Friday, June 19, 2015

Putting More P in the Ti GP

The GP stands for General Purpose. The Ti GP bike's main purpose is a commuter. And it has been outstanding in fulfilling that role for a decade now.  Last winter I got serious and upgraded the creature comforts in particular the seat and handlebars.  These changes prompted me to spend even more time on the bike and while comfortable and happy soon my mind turned to other ways to fully integrate my bike into my daily life. 

For many years I got by just fine with a backpack for my daily commuting needs.  For a while I used the handlebar basket which worked great but once I removed it I found I liked the crisp handling of an unencumbered front end. 

 Back in the 1990's I had a Schwinn mountain bike with fenders and a rear rack that was my commuter rig.  Back then I was of limited means so I made due with an inexpensive rack trunk.  That arrangement worked good for carrying my lunch and wallet and keys but during the seasonal transition when I might have a heavy jacket and gloves in the morning I found myself stacking a bungee corded Tower of Pisa of gear onto the rack when the afternoon temperatures warmed.

My goal when setting up the Ti GP was to have a solid city bike built with quality components on a sturdy, corrosion resistant titanium frame; a blend of performance and utility.  For a long time I have resisted bolting on things that add weight. After a lot of thought and another season of hot humid weather just around the corner I've decided to do the right thing and ditch the backpack and get the cargo onto the bike where it belongs.

The conundrum I faced was how to incorporate cargo hauling capability into a performance oriented "racing" bicycle frame that unlike my old Schwinn has no braze on's for mounting a rack.  Luckily I'm not the first person to wonder about this and I discovered Old Man Mountain racks.  This company has been around a while and has created a good reputation of filling a unique niche in the bikepacking world.  

There is some cool history of how OMM came to be that's worth the read.  As a small business owner myself I love the opportunity to support another small American company.  I purchased OMM's latest model called the Pioneer.  It's the biggest rack they offer.  Probably overkill for me but it's always better to go big and have a little in reserve than go into a fight under gunned.  

OMM racks are well designed with a number of ways to bolt onto bike frames with no threaded eyelets.  I chose to bolt the upper supports to the rear brake bosses. Easy peasy.  The lower attachment is where this rack really shines.  The rack comes with a long skewer which bolts through the real axle.  Very sturdy and secure!

The panniers I just received today.  They are by Ortlieb made in Germany. What sold me on them is the excellent retention system.  The set comes with several inserts so the latches can be precisely fitted to the diameter of the rack tubing. 

The Pioneer's stout 1/2" diameter tubing and wide width provide lots of clearance between the wheel and the panniers. Another feature I thought made perfect sense was a was a second tube welded about two inches below the top of the rack specifically as a pannier mounting point to get the load even lower down for stability.

This is my first venture into the world of panniers and I decided to run front panniers instead of full sized rear bags.  They are the Front Roller Plus model so are extra large capacity versus the standard front panniers.  For my purposes they will provide plenty of room so I will use them and as time goes by I'll see how they work.  I have no doubt that grocery stops, beer runs and an occasional bike picnic is in the future.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Rush R40

I don't have a bucket list but if I did I would have crossed an item off it last night.  Back during the school year my son did a great job with his studies so to show my appreciation I picked up a couple tickets to a Rush show in Columbus, Ohio.  The R40 stands for 40th anniversary.  I've been a fan of Canada's greatest rock band since I first discovered  them on the FM tuner of my father's hi-fi system as a boy back in the early 80's.  Like any good parent when my son hit his preteen years and started to take notice of music I turned him onto my extensive CD library. I was not surprised when he took a liking to the trio from Ontario.  He was ecstatic to say the least when I showed him the tickets. As the months turned to weeks and then to days he had been talking about the upcoming show more and more.  I've not been to a show in a while and I have never seen seen Rush perform live so I was also looking forward to the experience.  A win-win situation to be sure.

For many years Rush has always gone big and booked stadiums to play their shows.  I found it fitting and a bit ironic that the venue was Nationwide Arena home of the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL hockey team.  Maple syrup, hockey and Rush; Canada's major exports.

We made the drive down to the capitol city early so we could relax and have a nice dinner before the show.  Once the doors opened we walked around the arena and noticed some players practicing on a side rink.

All the concerts I've attended have been in smaller auditoriums or outdoor amphitheaters.  This was the first show in a large scale arena for both my son and I.

