Friday, April 30, 2021

Only flat on the bottom

So when I was out grocery shopping yesterday, I forgot that I wanted to pick up a few extra bits and bobs to try out a new dish, which I will cover in a future blog post. In order to remedy this oversight, I decided to take my electric scooter out for a little spin down to the local grocery store.

Now I hadn't ridden the scooter in a hot minute so the tires were a bit on the soft side, but I figured it wouldn't be the end of the world and might help soak up a bit of the pavement buzz. So off I went.

The trip started out quite well, save for one spot where the sidewalk inconveniently ended. I had to wait a good three minutes or so to get enough of a gap in the traffic to scamper across the street and continue on my way. Inconvenient but not disastrous.

Of course, starting quite well doesn't mean ending quite well, and as luck would have it I ran over a particularly large rock just as I was about to pull into the parking lot of the grocery store. It was just large and pointy enough to put a nice pinhole in the tube in the front tire.

Naturally the parking lot of the grocery store was basically the furthest point of my journey from my house, approximately 2 miles, so of course that's where I got the flat tire.

Undeterred, I did my shopping and then considered my options for the return trip. I started walking home just pushing the scooter along, but I noticed that the sidewalls of the front tire were stiff enough so that the tire wasn't completely collapsing under the weight of the scooter. This gave me an idea, and after a little experimentation I determined that if I stood on the very back of the scooter right next to the rear wheel I could still roll along without destroying the front tire. So roll I did, all the way home, albeit a bit awkwardly.

Once home I packed away my grocery haul and set about fixing the flat. I'm going to insert the 'after' picture here just to give some context.

The scooter is, for various reasons, front-wheel drive. And for various, mostly cosmetic, reasons it has little covers that go over the axles. And for other cosmetic reasons it has stickers that cover over the bolts that hold the covers that go over the axles. Repairing a flat definitely isn't a "quick fix on the side of the road" type of procedure.

Off came the stickers; off came the bolts; off came the covers, and then I had to deal with the axle nuts.

This is where things started to get even more fun: the axle nuts are 18mm. Almost every set of metric wrenches and sockets you'll ever find comes with 17mm and 19mm sizes, but never 18mm. I did just happen to have an 18mm socket, by some strange twist of luck, but that would only do for one side: the other side had the power cable going through the middle of it.

Now you may well say "just use an adjustable wrench, you silly goose", but that brings us to the next issue: the axle threads were absolutely plastered with red loctite.

That said, getting the one side off using the 18mm socket was a bit of a bear but basically manageable, and luckily the power-side had a bit less loctite on it and so the nut didn't get completely rounded over by me going all bubba on it with the adjustable wrench, so all's well that ends well. Still, not ideal.

Of course, this just lead to the next painful job: getting the tire off. As I mentioned earlier, the sidewalls on this tire are quite thick and stiff, and that generally makes getting tires on and off the rim a pain in the ass. The small wheel diameter also didn't help things one bit, nor did the fact that the wheel was tethered to the rest of the scooter by the non-removable power cable. Still, through all those trials I somehow managed it.

Patching the tube was honestly the easiest part of the whole process, and then I had to do all the steps in reverse again. About the only step that was easier to do backwards was dealing with the axle nuts, since I didn't have to fight with the loctite.

Anyway, I did manage to get everything buttoned up, get air in the tire, and go for a spin around the block to test it out.

The repair was a success. Job done.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A disagreement of sorts

The scrub jays seem to have a different opinion about how many Coast Live Oak trees should be growing in my yard. I tend to lean towards "none, thanks", while the jays are rather insistent that the correct number is "dozens of them".

Monday, April 26, 2021

Go With The Flow

Decided that some of the footage from this weekend's ride came out reasonably watchable. So, enjoy watching.


Little update on the daikon radish garden: things are coming along though maybe a bit less vigorously than I might have expected.

My expectation going in was that the radishes would be shading out the weeds and forming an impenetrable green carpet by now. Maybe they'll pick things up and really start filling out soon, but i'm not so sure.

