Monday, July 26, 2010

Timing is Everything! Or is it??

Yesterday I woke up late. I work the graveyard shift and it really takes a toll on my ability to get rest. So when I have a day where I don’t have to do anything, I sleep. But the downside is that I hate to sleep the day away because it is so unproductive. I had the idea that I would sleep for as long as I needed, then get up and go for a nice mountain bike ride before I would have to go to work. So yesterday I slept a long time, 9 hours. I woke up and immediately saw that time was short and my mountain bike ride would most likely have to wait, it wasn’t “the right time” for me to leave. I sat down, a bit upset that I wouldn’t be riding, and prepared to have something to eat and watch a movie. I couldn’t get over the fact that I had slept so long and had to miss going for a ride. Then a thought hit me…why couldn’t I go for a ride? Just because I got up later than I had anticipated, there was no good reason for me to not get out on my bicycle and have a good time for an hour or two, other than it wasn’t what I had planned as being “the right time” to leave my house. So I put on my gear and went for a ride….and I had a great time!

When is the perfect time? I know that many of us have some sort of plan in mind to do something, whether it is to travel, fix the roof, get an oil change for the car, etc, but we usually are waiting for “the right time”. It seems that “the right time” never really comes along, and whatever we had planned on doing either has to be done out of desperation, for instance now that leaky roof has become a small waterfall and HAS to be fixed, or we don’t get a chance to do it at all, like travel before failing health makes it impossible. Why do we do this?! What makes us keep procrastinating? Why do we put off doing fun things or fail to get necessary things completed merely because we feel that timing is a factor that should be taken into account?

I blame society’s crazy rules. We have grown up and been indoctrinated into believing that we should plan out everything in our lives. We save up for vacations, Christmas, home repairs and continually plan when those things will impact our lives the best. Yet we never seem to understand that the longer we wait, the more reasons we will find to say that the timing isn’t right. How easy it is to say, I can’t fix the roof today because it might rain this afternoon, or it is just too hot? Have you ever heard a young couple talk about when they are going to have a child, yet what is keeping them from the amazing adventure of being parents is that it isn’t “the right time”? It is because we all believe that we have to be completely prepared for whatever it is we are planning, that every detail needs to be taken into account and provided for. But we don’t know what we don’t know….and will never be able to plan for everything.

So the next time that it seems easier to procrastinate because the plan has changed or doesn’t fit easily into “the right time” idea, stop and think. Is there ever really going to be a “right time”? Or could you take control of your own life and decide that NOW is the “right time”? The more you do this, the more you will realize that anything is possible at any time. Don’t let an imaginary rule stop you from living your life the way YOU want to live it, and when you want to live it……

As for me, I think I’ll go for another ride….right now

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lesson #2586 - The Gummi Factor

Lesson learned: Don't leave an open package of gummi bears on the seat in a hot car....(unless you like sticky seats)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The DMV, Part Deux - Logic's Revenge

Just an update on my adventure with the DMV from my post on June 18, 2010….My original hypothesis that the DMV only hires idiots has to be modified. I’ll give you that modification at the end of this little semi-rant. Nonetheless, I had to go back, seeing as my registration was not completed, and I still had to get the motorcycle registration paperwork finished. I decided that since I had to go back, I’d try a different DMV office, one that maybe didn’t hire inept, incompetent, and idiotic simpletons. So I set an appointment with the Newhall California DMV office.

The day before my appointment I printed out the part of the DMV website that explained the rule for the exception for the Brake and Light Inspection Certificate, the California Government confirmation that the Honda dealership I used for the Statement of Facts was licensed to make repairs, and the web page confirming that the Honda dealership was a motorcycle dealership. If you remember from the previous post these things were all bones of contention from the incredibly less than intelligent supervisor from the Burbank (not Glendale) DMV. We’ll just call her Deborah, for fun sake. I felt I had armed myself with the weapons to support my battle with the illogical and stupefying force that is the California DMV in such a manner that even a moron like Deborah would have to succumb to the logic and common sense of the supporting evidence that I had in hand. Confident and ready for battle, I looked forward to my visit.

The next day I made sure that I had all my paperwork in order, packed my motorcycle tank bag, and left for the arena…the Newhall DMV. Upon arrival I was surprised that when I checked in for my appointment I was quickly given a number without showing what paperwork I had brought, unlike the Burbank DMV, which asked to prove I was there for a registration appointment. As if anyone would lie about needing to be at the DMV, where even the masochistically insane avoid going because even they have their limits! I sat down to wait, expecting an extended stay before my number was called, so I pulled out my copy of War and Peace and started to read, with my copy of Mein Kampf ready to help fill the time when I was finished with the first book. I checked my supplies and saw that with proper rationing I could last for a month or so and hoped that this smaller DMV office would be a little quicker than Burbank…or I might be in trouble. Within 10 minutes my number was called! I was amazed and totally unprepared! It must be a ploy by the enemy to catch me off guard…

