Thursday, April 20, 2017

DO IT NOW!

Time never stops. April is more than half over and before you know it summer will be here.

I am mindful of the fact that every day in spring brings different weather conditions. One day the temperature is near eighty degrees and the next it's fifty. Today, it's raining and tomorrow, it's sunny, but the wind is really ripping.

This brings me to my next point. Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

I have a passion for cycling. I always have. I'd much rather ride my bicycle outside, enjoying the rolling farmland around Mid Ohio-- it is much more exciting than riding on a trainer in my den. If given the choice a country road or a paved bike path wins every time. 

If you always find yourself waiting for perfect conditions before riding your bicycle, you will not ride much. My motto is ride when you can. I do skip outdoor riding when it is below fifty degrees or raining outside. But, at those times, I am on the trainer for at least twenty minutes or so before getting ready for work.

Life is too short to put off things you should do today. Just DO IT.

Procrastination is habit forming. Remember the immortal words of W. Clement Stone:

The best way to get something done is to DO IT NOW.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Missing A Day's Work is Never Fun

I've never been one for Ferris Bueller's Day Off. For me, missing a day's work is never really fun. If I am not at work, it means that I am really sick.

I worked at the corporate offices of MEI/Micro Center years ago. Four years-- I never missed a day of work. Even in the worst weather, I was always there. In fact, co-workers used to joke around about me sitting in my cubicle in the midst of a nuclear war.

Well, yesterday, I found myself calling in sick for my day-job. Believe me, I did not like doing so, but a cold hit me hard and fast and I wanted to get heavily medicated and sleep as much as possible in order to knock this bad boy out of me in time for planned weekend bike rides.

I am an avid cyclist. It is what I do to stay in shape. I've been hooked on cycling for fifty-four years. I started riding when I was four-years-old and never looked back.

Cycling is one of my passions. It's the gears, the road, the sights and sounds. It's the rolling hills and farmland. I get my kicks on two wheels, plain and simple. I love riding my bicycle and I feel great afterward.

It's Friday morning (1:50 AM) and I plan to be at work at 5:00 AM. I'll be pulling down a ten-hour day. It's my hope that I can work by myself as much as possible and not infect anyone. Simply put, this is a world in which corporations expect employees to show up and be productive regardless of medical issues. It would be great if we were all told to stay home until we are healthy and won't pass our germs around the workplace; alas, that is not likely to happen.

So, in a short time, I will be in the shower and getting dressed for a day at the office. I hope that working and staying busy will help me recover quickly. I also hope that nobody else comes down with this cold, but, that would most likely take divine intervention.

And so it is that I will go to work as usual and just hope for the best for everyone else.

Spring colds are no fun.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Call of the Gadgets

I have always loved gadgets. I just took delivery of a new Blackberry Playbook. This is the third one that I have owned and I believe I'll hang onto it this time.

First, in my opinion, the Blackberry Playbook was the very best tablet ever created in terms of construction quality. Second, the operating system (QNX) is the best multi-tasking platform I have ever found. The Apple iOS cannot compare with QNX when it comes to multi-tasking. Android OS is not even in the same league with Apple's mobile platform, let alone Blackberry's chosen operating system.

Regarding power management, the Blackberry will give you ten hours of performance on a single charge. The iOS quite a bit less. The Android OS, depending on what things are trying to run continually, more or less. My Lenovo A10-70 gives me close to twelve hours working on spreadsheets and databases with wireless disabled. The Blackberry is better in that respect. Its charge lasts longer when I am using wireless. Either one, you are wise to use "airplane mode" when you want maximum battery endurance.

A gadget has to be productive for me to consider it. In the picture on the right is an assortment of my favorite gadgets. From left to right, top to bottom, they are: Lenovo A10-70, Samsung smart phone (just used for calls), Palm Tungsten E2, Blackberry Playbook 64GB, Kindle Paperwhite.

The Lenovo came with a fantastic keyboard. I wish the one on my laptop had the tactile feel of that keyboard. It has a nice authoritative click and the key spacing and size makes it genuinely functional. Thank you, Lenovo.

Why do I want a seven inch Blackberry when I already have a Lenovo ten inch tablet? Because, I can take the Blackberry with me on cycling trips and use it to catalog all of the maps in PDF format to keep me navigating right.

