Saturday, April 30, 2011


His brain was like a birdnested bait casting reel, cluttered and non-functioning. His perception was obscured as if in dense morning fog. After too much multi-tasking, too many deadlines, and complexity overload, it was time to step away. It was time for him to shut down thinking and simply move. It was time get things sorted out.

He started sluggishly. Spinning cranks felt like trying to stir a bowl of too dry oatmeal. It was deliberate effort. It took a few minutes to get his position settled, but he wasn't in a hurry. The pedals moved around at 60 rpm, but he didn't have anywhere to be. He didn't have a route planned, but he didn't feel like thinking. He just slowly noodled along.

Instinctively, he found the gravel. Within minutes, he was apart from traffic and down in the Clear Creek valley. There was a steady crunching sound under his tires. Wind tossed branches seemed to wave at him. Tall grasses bowed low, and wildflowers spotted the landscape with fresh color. His shoulders relaxed.

He stood to climb a succession of rollers. He felt the shift of balance as the machine was leaned from side to side. He breathed long slow breaths, and saw sunbeams, like strobe lights, hit his eyes as he rolled below the trees. It was then he realized the sun was shining. He was surrounding by real, tangible things. The earth is not digital.

Clarity of thought returned. Tangles disappeared in an instant like the untying of a shoelace. His mind was able to process the momentum of rolling on two wheels. He remembered the other plans for the day. His obligations were before him, but they did not overwhelm. Like the traveler on a well-worn pathway, he knew exactly the right direction. And like a well-equipped soldier, he was ready for the challenge. But there was still a little more time.

So he pedaled. The rhythm became smooth and effortless. Body and machine merged like a river confluence to flow across the countryside. "This is delightful," he thought to himself as he noticed the breeze grow stronger, and the clouds rise and darken in the west, "it is springtime." Consternation was displaced with contentment, and tangled thinking became as an arrow.

So he turned for home.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Brood Box Addition

Mrs. Pondero's bees have been active. Though I might think it hazardous to fly sorties in such wind lately, it seems these critters are up to the challenge. Those orange blobs on their legs, are not fashion. They are evidence of another successful mission.

You can compare the rear legs of the arriver with the rear legs of the one departing. Continuous missions indeed, but has there been sufficient progress to suggest a new brood box be added?

That was the question of the day. Here, Mrs. Pondero uses smoke to prepare the bees for inspection.

Once the lid and feeder tray are removed, this is the first view. A box full of frames with so much honeycomb building activity, it literally overflows. They seek to fill the voids.

When one of the frames is removed for inspection, we get a better view of the results of so much activity.

Capped cells at the top of the frame, and work progressing on the others.

Mrs. Pondero wants to find the queen, and make sure she is doing well. She also wants to see if most of the frames are being used, and make a decision about whether to add another brood box. So she removes and inspects each frame.

She removes the superfluous honeycomb.

Even the son-in-law participated. He pulls a frame for inspection, and receives a tip from Mrs. Pondero. I'm getting quite skilled at using the camera's zoom capabilities. After all the inspection is complete, Mrs. Pondero decides to add the new brood box.

Anticipating the good news, we had the new box handy.

Mrs. Pondero uses smoke to encourage bees back into the hive. She doesn't want to harm anyone when placing the new box to the hive.

Careful placement.

Then return the feeding tray, and...

... the lid.

Finally, the tie-down strap is replaced. It has been quite windy out here on the prairie lately.

And at the end of the day, Mrs. Pondero took the superfluous honeycomb and produced a small batch of bee's wax. It was a day which provided hope for a honey sweet future.

Weekend Update

Normally, I like to have some kind of consistent theme to these posts. Today, however, there's just a few random updates. Life is has been eventful lately.

Last night we stepped out on the front porch and saw this hanging around a decorative plant support. Apparently, it also supports the ubiquitous prowling Texas Rat Snake. Could we have rats and mice out here on the prairie?

Mrs. Pondero first spotted it up on a ledge eating June Bugs. I suggested that he find his way back to the prairie grass and better fulfill his true purpose in life.

My daughter and son-in-law came for a visit this weekend. That means said son-in-law has an opportunity to rip the legs off the old man.

He just purchased this nice urban fixed gear, and decided to let it visit the country. We avoided gravel, and it worked very well on the mellow rollers. He accomplished his purpose. Old man legs were definitely trashed.

I did my usual thing, pausing to catch my breath and admiring the waterways.

By the way, for those interested in Mrs. Pondero's honeybees, stay tuned for an update. Those bees have been...well...busy as bees. Update forthcoming.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I remember thinking to myself at one point after the NAHBS 2011 in Austin that if I were able to get another bike now, it would likely be a 650b A. Homer Hilsen set-up similar to this one except fixed.

The point is that I'm very pleased with what this bike has become for my riding conditions. So I will take a moment to express my joy...

...and my thanksgiving, for I am greatly blessed.


After seeing the sunbeam highlight the gravel dust on my bike yesterday, I took a few detail photos of the working bits. Except for the day Homer has a bath, it seems like it perpetually looks like this.

I had two reactions. The first one was how, with the right light, that dust just glows.

The second was, "I'll probably need to replace a few bits soon."

