Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Monday, June 30, 2008

No Men Need Apply --

While browsing apartment listings, I searched Craigslist, both in the "apartments" section, and in the "shared / roomates" section. I'm not especially surprised to find that many listings state a gender preference, nor is it shocking that, of those with a preference, the vast majority state that they'd like only women to contact them. After all, I can understand how a single woman would prefer not to room with a male stranger, but that a single man might not care whether another guy or a girl lived with him. I can even almost shrug about "2 dudes looking for a couple of girls to live with us, so we don't live in a house full of guys," and the like.

What DID surprise me -- and perhaps it should not have -- was the number of single men looking for a woman to live with them. There were even several entries offering free rent for a young lady who'd like to live in their house and do housework. Does this, you know, actually happen? My bullshit detector went off at the first such entry, which was reasonably articulate. Then I saw this one:

"My house, upperscale,FREE RENT all bills paid. Be cute and Fit and young, no Drama and Games. be smart when emailing me. I'm Clean and late 30's. You must send me a Face picture."



Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And the word of the day, ladies and gentlemen, is "Stagflation."

Now, I'm upset about the speculation-fueled oil price rise and its anchor on the economy, for all that it is artificial. However, I'm not too upset that it's making it hurt all the more that the 'States has missed the bus, so to speak. Mass transit, quote-unquote alternative transportation, and other fairly progressive ideas that the rest of the world has gotten on with quite well, finally seem to interest the "average" American, whoever that is.

General Motors, for instance, recently announced that it is shutting down four truck plants, and may either restructure or sell entirely the Hummer brand. Yeah, that's the one whose best-selling model rates its fuel mileage as "N/A." It's sort of crazy to remember that it was two years ago now that I was talking about that.

I guess that motivated this guy, then.

Have you ever tried to sell your car by slapping a "for sale" sign in its window and parking it in a conspicuous area? Now, you can't read the "for sale" sign from this angle, and I really wish the seller had listed the price, but I'm sure that he got tired of paying that $5.11 for diesel.

Crap, what kind of mileage do you think a mining hauler gets?

(p.s. I'm not sure if you can get the scale of this thing from my shot, but zoom in and check out the driver's compartment, compare it to the tires, and you'll get a sense.)

Monday, June 09, 2008

As I mentioned before, this is the first $5.XX price I've see for a gallon of diesel, and the regular's gone up again since this posting. Carbon emissions ethics aside, every time I ride the six mile roundtrip to work, I save literally a buck or two, and if it were a typical twenty-plus mile round trip, well, you can do the math.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Cultural Difference:

My neighbors in the apartment across from me have two young daughters, one an infant, the other perhaps four. Yesterday, I was heading out for a bike ride, then to work, so I had my pannier-equipped bike beside me. I waited for them to go down the stairs, but the four-year-old is in that phase where she's got to have a conversation with everyone.

"Do you live THERRRE?" she asked, and I told her that I did. She looked at my bike. "Do you have to carry that down the STAIRRRRS?" Yes, I say, it's not very heavy.

Eventually her mother convinces her to come along, I clomp my cleated feet down the concrete steps, and the three of them head toward their Ford Focus. Then, as I swing my leg over the saddle and clip in, the four year old turns around again:

"Waiiiit. Where's your ca-RRRR?"

On my way north on Marine View Drive, I rode past the Shell station on Norpoint way. They were selling diesel at $5.119 per gallon.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Product Reviews: Camelbak Podium Water Bottle; Visoda Energy Drink

Americans got hydration-obsessed at some point in my lifetime, and now it seems like everyone carries around a Nalgene bottle to chug on throughout the day. There are a zillion brands of these "next generation" water bottles running around.

Of course, none of them works really well for cyclists, who actually DO need a whole bunch of fluids. They have funky-shaped tops, you can't squeeze them, and who cares if you've got some kinda nifty dust shield over the spout if you can't even get the damned water out?

So then we're back to the generic cheapo plastic water bottles, which if you're a bike racer, you've got a whole closetful of. Oh, check out that bottle you're drinking from next time. Betcha whatever brand is painted onto it, it was made by Specialized. Of course, even if the jury is out on which types of plastic are going to make you get cancer and die,, I think we've all left a regular bottle in the sun too long and taken a big long swig of Fantastic Plastic.

Oh, and it's really annoying to clean that sticky sports drink residue off of everything that you own.