The Palm Tungsten E2 is the King of Palm devices. A single battery charge gives me a month of use (yes, a month, really!) and it is the best organizer and daily planner ever invented. It is an address book, to do list, time-clock, an okay book reader, and you can even fill it with mindless games if you'd like.

The Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-book reader made, bar none. It is the easiest on the eyes and it looks like a printed book when you read on it. I can take lots of books with me in that one device (over a thousand). I have switched to reading almost all books in electronic format. I know a lot of you might really prefer the feel of a real book in hand. I understand that, believe me, but I love the fact that I don't need book cases that mostly attract dust and store books I have not read in years.

The smart phone? It's a phone. It is not a laptop. It is not efficient for e-mail. It is not a good book reader or web browser. If you use it for entertainment, you run the risk of having to make a call in an emergency and having no power. I prefer stupid phones anyway. So, my smart phone is a basic model because, as much as I hate smart phones, I cannot stand flip phones.

By the way, I paid cash for my phone (new with no contract). I rooted it, meaning I took total control of it and removed all the extraneous crap applets that I did not want and disabled those that I did not want running continually but might need at some point. I only use it for making calls. That's it.

All that to say that for me to love a gadget, it has to work well and make me more productive, sufficiently entertain me should I want that, and help me communicate when I am on the road-- even on a bicycle if need be.

Why have I not fallen for the idea of getting a phone that can do it all? Because, they do not exist and likely never will.

Oh, by the way, I love cameras.... real cameras... professional quality cameras. All of those smart phone pix you see all over the 'net, well, compared to what a good digital SLR can do, they suck. It's a phone, after all.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Celebrate the Coming of Spring

Spring is upon us. This is the spring Equinox. Well, I am ready for warm weather. Hop-to... come on... you know how this works. Well, it's not that easy, but, as sure as the sun rises, we will have warmer weather.

Seasons come and go. Time passes quickly and before you know it winter will be just around the corner. Carpe diem!

We have to make the most of the time we have because once a day ends, we cannot relive it. Time is fleeting.

If you have not thought about life goals, it's time you do so. Ask yourself: "Where do I want to be?" Think about your job, your home, even your hobbies. Do you want to change anything? If so, start today by making it a goal.

I have goals. I always have had goals. I've accomplished most of the "life goals" I set for myself years ago. Now, I want to make more goals for the remainder of my life. We are at our best when we are working toward fulfilling our goals. Without them, we have no direction and we end up meandering through the days, weeks, and months of the year. In the end, we go through this same routine and we accomplish nothing.

We are all the sum-total of our thoughts and experiences. In order to be better tomorrow-- or be more successful-- we have to start today by laying the groundwork. Start with positive thinking and visualize how and where you want to live, where you want to work, and how you plan to get there.

Making goals is the first step.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Start Your Day on A Positive Note

It is always best to start your day on a positive note.

Today is Friday. It is the last day of the business week and it is payday! Now, that's what I call a positive note.

When I lived in the Catskill Mountains, I used to look out the front windows of the resort I managed to see the mist over the river. I'd watch our resident bald eagle get the morning breakfast.

We had white-tailed deer, osprey, heron, beaver, and other wildlife all around us. Between the sights and sounds, it was hard to beat a morning on a wild trout fishery. The sun slowly burned off the morning mist and fishermen started to make their way along the river in search of feeding trout.

I ate breakfast early and opened the pro shop in time for the morning anglers who might wander into the place, but fly fishing is mostly an afternoon and evening activity. You go to the river when the insect activity begins.

On most days, I gently picked my guitar and sipped my morning coffee as I gazed at the water and watched an occasional fish rise. Mornings were tranquil along the West Branch of the Delaware River at the "River's Edge" (later known as the Delaware River Club).

I don't regret leaving the place and returning to Ohio, but, I do miss those river mornings.

When the summer rolls around, I will be out early, pedaling my bicycle and plying through pastoral hills in central Ohio while mist still covers the Big and Little Darby National Scenic River Valley.

Mornings are what you make of them.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Marco Pantani - Passion for Cycling

My wife and I just finished watching "Pantani: Accidental Death of A Cyclist" on Netflix. What a tragic story.

