12 July, 2013

Stay Calm (and Write a Blog)

Yes I'm still breathing, eating and apparently able to string a series of words together in a somewhat comprehensible manner. Since my last post in 1822 March, I have:
Ridden my bike some (but not as much as I would have liked)
Run some (but probably not as much as I should)
Argued with some very stubborn people (and from their point of view, I'm probably a very stubborn person)
Lamented the loss of some friends
And of course all of the other things which happen by chance or design and make up the fabric of our lives. Not all of these will be visited in this single post- hopefully it will draw me back to reflect and write.

The riding was going swimmingly- getting in lots of good long rides and training sessions and a few races. A couple of crits, a time trial and a couple of road races with no spectacular results but no major disappointments either. My last race was a crit in early June- it was also one of the last times I was on the bike for several weeks. I had changed my wheels the day before to a set I bought a few years back but have not used all that much. On the usual Saturday ride, I heard a metallic creak when pedalling and put it down to noise from the spokes as the wheels had sat unused for so long.

I checked the spokes, there did seem to be a bit of play in a couple of them (none broken) and so tightened them a bit, of course to no avail. Raced on them the next day for the crit, Even had one of the racers who works at one of the local bike shops to have a look. Nah- nothing there. That afternoon I took small pieces of duct tape (gaffer tape here in Aus) and placed it between the lacing cross points of the spokes. Went for a ride and lo and behold- the noise was still there.

Jump ahead a couple days and I have the bike on the workstand for a thorough cleaning- stripped it down, chain off to be replaced, etc. Giving it a wash and notice some tar on the left seat stay- don't remember riding near any fresh roadworks or new paving- I'll just get the worst of it off with my thumbnail and then some methylated spirits and finish washing the bike.

The tar turned out to be something completely different- the seat stay was cracked almost all the way though and the strange sound I had been blaming on the spokes was the crack flexing under each pedal stroke. The bike has never been involved in any impacts on the road, during transport or at home so I was at a loss as to the cause.

The frame has a lifetime warranty for the original owner (that would be me) so I took some photos and headed to the local dealer with the frame to discuss the next steps. The LBS took more photos and sent them to the Specialized warranty office in Melbourne for evaluation. Several days later, after hearing nothing, I stopped by the shop to be advised that they had been unable to make a determination based on the photos and they would now like the frame sent as well.

So another week+ and still no word despite my dropping around and calls being made by the shop to Specialized. Finally I received a call to say they could not find any evidence of impact (I guess they need to do their own investigation and not just take the word of some numpty who might want a new frame) and would be supplying me with a new frame and that it was being shipped that afternoon.

Fast forward another week and I get a call that the new frame has been built up with the groupset from the old bike to the same measurements and is ready to go. It looked really nice when it was wheeled out but Dee immediately said that it didn't look right. And she was correct, they had put the headset spacers above the stem instead of below so it was back into the workshop for a quick adjustment (theoretically). Once the spacers had been correctly placed, all of the cabling was now too short and had to be replaced- this also meant the bar tape had to be unwrapped, etc. And the end result:

So I'm back on the road with the new beast but the joy is severely tempered by the loss of a member of the local cycling community and severe injuries to three others as the result of being struck by a truck carrying an oversize load. The riders were on their regular Saturday circuit and were riding single file and outside the traffic lane- there is no dedicated bike lane on that section and they had taken every measure to be out of traffic. The driver, for whatever reason, thought he could make it past but struck all four riders. Other members of their group who were some meters behind but witnessed the whole incident immediately performed first aid, including CPR, until emergency responders and police arrived on the scene.

Sadly, one of the riders was pronounced dead that afternoon and the other three were hospitalised for their injuries. A memorial ride is being held on Sunday for Sue- there will be many very heavy hearts.

10 March, 2013

An Experiment in Lent(il) Behaviour

The road racing season is back for 2013 here in the north and today, Sunday, marked the second in a series of crits for the local club. Numbers have been great across all grades with more than 100 riders registering across 4 grades in addition to the junior riders.

