Great Products #1

Today I replaced the brake shoes on my commuting bike. After 350 miles, I had noticed that the OEM pads performed poorly and squeaked and chattered when wet. Worse, while changing a tire I noticed gouges in my rims (see photo). Notice the shininess of the old pads. That shine is metal bits of my rim that the cheap pads ground off with dirt and road debris. While that might tempt some to pony up for disc brakes (thief magnets) but I had a better idea.


Ten years ago I purchased a set of Kool Stop brake pads for my Mt. Bike. I’m not sure how many thousands miles I’ve rode them but they are fantastic pads. They brake wonderfully in all weather conditions including grainy Michigan dirt, urban road grime in Georgia and Washington, and slippery Texas clay. Part of why they brake so well is that they clean the rim instead of grinding in debris. After buying them, I never gave another moments thought to braking problems.

Until I got my commuter. I had looked for Kool Stop pads at two of the Local Bike Shops and neither carried them. I had considered taking the pads off my Mt. Bike. But then it would be lacking a set of decent pads. I did a quick internet search and ordered them off I’m almost disappointed there will be no rain for tomorrows ride.

bicycling to work, update

As I reported last month, I have been bicycling to work. Since I was out of shape and the ride is 9 miles each way, I started slowly and rode only two days a week. Since Jun 11, I have bicycle commuted 16 days and rode 288 miles. During that time I have cut my commute time from 50 minutes to 35. My legs aren’t yet strong enough that I get a good cardio workout but I’m making good progress. My one-way commute times are:

  • By Car: 20m
  • By Bike: 35m
  • By Bus: 55-65m

Each day I bicycle to work instead of driving costs 30 minutes of time. In exchange for that 30 minutes, I get my prescribed 70 minutes of exercise. It also saves about $4 in diesel fuel but that cost is offset by buying and maintaining my bike. Of course, there are fringe benefits to biking to work. After the initial weight spike as my leg muscles rejuvenated, I am losing a pound a week. Very soon I shall start riding 3 days a week. 

home in Washington

Friday began at 4AM. By mid-morning, not a single boat had caught a fish and we hadn’t gotten a nibble. The four of us headed back with empty coolers and dampened spirits. But as everyone knows, a bad day fishing is still better than the worst day ____ing. At the docks, the warden shared that nobody was catching Salmon. That made us feel better about getting skunked.

On my way home, I stopped by the Alderwood Mall Apple Store. A couple Geniuses and I agreed that a bug in the latest version of Apple’s iPhone SDK (beta 8) caused my iPhone some irreparable harm. I walked out with a brand new iPhone and a $0 invoice. It’s nice to have a single vendor that builds the hardware, OS, and SDK. It is even nicer when that vendor stands behind it.

As I resumed homeward on I-5, a great song started playing on the radio. I cranked up the volume and sang along. Loudly. As I popped up over a hill the loveliest of images appeared. The day was sunny and bright without even a hint of haze. Which means that despite being 50 miles away, Mr. Rainier appeared so large and imposing that I paused to gaze at her majesty. It warms a part of my soul to be near the mountains.

On Monday, we caught fish. See the photo at right.

Texas Michigan driving stats

One way mileage: 1,290 (Garland to Cadillac)
Total miles driven: 3,294
Total gallons of gas: 129
Avg. price per gallon: $2.94
Total gasoline purchases: $380.40
Gas stops for Odyssey: 4 (one per state: AR, MO, IN, MI)

Travel Cost for 4 persons Cost Time (1 way)

Flight costs include auto rental ($300) and airport parking ($84).
Flight times include drive to airport (1 hr), checkin and security (2 hr), rental car pickup and drive from GRR to Cadillac (2 hr).

Flight, direct ($300 ea) $1,584 7 hrs
Flight, 1 hop ($200 ea) $1,184 9 hrs
Auto – Honda Odyssey (fuel) $300 16 hrs

On the drive to Michigan, we hit snow in Lansing and saw almost a dozen cars in the ditches on I-96. The GRR airport was already shut down so if we had flown, we’d have been diverted to another airport and stranded with many other holiday travelers.

