Sunday, October 24, 2021

Wheely Quiet

With the change in weather, I've started to turn back towards riding my trainer indoors rather than freeze my nose off outside on my real bike. This has lead me to notice that the chain was not running quite as quietly as I might have liked.

I was pretty sure it wasn't the chainrings or the cassette causing the noise. The chain itself had plenty of life left in it and the derailleurs were well adjusted. That just left the jockey wheels, and given that a new set is about $20, I figured there was no harm in just swapping them out.

So that's exactly what I did.

I haven't given them a spin just yet, but with any luck it should quiet things down nicely. I did notice that the old ones felt a bit more loosey-goosey than the new ones, so hopefully that's a good sign that I'll hear some improvement.

Wright or Rong

It was supposed to rain yesterday, with the sprinkles starting just before lunch time and continuing on into the afternoon. So, with that in mind, I decided to set out early in the morning on Gregg and ride around a little, with two goals in mind.

First, I wanted to check out a piece of Monterey Road between Bernal and Metcalf, roughly this section here. The reason for this is that I wanted to ride my bike up Metcalf road, which I have done once before, but rather than approaching from the south via Bailey and Malech, I wanted to approach from the north, and Monterey Road is the only option there.

While the road didn't look remarkably pleasant to ride on, it did at least have a reasonable shoulder and so in my estimation it shouldn't be a complete deathtrap.

The other thing I wanted to do was finally check out Wright's Station. It's basically a ghost town up in the Santa Cruz mountains that originally hosted a rail line that emerged there from a tunnel under the hills.

I'm not entirely sure where the other end of the tunnel is, but I think this might be it.

Now I say I wanted to see Wright's Station, but what I actually wanted to do was to see if Cathermola Road was completely gated off or not. The answer is that yes, it is completely gated off, with an 8 foot fence topped with razor wire. There's apparently some unfriendly neighbours up there.

Anyway, I was actually a bit mixed up on where exactly the Wright's Station tunnel was and assumed it was behind one of the razor wire fences. Looking back at the maps now I'm realizing it was actually only over a bit of barbed wire, so I could probably go back and actually check it out at some point. I did at least get to see the old bridge with its iron railings.

I just have to hope I don't get haunted by the ghosts of all the Chinese immigrants who died digging it out.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Sometimes, just sometimes, there's weather outside

And in order to keep tabs on that weather, without, you know, actually having to go outside, I now employ the services of a wireless electronic weather station. This was a kind hand-me-down gift from Tyler.

Of course the weather station doesn't really do much on its own. To figure out if the wind is blowing or if water is falling from the sky, it needs to employ the services of an outdoor sensor, which Tyler was also kind enough to supply.

That outdoor sensor, in turn, needs somewhere to be mounted.

So I set about shaving this yak.

The included mounting post was certainly serviceable, but it was unfortunately a tad short for me to screw into the soffit directly such that the wind vane might clear the roof. So I grabbed some cedar planks I had left over from building my generator shed and fashioned a little extension to screw the mounting post into.

Yes, that will do quite nicely.

Then it was just a matter of getting it on to the roof and getting the sensor fitted onto it.

There we go, problem solved.

As an aside, I do find it amusing how much the plastic of the sensor has yellowed over time. You'd think that they would have anticipated that this device would be installed in a location where it might be subject to a bit of UV exposure.

An Atmospheric River

Water has fallen from the sky. Drought is over, climate change is all in Al Gore's imagination. Time to get back to our normal lives of burning fossil fuels and wasting precious natural resources.

At least this'll save me some time with watering the plants twice a week.


So I was wondering why I was suddenly seeing a bunch of bird poop on the driveway. Then I look up and see this asshole thinking she doesn't have to pay rent.

Lucky for her there's an eviction moratorium going on right now.

Dirt Cubed

For a while now I've had the idea to ride my bike out my front door and then all the way to the top of Mt Um. I've actually done this a few times over the years, but this would be a little different: I wanted to do it all on dirt (or, at least as much on dirt as was reasonably practical).

Now my home is at about 300 feet, and the top of Mt Um is at somewhere around 3500 feet. Accounting for some undulations in the road on both the outbound and inbound sections, that ends up being about 3700 feet of total climbing round trip. On the road.

However, on the dirt things get a bit more interesting, because the route is a little bit more scenic. To get to Mt Um, I need to first get up and over Mt El Sombroso. Then down the backside. Then I can climb Mt Um.

That means that in total, this route has about 5800 feet of climbing. That's a lot more. And that's why I'd never managed it before now.

But manage it I did.

It took a while to get there, but I did indeed get there. Then had a little nap at the top. Then I rode back home, had a shower, had another nap. You get the picture.