The left hand turning circuit is a 600 metre semi-rhomboid/elliptoid, flat road in a semi-industrial area as per the image below from Endomondo. What wind there was today was a greeting for all riders on the section heading into the last turn before the finishing straight on Dalrymple Road. The cross wind on the back segment was pretty much blocked out by the buildings lining the road.

I wandered from my usual Saturday evening pre-race meal routine (pasta in one form or another) and had lentil burgers and salad. They were delicious and filling but when I woke this morning, I was absolutely starving. A couple of Weet-Bix and my usual morning breakfast drink (no- not that kind of drink!!!) called Up-n-Go and I was out the door and on the way. During the ride to the circuit and the warm up I didn't feel all that energetic so I also had an energy gel a few minutes prior to the start.

Last week's average speed was just on 37km/hr for the 12 starters. This week it was 38.5 with 23 riders fronting. Like last week there were a few new starters which is always good to see- unlike last week when a young bloke who was giving it his first go and happened to grab a handful of front brake at an inopportune moment, there were no spills- even better to see.

So even though the pace was on a bit more than last week, I felt I had less in the tank on the last couple of laps. So it looks like it will be back to pasta for next week's crit; however, if there's no improvement, I'll know I will have to look at the engine the fuel is going into, not at the fuel. (Or maybe crit circuits just aren't my forte)

Cheers- ride safe

06 March, 2013

Rolling and Reflecting......

I have been thinking about this particular subject for almost three weeks now- it's an annual occurrence, the reflecting part that is, and has been since 1982. On 15 February of that year, 84 lives were lost when The Ocean Ranger went down in a storm off Newfoundland.

I was working on a rig at the time- The Rowan Juneau- off Sable Island and we had had a bit of a brush with the same weather system some hours before. I remember our radio operator's look of despair when no further chatter could be picked up from the Ranger and the supply ships reported that one of the "unsinkable" rigs had capsized.

And while it is, as I said earlier, an annual period of reflection, this year that reflection has lingered- triggered I suppose by items in the news from both here and from back in Nova Scotia:

A fishing boat swamped in the waters off the coast in the southern part of Queensland- the skipper made it but his deckhand is lost, presumed drowned.

A friend posted a photo the other day of a coiled heaving line from The Bounty- one of the few items remaining from the replica built for the movie- the loss coming after the skipper set sail into hurricane conditions.

The sinking of The Miss Ally and the loss of all five aboard after sailing from Cape Sable Island on a halibut fishing trip.

And the announcement by Clive Palmer that he is building a replica of The Titanic- that most famous of unsinkable maritime vessels- and will be tracing the voyage of the original (hopefully with a much better outcome).

The local club road racing season has just started- a series of crits last weekend and the following two Sundays to kick things off. It was really good to see a number of new faces across most grades fronting up to race- it will be interesting to see if interest remains high when we get into the longer road races.

Cheers- ride safe

29 November, 2012

Welcome Back....

So it was a good ride this morning- no rain, unlike yesterday morning when the skies opened up on the way home. As I was finishing my mid-ride coffee, I could see a bit of a squally shower moving across the bay- what were the chances that I could beat the rain?? I know why I'm not a betting person- traffic and poorly timed lights conspired to make sure that I received a good drenching all the way home- right to the driveway. Felt a bit like Joe Bftslpk from the Al Capp comic strip "L'il Abner"- he was the poor bloke who always had a rain cloud over his head.

But even with rain, any ride from which one returns safely, is a good ride- and there have been many good rides since last I posted (but not much rain).

And there has been much else happening:

I have successfully pollinated a few of these:

These are vanilla beans- we have had the plant for probably at least 10 years and this is the first time I have managed to get the pollination right- it has to be done manually as there are no bees or wasps in Australia capable of pollinating the flowers. The top photo shows a spent bloom in the upper right which I failed to see  on the morning it opened and so another missed opportunity.