They are putting out some nifty little white flowers though.

So I guess that's something.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Useless Appendages

When I purchased this house I inherited a few pieces of built-in furniture. One of those pieces was an invention some might claim to be the greatest advancement in furniture since the creation of the telephone table. Upon seeing this clever cabinet, you may be tempted to wish yourself to be so lucky as to find one for sale in a catalog or department store.

But you would do well to temper your enthusiasm.

While it may at first seem like the most thoughtful solution to using what might otherwise be wasted space above the tank of the toilet; the cold, hard truth of the matter is far more disappointing and mundane.

You see, the cabinet, by its very design, is quite shallow for its height, and so in order to safely stand without tipping it must be secured to the wall at the top.

I'll let that sink in for a minute.

Yeah. It's just a regular medicine cabinet. With legs. Legs that don't actually serve any purpose.

Well, this should make it much easier to clean the floor around the toilet.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Bad Baby

One of the landscape plants I inherited with the house is a baby sage, salvia microphylla. It produces some lovely small red and white flowers. Sort of.

Trouble is that it wasn't producing much in the way of leaves. It just kept getting leggy and leaf-bare, with lots of twiggy growth capped with a tiny bit of green and some flowers. Ugly as sin. You can see how it looked in the left of this photo, it's the pile of dead branches sprinkled with a few leaves.

Truly hideous.

I tried watering it more, watering it less, fertilizing it, applying iron sulphate to reduce soil alkalinity, trimming out the dead wood...

I was almost at the point of digging it up and replacing it with something else, but in a last ditch fit of laziness, in an attempt to save myself from having to dig another hole, I decided to just cut it back hard and let Darwin sort it out.

And sort it out it did.

So yeah, it turns out that sage responds really well to hard pruning.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Lunchlady Doris, du y'have any grease?

So I've often struggled with hoses, cables and cords where the outer jacket is made of a soft plastic or synthetic rubber. This is great for flexibility, but terrible for tangles: the soft surface ends up kind of grippy and so it refuses to slide against itself and instead just binds up and knots.

But when I was installing my new air hose reel I noticed something curious: they included in the package a sealed wipe that was moistened with silicone lube. Checking the manual, it noted "if the hose is too grippy and tends to tangle, lubricate it using a cloth soaked with silicone lubricant".

Huh, yeah. That does make a lot of sense, doesn't it?

I tried it on my old air hose that was incredibly, frustratingly tangle-prone, and what do you know: it works.

A Reely Good Improvement

So I've had a compressor for a while, and it's been serving me well.

But unfortunately it hasn't been serving me much. You see, it's tucked away against the wall there, and so to actually use it I need to:

  1. Wheel it out in range of an outlet.
  2. Unwind the annoying air hose that spends more of its time tangled than straight.
  3. Plug it in and wait for the tank to fill.
  4. Realize that the air hose is too short to reach where I need it, so unplug the compressor and wheel it over to where I'm actually doing stuff.
  5. Wheel the compressor back over to the wall when I run out of air.
So more often than not, I just avoid using it.

But that all changes today. Today I upgrade.

First step is to install a 90 degree adapter on the air outlet, pointing towards the rear of the tank. The reason for this will become apparent later.

Next up was installing the new 50 foot retractable hose reel, which involved adding a little 10 foot whip to actually reach from the reel to where the compressor would be. It is a little silly that they only include a 3 foot whip on the hose when it's intended to be mounted 5-8 feet above the ground.

I did have to make a run to the hardware store for some lag screws, but other than that the installation went smoothly.

Finally, the compressor is slid into its home.

And here we see why I needed the right-angle adapter, because otherwise the whip would poke straight into the side of my tool chest.

Bringing it all together, I also installed a hook (left over from the previous owner) to hang up the old air hose, just in case I end up 15 feet too short of where the 50 foot hose reel can reach.

I expect the old hose to collect a bit of dust.

Why does it smell like a dead rat in here?

