Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fish and Visitors ...

Old Ben was right.

Monday, December 22, 2008

F*ck Linus

A blog title inspired by Sir Hurl.Happy solstice (yesterday) -- it counts since I'm still awake. Thanks, kids, for the comments. LF, I'm surprised you have time to comment. You got yer hands full and all with relocatin' and stuff. Folks are dedicated. I love you all.

So, I have nothing to say. Might as well throw up (figuratively speaking) some photos ...

April tried to contest paternity, but there was little contest. Never argue with a lawyer, even at your own party.

Whoa, whoa ... WHOA ... why don't I remember this level of abandon at my own party? Wait, I think I'd abandoned all hope before this photo was taken.

This is, I have to believe, not the first time the Schleyer has awakened to mystery progeny. Musta been one fun party, eh?

Sweet Sylvia. Need I say more? This little woman knocks my socks off every day with her budding intellect.

There was a Halloween party and there was Noren. I'd pull this trick with my real fake eye, but you never know where folks' fingers have been.

Oh, Sov and Simon ... there are volumes to be written about the stretchitude of lycra. However, I'm not so sure man-on-man love isn't a crime in this instance.

Who are these people??

Sister Erin, where are you now?

Sideways and all, I like this photo just how it is. Willa is walking and going places she wants to be going. (Cutting 6 teeth simultaneously and keeping us all awake is more like it.)

I sharpened all the kitchen knives tonight. Don't you feel better? If you break into my house, I've intricately studied which one I'd grab off the magnet to fight you to the death (or at least to the ER). Don't you feel better knowing that? They're all razor sharp meaning any incisions are easier to stitch back together.

Don't break into our house. Knock, and I'll let you in. We'll feed you an awesome dinner and give you a glass of scotch. We'll stare at the tree and listen to music and chat. You can even stay the night. Doesn't that sound much better?

Happy days of holly.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like ...

... an overrated, commercialized adaptation of a pagan festival. Aww ... c'mon, Fleck.

All right. I'm not that cynical -- honest. But I have been dealing with comments to the effect of "Christmas has no meaning" from members of the family who shall remain nameless. I think it all depends on what you're looking for. Me? I tend to gush rather romantically when I envision fresh snow, candlelight, communal meals with family, open fires, time off from work, no reason to leave the house and, yes, giving and receiving a well thought out gift or two. For reasons of my own I do not assign a religious context to the holiday. However, one of my greatest spiritual ideals is unity and I do love the idea of a world united -- you know, Snoopy and the Red Baron style. While we do have a family "Christmas" tree, stockings, wreath, presents and all that other jazz, we will most likely spend more time and energy celebrating solstice this year.

We've had a weather whirlwind here in the T.C. of late. Last Friday night I added my tent to an urban camping cotillion attended by some two-wheeled partners in crime. Temps started out in the upper teens and only seemed to climb from there. Saturday was downright balmy for December in Mini-Soda. I emerged from the tent after 4 toasty hours and hardly felt the need for more than a vest up top. Sunday it actually rained most of the day and temps climbed to 38!

Then by mid afternoon the scale was plunging rapidly the other way. All that liquid precip was turning into a microfilm of ice on porches, sidewalks, roads, etc. Rain became snow (thank goodness -- snow covering ice delivers some traction at least) and we ended the wild mercury ride at -5F with a couple of fresh fluffy inches. A loss of 43 degrees in 12 hours or less is quite amazing. I had some serious soul searching to do before I could dress and mount up for the morning commute on Monday. Funny how 20mph winds at subzero feel as if they can literally begin peeling flesh from your nose and face. Maybe it's just me. Probably not.

About halfway to work I stopped off at a convenience store. The interior temperature was nice. I lingered and in addition to the purpose of my stop I ended up buying two candy bars. I don't often buy or eat candy bars, but it was so easy to make an excuse to stand inside the heated building just acting like I was "shopping" the way one might do at the mall or something. Heat was good. As if the employees didn't already find it strange enough that I was riding my bike in the subzero snowy weather, the fact that I was lingering in their quickie mart almost certainly pushed them to a conclusion that I was bonkers.

