Monday, October 26, 2009

Fred Meyer is the main grocery store up here (along with Safeway). It's an excellent grocery store that also has a the equivalent of a Kohl's and a good sporting goods store in it as well. Oh, and a good jewelry store. And my bank Alaska USA is inside as well. It really has everything, yet doesn't have an enormous footprint. And the prices and quality are very good. Everybody goes to Fred Meyer.

They have fabric shopping bags available for purchase ($1), though I think I ended up with some free ones thanks to a few coupons a year ago. The idea is to encourage their use over endless plastic bags, and to push this end they give you a nickel for ever bag you use in your purchase. Not a lot of money, but free money nonetheless.

Now, I can be a cheap bastard about many things -- in truth, about as many things as possible. However, I don't blink when it comes to special occasions, vacations, or bike parts. When it comes to most other things, I try to save money whenever possible. "Will this sale/coupon give me a little more money for Warhammer models, a comic book, or a nicer wheel for my bike?" Little things add up.

I like not wasting whenever possible also, so I'm all over the reusable bags. They're very durable as well. However, it seems that most cashiers make a concerted effort to not key them in when ringing you out. They want to make you verbally whine for your stinking nickel. In truth, I doubt they really care if they maneuvered Fred Meyer into an unexpected nickel profit. Yet it sure feels like they do. More times than not I have to remind them at the end that my $20 sale needs to be reduced by 15 cents. Sometimes they roll their eyes, but I quit caring about that a long time ago. If they want to encourage this good behavior, get consistent with the policy. If I'm going to eke out an extra trade paperback here or there, get on the ball. All those nickels add up to spokes and tires and handlebar tape. Their shame will not work on me.

Friday, October 23, 2009


People up here are winterizing their boats and motor homes. In Mt. Greenwood Tom is draining his Harley and getting it ready for a long rest. I'm triaging my bikes and shuffling the needs and wants into a Spring '10 wish list.

The Trek cross bike has been through a war zone. It is 3 years old and has 3 years of racing in it, and most parts are still original. That is impressive, but also telling. It tells me that I should not sweat it that the frame is scratched everywhere, the rear wheel only stays true for about 20 minutes after it is adjusted, the shifting is suggestive at best, and the brakes are left to merely apply a general soft friction to the rims. The bike was a great deal, has served me well, and was actually welded and constructed in Waterloo, WI. That is cool. I wish it had a sharper paint job, but that is a small complaint. I really want a steel Lemond Poprad or a Gary Fisher Presidio, but how can I justify the jettisoning of a Wisconsin made friend that still has life left in it. I spin stories of putting it out to stud as a commuter, but I don't believe that is fair. It can stay filthy and maladjusted in my garage all winter and when the long days of April start to appear I'll take it down to Chain Reaction for an epic tuneup and a burly handbuilt rear DT Swiss wheel. I'll show the Trek some love and it will shine again next cross season. I still want a Wisconsin made steel cross bike (Lemond/Fisher) though.

My Orbea road bike is entering the off season a little less wounded. It has that overall sloppy, loose feeling, which an April tuneup will happily fix. I don't think it needs the large influx of parts ($$$) that the Trek does though.

So I'll do my usual fall mail ordering of parts, tires, chains, and handlebar tape to take advantage of the year end sales. The snow has not fallen yet, but it will any day now. It's sad to see the bikes being put away for a nap, but unfortunately the trails in Anchorage are groomed for cross country skiiing (unlike the plowing and salting they receive in Chicago/Madison). Come April the bikes will emerge shinier and faster.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I’ve never been particularly fast in cross races, but I did have my fastest season this year. And, I have finished stronger in each subsequent race this season, which says something. It’s usually easier to finish higher earlier in the season when more new riders show up for the first exposures to the sport. At the end of the season you’re left with the people that are much more serious, and consequently much faster than me.

The race on Saturday was in a 55 degree rain (thanks, El Nino!) and had 3 long segments across the beach. By the start of the race, all of the practice laps had turned the beach into an enormous deep and long sandpit. It was brutal, but how could a cross race be any different?

I started off towards the rear and kept position for the first 25 minutes. As the race went on more and more people started to just dismount for 2 of the sandpits (the third pit was fairly firm). The main stretch of one pit was a cavern that was not even navigable on the first lap so I carried the bike through that one. The other pit was doable if you reached really deep and had your gear selected properly before you were in the pit. After those first 25 minutes I decided that I was not going to dismount for that pit, and quickly found myself passing a few people here and there in those moments. This was the last race of the year and the sand had already turned my bike into a grinding cement mixer, so I embraced the rain and mud and filth and tried to put all I had out there.

I picked off a few more riders on some of the flats and barriers and only was passed by the lead pack. I held my own in my little group. I came nowhere close to winning, but I finished the race on a personal high note – one that gives me a good deal to build on for next year.

I enjoy the book A Separate Peace, particularly the small kernels of wisdom it contains about social behavior. Phineas is fairly close to a perfect friend in many moments. I am thinking specifically about the scene where he jumps in the pool, swims all out, and finds that he has broken the school record. He and Gene are the only ones there and he has Gene promise that this record will remain a secret. They know, so who cares if anyone else does?

The results on the cross race had me only riding 6 laps, whereas all the people I passed were marked at 8 laps. I lost of lot of points in that slip up, and I know I counted 8 laps while I pedaled. So I’ll take a cue from Phineas and just keep that one in my pocket for myself. I know it may nullify my altruistic intentions by announcing that all here, but I don’t think too many people read this blog. Also, who wants to hear somebody whine about their race results so instead of finishing the bottom quarter of the field you can finish in the bottom third? Big deal.

It’s a great book, and now I want to reread it (again). And with some off season work 2010 can be an even stronger cycling season. Good plans all around.