Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Road Bike Ride

Today the temperature hit 66 degrees F!  For the last day of February in Ohio I'll take it!  After work I pumped up the tires of my road bike and headed north on an out and back three sided loop.  The Motobecane felt fast and smooth as usual. 

My Sportsman's Club is located along the route 7.6 miles from my driveway. 

My ride took me across the Sandusky River which has swollen it's banks.  The field in the background is the flood plain.  The surrounding country is up another 30 feet and generally safe from flooding.


I found another one-room school house on this ride.  It looks like the township has preserved the old structure and turned it into a part of it's annex.  Many township halls in rural areas are used for not only official business but receptions and other events providing a gathering place for the local populace.  I can't think of a neater place to have a meeting but in an old late 1800's school house.  Good Job Sandusky Township!


North Loop
Bike:  Motobecane Le Champion
Distance:  22.6 Miles
Ride Time:  1:28:28
Average Speed:  15.3 MPH

Monday, February 27, 2012

Recumbent Ride - Short Loop

Sunday afternoon I got out for a hour on the recumbent and it felt great.  I like to mix things up with skiing and hiking and indoor workouts in the off season but I'm a cyclist at heart.  All the warm weather we've had recently has urged me back onto two wheels.  I have not thought much about big rides this season but now is the time to start laying on the base miles. 

Other than my short commutes to work this is the first I've been out on my bike for an extended ride.  One thing I noticed right away because of the mild winter there is a lot less of that pesky fine gravel spread on the roadways as a traction aid for car tires.  Usually the sandy residue hangs around on intersections and road shoulders until the showers of spring finally wash it all away.  It's the bane of two wheeled travel in the north but I'm happy to report that the roads in my area are in pretty good shape for February.

The purpose of the ride other than just enjoying the sunshine and temperatures in the mid-forties was to feel out my fitness level after not doing much lately.  While I tried to take it easy the ever present winds that blow across the flats helped to keep my pulse rate up and my overall velocity down.  In all a positive experience and I am happy to be getting a bit earlier start than normal to this riding season.

Local Loop (short)
Bike:  HP Velotechnik Street Machine GTe
Distance:  14.17 Miles
Ride Time:  1:09
Average Speed:  12.2 MPH
Max Speed:  25.9 MPH


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Picture of the Day -- Insulators

Click the label "Insulators" below for more info.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Family Ski Trip

For weeks now we kept pushing back the date of our family ski trip in the hopes that winter might make a late appearance here in the Eastern U.S.  Because gambling on snow conditions is quite a trial this winter we decided to return to a ski hill we were familiar with.  LeeAnn and I first skied at Seven Springs last year.  I took a few good pictures then in the Allegheny mountains of Western PA and posted them to this blog.  This year we took Wyatt with us and had a great time skiing together as a family.

Of course we took a bunch of photos and it was tough to narrow it down to just a few.  Monday was another perfect day with a clear blue skies.
On the mountain top we met this cool skiing bird.  He's from Pittsburgh.

This picture by LeeAnn shows the reservoir at the summit that holds water for the snow making machines. 

The North Face of the resort is only accesible by riding the chair lift up from the ski lodge and dropping in on this side of the moutain.  The area has longer runs and is our favorite.

I really like the above photographs.  The skiers remind me of the little little green army men I was discussing the other day.  I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't report something on the snow conditions we encountered.  Sugar.  Lighter and a bit forgiving early in the morning but heavy and sluggish later in the day as the sun warmed temperatures into the 30's.  After a break for some rest and dinner Wyatt and I headed back out for some night skiing and found the sugar had loosened back up and was again fun to ride.  You'll not hear a complaint from me at all.  I'm just happy to have a chance to carve a few turns, breath the fresh air and get a sunburn in February.

The part I liked best about this trip is after the math is done the fine dining and room with a view are on the house with the purchase of lift tickets for three people for three days.

Late afternoon view from the sixth floor.

