it was a great idea and naturally I appreciate the designs being a fan of history.

Long term readers of this blog will know I have a soft spot for the blue shiny stuff.  I saw this pile from a mile away. 

 We found this graphic in the visitor center that shows what the plant looked like in the 1950- 60's and which structures remain today shaded in blue.

This building was converted into a pavilion style amphitheater for hosting different events.

My son and I had fun strolling around the new park on it's opening day but to me it's also bittersweet.  I'd almost rather see a factory at work putting out a product; fueling the economy and providing jobs for local people.  But parks are nice too and this one is a great example of good land stewardship not only providing public green space for a community to enjoy but at the same time providing a historical perspective of the importance of industry to our country.

On our way back we stopped at a pretty place along Dry Creek where a waterfall of sorts splashed over the edge of the bedrock of the creek bed.  While not a cataract of Niagra proportions the sound of rushing water was peaceful and oh so cool on hot feet just liberated from cycling shoes.