Thinking About Another Kayak

I’m thinking about getting another kayak. This, the holy grail of American made kayaks, a Seavivor Greenland Solo.  I’m very interested.  The kayak’s long at 17’4″, and reputedly fast.  It has no sponsons which, I think, is a bonus in terms of skin fit, weight, handling.  The Seavivor’s located a long way off, which is logistically maybe  a problem.  Also, it’ll be heavy compared to my Folbot Aleut, but I may still be strong enough to manage its weight.  Anyhow, I want to go far and go fast on the water.

A few things I’ve learned about myself and folding kayaks are:  I like to keep them put-together most of the time; my driveway and yard are lousy environments for storing a folding kayak assembled; I tend to dislike assembling at the put-in even when that makes better logistical and kayak-care sense.

My experience with the RZ96 has informed me that the squirrels in my neighborhood pose a hazard to any stationary thing softer than their teeth.  My experience with 450s has informed me, to my shame, that even covered, in the yard moisture will wreck wood parts.

The two kayaks I currently own are safely stored disassembled in their bags.  I have room for a third.  I DARE the local squirrels to take their teeth to my aluminum canoe, which does stay out in the yard.

Barren Fork River Float, McMinnville, Tenn.

Collins River Vista

Last Sunday, my son and I skipped church and floated the Barren Fork River through McMinnville in Warren County.  We put in at Smooth Rapids (who shuttled us back for about $11.00) and took out at a concrete ramp in the VFW parking lot – a downstream journey of about six miles.  Another father and son team paddled with us; the kids threw rocks in the water, talked, went for a swim, shared snacks.  After we got back to the outfitters and put the canoe back on the Cross Country, we had a pretty good lunch at the restaurant the outfitter operates overlooking the riverside launch point.  Here are some pictures – I’ll add a few more later as I noticed none of those I’ve posted below are particularly good representations of the river as seen while paddling downstream.

Canoeists

Kayak Fishers

Kayak Fisher

We saw at least three guys paddling sit-on-top purpose designed fishing kayaks not too far downstream from Smooth Rapids put in, and tried to keep our noise to a minimum until we got past.  Much later on, we saw three or four guys in what looked like an Oregon drift-boat (only with an outboard motor) – they were also fishing.

Turtles

We saw numerous turtles along our route sunning themselves on logs.

Rocky Undercut

Some rocky cliff faces with undercuts, as above, in many places to our left as we paddled downstream.

Water Grass

A lot of this kind of water grass we saw during the entirety of our trip downstream.

Two Canoes

Got out of the canoes here so the kids could swim and throw rocks into the water. It was here that we picked up a number of rocks, and piled them in the boats so the boys could throw them when we continued.  Easy fun, and I was happy to note they didn’t throw them at each other.

Collins R Meets Barren Fork

Here’s where the Collins River meets the Barren Fork River.  On the map, the stream’s marked Collins River past this point.

Nearing VFW

This point is not too far from the VFW parking lot take out.

Aleut on the Elk River

Did I mention the Folbot Aleut is slow compared to the kayaks I’ve been used to?  It is.  Back when I was paddling every available free day I had, was used to traveling fast and a lot farther.  This weekend, I’d planned to paddle the river that runs alongside McMinnville, Tennessee, putting in at Smooth Rapids and having them shuttle me back from the VFW lodge – only about 8 miles and maybe four hours, but downstream so the Aleut’s speed limitations wouldn’t bug me as much.

NOAA indicated only 30% of thunderstorms which meant, to me, 70% chance of no thunderstorms.  Weather radar imagery was clear.  I attached the Folbot to my car’s top, put my overpreparedness gear in a large bag and that bag in the car and set out.  You’ll notice what I’d failed to do before driving 30-odd miles – didn’t call the outfitter to make sure they were operating.

The fellow running the place asked, “Are you sure?”

“Why would I need to be sure about this?”

“The river’s at flood stage – we’ve had storms all week.”

“Yeah, the weather has been crap.”

“Whenever we have storms here, we get trees falling across the river.”  He went on to mention that two or three people had died during the past couple of months in the area – a kayaker on that stretch of river a couple of weeks ago when his boat capsized caught in a strainer and he panicked, and two swimmers drowned at Rock Island.  He said he had no way to tell whether the water was passable.  Said the water was about three feet above normal level.

“Would you do it?”

“No,” he said, “and I’ve (paddled those eight miles) a hundred times.”

So, I left and went in search of some other water to paddle.  On the way back to I-24, I looked for an access point to Womack Lake, but finding none, I decided to put in at Prairie Plains Road Bridge, on the Elk River in maybe Coffee County, and drove out there.