 On the last morning of our stay we rode a short lift that ran through the village at the summit.  The trail led us down between the condos passing under a couple short concrete tunnels.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Winter Hike - Clear Fork

Wyatt and I took off on a winter hike along the shore of Clear Fork reservoir.  The snow is all melted away again but the crust of ice along the water's edge shows that it is still winter season here in Ohio.  A stiff breeze was coming off the water and made the 34 degrees F air feel chilly and raw.   We hiked about 1 1/2 miles before turning around for a total distance of 3 miles. 

This outing today was a field test of my new Columbia Ski Jacket. My old parka was about 10 years old and fraying at the seams. The zipper tab broke off the other day so I think the coat has proved it's worth and the time for retirement has come.  The new Columbia wears great -lightweight yet comfy warm blocking the February wind coming off the water completely.  I didn't have a choice of color as the coat was on clearance sale but figured the bright red color would provide good visibility on the ski hill.  Wyatt is sporting his Yukon Hats bomber style with real rabbit fur on the front and ear flaps.  Out of the wind he had to take it off it works so well. 


Monday, February 13, 2012

News from A.R.S. W8MDE

I keep an eye on the SKCC website so I know when to plan some time for the monthly Week End Sprint. WES is a CW (Morse Code Radiotelegraphy) contest using only hand keys or semi-automatic keys "bugs" for short.

February's conditions were excellent at my QTH.  Quietest band conditions I've heard on 80, 40 and 20 meters in a while.  Cold winter nights with no thunderstorms on the upper 48 and plenty of solar radiation from the sun primes the ionosphere to bounce radio signals back to Earth.  The contest theme was QRP which means 5 watts or less.  Contacts with these QRP ops gets extra bonus points.  I had to keep looking at my signal meter because many of them sounded very loud on my speaker.  I operated in the usual 50-100 watt range and used my NT9K Pro Pump SKCC key for every contact. (The key in the picture at top) The SKCC club key has displaced every straight key I've tried and I'm starting to wonder if I can find a better one.

WES - 12 Feb 2012

7.118  NE5DL/qrp  Texas
3.547  W9DLN  Wisconsin
3.549  K4ZGB  Alabama
7.116  F6HKA  France
14.052  WA5KMA  Texas
14.059  WI0S/qrp  Minnesota
7.051  WB0UCP  Iowa
7.055  K8JD  Michigan
14.050  K4ZGB  Alabama*
7.115  W4CUX/qrp  Georgia
7.112  WD4SCZ  Kentucky
7.112  NW2K/qrp  New York
7.111  WA0BGV  Missouri
7.107  W9DLN  Wisconsin*

*Contact made on second band.

Speaking of Weekend Sprintathons I received an email from the SKCC club back in January.  A fine certificate was attached.  Thanks to all the fine ops I've had the good fortune to run into on the air and those behind the scenes that make the club and it's events a success.  Time sure flies when your having fun.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ski Report

Friday into Saturday four inches of new snow fell.  Temperatures dropped into the teens and the wind blew during the daylight hours.  Around sundown Saturday evening the family and I arrived at the local hill for some night skiing.  Luckily what little loose snow that was to be found wasn't clumpy at all because of the colder temperatures.  Lift lines amounted to one or two chairs so we spent 3 solid hours going up and down.  Wyatt is doing great on skis and now his speed has raised mom's anxiety level a notch or two.
Sunday afternoon I stayed close to home and went out to try some cross country skiing.  While an inch or two of snow on the surface is all that's needed for cross country the problem is the ground is not frozen and the result is wet snow that just sticks to the bottom of the ski as soon as forward motion ceases.  To say its been a mild winter is the understatement of the year.  This was my first attempt at cross country this year and after a disappointing 3/4 miles I gave up and headed home.  I'm not putting my gear away just yet though.  Heavy snowstorms aren't uncommon through the month of March so there is still a chance for some good flat ground skiing here in Ohio.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kindle Fire

Last summer I bought an original Kindle ebook with the hopes it would entice me to do more reading.  I wrote a post about it here.  The Kindle device won me over quickly with it's ease of use however the black and white screen often left me wanting when a book contained photographs that could only be viewed in gray scale on that basic device.

