Mottos to live by: Be Prepared, Never Take Anything For Granted

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I believe it's the Boy Scouts who use the motto "Be Prepared." I say that I believe it's them because as a youth, I never actually graduated into the Boy Scouts. I did spend time as a Cub Scout, but never progressed beyond the Bobcat or (at best) Tiger Cub badge.

If memory serves, the last official event of my short-lived Cub Scout career was the infamous Pinewood Derby car race. And, from what I recall, my block-shaped-bares-a-striking-resemblance-to-a-school-bus entry didn't fare too well. I chalk it up to sculpting and building the thing with a limited set of tools and assistance (the family tool box doubled as our dinner flatware drawer).

So, for what it's worth, I can't feel too bad for often going "unprepared" into certain situations. But there's no excuse for what I managed to do on Saturday.

If you'll recall from my previous entry, I had planned to ride an easy 20-mile loop on Saturday, and to go for a 1.25 - 1.50-mile run. I say "planned," because when I awoke at 7:30am on Saturday morning, I was immediately disheartened by a light, but steady, misty-sort-of-rain. Argh. I don't mind running in the rain, but I really despise riding in the rain.

So, I checked a few weather websites, saw that it was going to continue to mist until around 10am, and made the decision to forge ahead, but that I would ride my Trek instead of the Cervelo. The Trek had spent the entire winter mounted to the trainer, so I felt it deserved a little road time. I prepped myself and my ride, and hit the road.

At right about the turnaround point (9.5 - 10 miles in), I felt as if I had lost a significant amount of control over the bike. Steering was sluggish and my speed was dropping. I looked down and sure enough... flat tire. My second flat ever (knock on wood, as that's an amazing record for 3+ years of riding). Sigh... looked as if I'd be patching my tire from the side of the road - in the rain. Nice.

But (and here's where we tie-back-in to the intro), in my haste to depart the apartment, I had forgotten to transfer my tool kit from the Cervelo to the Trek. And, for some inexplicable reason, I had chosen to leave my phone at home as well. There I was, 10-miles from home base, no tools, no phone, and a flat tire. Awesome.

I didn't want to hoof it 10-miles, given the situation with my Achilles, so I made the decision to ride on the flat for as long as I could. I honestly believed the tire would eventually completely dismount itself at some point, but any mileage in the saddle would beat the alternative. So, I rode at a gingerly 5-6 mph until I arrived at my first hill.

The hill proved to be another obstacle; the act of climbing caused the front wheel to "wash out," and by some stroke of pure luck, I managed to unclip from the pedals and prevent tipping over and disgracefully crashing at a very low speed. Thanks to the close call, I decided to take a new approach to my return trip - I'd ride the flat sections and walk the hills.

After the first hill, my Achilles was on fire, thanks to my cycling shoes and the cleats that sit under the front part of the foot. When walking, the cleats effectively "crank" your toes upward, which stretches your Achilles, which caused me great discomfort. Joy.

It took me over an hour to return home (it should've taken about 30 minutes). And once I returned home, I drove to the bike store and purchased a second tool kit, a new front tire, new tubes, new patches, and a second tool bag for the Trek. I'm confident that I'm now prepared, should I ever encounter a similar situation in the future. Live and learn... here's a picture of the dead tire and tube:


While installing the new tire, I realized that the now-flattened tire was an original tire... circa 2001. Wow. I should've replaced that thing a looooong time ago. Truth be told, I actually replaced the rear tire earlier this winter, when it flatted while on the trainer. I figured (correctly so) that the trainer had worn it out (trainers generate a lot of heat in tires and cause them to prematurely wear); I should've replaced the front as well. But, some $140 later (tools, tire, tubes, bag, portable pump), I'm good to go (or so I hope).

I wasn't able to run yesterday; and my Achilles was still quite sore this morning, so I opted to rest it. I did manage a 25-mile ride (on the Cervelo), so all was not lost. :-)

And, for the second act, I present another bit of wisdom: Never Take Anything For Granted.

Again, I mentioned in an earlier entry that I've been working on the new house, and that I had been busy updating the electrical switches, outlets, and hardware. Well, like most houses, the new place is loaded to the gills with 3-way light switches.

What's a 3-way light switch? It's a "system" that allows you to control a single light (or outlet, or ceiling fan) from multiple switches. For example, you might have a light switch in your dining room that will turn-on or turn-off a set of lights in the kitchen; you might have another switch in the actual kitchen that controls the same set of lights, thus allowing you to control the kitchen lights from either location.

3-way switches aren't difficult to figure out; it's a simple parallel electrical circuit. What does make things tricky is when you're dealing with 30+ year old switches that don't follow the same configuration as today's switches. Add-in some "interesting" electrical wiring work, and things can get complicated, especially if you assume things.

And that's what I did when swapping out the old 3-way switches for new ones. Yes, I thought it was odd that on any given circuit, I would encounter wires of a variety of colors - the standard wiring code says that a black wire should be the "hot" wire (always has power, from the breaker, or supplying to the load (eg: a light/outlet/etc)), the white wire should be the common wire, and bare copper should be the ground.

When dealing with a 3-way switch, you have to introduce a fourth wire; a "traveler" that links the multiple switches, and conventional wiring methods usually define that traveler as being red in color.

Well... my new place had black wires connected to red wires, white wires connected to red wires, and some inexplicable others including tan wires and striped wires. Wow. Someone got creative at some point.

I had also assumed that the switch configurations were the same between the old and the new switches; the "brass" terminal should have been the "hot" terminal; the other two terminals should have been the "traveler" terminals.

And, as soon as I had finished swapping all of the 3-way switches and activated the breakers, I quickly discovered something was amiss. The switches didn't work in any manner or fashion that they should've. Everything was all jacked-up. Ugh.

So, I tried troubleshooting, but because I was flying solo and didn't have any extra wire for continuity testing, nor did I have a volt meter with me, nor did I have the energy to run up-and-down the stairs to the circuit panel 300+ times while testing, I called it quits. I put in a call for assistance, and thankfully, my friend Jed obliged my request for assistance.

He came over today, and together, we managed to sort out the wiring mess. After 2-hours of troubleshooting, tracing wires, tracking circuits, and continuity testing, we solved the mystery of the 3-way switches. Thank you, Jed - I owe you a huge debt of gratitude!!

Here I am, working in the garage, attempting to troubleshoot 2 different sets of 3-way circuits.


Based from what we learned today, I'm confident that I can troubleshoot any 3-way circuit, no matter how complex it is; however, let's hope that I don't have to use those skills ever again. :-)

After wrapping-up the fix-it work, we stopped at a small microbrewery called "Gray's Tied House" for some late lunch; I stayed true to my diet plans and had a grilled chicken salad, some iced tea, and a MGD 64. Jed had some amazing looking wings (honey garlic) and a beautiful porter. Alas, I stayed strong.

And finally, upon returning to the craptacular apartment tonight, I prepared my meals for the week (lunch/dinner: 6oz grilled chicken, 1/2-cup black beans, 1-cup broccoli), and then kicked back with my new Kindle. I'm digging the little thing - it's so light (about 8oz), and despite not having a backlight, is amazingly clear and easy to read, even in dim lighting.

Here's a photo of the Kindle from about 30 minutes ago. The only light sources in the room were: the television (about 10 feet in front of me), and a very slight hint of sunlight from a quickly-setting-sun. You can tell it was fairly dim in here from the grainy nature of the photo:


And so, there you have it. With any luck, I'll be able to jog tomorrow. Enjoy your week!

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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on May 22, 2011 7:37 PM.

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