This time, I’d remembered to take my Magellan Cyclo 505 to measure progress in addition to what my wife considers my usual over-prparedness.  It might have been about 11:00 a.m. when I arrived at the put-in.  No one else was there, and during my entire paddle upstream and most of my paddle downstream past where I’d launched, I saw no one else on the water.

Magellan Sat Route Photo

The furthest point on this image shows where I found a place to eat lunch. The 505 unit shared a PFD pocket with my camera and it’s touchscreen apparently got bumped and it shut itself off.  I didn’t get much past this point after eating.  A ways into my paddle back downstream I again looked at the unit and recorded part of the downstream paddle.

I did see about 30 turtles sunning themselves on logs, one large snake, also sunning on a log, and three otters swimming fast downstream while I ate my lunch.  A few great blue herons, numerous other birds I couldn’t identify, and a flock of swallows swarming around the bridge as I came back downstream.

A few pictures with brief descriptions from start to finish:

Elk R 7-8-17

Not far upstream from Prairie Plains Road Bridge.  It turned out not to be as jammed up with broken trees as it looks here.

Elk River Snake

So, as I was paddling by I saw what looked like an iguana sunning itself on a log.  When I got closer, I saw it was instead a snake curled up, sunning itself on a log.  I snapped the picture when I got a little further away using zoom.  During the rest of my time on and around the water I remained mindful of the possibility of snakes on over-hanging tree limbs and nearby logs.

Winged Visitor

This creature landed where you see it and rode with me for about a mile upstream.

Elk R Local Color

My photographic skills and camera failed to capture the bright beauty of these occasional pink flowers I saw from time to time on either bank of the Elk.

Campsis Radicans

Campsis radicans growing on a tree overhead.  Also the name of my old Pouch E68 kayak.

Some Water...

The camera got wet; I guess I paddled more vigorously than usual, yesterday.

Lunch Stop

Here’s where I backed in and ate my lunch – peanut butter and jelly sandwich and one of those wafer-cookie bicyclist snacks – before paddling out and turning left. I made maybe two-tenths of a mile more upstream before I turned back.  I’d wasted half the day driving to McMinnville and then trying to find access to that small lake.  And the current was stronger the farther upstream I paddled.

Flooded Creek

On the way back downstream, on my right, I explored a flooded creek that’s normally impassible. I got this far and photographed the flooded vista beyond.

Flooded Creek Water Plants

Here’re some of the plants growing under the water on that flooded creek.

The Way Out

And here’s the way back out to the Elk.

Floating Downstream

As someone has noted on a FoldingKayaks.org forum thread, the Folbot Aleut is stable enough you can sit back put your legs up outside the cockpit. Floating back downstream was lot less trouble than paddling upstream.  I ate another pbj sandwich and relaxed a bit.

Prairie Plains Rd. Bridge

There’s the bridge beyond which is the dirt ramp where I launched a couple of hours previously.  I paddled down farther, toward some of the islands at the top of Woods Reservoir, got repeatedly buzzed by a wasp, whack the snot out of the insect with my paddle, turned around and headed back to the car.

Red Car Blue Boat

And there’s the car with the kayak on top.

Folbot Aleut First Report

Aleut View Forward

Today, I paddled my new 2003 Anniversary Edition Folbot Aleut for the first time.  Most of you know this already, but the Aleut is Folbot’s 12′ single kayak.  Here’s a link to information on the Folbot line-up of folding kayaks that I think was current when the company went out of business last year (2016).  Weighing about 40#, it’s easy to put on the car’s roof racks.  I used a couple of cheap foam blocks to protect the hull.  The boat’s aluminum frame, probably aluminum in general, ‘feels’ more fragile to me than my previous folders’ wooden frames.  The Aleut’s gothic arch cockpit is huge – it seems even bigger from the inside.  I used a bungie cord to keep the seatback in place.  I remember reading on the old Folbot Forum that the style seat my kayak’s got consistently annoyed users by falling forward when they entered the cockpit.

Aleut Lakeside

The Aleut has zero rocker, is beamy, has a lot of primary stability but I was unsure of its secondary stability so I edged to turn with caution.  It was a little breezy today and I found the kayak didn’t turn into the wind much; no rudder today nor was one needed.  The kayak seems sturdy, stable, not bothered by boat-wake or small wind-waves.

Compared to Campsis Radicans, my old Pouch E68, the Folbot Aleut is pretty slow.  Surely no more than six miles did I paddle this afternoon, but I had no real plan except to put the boat in the water and paddle it around a bit.  It took me a mile or two to remember how and begin to paddle efficiently.   The kayak’s D-rings for perimeter line are placed where I carelessly and repeatedly whacked them with the paddle.  Altering habitual form to avoid that will take at least conscious effort and another excursion to effect.  My form today was sufficiently poor that one of my elbows hurts.