Marco Pantani was born and raised in a small Italian village. He was still a young lad when he discovered a passion for cycling and joined a local club. The town also had a semi-professional team of cyclists and young Marco was accepted among their ranks. It was not long before he started seeing things that he didn't like about the business side of racing.

An introduction to a top professional team coach resulted in Pantani getting a contract in international cycling and he rose quickly into a world-class competitor. That brought the opportunity to make a lot of money and the curse of pressure to perform.

Cycling is a multi-million dollar industry. It is highly political and it is run in a Mafia-like fashion. The pressure is intense and many riders fall into the trap of doping and theatrics. Having a passion for bicycles and racing is simply not enough if you want to compete in the Tour de France or Giro d'Italia. At that level, cycling becomes a high-stakes, money-driven cartel. Win at any cost is the rule.

Doping has been in cycling for a long time. But it was at its worst during the reign of Lance Armstrong, Marco Pantani, and Jan Ulrich. Virtually every top rider was ensnared in it.

One American rider always rode clean. Greg LeMond, three-time Tour de France winner and all-around good guy, Lemond spoke out against doping within the cycle racing industry from the start. It cost him friendships. It cost him his position as a commentator and spokesman for cycling. And it cost him his contract with Trek bicycles (they pulled the plug on production of LeMond Bikes).

Marco Pantani was tarnished by allegations of doping and he lost his place in the sun. He lost his passion for the bike. In the end, it cost him his life.

If you ride, ride with passion. If you race, race clean and don't lose your love for it. Don't sell your soul. Don't give in to the temptation of performance enhancing drugs in order to compete at high level. It's not worth the risks.

Passion is everything; life without it is merely existence. Ride for the sheer joy of riding-- and if you make a living from it, consider it icing on the cake.

Just remember, Greg LeMond earned his Tour de France wins and they will never be taken away from him. Lance Armstrong will forever be remembered for losing his SEVEN Tour de France wins due to doping.

Note... LeMond will soon be releasing a new line of professional caliber road bikes under the LeMond Bicycles moniker. I can't wait to see them.

 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Man and Machine

It has been said that the bicycle is the most efficient mode of transportation ever devised. It is the perfect melding of man and machine.

I have been riding two-wheeled bicycles since I was four-years-old. A young girl at the end of our block on Elm Avenue in Teaneck, New Jersey actually taught me how to ride a bike. Until now, I haven't thought about her. I remember that she had a brother named Peter. Her name was Gail. I don't remember her last name. I wonder if she still likes riding bikes?

Cycling has always been a passion of mine. I loved riding. I begged my parents for a BIG bike and for my eighth birthday, I received an AMF Royal Master.

I found a picture of one on Bing Images... here it is:


It had dual headlights and a horn built-in. It was a single-speed "cruiser" by today's definition, and it weighed a ton. I happily rode the bike everywhere. I honked up hills and coasted down the other side. I was on that bike constantly.

My family moved to Mid Ohio in 1968 leaving New Jersey behind us. I didn't want to move to Ohio, but, I didn't have a choice. We settled into a three-bedroom split level house on Alton Road. Our mailing address was "Galloway" and I came to find out that the nearby town of Galloway was named after one of my mother's ancestors (who just happened to be the first white settler in what would become the state of Ohio).

We were surrounded by corn fields and sod farms. There was not much to do, at first, so, I rode my bike. I started meeting the other neighborhood kids. Most of them rode Schwinn "Stingray" bikes with their twenty-inch tires and banana seats. But Chris Floyd had a Schwinn ten-speed bike. Back in New Jersey, we called that style of bike an "English Racer" and, boy did I want one. I dreamed of having one.

My Royal Master was a tank. It weighed so much more than that ten-speed that Chris rode. So, I took off the console with its built-in lights, horn, and chrome trim. I removed that wide handle bar and added a "ram horn" handle bar. I removed the fenders. I took off the chain guard. I removed every non-essential from that bike and it was still a heavyweight. Had I been able to see into the future, I would have kept that bike exactly as it was when my father bought it for me and could have sold it at an incredible price because the Royal Master was a rare bike, indeed. Oh, well.