Camelbak, famous for its backpack-style hydration bladders, embraced the fact that road cyclists hated those things and tried to make a bike-specific bottle. The first one was far too fiddly, with a strange twist-and-bite valve that was inspired by their hydration packs. I guess someone told them nobody was buying those, and that half of every cyclists' bottle of water gets sprayed over their faces for air conditioning anyway.

Well, I got a couple of their brand-new Podium bottles, which seem to have all the answers. The valve has one of those membranes where nothing comes out until you squeeze the bottle, but you don't have to actually bite down on it. It looks pretty much like a water bottle, and you can rotate the top part to close off the valve entirely. The lid has no gasket, though, so I'm not sure whether I'd trust the thing filled with energy drink in my bag while traveling to an event.

The plastic is just #5, Polypropylene, as opposed to cheapo bottle's #4, Low Density or High Density Polyethelene, and certainly not the Polycarbonate that's getting Nalgene all of the bad press. Still, it seems to work well to keep nasty plastic taste out. I left a bottleful in my frame, and the next day it still tasted like water, so that's a good sign.

I'd try leaving it out in the sun all day, but, um, this is Seattle, folks. So what if it's June 5th? Today we've got a high of 54, and "scattered showers with a chance of light rain."

Downsides? Well, it's just a hair bigger than the Specialized widemouths, and the firmer plastic plus the sealing mebrane means that it won't conform to your bottle cage very well. That's fine if you've got flexible steel cages on your bike, but unless you're hipster enough to have some Nittos, I doubt you do. I have to fight them a little to get them into my Tacx Tao cages.

Their $8.95 price tag isn't so bad compared with full-retail normal bottles at REI or something, which cost about five bucks, but it seemed like a bit of a hit to yours truly, who's gotten all the other bottles he owns free (or, at least, included in the entry fees) from various events. I'm certainly not slinging a Podium bottle into the feedzone!

Overall: Recommend, if you're the sort of person who can keep hold of your bottles, and doesn't have some nonsense 6 gram carbon loop bottle cage.

Oh, I was going to talk about Visoda energy drinks, but I've chewed up all my space for now about bottles. Um, so, they're from Portland, they are non-carbonated, and they are tasty. 20 ounces for $1.99. Oh, and they have a LOT of caffeine.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

End of an Era --

I'll admit it: it was tough updating this sucker without, you know, talking about the pink elephant.

No, I'm not bike racing in 2008.

Realstically, I could've gotten myself to a handful of races, but bike racing doesn't lend itself to a very balanced lifestyle, and I'm not a terribly well-balanced person. A Pacific Raceways or Seward Park duel here and there doesn't get my blood pumping. What does, like I've always said, is the "epic-ness" of things, the Big Deals, riding over hundreds of miles, through the mountains and into the sun. When my race team plans didn't pan out, I considered the possibility of getting a single rider to all of the events I wanted to go to. It didn't end up being very realistic.

So, I find myself asking funny questions like "just what IS this whole domestic bike racing scene?" There's a funny gap between the average road cyclist, who's demographically pretty similar to the average golfer, and the average US domestic professional bike racer, who looks something like myself. I had funny thoughts at one point of deleting "something like" from the sentence, of actually living that lifestyle. If I think of the past, in a hypothetical world, if I were just perhaps three or four years younger -- nineteen instead of twenty-three -- when I discovered cycling, I may have actually done it.


Realistically, of course, I wouldn't have had anything near the patience and dedication bike racing demands at nineteen. Not by a long shot. But that doesn't dampen my enthusiasm about it all.

So, where now? I've become more of a "lifestyle" cyclist than I ever was, before. I've got a lot more flexibility than I did as a pure bike racer, that's for sure. Sure, it's not as fast rolling along Marine View Drive with panniers, but when I get to Pike Place market, I can lock up, hang out and drink coffee, buy some produce, and sit on the grass for a while before I roll the thirty-odd miles back to Tacoma. And, yeah, I still smile a bit at being able to say that's where I'm riding back to. It's a bit of a guilty pleasure.

So, I'll show you all about the kind of life you can lead without getting a car in the way; the little things that make my day that much better, the reason I feel ten years younger at twenty-six than I did at nineteen, if that makes any sense.

If it doesn't yet, I'll show you, in the days and weeks to come.

Now that THAT dam has been breached, expect updates every other day, or so. I've got a lot to say.

(The aging Morgan Murray Bridge in Tacoma is closed to vehicular traffic. Too long and leading to nowhere a pedestrian would want to go, cyclists and photographers are its only traffic. It's cool, but at times a little eerie, in an I Am Legend sort of way.)