I'll let you know in 6 months or so how things are progressing. And now I know why real vanilla is so expensive- the pollination is the easy part- the processing and curing is a long slow process.

And then there were the dove orchids- blooming several times per year, the branches are festooned with short-lived, delicate white flowers with an interesting dusty-citrus fragrance.

Dove orchids
 And in keeping with nature's phenomena- a couple of shots of our solar eclipse on 14 November- we got 96% totality.
14 November solar eclipse

14 November solar eclipse
 Viewed with the latest in solar eclipse eyewear fashion.
Fashion eyewear (of a sort)
 The neighbour's umbrella tree (or at least a substantial portion of it) came crashing to earth on a Saturday afternoon. These things are pot plants back in the old country (no, not that kind of pot)
Well now that's something you don't see everyday
 And in the front garden, amongst the mulch, an ornate burrowing frog.
"I am not a toad!!"

 And last but not least- a zodiac moth.

Okay- I promise the next blogs will be more cycling-focused.

Cheers- ride safe

02 September, 2012

At the top of the Hill.....

It's not a big hill- no craggy peaks or snow-fringed cols up in the thin air. But it is at the beginning and end of every ride we have done so far in Nova Scotia. It's only about 150 metres in height and about 2 km long. According to my GPS, the grade varies from 4.2% to 16.5% depending on which road I take to hook up with the main road which runs to the top. The average grade is probably around 6.8% to 7.0%.

I was hesitant about riding up the hill the first time around. Had to do a bit of on-the-bike coaching- telling myself to just keep the pedals cranking over- "Don't rush. It's not a race. You can do this."

And I did- I wouldn't go so far as to say it was the most fun I've ever had, but it certainly wasn't a stop-the-bike-and-throw-it-to-the-ground moment either. In fact I actually made a point of picking out the hilliest approaches to some of our old familiar neighbourhoods during our trip back to N.S.

It's coming to the end of summer and there is a coolness in the air- not just in the morning but right through the day. A near cloudless sky today and in the bright sun in the backyard, a most pleasant day but step around the side of the house and away from the shelter and the wind has a freshness that cuts straight through. Doesn't feel like it has even made it to 20C today.

The end of summer also is when the harvest is in full swing. We pass orchards on our rides where the trees are heavily weighed under good crops of apples and peaches. Acres and acres of pumpkins turning orange amongst the tangle of vines- a bit early yet for Hallowe'en. And fields of corn stretching almost as far as you can see.

Friday saw us travel down the Annapolis Valley to Digby for a visit with my older brother. We piled into his car and drove up to Bear River- a lovely, vibrant community in a most picturesque setting on a tidal river. In fact it is so picturesque that I was overcome by its picturesqueness and forgot to take any pictures- trust me- it's very nice. Lunch in a wonderful little restaurant perched over the river followed by a wander through a marvellous art/craft gallery/studio/shop.

Then off to one of the local wineries for a tour and tasting. The Bear River Winery is a small operation based in an old dairy barn on a south-facing, predominantly shale-based soil just up the road from the restaurant and studio. The young lady who was our tour guide was a most engaging and knowledgeable employee. She has been working at the winery since she was 15 and shows considerable passion and enthusiasm for the grapes and the resultant end product.

Interspersed throughout the afternoon, no matter where we went, was the rumble of motorcycles- big motorcycles- many, many, many motorcycles. An event called the Wharf Rat Rally is taking place in Digby and there have been estimates of anywhere from 7,000 to more than 25,000 motorcycles may be in town as part of the rally.

I really don't know how many bikes we saw yesterday, several hundred I'm sure and on the drive back to the Top of the Hill yesterday evening, I'm sure we passed at least another couple of hundred headed for the rally.
I hope they have brought in a good supply of earplugs for the locals. Or I suppose if you have enough of these- the sound will eventually just fade away- Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale- "those who like it, like it a lot." (Or like a lot of it....)

Cheers- ride safe


02 July, 2012

Ladders, Lemons and Lengthy Legless Lizards (Oh and a Weekend Race Too!!)