At the designated window a seemingly nice woman asked why I was there. I explained that I had to complete my motorcycle registration and that I did not have a Brake and Light Inspection Certificate, but I had a Statement of Facts filled out by a motorcycle dealership instead. I braced myself against the counter, steeled my nerves, and leaned forward ready for the storm to strike….but nothing happened. She accepted the paperwork I had, and began to look through it. She saw the Statement of Facts, looked it over, and placed it with the documents that were accepted….She had me fill out a form that I needed and while I was doing that she entered data into the computer. When I finished the form, she entered a bit more data, and handed me my new motorcycle registration, and new license plate tags! I stood there. Mouth open and staring in disbelief. After what must have been 15 seconds or so, I closed my mouth and said, “Thank you.” She told me that I was welcome and that I should have a nice day. I looked at the printouts that I had prepared, my weapons of logic and common sense. I ran through my argument for justice in my mind….and thought how could this be? So prepared to devastate my opposition and not a shot fired? I stumbled out of the office, put the new sticker on my license plate, and rode home, still dazed, but happy that the ordeal was over.

I said at the beginning that I had to modify my hypothesis of the California DMV in regards to who they hire, so here is that modification. The California DMV does hire people that do their jobs and take pride in being efficient. But what the DMV also does is takes every slack jawed moron employed by the DMV, every inept waste of human space on their payroll, every DMV employee that strives to do absolutely nothing for their paycheck, and places them at the Burbank DMV. Making it the largest collection of useless human flesh on the planet Earth. I know this sounds harsh and very unlike what I try to be every day, a positive and constructive person, but every time I have been to the Burbank DMV the frustration and unbelievable inability of the employees there has sent me home understanding why postal workers show up for work armed and hunting their comrades.

I can sit here now and calmly write this down. I know that in the future I will never return to the Burbank DMV, but will drive the extra 10 minutes to go to Newhall and return home much quicker and a happier person. I thank you, the reader, for indulging me this rant and I promise to try and be more positive in the future...but we all have our moments.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What to Look for When Buying a Used Bike

Lately I’ve been asked by several people about what to look for in when purchasing a used bicycle. This is a good question, because, like buying a used car, you need to make sure that what you get isn’t going to break as soon as you get it home. Buying a bicycle is supposed to be fun and exciting, something that you look forward to doing because you want to get out riding as soon as you can, and buying a lemon can really ruin your day.

The first thing I look at is the general shape of the bike. Is it clean? Is the paint chipped more than normal use would create? Is there an excessive amount of rust or corrosion on the bike? What kind of components are there, are you paying for top of the line derailleurs, but getting something much less? Chains are so often neglected, is this one rusted and looking like it needs to be replaced? How about the tires, do they need to be replaced, are they of a quality that you need? And what condition are the cables and brakes in? Inspecting the bike really quickly can let you know if this is a piece of machinery that you should be serious about. Now that the intitial quick inspection is done, it’s time to take a look at the bike a bit closer.

First off let’s take a closer look at the frame. This is the most important part of the bike, for obvious reasons. If the frame is bad, it doesn’t matter what kind of cool gadgets and gizmos you have, the bike just isn’t going to roll. Check the areas where all the frame tubes come together, the head tube, the bottom bracket, the upper seat tube, and the chain and set stays, for signs of cracking. Chipped paint, minute cracks, signs of corrosion could all be indications that the frame has problems that could lead to the bike being trashed. Check the major frame tubes for dents or bending. These are signs that something serious happened to the frame at one point and therefore you should pass on buying this bike. If the paint is scuffed or scratched it usually isn’t a big deal. Regular riding can create those minor scuffs and scratches. What you want to be on the lookout for are the really deep marks that show that maybe something bigger than the usual riding mishaps occurred.

Next take a look at the handlebars and controls. Are they showing signs of crashing? Are the grips torn? Are the handlebars bent? You need to remember that this is the control center of you cockpit. If things are broken, seized, or otherwise not functional, then you need to question how the bike has been maintained. Anyone that lets the controls fall apart, when they are your connection to the bike, will let the rest get worse. If the controls are good, then you are ready to move on to the next

Lift the front and rear of the bike and give the wheels a spin. Hopefully the wheels are fairly true. A bike with disc brakes can tolerate rims that are out of true (as long as it’s not too severe), but a bike with rim brakes needs to have fairly true wheels. The wheels can be trued if it isn’t too bad and the rims aren’t bent. But it is something to take into account. If you aren’t too good at truing wheels, then that will be an extra cost at the bike shop. It also indicates that the bike has been ridden fairly hard….While the wheels are spinning take a look at the brakes. Regular caliper or V-brakes should have enough pad wear left to not need replacing right away. They should be adjusted so that they make complete contact with the rim and don’t rub when the wheel is spun. Now this is really a minor point, but if they rub or don’t make good contact, then they need to be adjusted. Disc brakes are fairly easy. You are looking for pad wear and if the rotor is bent. Spin the wheel and if you hear the brakes rubbing, look and see if it is because the rotor is bent. A minor wobble is tolerable, but if you can see a real drastic wobble, the rotor is probably bent and needs to be replaced…this is added cost. Also check out the tires that are on the bike. What kind of tires are they? Will they work for your style of riding? Are they rotting? Are they pumped up and ready for a test ride? If you need to replace them its another added cost to take into consideration….