Aleut Beached

As you can see from the pictures, I overprepared – spare paddle, a couple of dry-bags with stuff I might need, a second lunch in case I got hungry, a bilge pump, a bilge sponge, about a gallon of drinking water in a Viet-Nam era military collapsible canteen.

I rode my ’07 Jamis Supernova this morning and again this evening after supper.  Being active outside feels good.

Aleut & Supernova

Old Canoe & New Paddler

Last Sunday afternoon I took my son for his first time on the water in our canoe since he was about two years old.  We paddled about an hour and stopped a couple of times so he could jump in the water.  Here’re three photos:

Canoe Excursion 1

Moorings

MTCanoe

Last week, I reaffixed the peeling edges of three of the Aleut’s keelstrips. This weekend, I’m planning to paddle it for the first time.  Here it is on my Volvo wagon’s crossbars.  I tried to work out how far apart to space them. Got a couple of cheap foam blocks to serve as hull or deck cradles.  Dunno yet whether to cartop it hull-down or deck-up.  Regarding the deck, I stupidly applied the wrong 303 product to it last week – the UV protectant that’s intended for  hull-type material.  It doesn’t seem to have harmed the fabric in any easily discernible way.  I’ll get some Fabric Guard soon, though.

Folbot on Volvo

For those of you who actually know me, my former telephone number ending in 6642 is no longer active. The same area code and prefix with last four digits 1389 is active.  Also, with that phone, I can actually send and receive text messages, although my texting skillset is below average.

 

 

Quick Update

Yesterday morning, I drove up to Knoxville and bought a 2003 Anniversary Edition (also, apparently, the Expedition Edition) Folbot Aleut – a 12′, 40# folding kayak.  This is the first solo boat I’ve owned in several years.  I essentially quit paddling when my son got old enough to miss me and be bugged by the fact I was gone most of the day every Saturday and some Sundays.  Now, he’s been asking to go paddling with me.  I’m still working on, but more seriously now, rehabbing the Pouch RZ96.  This afternoon, we plan on paddling the canoe – an 18′ 1974 Grumman. Gear’s all packed and ready.

My son and I set up the Folbot yesterday afternoon – it was pretty easy compared to the only other aluminum framed folder I’ve had, and super lightweight compared to my wood framed folders.  I got some Harbor Freight super glue gel to stick down the keelstrips that’re coming loose.  Maybe will get that done today, too.

Still sober – about 32 years now, I think.  Still bicycling – working full-time again has cut into my pedaling time, but I’ve been leaving a bike at the office during the week to ride at lunch.  An easy 4.27 mile route, but better than not riding at all.  Recently also been getting up really early Saturday and Sunday mornings to ride to the gym, spending a couple of hours strength training, then back to the house.

I’m amazed I was able to remember my L/P for this site.

Here’s one of the seller’s images of the Folbot Aleut. I’ve still got to get my photo editing software sorted out on this computer.

Folbot Aleut

 

Troi Villes Tour d’Alamance

Alamance-Context-Map

In middle of last month (July 2015), because Americans are free to travel at will within the country by car and I wanted to visit my friend, Eric, I took a bike with me and drove to Alamance County, North Carolina.  He’s been out this way to visit with us several times over the past few years, so I thought it might be a good time and simple neighborliness to pay him a visit at home.  You may remember him from my earlier posts about swapping my Pouch E68 kayak for a Razesa road bicycle, and my posts about going back to Asheville to sell my Pionier 450S kayak – Return to Asheville Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Eric and I met in the 1990’s, when we were both attending seminary at Louisville, Kentucky, and were housed on the same dormitory floor.  His room was at the top of the stairs and was a natural meeting place for the floor’s residence.  Eric was sort of the community social director.  We became friends, and some years later, Eric served as best man at my wedding; he is my son’s godfather and probably my closest friend.

Garmin Confusion at Asheville

The drive to Asheville was pretty uneventful I-40 through Knoxville and then follow the signs and drive up the winding, mountain road.  As I ascended the mountains nearer Asheville I saw river outfitters’ school buses carrying rafts on top and crowded with tourists within.  I listened to the Minor Prophets on the car’s CD player while driving because I’ve been studying Nahum to preach through the book, and all of the Minor Prophets in order and context convey a message I’m trying to discern.

I’m down to one pair of bib-shorts for cycling and my old Castelli jersey is showing signs of wear – threads coming loose, zipper-pull broken off – generally looking worn-out enough to replace.  On my way to Eric’s house, I planned to stop for lunch (I brought a couple of sandwiches with me in the car) and buy a jersey and bibshorts at Hearn’s Cycling & Fitness downtown Asheville.  I remembered that odd used bike shop from my previous visits as a friendly place, and thought it would be cool to have a Hearn’s bike jersey.