It's Canada Day +1 today. In honour, our city in Australia has declared today a public holiday....not really..... although it is a public holiday here in Townsville. Every year there is a public holiday declared to coincide with the local show.
These were formerly agricultural exhibitions which showcased the best that the region had to offer in cattle, poultry, small crops and home-made goods amongst many other things. These days it's more about the carnival rides and show bags than anything else.
We went once (I think it was only once) when our son was much younger and even he tired of it very quickly so we enjoy the day off and putter in the yard. We will be heading to eastern Canada next month and should be around for the Hants County Exhibition-a regular annual event throughout our youth and even into adulthood. It's the longest running agricultural exhibition in North America.
So what does puttering on the yard on a Monday entail?

Well actually I worked from home for the morning and then watched a replay of last night's stage of Le Tour- great thing those digital recorders- you can really make a 200km road race flash by pretty quickly to get to the pointy end of things.

Then I decided it was time to harvest a few more lemons. Our tree has been loaded this year and there were a few that were desperate to be relieved of their grip on the branch. So I relocated the ladder and grabbed about half a dozen fruit- then moved the ladder around to the other side of the tree- there were a couple of very big fruit- much too high to reach from the ground.
Now that's a lemon!! 566 grams worth.

While I was recovering said lemon from the tree, I noticed one of the branches move slightly and upon closer inspection, found that I had company at the top of the ladder-

A nice little (probably 2.5 metres or so) python was basking in the sun and my harvesting activities had disrupted his slumber and he didn't seem all that happy about it. Needless to say the rest of the afternoon's lemon-pickin' has been rescheduled to a date to be confirmed. Mind you he did hang around while I fished out my phone and took a bunch of photos.

And yesterday and today were a couple of those fantastic North Queensland winter days where it is just blue skies forever with clear, clear air and nary a cloud. Bright and early Sunday morning Dee and I jumped in the car and headed inland to Charters Towers for a road race. A really nice 35km circuit with rolling hills that are enough to test the legs and get the heart rate up a bit.

First race for both of us for a bit- with work and a couple versions of flu and colds keeping me off the bike for a bit, it was nice to have a bit of a hit-out. And everybody in The Towers is so friendly and what little traffic there is, is always accommodating to the riders.

They are trying to revive the cycling club in Charters Towers and if we can help garner enthusiasm by racing there, I'm all for it.

We'll be heading back out there next month for a three stage race (their second year) and a fondo (first year) so it should be a great time.

Cheers- ride safe (and watch out for snakes)


19 May, 2012

Can it Be???

It's good to be home again. I headed off last Sunday on a work-related trip to the northern part of the state. The project I have been working on is getting to the pointy end and we are making every effort to ensure that those who are impacted by the project have as much information, training and support as we can give them.

After delivering sessions on  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday- Thursday was a travel day so I was in the car and headed further north to Cooktown. It is noted as the location where Capt James Cook had to make repairs to his ship Endeavour after holing the hull on the Great Barrier Reef in 1770. Later it was a port of some importance in the gold mining rush in the late 1800's. On the way north, I stopped at a lookout on the Mulligan Highway and took a few pics........

I was not due to visit the local depot until Friday morning so after checking in to my accommodation, I took a bit of a stroll through the local museum and then climbed Grassy Hill- the spot which Capt Cook climbed in 1770 to see if he could plot a course through the myriad reefs once repairs to Endeavour were completed.

Hopefully the panorama I have stitched together comes through OK on the blog.

Then after the delivery of the session on Friday morning it was back in the car and off to Cairns for the return flight home. It's great to be home.

Thanks to Mae and Eric, my hosts in Cairns, for a great visit, lots of wine and laughs and great food.

And then it was back on the bike bright and early this morning for a nice coffee roll. Tomorrow we'll play a support role for one of the local club's longer road races of the season- Townsville to Charters Towers. Did I mention how nice it is to be home?

Cheers- ride safe