After wandering around and checking things out from various angles we found our seats and watched the fans slowly trickle in and start filling the seats.  Eventually the lights went downs and the curtain came up and the spectacle began.

Please excuse the blurry photos.  The only camera I had was my cell phone and with the zoom cranked all the way up I did the best I could without a steady rest.  Besides some crummy photographs are better than no photographs.  One of my purposes with this blog is to record special events in my life so when I'm an old codger with dwindling memory power hopefully these stories and images will trigger the recall.

More than once I've been told as a Rush fan to go see them play if given the chance.  "Just go" they said and I'm so glad I did.  We were blown away!  The audio was very loud probably one of the loudest concerts I've ever heard.  Not just loud but perfectly executed.  The members of Rush are all perfectionists and besides they've been playing together for 40 years and it shows. 

The lighting was some of the best I've seen and a gigantic projection screen made it easy to see the guys onstage even from way out.

Thousands of loyal Rush fans packed the house.  Seeing all these people and feeling all their energy was almost as impressive as the band.  I feel very lucky we had the opportunity to witness a little bit of Rock and Roll history in the making. 

Earlier this year the band announced they were taking an extended hiatus from the road after wrapping up this current three month tour.  Of course many bands say this and end up back on the road eventually.  This may not be the last time Rush rocks a big stadium but if it is I can happily live out my days knowing what it was like.  Last but not least I had a blast sharing the experience with my son.  My parents didn't take me to any rock concerts so I can only imagine how cool that is to a 14 year old kid. 

Set list:

1.  The Anarchist
2.  Clockwork Angels
3.  Headlong Flight (with "Drumbastica" mini drum solo)
4.  Far Cry
5.  The Main Monkey Business
6.  One Little Victory
7.  Animate
8.  Roll the Bones
9.  Distant Early Warning
10.  Subdivisions

Set 2

11.  Tom Sawyer
12.  Red Barchetta
13.  The Spirit of Radio
14.  Jacob's Ladder
15.  Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part 1: Prelude
16.  Cygnus X-1 
(The Voyage Part 1 & 3 with drum solo)
17.  Closer to the Heart
18.  Xanadu
19.  2112 Part I:  Overture
20.  2112 Part II:  The Temple of Syrinx
21.  2112 Part IV:  Presentation
22.  2112 Part VII:  Grand Finale


23.  Lakeside Park
24.  Anthem
25.  What You're Doing
26.  Working Man

Monday, June 1, 2015

Heart of Ohio Trail

So how do you like my beard? I've been growing it all season and now is the time to get out and let her flow in the breeze!

Like most of North America we've been experiencing some wild swings of weather here in the Ohio valley.  After a string of hot summer like days and plenty of rain the temperature dropped like a rock Sunday night into Monday.  I planned on riding today because the forecast called for cloudy skies but it wasn't supposed to rain.  The temperature was a crisp 49 degrees F when I left the house this morning.

It's a little strange here it is June 1st and I have to gather up my winter tights, fleece jacket and wool hat with ear protection just to go for a bike ride.  With my gear packed I headed to Mt. Vernon, Ohio to catch the Heart of Ohio Trail which is a rail trail I discovered last fall and have only ridden once so far.

The roughly 15 mile run one way is the perfect sized trail for a mid day ride through the Scenic central Ohio countryside.  I discovered a few new interesting things on this ride I wanted to share on the blog.

No sooner had I got started down the trail I passed this giant smokestack I first photographed last year.  The big difference now is the curious spiral staircase under construction.  As I was standing there looking on an older gentleman pulled up on a recumbent trike so we struck up a conversation and I asked him about the project.  Being from the area he said he saw an artist's rendition of the finished construction which will twist its way about three-quarters of the way to the top and end in a 360 degree observation deck.  The project is scheduled for completion by the 4th of July.  

I will most certainly be making a return trip later this summer to check that out!

I decided to ride the Titanium General Purpose Bike on this ride.  I've been logging about 32 miles a week commuting on the Ti GP and loving it.  The recent improvements in the handlebar and seat department have breathed new life into the bike and I find myself reaching for it often.