At Asheville, Garmin GPS – I used “Voice Command’s” Find Place feature – routed me to an address on Broadway that has no bike shop.  I tried to remember the location of Hearn’s from my several walks through the downtown area, but consistently failed on my own to find the bike shop.  I did drive past all the places I’d walked past or eaten at or window-shopped with on my two prior visits to the city.

Without any difficulty, though, I found the Four Points Hotel, where I stayed during my first visit to Asheville.  Helpful hotel desk staff found for me the correct address for Hearn’s, 28 Asheland Ave.  Garmin, supplied with the correct address, got me there without difficulty.

The vibe at Hearn’s was completely different than it was at the time of my first visit to Asheville.  I had the impression that the grownups had gone off and left the store in charge of an indifferent and underage staff that knew little about cycling.  Or, rather, knew something about cycling related to their own use of bicycles, but had little or no idea how to communicate that effectively to customers in a friendly, welcoming, and productive way.  I did buy a set of cleats for my old SPD shoes to try out with the old SPD pedals I bought used at Stepford a couple of months ago.  Next time I need a bike shop at Asheville, though, I’ll look elsewhere.

Alamance County

Alamance-County-Big-MapBicycle-Laws-&-Safety-Tips

Before leaving Stepford, I googled cycling routes in Alamance County, North Carolina.  The North Carolina Department of Transportation has detailed information in the form of maps and brochures by county and region.  Here are the county maps:   http://www.ncdot.gov/travel/mappubs/bikemaps/  The State of Tennessee offers nothing remotely close to the wealth of data North Carolina provides to interested cyclists.  The cycling maps I’ve reproduced here were taken from this brochure:  http://dotw-xfer01.dot.state.nc.us/gisdot/DOTBikeMaps/Alamance/alamance.pdf  In addition to the NCTDOT website, googling this morning the phrase “bicycling alamance county nc” returned this link, as well:   http://burlingtonnc.gov/index.aspx?NID=1499 .  Burlington’s one of the three bigger towns of Alamance County.  The other two are Graham, the county seat, and Gibsonville.

Gibsonville-Cycling-Route-MapBurlington-Cycle-Route-MapGraham-Cycling-Route-Map

Heat and humidity in Alamance County during mid-July were oppressive.  Daily thunderstorms provided some relief from climactic conditions and opportunities to practice rain-riding skills.

Visit

Eric lives in a 660 square foot two bedroom, one bathroom, condominium on the good side of one the three Alamance County municipalities that all run together to form a more or less seamless small urban or large town area.  The condo, as these owned apartments are colloquially known, is part of a development built in the 1940s that resembles housing built for married officers during World War II.  Brick exteriors, well-built interiors with hardwood floors throughout, but tiny compared to what we’re used to nowadays.  Our expectations of comfort and personal space have changed a lot during the past 75 years.

Eric’s condominium reminded me a lot of his old dormitory room from seminary, only quite a bit larger.  Books everywhere, as well as photos, pictures, wall hangings.  Actually, a pretty comfortable small home.  Eric filled me in on the goings on in his neighborhood; he seems very well informed and seems to know his immediate neighbors pretty well.

Supernova-Living-Room

I arrived in the late afternoon Thursday, and got my travel gear moved into the spare bedroom, where I camped out with an inflatable mattress and a sleeping bag.  I parked the bike in the living room, against a small couch Eric had inherited from a deceased aunt or uncle.  We spent some time catching up, and then Eric gave me a driving tour that included a 20+ mile route he used to ride pretty regularly before he swapped me his old roadbike for my old kayak.

Riding Around

For this trip, I took the Jamis Supernova rain bike because stormy weather had been predicted by www.noaa.gov; turns out I made the right choice.   I got caught in rain and thunderstorms every ride.  The Supernova, equipped with Clement X’Plor USH tires handled slick, wet conditions in town and in the country without the slightest problem.  I visited Elon Bike Shop initially in search of cycling togs, but also out of tourist-like curiosity; while there, I did buy a bell and some wheels.

Berea-Christian-Church-PerspectiveBerea-Christian-Church-Stained-GlassHaw-River-Bridge-Ossipee

My visit lasted five days and four nights.  I rode every day, even the day I arrived, if I recall correctly, except the Monday I left.  My rides took me through Graham, Burlington, and Gibsonville – the Troi Villes referenced in the title line, above.  I also rode through Elon (and visited the university there as well as the famed Elon Bike Shop) and Ossipee near which municipality I crossed the Haw River on my way to and from Berea Christian Church’s building (built in 1903) – where on a couple of rides, I rested and drank Gatorade, ate a snack, and snapped a few pictures.

