August 2015 Archives

I don't understand people, and probably never will. Simple, common courtesies seem to have vanished over the past few years. I could go on-and-on about how poorly people drive their cars, how inconsiderately they ride their bikes, or how they fail to "share" sidewalks...

But the worst experiences manifest when virtual and physical worlds collide, and the absolute epitome for culturing moronic behavior has to be craigslist. I can't begin to tell you how many frustrating and/or awful experiences I've had when trying to buy or sell stuff on the world's largest online garage sale site.

Take for example my latest "interaction," when I attempted to purchase an extension ladder, so that I could clean the gutters on my 2-story house.

I need a ladder that's around 28-feet tall so that I can climb up to the roof and clear a clogged gutter. A quick spin around the local hardware stores had me reeling from sticker shock - even "cheap" aluminum ladders of this size start at well over $250; nicer ladders will exceed $400.

Since I envision needing to use this ladder maybe once or twice per year, I couldn't justify a $300+ purchase. So, I turned to craigslist.

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And I instantly found several ladders that appeared to suit my needs, including a really nice looking 32-foot version. The ad indicated it was located "near Wisconsin Dells" and the seller was asking $80 for their ladder. Pictures accompanied the ad - it looked great.

So, I fired-off the usual e-mail, inquiring if the item was available and if so, when they might be able to meet and sell it to me. Exactly 3 minutes later, I had a reply stating that the ladder was available, and that they could meet on Tuesday or Wednesday night. The person, "Tom," said he had a family commitment on Monday that wouldn't allow him to meet me at any time.

Fair enough. I responded and thanked him for the speedy reply. I said, "Tom - this is perfect timing. I can drive up to your place on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, whichever is best for you. Let me know your preference, and I'll be there, cash in hand. Thanks again."

I got a reply about 5 minutes later that said, "Steve - my pleasure. I'll see you on Wednesday at around 5:00pm if that works for you? I talked with my wife, and Tuesday looks busy for us. We'll see you Wednesday at 5:00."

Excellent. Done and done. I grabbed $80 cash, set it aside and looked forward to bringing home a 32-foot ladder from Wisconsin Dells.

Fast forward to this morning, when I figured I should send a quick check-in e-mail to 'ole Tom, just to make sure we were still good for the ladder sale tonight. I also realized I didn't have his address, aside from "near Wisconsin Dells."

Tom replied and said, "Hi Steve, my ad has the GPS coordinates on it. We live near Christmas Mountain, and most of the roads are unnamed."

Okee-doekee. Sure enough, there were the GPS coordinates. So, I plugged them into my phone and sent one last e-mail to Tom that said, "Got it. I've entered them in and will be there at around 5:00pm tonight. I have a white Ford Fusion, so when you see me in the driveway, you'll know who it is. Thanks again!"

And about 2 minutes later, I received a final e-mail from Tom.

"Steve - sorry, the ladder sold on Monday night."

Seriously?????

You tell me this after several follow-up e-mails? And, let's not forget that Monday was supposed to have been impossible for him to get together due to some other obligations... oye.

I wish this was a unique experience, but I've had different flavors of it occur more often than you'd think. Oh, and he still has the ad posted on Craigslist.

People. Ugh.

Fatbike follies

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I really love my fatbike. It's quickly become my "go-to" bike for nearly everything. Whether it's a quick trip to the store for a soda, or a slightly longer trip to the hardware store for some parts, or a training ride around the lake, I really enjoy riding the thing.

Everything about the fatbike is fun. It's fun to look at, fun to ride, fun to talk with people about, and fun to take to events. It's been extremely low maintenance and super reliable; aside from replacing a few bottom brackets, I've done nothing to it.

I know I'm going to need new tires soon; the Surly Knard 3.8s that are on it now are showing their age. The center tread is worn fairly low, thanks to the many miles of street riding. But, I'd like to try to eek out a few more months on them, primarily because I have an awesome set of winter tires waiting in the wings (45 NRTH Vanhelga), and also because a set of fatbike tires will set you back around $350... they're pricey little dudes.

Well... I may have to explore replacing the Knards a little earlier than hoped. I was out on a training ride this weekend - grinding out 20-ish miles on the fatbike, enjoying the nice weather, minding my own business, when I heard a "thwap! fwunk! hisssssssss!"

Ugh. That didn't sound good, so I quickly pulled over into a Cul de Sac and inspected my tires.

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Awesome. A stick (about the size of a magic marker) somehow found its way from the side of the road into my tire and inner tube. I'm not sure as to why the roads were so dirty/littered with sticks and debris, but I do now recall hearing (and feeling) a lot of shrapnel as I rode.

I always travel with a spare tube and patching supplies, but due to the size of the puncture, I wasn't comfortable with risking damage to a new $30 tube (by way of another foreign object making its way into the tire). I also realized that I was exactly 8.5 miles into my ride, which meant I'd have to risk riding about 8-9 miles on the damaged tire before I could get back home. Grr.

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So, I fired-up the cell phone, called Green Cab, and within 20 minutes had my fatbike secured to the cab company's Prius (they all have bike racks), and was on my way back to the house.

Once home, I removed the back wheel and headed to Lake Mills, where I used my friend's automotive service shop to repair my tire. With help from Dan, we used a special tire rasp to clean the puncture hole, scraped and smoothed the backside of the tire, cleaned it with a special solvent, and applied a synthetic vulcanizing compound.

After the prep work was complete, we inserted and set a "patch plug" through the tire. The patch plug looks sort of like a "T" - there's a flat spot/patch with a cylindrical plug that extends through it. The plug fills the hole and the patch covers it (from the back side). It's a genius system; I installed hundreds upon hundreds of these back when I was a mechanic - they're the best way to repair a flat tire.

Here's the backside of the patch plug (as seen from inside the tire):

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That vulcanizing solution quite literally bonds the patch plug to the tire, so there's no chance of future contamination or leakage through the old hole (granted, bikes have innertubes, so the tire itself can't technically leak).

Here's the plug portion as seen sticking out from the tire after I was done with everything:

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With the patch plug set securely in place, I trimmed off the excess plug, aired-up the tire, installed the wheel, and am now ready to ride. Let's hope additional sticks don't decide to insert themselves into my wheels...

And speaking of fatbikes, the other day, I stumbled across a pretty awesome situation. I was strolling around the capital square when I heard a piano being played. While it's not uncommon to encounter street performers near the square, the sound of the piano threw me for a bit of a loop.

As I approached, I could see a baby grand piano. Odd. And, attached to the front of the piano via a "trailer hitch" was a black fatbike...

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The performer was a gentleman by the name of Davide Martello, and he happens to be a pretty incredible pianist from Germany. He's on a quest to play his piano in every capital of the world, and he uses his fatbike to tow the piano as much as he can. That's pretty awesome!

Here he is, as seen from the State Street corner; capital in the background.

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He had made his way from Illinois and was spending the night in Madison. I listened for a bit, flipped him a few bucks, and wished him well. What an ambitious effort, and one that I was happy to be a part of.

You can read more about him on Twitter or on Facebook or in Newspaper articles like this.

That's all for now...

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

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