Marker Alpinist and Leashes

I’ve been using B&D ski leashes since Art Freeman recommended them several years ago. They’re a superb alternative to the itty bitty short leashes the binding makers sell. I managed to go several years without breaking a fuse link, and this year I’ve already managed to break two.

Although mine seem to have failed during traveling near other pairs of skis, the fuses are designed to break during spectacular yard sales and to prevent skis from being avalanche burial anchors. Bypassing the fuses is suicidal, touring without a leash isn’t awesome, and so I searched for an improvement.

Marker doesn’t document the feature but my Alpinist bindings have two itty bitty holes for attaching leash cords. I found an online comment telling me where to find them so I tossed my skis onto the bench and gave the bindings a closer look.

The active mount has the black cord included with the leash. I populated the second hole with orange 3mm accessory cord and a spare fuse. Next time a fuse breaks, I can just pop the leash onto the spare.


Solar Shenanigans

In early November I flew to Dallas and helped my buddy Ryan install a solar array. Since he had a large low-slope metal roof on his garage, we decided that was the right place to put them. Ryan’s dad also helped and in two days, the three of us had hoisted three large stacks of panels up onto the roof, bolted them down, and wired them all together.

Then we pulled the feed wires onto the roof, hooked up the three strings and then spent a bunch of time futzing with the inverters, replacing optimizers, and updating the locations of panels whose optimizers had invalid serial numbers on them (pro tip, check them all on the ground beforehand). Then we hooked up his eGauge meter so he can monitor total production and consumption.

On day 3, the inspector showed up, checked a few things, asked some questions, and then approved the final inspection. Since then, Ryan’s solar array had been making me jealous. Between the much higher solar factor in Dallas and having more panels, his winter production is ~10x mine.

e-cells e-bike brakes

In July of 2020, we purchased a 600 watt dual-motor AWD fat-tire e-bike from The bike has a motor in each wheel. The frame is super beefy and fairly heavy. It has been a hoot. Mostly we ride it on paved urban trails here in town, where the beefy frame and rack lets it excel at hauling home groceries. It’s more at home out at Meany Lodge where we ride it up and down forest roads in the mountains where the low-pressure fat tires provide abundant traction and good suspension. It can really haul on the loose gravel roads.

Last weekend I took it on a ride near Mailbox Peak with a group of friends. The bike did quite well at helping me ride up the mountain like I was 20 years younger and 20 pounds lighter. Where it wasn’t so awesome was blasting down the no-longer-maintained-and-sometimes-washed-out logging roads. I wanted to downhill hard and fast, like on my still-awesome Raleigh M-800 mountain bike. The E-cells brakes need to stop 70# of bike, 10# of gear, and me, while thrashing downhill at 30-35mph. I was experiencing significant brake fade and needing to plan my braking. The brakes lack authority. So I went shopping for upgrades and learned a few things.

Brake Pad Types

  1. metallic – longest life, greatest stopping power, more noisy
  2. organic/resin – quiet, good initial bite, glaze over / fade under heavy braking
  3. semi-metallic – combination of the two

The pads that came with my bike are Tektro A10.11, which is a sintered (semi-metallic) ceramic pad. That pad is no longer listed on the Tektro web site. The nearest OEM replacement is the E10.11 ($15), which is sintered organic. A higher performance metallic pad is the Tektro P20.11 ($24) which I have ordered. They provide a small boost in stopping power, but more importantly, they won’t fade under prolonged heavy braking.

Rotor Size

Bike rotor sizes start at 140mm and go up. The increased diameter of larger rotors provides more mechanical advantage so less friction is required to get the same stopping power. Larger rotors provide more thermal mass to absorb heat and more surface area to dissipate heat. Common e-bike rotor sizes are: 160, 180, and 203mm. Most e-bike forks are set up for 160mm rotors. Cheap ($10-15) adapters enable those forks to work with 180 and 203mm rotors.

The E-cells 600 comes with Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes on 160mm rotors (front and rear) with adapters. Because the front wheel provides ~70% of the stopping power, it’s quite common to use larger front rotors: eg. 203mm on the front and 180mm on the rear. The higher spec E-cells 700 and 1000 models have exactly that setup with hydraulic calipers.

Disc Brake Types

• Mechanical disc brakes are inexpensive, reliable, and solidly better than rim and other brakes of yesteryear. Like legacy brake systems, they are cable actuated. They have a single moving piston which warps the brake disc into the other pad, compressing it and providing braking power.

• Hydraulic disc brakes replace the wire cable with hydraulic fluid (DOT or mineral oil) which provides equal force on two opposing pistons. The reduced friction and doubling of pistons provides more braking power with less effort. Testing (varies a LOT based on bike and system) shows a 40-70% reduction in braking distance with hydraulic disc brakes.