Town-of-Elon-Supernova

Elon-University-ClockElon-University-Colonnade

Elon-Art-Studio-Sculpture-Lean

During my rides I saw fields of cultivated tobacco growing green and healthy-looking, as well as soybeans and corn in abundance.  The crops in Alamance County looked better than most of what I’d seen earlier in the summer while riding through East Central Indiana.  While riding I came upon a couple of derelict houses.  One appears to have been built of cinderblocks stamped with a starfish design, and intended to resemble houses built over a century ago.  The other house appears to date from the 19th Century and could at this point provide shelter only for the birds of the sky and the small, wild animals of the fields and hedges.  The chimney is still standing, but it appears the section of house in back where the kitchen was probably located has long since returned to the ground.  After I rode past the broken house, I wondered about the family or families that’d lived there.  Were they happy?  Did things turn out well for them?

Broken-Beanfield-House-1Broken-Beanfield-House-2

Starfish-HouseStarfish-Cinderblocks

On Friday, Eric and I visited his family’s lakeside dacha at a private hunting and fishing club.  I saw an albino deer stuffed and displayed in a glass case at a gas station bait shop on the way out to the lake.

Bait-Shop-Albino-Deer

We grilled out (chicken soaked in a marinade that defies adequate description) and spent most of a lazy day reading (me), fishing (Eric) and talking.  I’d gone for a ride in the morning and was pretty worn out by the time we got to the lake.  Because I was pretty spent, I didn’t take my old companion, the Pouch E68 folding kayak Campsis Radicans, for a paddle around the lake.  Still, it was good to see the old boat again, and to remember how ill its badly fitting hullskin made me (which is why I was so willing it to swap the kayak for old roadbike).  A family of ducks swam over to the dock and disruptively demanded to be fed.  Eric gave them some dog food he’d gotten from somewhere, and the ducks were satisfied for a while.

Disruptive-Fishing-Club-DucksEric-&-Campsis-Radicans

Fishing-Club-Lakeside-DachaFishing-Club-Lake

On Saturday, 18 July, my grand tour took me on a circuit that included the county seat, Graham, where I attended a rally in support of a monument in remembrance of the Confederate soldiers of Alamance County who gave their lives during the the American Civil War.  I listened to an informative and well-reasoned speech made by a member of the local Sons of the Confederate Veterans camp.  In a separate post, I’ll talk more about the rally, but here let me say that if 20 years ago you’d told me I’d applaud and express hearty agreement with the statements made from a man wearing a Confederate uniform in support of Southern heritage and values, I’d have said you were crazy.  But I would have been wrong.  After the speech ended, a thunderstorm broke and rain poured down on me as I rode on.

 Monument-Rally-Monument-Statue

The town of Gibsonville is memorable for its model railroad hobbyist store, Bobby’s World of Trains, an outdoor model railroad, a Saturday market on the green, and an ice-cream shop.  I visited the hobby shop where I snapped some pictures of its train-table.  If you have any interest in electric model trains or railroading, you should pay this place a visit.  The owner and customers seemed friendly and knowledgeable.  They’d even heard of Tennessee’s Chapel Hill Ghost Light, a phenomenon I saw many years ago.  Bobby’s World of Trains is located at:  113 Lewis Street, Gibsonville, NC 27249 Telephone: (336) 449-7565.

Gibsonville-Bobbys-World-of-Trains

I visited Six Scoops ice-cream shop and ordered two scoops in a cup getting something closer to two pounds of ice-cream made on site.  Six Scoops has a Facebook page here.  I got lost on the way out to find a very old Lutheran church building, but found my way back to the familiar course I’d been riding since my arrival.  One of my ancestors, William Jenkins, was a Lutheran pastor who made his way to Bedford County, Tennessee, from North Carolina.

Gibsonville-Outdoor-Model-TrainGibsonville-6-Scoops-Bike-LeanGibsonville-2-Scoops-2-#

Worship Services

On Sunday morning, I attended a worship service with the church to which Eric belongs – a mega-church in nearby Greensboro called Westover Church.  I enjoyed the service and the outgoing friendliness of the diverse, upscale congregation.  This came as a great surprise to me, given my tendency to disparage big, showy, institutional Christianity.  On reflection, though, it seems that should not have come as a surprise – if a large congregation did not offer a pleasant experience, it probably would not long remain a large congregation.  In the afternoon, I again rode a circuit that included Berea Christian Church and Gibsonville.  In the evening, I worshiped with a Reformed congregation – Beacon Baptist Church near the Burlington airport.  If I’m able to visit Eric again next year, I plan to again attend that congregation’s worship service.  Again, on reflection, it seems to me that Westboro Church presents as informal, but its organization is doubtless highly structured and somewhat formal in its operation.  Beacon Baptist Church presents as formal, but I had a sense that it may be less so in its actual operation.