The bike trail shares the river valley with a state route.  Along most of the passage the view of the highway is blocked by trees and vegetation.  Occasionally the trail and the roadway are close enough that properties adjacent the road become visible for a few short stretches.  From one of these openings I spotted this old tractor sitting at the front of a farm with for sale sign posted.

I love old fashioned stuff and history so of course I had to stop and check it out.  The Farmall Cub was the smallest tractor built by International Harvester between the years of 1947 and 1981.  During those years over 245,000 Cubs were made.  This one is unique in that it looks like it has the original mowing set-up complete with three-blade mower deck and turf tires. 

The Farmall's are my favorite of the antique tractors but I do love to look at them all.  I don't know much about the details and have no idea of this models age but it does look it came from the 1950's or 60's.  Oh yes one day I will have one of these of my own to tinker with.

Back on the trail I caught a glimpse of a structure through the woods off to my left away from the state route.  Right away I spotted text like old signage.  Suddenly like staring at a word search my mind connected the dots.  Although most of the elements are obscured by brush I realized I was looking at another old Mail Pouch Tobacco ad.  

In order to get a picture I had to park my bike and wade through wet chest high weeds to get close enough.  The structure is open on the other side and was probably used as a livestock shelter.  The building sits on the edge of a neglected pasture and now houses only some old tires and lumber.

To see my other photographs of Mail Pouch Barns click the label at the end of the post.


At the end of the trail I arrived in the small town of Centerburg, Ohio which got the name as it lies at the geographic center of Ohio.  In its earliest days Centerburg was a stagecoach stop and later a railroad town.  Once a rural passenger stop of the Cleveland, Akron and Columbus railroad during the peak of passenger rail in early America now visitors roll into town using the same right of way but today they're moved by pedal power and not steam.

Centerburg looks like many small sleepy towns that time seem to have left behind.

I like the old Frigidaire sign hanging proudly along main street.

This brick residential street is no trendy urban revitalization.  These pavers have probably been here for a hundred years.  It amazes me how long a brick paved avenue lasts with nothing more than slight cupping where the wheels pass.  Give a modern asphalt street about five years of freeze-thaw cycles and it'll be reduced to a pot-holed mine field.  I think we should have never got away from brick for residential and downtown city center streets.

A quaint Christian church built in 1911.

No, that handsome gent at the opening of this post is not me.  It's General Daniel Harris Reynolds, C.S.A.

"A decendent of Knox County's earliest pioneers, Confederate Brigadier General Daniel Harris Reynolds was born just three miles west of Centerburg in 1832.  He attended Ohio Wesleyan University in Deleware, where he became a close friend of Otho Strahl, another Ohio born Confederate general.  Reynolds taught school in Ohio before studying law in Iowa and then Tennessee.  Admitted to the bar in 1858, Reynolds established a law practice in Chicot County, Arkansas.  An advocate of secession, Reynolds chose to serve the Confederate States of America in his adopted state of Arkansas at  the start of the Civil War.  Well respected in his community, he raised a company of cavalry known as the "Chicot Rangers"  

As a Captain, Reynolds first saw action in August of 1861 at Wilson's Creek in Missouri where he was injured in a fall from his horse.  Despite his injury, he remained in the fight.  An able soldier and leader, Reynolds received steady promotions within the Confederate Army, attaining the rank of  brigadier general in 1864.  After distinguished service spanning the entire war, Reynolds suffered a wound requiring the amputation of his leg at Bentonville, North Carolina, the last major battle of the war.  Reynolds returned to Arkansas to reestablish his law practice.  He also served a term in the Arkansas legislature.  He died in 1902 and is buried in Lake Village, Arkansas."

I've said it before but it bears repeating, short of having an actual time machine I can think of nothing better than the bicycle and riding one off the beaten path to discover history right around the corner of the places we call home. 

Before stopping for a sandwich I rode a quick loop out into the country around Centerburg even finding a couple miles of gravel.  This was no problem for the Ti GP bike at all since its DNA is pure MTB even though I have it set up for smooth street riding.

Unfortunately the weather man was incorrect and it did begin to sprinkle on my way back to Mt. Vernon.  Luckily the rain was light and the trees shielded me from much of the drops.  Nearing Mt. Vernon I spotted the red coat of a whitetail deer in the trail up ahead.  I got stopped and took a photo but the doe and her fawn are pretty tiny.  

Not quite the epic beard of General Reynolds but a handsome lad nonetheless.