When Christmas time rolled around last year I put the Kindle Fire on my wish list.  Lucky for me I found one under the tree on Christmas morning.  Once I logged onto my account at Amazon all the titles I had originally purchased appeared on the screen ready for download from the "cloud"  whatever that is.

The Kindle Fire is basically a tablet based on the Android operating system but customized to do it's Amazon/Kindle thing and it does it well.  The device acts just like the Android phone that I had some experience with last year so there was not really any learning curve I just turned the reader on and away I went.  Because the Kindle is 7 inches tall the touch screen is not hard to use at all.  A single on-off-standby button on the lower end is the only control not interfaced though the touchscreen.  It takes about two seconds to log onto my home network and the Fire becomes a capable web browser.  A function great for sitting on the couch or downstairs while on the elliptical trainer.  As more and more periodical publications shift to web based formats I think the Kindle will be well suited to accessing these materials.  I have several of my favorite blogs bookmarked and viewing them is a breeze.  Blogs with mobile view enabled look especially good. 

I'm happy to note that yes the Kindle has caused me to read more.  I've read more in the past half year than probably the last five combined.  Here's the rundown:

Books I've Read
Bike Snob
Be Brave Be Strong -- Jill Homer
    Triumph Motorcycles -- Nash Corvette
Shooting Star The Rise and Fall of the British Motorcycle Industry -- Abe Aamidor
Coming and Going on Bikes - Essaying the Motorcycle -- Jack Lewis
Far and Away -- Neil Peart
Drumbeats -- Kevin J. Anderson & Neil Peart
Kon-Tiki  Across the Pacific by Raft -- Thor Heyerdahl
Endurance Shackleton's Incredible voyage -- Alfred Lansing
In Search of Pipe Dreams  -- Rick Newcombe
Brave New World  -- Aldous Huxley
Brave New World Revisited -- Aldous Huxley
Anthem -- Ayn Rand

Currently Reading

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Gigantic Book of Pirate Stories -- Steve Brennan
Adventures of a Motorcycle Despatch Rider During the First World War -- Capt. W.H. L. Watson
The Fountainhead -- Ayn Rand

Waiting in the Wings

The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Dr No -- Ian Fleming

Overall I think my favorite feature of the Kindle is the fact that I can take all my books with me in one small package.  I also like to read several books at the same time revisiting the various titles whenever the mood hits.  Simply touching the title page thumbnail of the book I want to read instantly opens up to the page where I last left off.  Slick!  Technology has brought us some amazing stuff in recent years like computers, GPS and digital cameras.  In my opinion the ebook reader ranks right up there with the greats.    

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why the Department of Justice dropped the Lance Armstrong case.

I believe the DOJ looked into the matter of alleged criminal activity within the Armstrong camp with good intentions but an industrious agent either by luck or resourceful detective work uncovered the shocking truth that Lance Armstrong is really the militant leader of a race of Alien Space Lizards bent on seizing what is left of Earth's resources. Some have speculated that Lance has used his vast fortunes to buy his way out of trouble. I know every man has his price but the DOJ? I suspect some kind of Jedi mind trick by these sinister interlopers caused the "These aren't the droids we're looking for" DOJ response.

Why would the King of the Space Lizards masquerade around Earth as a professional bike racer? I've not completely figured that out but perhaps the Space Lizards are captivated by the act of riding a bike just as dogs turn themselves inside out chasing the wheels of a passing cyclist. It's the Space Lizard's one weakness; They just can't help themselves. Furthermore I wouldn't be surprised if the entire pro peloton are actually the Space Lizard High Command. What better means to reconnoiter and plan their attack than to pedal around the world's countries on the best carbon fiber race bikes Earth has to offer. All the while displaying feats of superhuman cycling ability.

To draw attention away from the Armstrong affair the Alien Space Lizard aka: Alberto Contador is now conveniently embroiled in his own doping scandal having his Tour De France wins stripped.

This horrifying scenario is not something I've just made up for attention. I first learned of the Space Lizards from the blog BikesnobNYC  whose author has slowly been leaking information about a strange lizard race not of our world. Although in this picture he paints them as benign anthropologists studying the ancient remnants of mankind on a future Earth devoid of its human inhabitants I detect a sinister undercurrent. Recently he mentions Space Lizard ray guns in a post. Indeed not the tool one finds in a typical anthropological tool box.