A Long Drive Home

The drive home was uneventful – I stopped at a Cracker Barrel on the Tennessee side of the mountains for lunch.  Getting back to my own county, I encountered heavy rain.  Rain bothers me less than it used to.

Rainy-Drive-Home

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Mid-Week Daze

This morning I got through a minor surgical ordeal that was far less horrible than I imagined it would be, but I’ve felt pretty spacey all day.  A nap this afternoon helped. 

Yesterday, Wednesday 13 May, a few hours before I had to begin the preparation process for today’s unpleasantness, I suited up in my torn Ireland Harp jersey and slightly too large Sugoi (sp?) bib shorts for a ride.  I chose the Miyata 610 and planned just a quick 10 to 12 mile neighborhood ride.  Got about four miles into the ride and realized the front tire was almost flat; I stopped and pumped it back up and was miraculously able to ride again at normal speeds.  For about a mile, I rode normally until the tube again leaked so much air its lower volume would have alarmed even the serious alternative cyclists at Rivendell Bike Works.  Feeling disappointed, I pulled off the roadway onto the bike path and rode carefully to within a half mile of the house.  From there, I walked the bike.   Probably, I’ll repair or replace the tube tomorrow.

Feeling like a condemned man as I considered the prospect of today’s outpatient procedure, late Tuesday afternoon I rode the Jamis Supernova from Stepford to Pixley and back again.  Only about 25 miles, but I made good time – about 15.3 mph average until getting back in to Stepford on the return leg due to stops for traffic.  I was surprised at the speed I made on the Continental Tour Ride tires.  For Christmas, I got a new cassette for the Jamis that’s got 32 teeth on the big ring, which makes a big difference on the hills hereabouts; got it installed about three weeks ago at Woody’s.  The mechanic was able to install the cassette very cheaply while I waited and then corrected a problem with the right STI shifter that’d been caused by the use of brake cable housing for the shift cable.  Getting the work done while I waited and was able to talk bike stuff with someone more knowledgeable than I was pleasant.

Back in Stepford, on the way home Tuesday, I got to visit with a couple of old friends at two stops, and that was also pleasant.  At the house, again, my son and I played catch, played with toy lightsabers, and played a lot of catch.  All in all, a good day.

Lately, especially since one reader reached out to me information about one, I have been hoping to find a serviceable and inexpensive folding kayak to replace the E68 I gave to my friend Eric back in 2013.  Right now, the only boats I’ve got are the behemoth, heavy Pouch RZ96 and the 17’ Grumman aluminum canoe.  Neither is much good for solo paddling.  Yes, it is about time to get my son in a boat, but he’s still much too small to assist much with assembling and moving Poucher Boote.

Thinking About an Expedition

I’ve been thinking about a Tennessee expedition for at least two, three years, now.  Two of them come readily to mind, although I’m still not clear on whether or what degree of support is needed.  Not too far away from here are the fabled sources of both the Elk and Duck rivers.  Neither river is famous for its commercial value, except in a couple of locations to canoe-float outfitters.  Both have been dammed in one or two places to create lakes used for fishing and other recreational purposes.  The Duck River is contained entirely within the State of Tennessee; the Elk’s course takes it over the state’s southern border and down into Alabama.

The feasibility of hiking, pedaling, and canoeing or kayaking the entire length of the Duck is at present an unknown.  There’s a guy in the UK who’s done something like that – his website takes a while to load, but is pretty cool and worth seeing/reading.  Slingshot Bikes of Michigan produces a foldable, full-size mountain bike that could be stowed aboard a canoe for those parts of the journey that could be completed by canoe.  It’s conceivable that a foldable, stowable trailer could allow the canoe and gear to be pulled with the bicycle overland, or trailered canoe with bike stowed could be pulled by hand where necessary.

Slingshot's folding, full-size mountain or all-terrain type bike

Slingshot’s folding, full-size mountain or all-terrain type bike

I did enter a competition to win the use of a Slingshot bicycle for a period of months, but I and others who posted more serious-minded entries lost out to a Canadian who called himself von Bubblegum and later changed his Facebook surname to Slingshot.  That was the “other venue” I mentioned in my post entitled “Three Years On Two Wheels.”  Ah, well, that’s how it goes.  A company’s got to make marketing decisions it hopes will maximize exposure and increase sales.  I wish the Canadian guy well.  Canada is probably a great market for these bikes, not all of which are foldables.

How Do I Learn Stuff?

How Do I Learn Stuff

How It Works

Usually what happens is that something piques my interest and I begin to acquire information about the subject.  A lot of the time, what interests me is technology, and when that is the case, I learn everything I can about whatever the thing is that interests me.  Curiosity is the starting point.  My interests are not limited to things, but this post is about things.