Next are the derailleurs and cables. Visually inspect both derailleurs and the cables leading to them. The derailleurs should be clean, or not too crusty, and the cables should not be too corroded or frayed. Since you already checked the tires, hop on the bike and go for a quick test ride. The derailleurs should change gears quickly and smoothly. Shifting that is sticky could be bad cables or weak derailleur springs.

Lastly, you need to look at the front chain rings and crankset. The chain rings should not be showing excessive wear from the chain. To replace the chain rings can be fairly costly, especially on a bike that you are just buying. Check that the cranks are not loose and that there is no freeplay in the bottom bracket. If the cranks are loose on the bottom bracket it is a simple matter of tightening things up. If there is freeplay in the bottom bracket, it needs to be replaced.

Remember that if you really like that bike, and the frame is good, all the other stuff can be replaced or repaired. Sometimes just the personal value, the enjoyment you get from a certain model or type of bike, makes all the other stuff you have to do to make it rideable worth it. I’ve purchased bikes that needed so much work that they really weren’t worth what I paid for them, but just the enjoyment of working on a bicycle that I personally liked made it a labor of love and worth every second and penny…In the long run, the bike that gets you out and riding, is the perfect bike!

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Hidden Gem in Your Back Yard

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week I drove up to Big Bear to spend some time with my parents and daughters, and to just enjoy getting out of the city. It had been several years since I had been up there and I was looking forward to seeing how things had changed. I also had brought along the mountain bikes to go for a ride with my girls. The bike ride was something that they had uncharacteristically requested and that I couldn’t, in good conscience, refuse to do (plus you know that bike riding is always something I’ll jump at the chance to do). I have to admit also, that I always remembered the drive to the lake as being a long three hours of freeway and nasty mountain road. My recall of the drive was so bad, that it really was a deterrent to me making the trip on other occasions, but I had decided to just relax on the drive and not worry about having a schedule on the way up.

So Tuesday at noon I hop into the car and start my trek across America…or at least from Glendale to San Bernardino. I was amazed when I actually reached the base of the mountain in only an hour. I really remembered it taking two hours to get to this point, so I was pleasantly surprised. I stopped for gas and a quick check of the map and continued on my way. Other than the car overheating on the way up the hill (my fault for not checking the radiator water) I had a nice drive. Not a nasty mountain road, but a pleasant drive with fantastic views. Within another hour of driving (not counting the overheating incident) I was in Big Bear at the timeshare ready to relax with my family. Instead of arriving irritated and unhappy about the long drive, I was happy and ready to spend quality time playing and kicking back with my daughters. I voiced my amazement to my parents that the lake was really a lot closer than I ever remembered it being.

I spent the next two days enjoying the great weather, cool breeze, and quiet lapping of the lake against the shore. I went swimming with the girls, took a guided boat tour of the lake, and went on a really fun bike ride with my daughters to the “village” to have a cold soda and a treat picked up from one of the local stores. Our little bicycle jaunt was so fun, my youngest daughter, usually the first to complain about having to actually pedal the bike, told me that she loved going for a ride with me and couldn’t wait to get the bikes out again in the future. My elder daughter was in full agreement. As we rode around the lake I was in awe at how beautiful things were. The trees, the mountains, the lake, everything was so picturesque. I know that there are trails and roads throughout the mountains there, many of them with historic points of interest and views that many people never see because they don’t leave the paved roads. I was beginning to understand what I had sitting virtually in my back yard. Overall the two days at Big Bear lake was an amazing get away and I vowed to make Big Bear a regular retreat and that I would begin exploring the hidden mountain trails on my bike.

My points for telling you all this is simple….First, don’t miss out on something just because you seem to remember it in a poor light. Your attitude about being inconvenienced or not enjoying something can really affect how you look at doing things. Go into it with a fresh attitude and open mind and you just might be surprised. My drive to the lake turned out to be quite enjoyable and surprisingly shorter than I remembered. And once I was at the lake, I wondered why I had been so foolish about making the drive to such a wonderful escape. Second, don’t overlook those gems that are just around the corner. I rediscovered a place that has so much to offer me, as far as mountain biking and relaxation potential, and I don’t have to drive to another state, or even for hours to get to it. This new environment feels like I’m in another world and yet it is so close. I’m sure that wherever you live you have a place that is the same. A place right around the proverbial corner, and never really on your mind as a location to get away from the usual grind. I will be returning to Big Bear a lot this Summer, either by myself for a nice bike ride or hike, or with my daughters to explore the mountains and our relationship with each other.