I've come to the conclusion that BikesnobNYC is probably one of the Space Lizard doppelgangers himself. No mere mortal mind is capable of generating such profound material day after day. As to his purpose I'm not quite sure. Possibly he is a Space Lizard propagandist whose mission is to slowly condition us humans to the idea of our impending doom. The BikesnobNYC blog is surly is the work of some highly developed quasi-reptilian alien intelligence. This theory also explains Bikesnob's obvious silence on the issue of LA. They are more than just buddies they are scaly brothers in arms.

By coming forward with this information I realize I am opening myself up to potential and swift retribution. Cut down by the sizzling beam of a Space Lizard ray gun is not my idea of a good day. For these reasons I am posting this missive under conditions of anonymity.

Whatever the case I'll be wearing my helmet mirror at all times from this moment forward.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Shooting Bench

My Dad taught me to shoot with a .22 Ruger pistol. I make sure to show my son the fun that can had with firearms in a safe environment.  Today it was warm enough to be outside without gloves so we headed out to the sportsman's club for some target practice.  Wyatt is not new to shooting he's a regular dead-eye but today he is sighting in a new .22 Marlin bolt action for the first time.

After a verification of the iron sights Wyatt is going to mount his own bases and fixed 4X  scope.  Following are two photographs of Wyatt's targets documenting the "out of the box accuracy" of the American made Model 925R Marlin.  Remember the rifleman is 10 years old. 

The other day along with some old papers I found a paper target.  23 years ago I fired the M-16 rifle for the first time.  In the Air Force we worry about the aircraft not playing Army so we only had an afternoon to qualify and earn our marksmanship ribbon.  After a hundred rounds or so to familiarize ourselves with the weapon and with help from the range official sighting in if required we were given enough ammo for two 20 round magazines to qualify for marksman.

We didn't touch the sights on that well worn black rifle and shooting left handed I believe accounts for the left side grouping.   If you noticed in the picture of Wyatt sighting downrange there is two targets side by side. Yes I did some shooting today too but I was a bit closer to the paper and using a 3-1/2 inch barrel.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Handcrafted oak music stand by author. 

Creativity runs in my family.  My great-grandfather was a German immigrant who came to America and made a living pin striping auto bodies in the car factories of Detroit.  His son my grandpa also used paintbrushes in a lifelong career as a sign painter.  The best memories I have of my grandfather are spending time in the summer watching him ply his trade in the small shop he kept behind his house.  He would hand paint beautiful script with drop shadows on wooden signs for local businesses or on the sides of delivery vans and work trucks. 

Thirty-six years ago my dad started a screen printing business printing decals for local manufacturers.  The business slowly grew over the years and is now sucessfully overseen by my sister and I.  The creative influence didn't just come from the men in my family.  My mother encouraged us artistically from the youngest age providing us with materials and mediums to explore.  I believe that some people are lucky and have inherent talents of one kind or another but I don't consider myself especially gifted.  I attribute my skills and accomplishments to the "Get off your ass and do something!" ethic instilled in me by family, teachers and later officers in the military.

By the time I reached my high school years I found I had a knack for using machine tools to make things out of wood.  I developed these skills under the guidance of my shop teacher Mr. Craig, a stern yet fair man who also coached the basketball team.  While I was in the Air Force I started slowly acquiring woodworking tools one at a time knowing that one day I would have some garage or basement space where I could set up a small workshop.   These days with job, family and all my other hobbies I don't make much sawdust but as a homeowner I keep my tools sharp and use them for various household projects.

The oak music stand pictured I made from scratch and of my own design turning the spindle on my restored 1940-50's Sears Craftsman lathe.  A planer, jig and tablesaw helped fabricate the other pieces.  I made the stand for my mom's theater group as a stage prop where it recieved rave reviews.  Eventually she gave the piece back to me (thanks mom!) and I proudly display it in my hamshack-music studio-man cave.