I scour discussion boards, old catalogs in portable document format, reviews, purveyors of new old stock, and consult with those known to me who are more expert than I.  Sometimes, I decide I’ve got to have whatever it is I’ve been studying about.  Usually, then, what I decide is that the cost of the latest version of whatever it is cannot be justified, so I buy (when I can find it) an upper mid-range or top of the line item that is several years old.

For instance, I bought a 1981 Miyata 610 that was in nearly new old stock condition, and have put the bike to constant use.  I obsessively researched the manufacturer and the model for a month or two before making the purchase.

Except for the Power Mac 7600 I bought in the Nineties, I’ve never purchased a new computer.  All of our computers were refurbs and supposedly obsolete when we bought them, but they serve us pretty well.  My smartphone is the version of the Iphone that my provider was giving away at contract renewal time.  My Pentax Optio water proof camera was several years old, but new in box, when I got it.

Sometimes, I’ll buy something on the used market that may be suitable, but isn’t what I really want.  The reason for that is that I never do want to spend a lot of money.  I have qualms of conscience about spending money, and because, as a married man and a father, what I really want more than things is to husband the family’s resources.  I recall buying a Power Mac 8500 for a video project in college – several years old at the time, but I got the project done and got to monkey around with video.  I got the 8500 because I thought the used 9500 was too expensive.  Sometimes what I buy on the used market that turns out to have problems that require correction or upgrade which may have a learning curve and require spending more money.

I learn how to cobble stuff together out of necessity.  Sometimes I find I am able to tackle learning projects that seemed impossible to me when I was younger, before I had learned how to learn in the need of the moment.  Necessity promotes learning.

Who Needs a ‘Modern’ Bicycle?

I figure, back in 1981 or 1985, cyclists were doing cool things with their then-new bikes, so why shouldn’t I be able to do cool stuff with those same bikes that are now old.  Having old bikes, I learned how to operate downtube friction-shifters, ride fairly heavy bikes, ride where I want to ride, ride hills that intimidated me, outrun (for the most part) trailer-dwelling pit-bull dogs, ride in traffic, and so forth.  No worries, right?  So, why would I want an index-shifted, lightweight road-bike?  I don’t know for sure.

I have been intrigued by purpose-built cyclocross bikes because there’ve been times I’ve ridden my road bikes down gravel roads and through mud and on dirt tracks, experiencing their limitations.  Pavement ends, and I want to keep going.  Limitations including clearance at brakes, forks, and stays for mud; road tire (even the venerable Continental Gatorskin) inability to maintain much traction on degraded small town alleyways, mud, sand, gravel; road bike lateral drift on dry, loose dirt and gravel.  Frame geometry has not been a problem with my old lugged-steel bikes, nor has ride comfort.  Modern cyclocross bikes appear to have similar slack frame and fork geometry to my ancient Razesa (a sport-tourer/racer) and the older Miyata (primarily a tourer).  Additionally, I don’t want to abuse the Miyata – my favorite bike – during the winter months.  Something newer might hold up a little better in Southern Middle Tennessee cold-and-wet-season conditions.  I ride all year long.

Without regard to harsher climatic and road surface conditions, having joined a cycling club and occasionally participating in group rides, I listen with envy to guys talking about their 65 to 75 mile rides.  I wish for a sufficient number of cogs at the rear wheel to address the varying terrain in this part of the state, as well as the ability to more effortlessly shift between them while riding.  I’ve gotten tired of unexpected goofy cable maladjustment causing the chain to bang down to smallest cog in back when trying shift into a lower gear to climb a hill.  I hate walking up hills and, although I could  be a stronger cyclist, some of the problems are due to an erratic funkiness inherent in the old equipment.  Heck, next year, I’d like to ride the BRAT – that’d be greater challenge than necessary on a 33 year-old tourer with the original 15-speed Suntour groupset.  Actually, I could probably do the BRAT on the Miyata, but I’d rather ride it on an Orbea Starship.  Heck, I grew up watching reruns of Star Trek on a 13” black and white television in my room when I should have been doing homework.  Starships are where I come from.

So, regarding a modern bike – a choice of two types of bike:  a premium road bike, or a cyclocross bike.

Bike versus Upright Freezer:  Freezer Wins

We got the upright freezer my wife has been wanting for months, and that was the right thing to do.  Got the freezer at about 60% of the item’s on sale price because it had some cosmetic imperfections; that’s fine with us because the appliance resides in our garage.

About the bikes, then.  The one I wanted was a 2003 Orbea Starship (Columbus aluminum) tube frame with carbon seat and chain stays, full Campagnolo Record Ultra 10-Speed gruppo, Bontrager wheelset, Bontrager carbon fork and seatpost, and Bontrager seat, bars, stem.  Truly a beautiful bike, right down to its tan bar-wrap, which reminded me of the steering wheel wraps we had on our cars back in the 70’s.  Pretty much the-best-money-can-buy build in its class.