Friday, October 15, 2021

So it ends as it began

With the realization that the finish on these chairs just isn't holding up to the warm California sun.

Earlier this week I finally got around to doing the last of the scraping on the sixth and final patio chair. I had set it aside a while back because by the time I had got through the first five, this last one had gotten a bit soggy sitting out in the winter rains and I wanted to give it some time to dry out so that I could sand it without the grain getting all stringy.

That was, like, 2 years ago? Maybe more? A while. I've been busy.

But in those two years I happened to notice something: the finish I'd put on the other five chairs wasn't holding up as well as I'd hoped.

You see, as they come from the Ikea factory, these chairs are stained but not varnished. They'd held up ok at my apartment, where they lived a relatively cozy life on the patio, sheltered from the sun and rain by my bamboo and the balcony of the unit above. But not long after I moved them here, I noticed that the finish was starting to come off, and the wood underneath was beginning to weather.

So, I set off to Ikea to buy a few tins of stain.

for the first chair, I took a very minimalist approach, just sanding off the loose bits of stain and then putting a new layer on top. This yielded a somewhat uneven colour that really didn't last well at all. For the second, I tried sanding a bit more, which still left things a bit uneven, but somewhat improved the durability. By the time I got to the 5th chair, I was peeling the old stain off back down to bare wood on pretty much all the exposed surfaces so I could start fresh from scratch with the new stain.

But even that proved not to be enough, as the stain did tend to age and wear rather more quickly than I would have liked, so when it got to chair number 6, I decided to add an extra step and top coat it with a wiping varnish, in hopes that it would help consolidate the surface and give the stain a fighting chance against the elements. I also made the sane choice to disassemble the major chair pieces so that it would be much, much easier to get that finish into all the places it needed to go.

Of course, that still left me with the first 5 chairs, whose finishes were in varying states of decay. And so it is that I begin the process again. Hopefully the lessons learned so far will pay off, and result in a patio furniture set that looks good for years to come.

I do, of course, expect that I'll have to refinish these again somewhere down the line, but it is my goal to push that line out as far as possible.

It does look good all freshened up, though.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

I Can See Clearly Now

For a while now the mineral build-up on my sinks and showers has been bothering me. I don't have particularly hard water so it takes quite a while for the water spots to form and get noticeably bad, but once they do I find it incredibly frustrating and unrewarding to try to clean them off.

Generally I'll use any of the usual methods: acid cleaners, fine abrasives, scouring pads etc. Inevitably this removes the worst of it, but it always leaves a bit of haze behind still stuck to the glass and tile surfaces. I've searched the internet up and down for solutions to this, only to find useless advice like "lol try vinegar" or hopeless notes of "it's etched permanently".

However, that hopelessness is misplaced, and the surfaces are definitely not etched, and I can prove it in one photo.

This is a picture of my glass vessel-style sink part way through cleaning, with a dark towel behind it for contrast. I'm illuminating the scene with an LED flashlight, the direct reflection of which is just to the left of the image frame.

What you see above is the white cloudy haze I'm trying to get rid of, and the places where I've successfully gotten rid of it. It is most certainly a film on the surface, and one which is softer than the glass beneath it, and the glass surface itself is undamaged.

The secret to peeling this haze off is perhaps the most low-tech solution of them all: wet sanding with 2000 grit sandpaper. It cuts through the mineral deposits with ease, and though it does leave some very fine scratches in the glass surface, they're really only visible under the most harsh lighting.

Same sink, same illumination to the left. If you zoom right in you can see the scratches, but otherwise they basically just disappear.

It also works on glazed tiles. See if you can guess which of these four tiles I cleaned with the sandpaper.

It's worth noting that since the actual glass (or enamel, basically the same thing) surface isn't being notably abraded, you don't need to go up through a range of grits, like you usually would; starting with coarse grits to level the surface and working up finer and finer to erase the scratches from the previous. You can, instead, just go with a single grit to abrade the soft(-ish) minerals from the surface and be left with a perfectly smooth finish once that's gone.

Friday, October 8, 2021

More Flowery Stuff

It's been almost two weeks since I stuck the Lantana in the ground, so I figured it was time for a flower update.

First, the elderberry.

I deadheaded the previous blooms after they expired, and also clipped off a fair number of leaves since they were covered in powdery mildew. I couldn't get all of it off without stripping the stems bare so I'm letting it grow a bit more before I go back in and pluck out a few more leaves. On the bright side, it doesn't seem to be harming the growth all that much.

Next up, the Lantana.

So far two of them are responding very well to planting (the above pictured being one of those), while the other two were showing signs of wilting between waterings which got me a bit worried that the roots might be weak or damaged. I trimmed the flowers off of those two to reduce the load on the roots and that seems to have been enough to get them to stop wilting, so hopefully that means that disaster was averted.