My parents bought my younger brother and me Columbia ten-speed bikes. My other brother came home from his part-time job late one night and left the garage door open and the bikes were stolen. Well, they didn't last long. So, I was back on the old bucket of bolts.

I started working and bought myself a Schwinn Super Letour. Twenty-six pounds of chrome-moly frame and twelve-speeds! It had a beautiful smoky gray metallic paint-job and it even looked fast. At that time, the bike to beat in America was the Schwinn Paramount. I just could not afford one.

I rode that bike until I was domesticated. I married a gal who just hated bicycles. I never understood that. The relationship went bad really fast. 

I found myself teaching fly fishing in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. The West Branch of the Delaware River was the best trout fishery east of the Rocky Mountains. It was a fly fishing Mecca. 

One day, I met a guy named Jim. He was a fly fishing nut and a bike mechanic. I built him a flyrod and he built me a bike. It was built around a Tange 900 Chrome-moly frame and had excellent components. Jim got a nice flyrod and I got a nice bike-- it was the best I had ever owned at that time.

Years passed and I found myself in Ohio once again. I still had the bike Jim built for me, but, my son was then twelve years old and wanted to ride with me. I bought Dustin a Raleigh cross-trainer that was almost too big for him, but, he could ride it and would not out-grow it. I also bought a Giant Yukon hard-tail mountain bike with an alloy front fork for me. That way, Dustin could match my pedal stroke and keep up with me pretty well.

I met and married a lady cycling nut from Cincinnati, Mary Rose. She rode her bike every evening-- this was my kind of gal.

Mary Rose had an old UniVega bike --what lightweight riders call "an iron" because it weighed so much. We bought her a new bike... a Giant Yukon. Hers had a RockShox Judy fork on the front. It was just as heavy as the UniVega, but, my new bride thought that it was eminently cooler than her old bike. And so, we rode... and we rode... and we rode some more.

I sold the bike Jim built for me because we had to make room for Mary Rose's bike. I soon missed my road bike. We moved to a bigger place and I had a little more room, so I sold my Yukon and bought a Fuji Newest.



I sold this bike in early 2011 and ended up with a Fuji Absolute2 flat-bar road bike with a more upright posture.


I rode this bike until my wife and I thought that we were moving to Idaho for an in-house copywriting gig that Mary Rose had. I sold the bike, but, the move to Idaho never happened (long story) and I found myself bikeless. Meanwhile, my wife sold the Fuji Absolute that I bought for her.

Not being content without a bicycle-- I started looking online for a replacement bike and I settled on a Fuji Sportif. We went to Performance Bike of Columbus, Ohio to buy it, but they did not have the Sportif in my size (58 or 60cm).

I spent some time in the shop because they were having a big sale and I wanted a bike THAT weekend to take advantage of the fair weather (54 degrees for the weekend and 60+ the following week). I bought a Diamondback Century Disc (as in disc brakes) on sale at an incredible price.


I added my usual choice of aluminum bottle cages and polar bottles. I have since added a TD-1 aluminum rear rack and a Transit bag, and I switched the saddle to a Forte gel-filled seat that is far more comfortable for the long ride. The gel-pad I had on the original saddle (pictured above) is no longer needed. It didn't really add much comfort anyway. The new saddle is priceless!

The Diamondback Century is designed for long rides (what we call Century rides because they are 100 miles in a single day). The top tube is a little shorter than the Diamondback Podium-- which was designed for racing. The shorter top tube, and the taller head tube (below the handle bars), give the rider a more upright and comfortable riding position. It's easier on the back and gives the rider better visibility for commuting, long distance, and recreational riding. Disc brakes give the city rider great stopping power and more control than standard center-pull brakes would provide. They add about a pound of extra weight. Outfitted with the water bottles, the rack and bag, and the new saddle, the bike weighs about twenty-four pounds.

And so it is that my love affair with bicycles continues. Now, I have to ride when it is warm enough to go in comfort. When the weather is cold, like today, I will ride on the trainer in the comfort of my den and think about the road ahead.

It's man and machine. Once a cyclist, always a cyclist. I guess it's like being Irish. You might take the boy out of Ireland, but, you'll never take the Irish out of the boy. Now, I'll dream of my next ride.