During our stay, I made a day trip from Cadillac to Lansing, hitting snow near G.R. on the way down. The entire return trip was in near whiteout conditions. Cadillac gained 8 inches of snow during my half-day absence. Kayla now confidently asserts that if it is snowing, we’re in Michigan.

The return to Texas was similarly exciting. When we left Michigan at 8 PM, a winter storm was in progress and the temperature had plummeted. The traffic grooves within each lane of the freeway had iced over. For those daring enough to drive “in their lane,” the roads were treacherous. We saw two tractor trailers, an Indiana police cruiser, and an assortment of other vehicles inadvertently parked in the snow filled ditches along the highway. Progress was slow but once past Indianapolis, the ice was gone and the roads cleared up. We drove through the night while the kids slept, arriving around 2 PM.

It is easy to imagine that flying would have been better. But both flights would have been delayed, erasing the time benefits. And when flying, we are separated from our luggage, making it onerous to placate travel weary companions. Driving was definitely the right choice.

Texas weather & Junior 2.0

In response to Martha’s “it’s snowing” post, I find it timely to point out that summer is finally over in Texas. The 100° days are behind us and from here through most of December, we’ll have the windows open each day and night, enjoying the cool fall weather.

A neighbor (Barry) and I are getting out and walk/jogging since is has finally cooled off. Our friends and family back in Michigan are getting ready to hole up inside for the winter, and we’re finally emerging from our air conditioned abodes. Texas is not all that different.

Junior 2.0 is due in 8 days. We’ll see if he is anxious to see what all that noise outside his cocoon is.

The last leg

We are in Kansas, with only a few miles left before we cross into Oklahoma. With any luck, we shall be home in about 5 more hours.

Salt Lake City – Hot as Hades at the Hilton

We have departed Salt Lake City.

I hereby issue a caution for lodgers in SLC when the temperatures are high (above 90°). Do not expect that because the Hilton is a 4-star rated hotel that they will have adequate air conditioning in the rooms. Silly us, for having such lofty expectations.

We checked in nice and early at about 6pm. The room a little on the warm side (about 75°). I checked the thermostat and it was set for 68° but the A/C wasn’t on. Strange. So I adjusted the thermostat down to 60° and we went out for dinner. We got back around 10 and the room was cooled to about 72°. I was not ideal but it was good enough. We went to sleep.

At 2:30AM Jen and I both awoke sweating and with parched mouths. The room was around 80° and the A/C was not running. We called the front desk who sent up a maintenance man. He checked the thermostat, pulled the little A/C vent off, peered inside, reset the thermostat, and when the little unit began spitting out cool (not cold, cool) air, declared all to be well.

A half hour after he left the room was no cooler than before so I walked down to the front desk and asked for another room. We moved down the hall from room 514 to 517. Upon entering the room I noticed that it too was about 75° in the room and the temp setting on the thermometer was at 68°. Being an engineer with a mimimum of moderate intelligence, I began putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Continue reading “Salt Lake City – Hot as Hades at the Hilton”

What’s for dinner?

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One is a fish that has a reputation for eating people, the other is a people that has a reputation for eating fish. Guess what we are having for dinner? (hint, not the shark)

The truth about going home.

So many people, with so many questions. We have been so short with answers. It is time to finally confess.

Will we ever return to Texas? I can give you a few details that narrows down our timeline. We have a long tradition of making blackberry pies while in Seattle. We discussed blackberries on the way up here, again while here, and the state of blackberry ripeness before Jen went to Michigan.

There is good news to be had. Eight days ago, I picked 3 ripe blackberries and fed them to Kayla. She enjoyed them very much. This morning, all three of us went on blackberry patrol. This time we picked handfuls of plump black berries and munched on them. Quite soon, we will pick bowls full of blackberries and there will be blackberry pie a la mode. Then, at long last, we can contemplate the journey back to Texas.

Oh, and the salmon are starting to bite.