Today on "questions whose answers are really obvious in hindsight"...

Ah, yes. That would be why.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

It Spins!

The ceiling fan in my bedroom had a problem. Or two problems, really.

The first problem was the LED module that provided the primary illumination for the room. I mean, there's also the four pot lights, but those don't have a remote control that I can easily turn on and off from my bed. I could fix that, and may yet, but that's a project for another day.

Anyway, the issue is that the LED module was flickering and spazzing out, jumping between bright and dark randomly and annoyingly. It was basically an automatic lightswitch rave. Not ideal.

I pulled the module off and tried to find a replacement, but the manufacturer eventually informed me that it was sold out and I'd have to wait some unknown number of months to even find out how much a replacement would cost. Also not ideal.

These pictures will have to do as the "before" picture of the replacement, as I forgot to take a better picture before disassembling the old fan.

Anyway, the second problem is that the fan motor was rattling intermittently. Considering I like to have the fan running when I'm sleeping, rattling is really not ideal.

These two problems combined convinced me that it was time to give up on those home center special left over from the previous owners and just start over fresh and new. So off to Amazon I went and, a few days waiting and about a half hour installing later, I now have this.

It's quiet, the light doesn't flicker, and it has three blades instead of six. That latter change is somewhat inconsequential but I thought it worth mentioning.

Anyway, it's a nice upgrade, and it will hopefully last longer than the last one. Maybe.

A Tale of Two Rides

Starting things off, two weeks ago I saddled up on The Crimson Ghost and took a spin around Demo to try out a few more of the trails there. In particular I wanted to get a lap in on Sawpit, which is down at the bottom of the park and, as such, doesn't get as much traffic as Flow and Braille do. It's also a newer trail, so I think fewer people have it on their radar.

The climb up to the top went about the same as always. It's about an hour of grinding away through some reasonably scenic but mostly unchallenging terrain. Riding down Ridge to the top of Braille/Flow went pretty nicely, I managed to clear everything except the one really chunky part just before Braille (I think it's just before braille, I have a terrible memory for these things). Although I didn't ride it, I did manage to scout a reasonable path through the chunder, so I think on my next ride through I should be able to breeze through it. Maybe.

Things started to get a bit more spicy past Flow. Since that section of trail doesn't get nearly as much traffic, there was a lot of forest debris on the path: lots of twigs and branches and leaves and redwood frond thingies. Tons of stuff to get kicked up and pulled into your spokes. At one point I thought a branch might have gotten pulled into my derailleur and messed it up, but I think it just knocked the chain down a few cogs, as it cleared up and behaved itself after giving the pedals a few spins.

The debris wasn't the only problem though: there were also a few huge, steep, eroded sections to deal with. Despite being fairly low traffic (there's really nowhere other than Sawpit to go on this section of trail) these steep sections were incredibly chewed up, and I ended up having to walk them. I really think these bits of trail should be worked on at some point, as I would shortly discover that they're by far much more difficult to navigate than Sawpit.

Sawpit itself was quite nice. Decent mix of features and nothing too wild or too mild for its blue rating. That said, I'm not sure it's worth the struggle of getting through the last section of Ridge trail, so I'll probably skip it in future.

Next up was Flow, but to get down Flow you must first get to the top of Flow, and I decided that I'd try climbing Tractor since that climb trail is much closer to Flow than Hihn's, the usual climb trail. I'd heard that Tractor was unpleasant to climb, but for most of its length it was somewhat unremarkable. A bit steep perhaps, but nothing I couldn't just gear down and grind out.

That is, up until the last section, where it kicked up rather severely and forced me to get off the bike and push through some sections. Oof. There was also some difficulty in backtracking through a short section of Ridge; the two of which combined giving me a pretty good idea as to why most folk skip this option.

I still got to the top in one piece though, and did a solid lap of Flow. I'm gaining confidence on this trail and pushing myself to actually ride the berms properly, but there's still room for improvement. Lots of excuses left to go out and ride it again I guess.