• Hydraulic 4-piston disc brakes are fairly new, fairly rare, and expensive. They are the go-to option for higher speed (22+ mph) and cargo eBikes. The piston engagement is progressive: you initially get two pistons braking and as the rider pulls harder, all 4 engage for massive stopping power. That much braking power would be dangerous on lighter bikes, but it’s needed for fast downhills on heavy bikes. 🚵 😁 😈 

• Hybrid: there exists a hybrid, the Juin Tech M1 cable actuated hydraulic brake. They’re intriguing, promising substantially better stopping power than mechanical disc brakes for a modest upgrade ($160) price and a very simple install. The only “not paid” review data I found is that they are an incremental improvement upon mechanical disc brakes, not a step-change improvement like going from mechanical to hydraulic.

e-bike brakes

Another layer of complexity added to e-bike brakes is that the brake levers need cutout switches that disengage the motor when braking. The vast majority of bicycle brake systems don’t have this feature.

Combine the newness of 4-piston brakes with the much smaller ecosystem of brake levers with cutoffs for e-bikes and the choices get very narrow. As in, the full list is: Tektro E-725, Magura MT-5, Magura MT-7. I opted for the Tektro because the Magura’s have plastic fluid reservoirs.

The switch to metallic pads and 4-piston brakes should suffice. If not, my next move will be upsizing the front rotor to 203mm, for another ~12% increase in braking power.

2022 Patrol Race, 9h:46

Shane and Doug, on a training day

Last weekend was the annual 20-mile backcountry ski race that I’ve been training for since December. We start at Snoqualmie Pass and follow the Pacific Crest Trail through the backcountry for 20 miles, ending just past Stampede Pass at Meany Lodge. I raced this for the first time in 2020, when Dan, Greg, and I completed the race in 12 hours and 13 minutes.

I raced it again in 2021, substituting Maud for Dan, after Dan suffered a ski injury. Our team, Mock Speed didn’t get an official time because a mile into the course, Greg’s binding ripped off his ski. Since it’s a team race, everyone has to finish. After a failed repair attempt, we escorted Greg to a bail out point and Maud and I finished the course in about 10 hours.

This year I recruited a couple “kids” my age (Greg is 10 years my senior and Dan is 20) to join Quaranteam: Smells Like Strong Spirits. My goal for Doug, Shane, and myself was to best the fastest Meany teams time of 10h:32m. This year we had great weather, with a fresh dump of mid-week snow and several days of consolidation (reducing avalanche risk) leading up to Saturday. We started skiing in the rain which transitioned to gentle snow as the day cooled. We had great weather, a great time, and crossed the finish line in 9h:46m.

2021 Michigan Road Trip

This summer we drove to Michigan to visit my dad and celebrate his 75th birthday. Because I’m still playing the Superchargers Visited game (2019 trip, 2020 trip), I had to choose routes that didn’t overlap with previous ones. Fortunately, that left lots of fresh ground to cover and we spent a lot more of this trip on highways and less time on the interstates.

The slower pace and smaller roads made road tripping more fun as I got to experience that joy of discovery that is rare on freeways. Sometimes the discoveries are, “huh, this route through Kansas is every bit as interesting as every other route through Kansas.” Other times, like driving through northern Wisconsin and Indiana, we stumbled through some lovely little towns and cities that were well kept and seem to have avoided the fate of so many rustbelt towns.

This trips haul was 86 unique superchargers visited over 9 days of driving.


A year ago I gave my old AirPods to Kayla because the batteries didn’t last very long. Now they’ve reached the point where they only last 5 minutes on a charge. I’m pretty handy at replacing batteries in iPhones and  Watches so I looked up info on how to do it for AirPods. And then I looked at how much Apple charges to replace the batteries ($49 per Airpod, $98 for the pair). And then I found PodSwap. So I ordered a swap for $60. If you have an old pair of AirPods needing new batteries, try them and save 10%.

SkiMo: Ski Mountaineering

Our family spent our Jan-Mar weekends as one of the half dozen families that hosted ski guests at Meany Lodge. In a normal year, guests would spend the full weekends at Meany. Due to COVID, we opened only for day use this year, serving hot meals outdoors and doing all we could to assure everyone had as good a time as was safely possible.

My Patrol Race team from last year decided we’d race again this year. In anticipation of the big race in mid-March, I spent much of January and February prepping my gear and body for the race. The easiest conditioning was skiing the 3 miles to and from the Sno-Park to the lodge each weekend. In addition, I took every chance to sneak away from the Meany campus and into the backcountry with Bev, Maud, Jim, Dan, Adam, Ben, and anyone else who would go. Most weekends I was able to ski about 30 side or backcountry miles on my AT skis.