Some Milkwort, because why not.

I had a bit of trouble late in the summer with the milkwort showing some stress and having some of the branches go crispy and die back. I pruned out those branches pretty aggressively, as the milkwort has a tendency to grow back pretty aggressively when pruned. It'll take a few months for it to be back to its bushy self, but gardening is all about patience. Meanwhile, I can just frame the photos carefully to only show the parts that look lush and green.

Finally, the rose bush.

With some experimentation I've come to the determination that the rose I've got is an incredibly thirsty plant. I give it about triple the water of all my other plants and that seems to be enough to keep it blooming year round (along with an appropriate amount of deadheading and pruning). It's still got a bit of fungus on the leaves so I'll probably hit it soon with the combo fungicide/fertilizer I got a while back.

Eureka and Aptos

This past weekend I decided to ride up Eureka Canyon and down Aptos Creek.

First thing in the morning I loaded up my XC bike in my Van of Holding and drifted my way over 17 to Corralitos (I'm still breaking in the all terrain tires on the rear, and the tread squirm is giving me a few degrees of crabbing in high speed corners). I rolled in and parked near the sausage market just before 10am and noted a gaggle of roadies had assembled in preparation for an assault on the Eureka pavement. I wasn't sure if they were a casual group or were going to push a fast tempo, but as it turned out they took off a minute or two before I was finished getting my shoes on, and that was the last I saw of them, so it seems they were leaning towards the latter. No matter though, I wasn't planning on drafting anyway.

I locked up my van, fired up my garmin, and set off up the cold part of Eureka. I was glad I brought a wind breaker.

The pavement was trash, as expected, but I didn't have to spend a lot of time dodging potholes thanks to the chubby 29'er tires monster trucking over everything in their path. I wondered how the roadies up the way were enjoying the chipped and buckled surface.

Speaking of roadies, I was fully expecting to see an intermittent stream of them passing me every now and then up the hill, but oddly enough I saw almost nobody on two wheels for the entire climb. In fact, the first cyclist I came across was a fellow on an older MTB grinding his way up the slope between Rider and Lower Highland.

"Oh, thank goodness, I must be going the right way" he said, upon seeing me riding my mountain bike.

"Are you going to Demo?" I asked, "you can get there going this way but it's a long climb."

He didn't respond, and soon disappeared behind me. It later occurred to me that he might have been looking to turn off at Rider in order to climb Buzzard Lagoon, but I wasn't going to turn around to go find out. Either way he would have an adventure.

Soon enough I came to the hot part of Eureka. I think I can live here for three lifetimes and still not get used to how abrupt the microclimate changes are. I thought about removing my windbreaker, but I hadn't put on any sunscreen underneath as I planned on the jacket keeping the deadly solar lazer from scorching my flesh. So it stayed on.

Past Tindall Ranch, past Grizzly Flat (the other, other one), around the hairpin, past Upper Highland, and then that long, sunny traverse towards Buzzard/Ormsby. Finally hit the dirt at 1hr 5min, which was on the slow side of my ballpark estimate. Probably would have been closer to 45-50min were I on my road bike and not carrying a hydration pack. It's just so easy to go slow with those tractor gears.

Climbing Buzzard was a familiar slog. Got passed by one rider, but he stopped a few seconds later to wait for his slower friend. As one does.

Came up to the junction of Aptos and found a group of lost riders, as is tradition. "It's our first time, do we go up or down?" they asked.

"Up," I said, swinging around the corner and past the gate. I didn't see their expression, but suspected they weren't all smiles upon hearing that news.

Two of them were fairly energetic in their climb though, while the third fell behind a bit. I followed the third for a bit, being lazy and avoiding the gravel bikers flying down the other half of the twin-track, but soon enough I pulled past. I also passed the two riders I had seen earlier, who had leapfrogged me at the gate, and passed the remaining two lost riders who had pulled off to wait for their slower friend. As one does.

Came up to the second gate and, for once, didn't almost wipe out on that root hiding behind the gate post. I guess there's something to be said for the nimble handling of an XC bike. There was another pair of riders on their way up past the gate, and I slowly caught and passed them.

There was quite a party going at the benches with a couple different groups catching their breath after climbing up from the demo parking lot, or perhaps after climbing through Nisene Marks.

"Is that a Kestrel?" a fellow asked, standing astride a Cannondale XC bike. I didn't get his name, but I will call him RoadieBro for reasons that will soon become apparent. "They used to be all the rage in the triathlon world, haven't seen one in ages."