My wife told me to go ahead and make an offer on it, and I, the expressionless man whose dial rarely registers anything that could be interpreted as enthusiasm, was visibly excited and happy about the prospect.  Then, I woke up in the early a.m., the day I was to drive out and test-ride the bike, and I had this sense that the amount I was prepared to spend was out of all proportion in terms of what is important to my family.  With real regret, I emailed the bike’s owner and explained that I would not be able to look at the bike.

I’m certain I made the right decision about the Orbea, and if I come into a providential windfall while the bike’s still for sale, the first thing I’ll do is buy it.  Christmas is on its way.  Who knows what will happen.

A Less Expensive Compromise
This bike in this condition was not worth what the seller was asking

This bike in this condition was not worth what the seller was asking

I did travel to Murfreesboro to test ride a 2003 Bianchi Reparto Corse Alu-Lite SL in my size, celeste green with Campagnolo Centaur 10 speed gruppo.  According to the seller, he bought it from the original owner, a Chattanooga physician who’d put a lot of miles on it; seller said he’d only ridden it about 2000 miles.  If the bike had been in better condition, it would have been worth what he was asking.  I actually offered him more than I’d originally wanted to because I did like the bike, and now that I’ve been super close to buying a top-end European bike with top-end groupset, I would have settled for a less expensive, lower-end European bike.  The seller, however, said, “For that, I’d just as soon keep the bike.”  So, I let him keep it.

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What I wound up getting was a 2007 Jamis Super Nova cyclocross racing bike.  I’d seen the ad on Craigslist for about the past month, so had plenty of time to research it.  The photos above are those the seller used in his ad.  The 2007 Jamis catalog can be found here.

The biggest complaints I’d read on various Internet bulletin boards were:  Avid Shorty brakes provided inadequate stopping power; strange seatpost brake cable routing; heavy wheelset.  The 2007 Jamis catalogue lists the Supernova as the company’s top-end cyclocross bike that year (but, there were only two cross-specific models).  The Craigslist seller had addressed the brake problem by installing a set of Kore brakes using Kool Stop mountain bike pads, added Dura Ace rear derailleur and shift/brake levers, Ultegra front derailleur, Ritchey carbon fork, RaceFace alloy stem and 44 cm bars, SRAM rear cassette with a large cog for hills, cheap SRAM chain, Mavic Ksyrium wheelset with cheap Continental Ultra Sport tires.

I probably paid $50 to $100 too much for the bike, considering the seller had built up the frame (purchased on Ebay in 2009, he said, from an Oregon bike shop that probably stripped a complete bike that didn’t sell) using components he’d already had or bought, like the frame, on Ebay.  On the way home, I agonized over not having bargained better.

I've got ideas

I’ve got ideas

Because I felt chagrined, when I got to the house, I added some air to the tires and rode the bike around the neighborhood deliberately hitting every rough patch I could find, and then rode it around my yard a few times, hitting roots and holes on purpose.  What I discovered as a result of this caveman-level emotionally motivated activity was that the frame is supremely comfortable; that even with low-end, treadless road tires, the bike handles all manner of lousy (but dry for this experiment) surface conditions in a manner that left me feeling confidently in control of the bike.  I began to like the bike in spite of my stupid bikesnobbery.

Bike Learning

This bike’s a little like those second and third hand computers and videography equipment I bought back in college for projects, only I have no project to justify the bike’s expense.  I’ve already bought a 90 mm stem to replace the 110 mm unit that came with the bike.  Tried that out today, along with some cage-pedals.  Stem and pedals are fine, but I’ve got to reorient the bars for a little better long-ride comfort and control.

I do like the orange and white color scheme.  I like the fact that the bars are wider, but hate the drops – they aren’t long enough at the ends.  Or, rather, they don’t sweep back far enough to comfortably grip for longer periods of time.  Maybe Salsa Woodchipper or Short and Shallow bars?  I hate the black bar tape and switch to white when I get a set of bars I like better.  Okay with me that the white will become dirty-gray before long.  Adds character and still matches the bike’s color scheme better than black.

It did turn out those Mavic hubs are either in need of service or replacement – they don’t spin as freely as they ought.  Getting the bike up to speed requires real effort.  I ordered a set of Continental Tour Ride 2 tires for winter riding here at Stepford.  They arrived today.  I’m not sure about them, but will try them out after I get the hubs sorted.

Here’re some pictures I’ve taken of the bike while out on rides since last Thursday’s purchase:

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Lazy-Jamis-Lakeside

Set the bike down here to snap some photos of wildflowers, nearby. That’s not really my house in the background. No, really, it’s not….