A little more about recent commuting experiences: I left work last night at about 8:45. The temperature was 2F. Steady snow all day had slacked off to a dreamy mist of glassy flakes floating through the sky. None of the secondaries had been plowed. I rolled out of the parking lot into one of my least favorite riding conditions -- pie dough that has been mashed and rutted by hundreds of car tires. Slipping back and forth I had no time to notice or think about anything else. When I popped onto a sidewalk and began breaking smooth, fresh snow my thoughts re-centered. There was little to no wind. There were also very few cars out and about. In the peaceful darkness I was alone to ride. My layering was perfect and the fact it was near zero was of no consequence.

I love the squeeky sound of bike tires crunching through cold snow. I enjoyed a lot of that. I slid through many corners. A few caught me off guard. My quick saves made me erupt into giddy laughter beneath my icy balaclava. The secondaries were sketchy but the paths were untouched save for a few footprints. Riding those was dreamy in 2-3" of powder. I cranked out steep hills at a brutally low cadence, hardly making it without walking, but I cranked them out.

Then just over halfway home I spied a car disabled, its driver crouched in front of the wheel well attempting to mount a spare. I stopped and asked if he needed help. He said he was fine. I noticed two things: 1) he wasn't wearing a jacket, hat or gloves and 2) my helmet light illuminated his work pretty well. So, I laid my bike down and helped him out. Before long I had the spare in hand, lining up the lugs while he cranked his pathetic little jack a centimeter at a time. We got the tire on within 10 minutes. He thanked me and I was on my way. He probably would have got it on his own but you never know. When he spoke I could hear he was cold and when people get mildly hypothermic they'll readily say they're fine because they think they are. Not saying he was, but I have developed a personal code that is shared by most winter commuting friends I know -- you never leave someone by the side of the road in winter. I've never had the opportunity to apply that maxim to a driver, but it felt good to put myself out there. Who knows, maybe that guy will notice bikers more, give us a wider berth when passing, tell others of his positive encounter.

Perhaps Snoopy and the Red Baron really can get along after all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cold in My Bones

I just can't shake it. I am not psyched for this winter riding season. I followed a friend's advice and invested in some new winter garments. Ibex woolen goods are awesome, by the way, and if you haven't explored the merits of wool -- be it thrift store surplus or flashy new superwool duds -- you need to do it. I'd say don't believe the hype, but there are countless merits to wool and, in my opinion, when you're using a fabric in a high-output activity like cycling, polyester quickly creates a not so pleasant sauna-like environment just beneath a shell. While the few items I added to my winter riding wardrobe have helped me dial in my layering better, there seems to be something missing. Maybe it's what Bob, Bob Seger that is, called the "fire down below."

It hasn't even been that cold yet. My chilliest morning commute was 15F so far. It has been gray and windy. The wind always takes it out of me, particularly those days when we get a wind shift that delights me with a headwind both ways. Maybe it's my longer commute, too. I tacked on another 20-30 minutes when we moved which translates to 30-40 extra minutes depending on weather and road conditions in winter. I see the family for an hour of frenzied activity in the morning. By the time I arrive home from work the kids are in bed. April's tired from work and shuttling the little ones to preschool and babysitters. There's a kitchen to be cleaned, a little quiet time and then a nagging reminder that it's time to go to bed and do it all over again the next day.

When I went back to school a couple of years ago I shifted into night owl mode. I'd stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning reading and studying and somehow still manage to get up at 7 to go to work or class by bike. I am convinced now that the inertia of excitement carried me through a lot of that period because I can't get by on 4-6 hours of sleep anymore. And I am less than zealous about leaving the warmth of the covers in the morning.

Maybe, too, it's something about my bike commuting. When you start riding your bike everywhere and looking for ways to curb your dependence on an automobile there is a lot of newness, creativity. Some of that has worn off. This is my third full winter of bike commuting. I sold my truck a year ago. I ride to work and anyplace I need to stop on the way home. It's just what I do. It's what I have to do and there's not much fuss to be made about it.

Am I happy I do it? Hell yeah. I believe in the commitment and all its benefits. I think I'm just tapping more into another side of it -- the occasional physical discomfort and the time commitment. An upside is I spend well over 2 hours a day on my bike and log about 160 miles per week. One downside is I spend well over 2 hours a day on my bike. I'm beginning to envy folks whose commutes are say 5 miles or so one way. 'Cause lately 16 miles has felt like a haul.

Temps are predicted to dip to around 10F tonight. We got a little snow and things were a bit slippery coming in this morning. I'm gonna ditch the clipless and switch over to platform pedals for a while. Ride in hiking boots. Maybe go for a foot down in the corners, try to have a little fun. After all, winter hasn't even begun.