I also have some work to do on my endurance, as I have yet to make it down the trail without my legs cramping up a bit and having to take a rest break between section 3 and 4 (of 6 total).

Speaking of endurance, the only thing left to do was climb back out to the parking lot, and I managed to claw my way back up the hill in a pretty decent 40 minutes.

So with that done and dusted, things looked good for an XC ride the following week. I'd had a loop in mind that went through the Santa Cruz mountains to the south-west of me, and so that's just what I rode.

I saddled up on Blackbirb and rode out first thing in the morning. I was expecting the ride to take in the ballpark of 6 hours but I packed enough supplies to be able to safely stretch it out to 8 if things went a bit slow.

Things started out well enough with a few miles of pavement riding before hitting the dirt near Santa Teresa and following some familiar trails through San Vicente and Calero.

Next up was a long slog of pavement down McKean and Uvas, and by the time I hung a left to go around Chesboro things were starting to get a little bit meh. I wasn't really able to keep putting out the power I wanted to, and as such the ride was starting to go a bit slower than I'd been hoping for when I set out.

But I wasn't in the mood for a failed ride, especially when bailing out would mean having ridden my XC bike primarily on pavement, so I pressed on to see how things would evolve as the ride went on.

Near the top of the paved section of Mt Madonna I met another group of cyclists and stopped for a chat at the beginning of the gravel. They were turning around there but I planned to press onwards and upwards. The short conversational break gave my legs a little bit of a rest, but apparently not enough of one to really make a difference, but at the very least I felt a bit more comfortable riding my XC bike on gravel/dirt again.

When I got up to the top of Mt Mads I still wasn't feeling like I was doing too well, but I told myself (knowing full well it was a lie) that I might as well just continue the ride as planned since I was already at the farthest point. So I pressed on, just kept the pedals turning, and slowly made my way up Mt Mads/Summit road.

I passed the somewhat famous neighbourly gates and was again glad to be off the pavement (from the top of Mt Mads to the gates is paved). It's hard to say much about this part of the ride other than it was very slow and very remote. I was expecting the remote part, but maybe not expecting the slow part.

I rode past the abandoned car, came across a motorcyclist looking for directions, took a little snack break at the intersection of Loma Prieta, and was very, very happy when the road started pointing down again.

For the most part I really didn't see any other cyclists once I was past Mt Mads, but down around Lexington as I was climbing up the schoolhouse hill I did come up on another cyclist and, even as cooked as I was at that point, managed to climb past him.

From there it was just a matter of dropping down the Los Gatos Creek Trail, popping out at Main St, and cruising home. It was, in one way, tempting to take this section really slowly as it was mostly flat or downhill, but I hadn't stopped for a bio break since half way up the gravel on Mt Mads so I had ample motivation to not dilly-dally the last few miles.

In total the ride took over 8.5 hours. I feel like if I were as fit as I want to get then I'd be able to do it in under 6, or maybe even under 5, but despite the fitness gains I've made over the past few years that feels like it's a long way off.

So that leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand I did ride the ride from start to finish, but on the other hand I rode it so slowly that it barely feels like it counts as a success.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Leafy Non-greens

So along with the daikon (which continues to do well) the yard is also hosting the arrival of the usual spring blooms. The marguerite daisies are doing lovely despite almost dying a year or two back.

And the African daisies are also doing quite lovely.

Google identifies this as a blue potato bush. I identify it as a stringy, half-dead weed that occasionally produces some patches of pretty purple flowers.

I cut the periwinkle back to the ground each year, and each year it shoots up like crazy and produces a bunch of lovely purple flowers. It would probably consume my entire yard if I were less aggressive with it.

It was a bit dry this winter so the calla lillies haven't really produced much. But something is more than nothing.

The new lithodora plant hasn't died yet, so that's nice.

The spanish lavender is still doing quite well, and is sending out some new growth already.

And the milkwort is looking lovely and purple, as it wont do.

There's quite a lot of purple in the yard.