I told him I found this particular model on BikesDirect, and mentioned that Kestrel changed ownership a few years ago, which probably explained their drop in visibility.

The conversation continued and he asked about tires, noting he was unhappy with his Schwalbes, as they didn't grip well on the dry dusty fire roads. They were Racing Ralphs? Racing Rays? Rocket Rons? Something with a lot of Rs. I told him that I got good grip from my Aspens, despite them looking like they were designed by someone who asked "what if: XC tires, but LESS tread?"

He mentioned that he'd recently transitioned from the roadie life (thus me nicknaming him RoadieBro for the sake of this report) and had initially mistakenly filled his tires to a rock hard 40psi, but later got improved results dropping things down to a more reasonable MTB pressure, though he still wasn't completely happy. I suspect that eventually some combination of different tires and better cornering technique will bring him to a happy, grippy place.

There was some talk about routes chosen for the day. RoadieBro had ridden up Aptos through Nisene Marks, along with his friends GravelBro and TrailBro, whose actual names I also did not get. TrailBro seemed to be the most confident of the bunch, while GravelBro wasn't looking forward to white-knuckling the descent on his road-bike-in-disguise.

When I mentioned that I had climbed Eureka out of Corralitos, RoadieBro was quite surprised to realize that the road connected between A and B. I mentioned I was going to drop down Aptos to make it a loop and they shared some concern about the steepness of the descent.

There was some talk that the three of them might like to drop down one of the Demo trails, but they were leaning away from it due to the extra climb out, as well as having to navigate that annoying rock garden between the benches and helipad. We all agreed that flow was a lovely trail and would have made a nice candle on the cupcake of the climb they had just endured, were it not for the extra obstacles bookending it. I also mentioned that I liked Sawpit, except for the even worse rock garden on Ridge past Flow.

"Oh, is that as bad as the rocks at Santa Teresa?" RoadieBro asked.

"Heavens no," I said. "It's much, much worse."

Eventually I decided that I'd rested up enough and set off down Aptos and into Nisene Marks. I noticed the group of lost riders from earlier was sitting at the side of the trail and may not have realized that the entrance to Ridge was right there, and I briefly considered if I should tell them that Demo was not in the direction I was heading. But I figured they would have an adventure either way.

The descent was mostly smooth and not alarmingly steep. I got lots of practice dipping the bike down into the flat turns to hook up the side knobs. XC bikes do roll fast. There was one lumpy section I probably should have slowed down for a bit more, judging by the fact that I had to true my rear wheel again when I got home, but I didn't pinch the tire so other than rattling my bones there was no harm done.

There was a decent mix of hikers and bikers climbing the road so I was happy that there was good sight lines to see them well in advance, and should that fail my timber bell was ringing at about 130db thanks to being mounted to a hardtail XC bike. It's funny how on my trail bike it barely jingles in comparison.

I got to the gate at the bottom and set out looking for the intersection of Soquel Dr, so I could make the loop back to Corralitos.

Yup, should be coming up on it any time now.

Oh, I see, there's some more parking areas. Well, it should be soon now.

Hmm, ok, there's the park entrance too. So the intersection should be next, right?

Ok seriously I'm going to run out of continent soon if I keep heading this direction, where the hell is Soquel Road?

So yeah, apparently I had gotten my cues a bit mixed up when I planned out my route, and didn't realize that the gate on Aptos is only about half way between the benches and the end.

Oh well, can't really get lost when there's only one direction to ride in, and eventually the twilight zone of the endless-lower-aptos released me into the coastal suburbia of Soquel Road.

I took a left and then remembered that I had removed my rear light at the top of the hill so I could lower my dropper, so I pulled over to put it back on. A pair of cyclists passed and both asked if I was alright, and I gave them a friendly thumbs-up.

This moment in the ride was also notable for being the last moment where my legs had any energy left in them at all. I'd been popping chews throughout the ride, but it wasn't enough (it never is). By the time I lined up at the stop light at Freedom Blvd, I was feeling mighty cooked. It was a long, annoying car-filled slog to make it to make it to Hames, and then a few steep but mercifully short climbs until I finally arrived back at my van.

I enjoyed a clif bar and a little fresh air there before packing up and heading home.

Monday, October 4, 2021

A Game of Inches

My van's frame, when the wheels are just lifting off the ground: 24 inches.

The maximum lift height of that new floor jack I bought a few months ago: 19-7/8 inches.

Oops. Well, it's a good thing there's other, lower points on the van I can jack from I guess. It is going to make it more interesting to try to find jack stands for when I need to actually work under there safely, though.

Mind you, unless I'm replacing suspension parts, I can pretty much do everything I need with the wheels on the ground. Bonus of having a tall vehicle I guess!