While I was contemplating my dusty cassette, Tim requested a little more information on my Edelux/rack set-up. Turns out his request fits nicely with my details theme.

Basically, I'm using a Rivendell "Mark's Rack" up front, which has a flat tab on the front. This rack is more than it needs to be to function simply as a front rack, but versatility is its main attraction. I've used it as a front and rear rack on multiple bikes. That tab, with a simple "L" bracket from the hardware store, made mounting the Edelux quite easy.

I purchased screws in multiple lengths, with nylon lock-nuts, to sort-of customize the fit.

Because the light is somewhat cantilevered out beyond the mounting screw, I was concerned about rough roads and extensive gravel vibration. I figured that the light would loosen and rotate forward, and I'd be continually adjusting the aim of the light. Fortunately, it has stayed in place so far. Compared with the prior fork-mounted configuration, this is fantastic. No wheel shadows.

Now that I've been reminded how well this works, I think I'll schedule a ride for tonight.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lonely Stretch Visit

Spring time, with its new vibrant green and abundant sunshine, is even more enjoyable with a brisk morning start. We had temps in the lower 40's this morning, but that kind of refreshment is rapidly being replaced with what comes next.

Another case of the adequate being pushed aside for the new and improved. Another one-lane bridge is lost to progress. As a civil engineer, I understand load capacity and safety concerns, yet somehow the prior structure did its job for decades.

I spent most of my time on paved roads today, but did squeeze in time on a lonely stretch of gravel not visited lately. It is one of my favorites because it follows a ridge, gives pleasant views, and is amazingly void mechanical sounds.

There was this mechanical device, squeaking in the wind, and it was an auditory and visual standout.

This little stretch of lonely gravel offers views that provoke pondering, "I wonder where that goes?"

After a pause to soak in the quiet, I turned into a tailwind, and made it back to my prairie home sooner than I really wanted.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lakeside Coffee

Like the skillfully blended strings of a symphony orchestra, the sound of wavelets kissing the shore combined with bird song, and the steamy gurgle of my Bialetti Moka Express delight the senses.

a finger of the lake all to myself

at the water's edge

simple stove

"Myles-inspired" homemade windscreen

Bialetti Moka Express coffee maker
(a birthday gift from my lovely daughters...thank you, ladies!)

brew time view

cup at the ready


worth doing,
worth doing right

Saturday, April 2, 2011

JRA Fitness

This blog post will present one way to improve bicycling fitness. I am not a coach, trainer, bicycle racer, or even a gifted athlete. In the past, I have raced, and have previously followed a structured training regime. There is no question that I was much faster on a bicycle back then, but this approach has nothing to do with that. As I have said before on this blog, and as a commenter on other's blogs, I don't like the "training" word. I like to go out and ride for 3-4 hours (occasionally more). I like just riding around (JRA), and want to have sufficient physical capability to do so in relative comfort. This post describes how I do it.

I try to minimize encounters with high speed motorized vehicles. I find that I enjoy JRA more if it is relatively quiet and I'm not constantly watching my back. Enjoyment is key.

I stop to admire the sights. This allows me to take photos that I can use in this blog. I like to document my adventures for future reflection. Sometimes folks seem to enjoy seeing the images and even leave encouraging comments. Besides, stopping to take photos allows me a brief recovery after relatively hard efforts. I say "relatively hard" because these efforts are not like the tortuous interval sessions I once did.

I pick routes that include rolling hills. I don't have monstrous, epic climbs to discourage me, or wear me down. Instead, these rollers allow for more variety and visual interest than pure flat ground. In addition, they offer an ability to mix in recovery with those harder efforts.

Since we have numerous "relatively hard" efforts mixed in the route due to the rolling hills, I have more opportunities to stop and take photos of things that I like (and catch my breath).

In addition to avoiding encounters with motorized vehicles, I like to choose a road surface that promotes JRA fitness. Gravel provides that sweet Rice Krispies "snap, crackle, pop" sound that I find delightful. It also provides a little more resistance to pedaling efforts. When you see a "One Lane Bridge" sign, you have a clue that you are on the right kind of road for JRA fitness.

One lane bridge? No problem. There's no waiting to take turns here. However, I might choose to wait a minute to take a photo. Because where there is a bridge, there is often a climb on the other side.

JRA fitness is greatly enhanced by using a simple drivetrain. There is no fussing with optimal gear ratios, and no thinking about fine-tuning the machine to improve speed or reduce effort. You just pedal and work with what you have, and what the conditions bring you. Think of it this chainring + one cog + fixed wheel = JRA fitness. The simple drivetrain builds adequate strength for uphills, improves spin for downhills, and improves patience and mental fitness at all times.

Sometimes written instructions are not sufficient. So I've included a short video clip to help you visualize how JRA fitness looks in practice. Keep the suggestions of this post in mind, and watch the video. When you give JRA fitness a try, it should look something like this...except it should last longer. If you are a recovering racer and need special assistance, demos can be arranged on Saturday mornings at my northwest Denton County, Texas fitness center. I have found that recovering racers often need more intensive care, sometimes in the form of a micro-tour.

The JRA fitness approach doesn't make me stronger, more powerful, faster, or leaner. It makes me happier.