I was feeling confident in my conditioning when in mid-February I bungee-towed an under-the-weather-from-his-COVID-shot skier uphill for 8.5 miles. A week before the race, Dan broke his thumb and Maud filled his slot. Then another disaster, a couple miles into the race, and Greg suffered a binding blowout. We did a trailside repair that lasted a half mile. Since all 3 racers must cross the finish line together, that dashed our dreams of an official time. Maud and I then escorted Greg to a bailout point. All dressed up and ready to ski, Maud and I pressed on and finished the race in 10 hours. Had we not been disqualified, we’d hold the best time ever for a Meany Lodge team.

The Meany ski season ended in mid-March but we still have the best snow in the mountains that we’ve had in many years. With great snow, well tuned gear and bodies, why stop skiing now? Others feel similarly, and so each week plans have materialized as we keep getting “one more” ski in. As the snow retreats, we follow it up the mountains. Stampede Pass. Rainy Pass. Yakima Pass. Snoqualmie Pass. Amabilis Mountain. Roaring Ridge. Mount Saint Helens. Plans are forming for Mount Adams.

SkiMo, or Ski Mountaineering is a mixture of two of my passions: skiing and climbing mountains. I took a hiatus from both after buying our current house. With the house projects all nearing completion, much of the physical effort I had been focusing there shifted to skiing and now towards SkiMo. The differences between ascending a mountain on boots or skis isn’t dramatic. In soft snow, skis are vastly superior. On steeper slopes and firm snow, kick steps are often superior. With SkiMo ascents, we have both options. We recently ascended most of Mount Saint Helens on skis, then skis with crampons, and finally on boots. The difference between mountaineering and SkiMo is most pronounced on the descent.

The hardest part of climbing on my body, especially my knees, has always been the descent. With SkiMo, the descent is not just icing on the cake, it’s a second slice of cake included. Descending on skis is far more fun, dramatically faster, and huge bonus–my knees aren’t sore for days after.


A few months ago I listened to a How I Built This episode about the Dripsie, a meticulously and carefully designed sink strainer. I have a garbage disposal in the bottom of our single bowl kitchen sink and thus have no need for a Dripsie. I bought a two-pack anyway and took them up to our ski lodge to try them out.

They work much better than the old stainless strainers full of little holes. Even when they’re full up with food scraps, they continue to drain very well. Tonight Alicia asked me where I got them. At first I couldn’t remember and googled a few terms related to sink strainers with no luck at all. Then I finally remembered the name Dripsie and voila.

Finance books worth reading

Here are a few books on finance and investing that I’ve read and recommend.

  • The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
  • The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein
  • Financial Statement Analysis by Martin Fridson
  • One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch
  • Asset Allocation by Roger Gibson
  • The Neatest Little Guide to Stock Market Investing by Jason Kelly

Humor: COVID 19

  1. What types of jokes are allowed during quarantine? Inside jokes!
  2. I’ll tell you a coronavirus joke now, but you’ll have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.
  3. Why do they call it the novel coronavirus? It’s a long story….
  4. Why don’t chefs find coronavirus jokes funny? They’re in bad taste.
  5. What do you tell yourself when you wake up late for work and realize you have a fever? Self, I so late.
  6. Let me get this straight, there’s no cure for a virus that can be killed by sanitizer and hand soap?
  7. Why didn’t the sick guy get the joke? It flu over his head.
  8. When this virus thing is over with, I still want some of you to stay away from me.
  9. If these last months have taught us anything, it’s that stupidity travels faster than any virus on the planet, particularly among politicians.
  10. Wait – you’re telling me that my chance of surviving all this is directly linked to the common sense of others? You’re kidding, right?
  11. People are scared of getting fined or arrested for congregating in crowds, as if catching a deadly disease and dying a horrible death wasn’t enough of a deterrent.
  12. If you believe all this will end and we will get back to normal just because we reopen everything, raise your hand. Now slap yourself with it.
  13. So many coronavirus jokes out there, it’s a pundemic.
  14. Whoever decided a liquor store is more essential than a hair salon is obviously a bald-headed alcoholic.
  15. Remember when you were little and all your underwear had the days of the week on them. That would be helpful right now.
  16. The spread of Covid-19 is based on two factors: 1. How dense the population is and 2. How dense the population is.
  17. Remember those times when you wished the weekend would last forever? Wish granted. Happy now?
  18. It may take a village to raise a child, but it’s going to take a vineyard to home school one.
  19. Did a big load of pajamas so I would have enough clean work clothes for this week.

(some jokes without links blatantly stolen from Dean Forbes post on NextDoor)