Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Adventures in commuting

As is the norm in our morning routine, I take the kids to their daycare on my way to work. Today was no exception. We pull out of the driveway and are off. A squeaky belt under the hood reminds me that the car is wanting a bit of attention. About a mile from the house at a traffic light, the belt gets much more persistent. I rev the motor a couple times as this usually placates the beast. The noise stops. A bunch of dummy lights in the instrument cluster light up and when the light turns green I notice the need for much more effort to make my right turn. That belt drove the alternator and the power steering pump. With nothing really to be done about it at that point, I press on and drops the kids off at daycare.

Pulling out of the parking lot it's about 7:30. I assume that the parts stores aren't open yet, and point the Subaru towards work. Whip out the cell phone and find Goog411 in my contacts list, place the call. AutoZone near my work is open and has my belt in stock. They're still 18 miles away, in morning rush hour this seems pretty far to go with no alternator. He advises me to pull into the nearest AutoZone or even his competitor Advance Auto Parts if I must and replace the belt. Atypically of me, I actually hear and heed the voice of reason.

Continuing down the road I double check that I'm not running any unnecessary electrical components, radio off,fan off, headlights off, dome light switch in off position just in case. Back to the cell phone, this time it's Google Maps. Where is the nearest AutoZone? Behind me. So much for the voice of reason. Where is the nearest Advance Auto Parts? Looks to be about 10 miles up the road. I'm getting paranoid about the battery and take a chance, I pull into a garage. They don't have my belt in stock. Battery has enough juice to restart the car so I motor on. I sweet talk the car another 4 miles down the road and I see the AutoZone sign. I literally start singing AutoZone commercial songs to the car.

I go in, buy the belt and some disposable gloves, borrow a 12mm socket and ratchet. The socket cracks trying to loosen the belt tensioner. (Their loaner tools remind me of some of the first tools I bought as a teenager, junk.) I go back in, dig through their toolbox, find a 12mm combination wrench and head back out to the car. I can't get to the bolt heads and actually turn them with the wrench. I go back inside pull a 12mm socket off the wall and walk to the counter. I show the guy his busted POS 12mm socket and ask him to ring me up for the one I just pulled off the wall so I can finish up and go to work. Instead, he roots around in the toolbox for five minutes or so to prove to himself that there really isn't another 12mm socket in there. I finally buy the socket fix the belt and have an otherwise uneventful drive to work.

Not having a car payment is nice but I think that if I'm going to drive older cars I need to be more prepared for things like this. I'll buy another belt and toss it in the back with the spare tire. I might put together a crude toolkit of my own too.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Track report February 16th & 17th 2008

Another track weekend has come and gone. Aside from being a little sore we've all (bikes and humans) returned unscathed. Here's some pictures.

I had a really rough start. Around last Wednesday I'd started to get a bit of a sore throat, Thursday it had escalated to headaches and runny nose. On Friday I felt like it was tapering off and that by Saturday morning I'd be fine for sure. So Friday morning Joe and I loaded everything up, I slipped into my role as transporter, and we aimed the rig north. We got to the track and setup shop. My co-worker Luke arrived with his bike a little after we did, so we helped get him setup too, all the while I'm popping Ibuprofen and DayQuil when I can. After dinner on the way back to the track I knew I was in trouble. It was cold outside but I was shivering uncontrollably. When we got back to the track, Joe setup a bed for me. I was in double layered sweat pants, a long sleeve shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, wool ski socks, a sleeping bag and two heavy blankets on top of that. I felt like being sunburned in a hot shower, I got a little delirious for a few minutes and then mercifully passed out for a couple hours. I woke up drenched but human again, peeled of some layers and slept the rest of the night. By the second session on Saturday morning I was within one second of my fastest time ever on the track. I think that sometimes the line between determination, stupidity, and luck simply goes on vacation.

This event was put on by Rob Johns, a track friend of ours for a couple of years now. It was his first effort at organizing and hosting a track event. The organization is called Track Attack, his sticker now adorns the front right of both my, and Joe's track bikes. He didn't seem to think that hosting a track event was enough and had a fund raiser for the Red Flag Fund this weekend as well. There were raffles and auctions of donated gear. I won a highly useful kickstand replacement called "The Krutch" and some truly horrendous (on me at least) sunglasses. They had Sonny's BBQ bring in dinner Saturday night. Rob even managed to get some truly fast guys to come out and show the rest of us around the track a bit. There was a mock race on both Saturday and Sunday between some of the hot talent. We were allowed to stand behind the jersey barrier at the front straight and watch. They were just goofing around at a pace over 10 seconds a lap faster than what Joe and I typically run. It was really amazing to see up close. The cherry on top was a lead/follow session (track ride where speed is controlled by event staff) in the opposite direction of what the track is always run in. Safety concerns prevent running the track in reverse at speed, but I'm told that there are serious discussions among the powers that be about making the necessary safety modifications to allow for it.

Sunday night we had dinner at a Japanese Steakhouse called Mori in Valdosta with about eighteen other track addicts ( I bet you can't guess what the dinner conversation was about!). We crashed at the track, then packed up and drove home this morning. I'm wiped out, more than a little sore, but happy.

Friday, January 18, 2008


So I'm a bit of a zombie now having spent more than a week sleeping on either a futon mattress on the floor or the couch. My pampered ass needs a bed. Fortunately today is the day it gets delivered.

Wednesday January 9th at about 11:30 PM I'm ready to climb into bed. My pillow is wet. Christy and I have had this waterbed mattress for over 10 years now. It's a 80 percent waveless bladder with a nice pillow top. We've loved the bed, and were always glad to return home from vacations and other trips that took us away from our bed.

Last summer we went to Colorado for a friend's wedding. In our cabin, we discovered a conventional bed that was as comfortable if not more so than our waterbed. Until then we had not thought it possible and had effectively resigned ourselves to never having underbed storage, and renting equipment to drain the bed whenever it was necessary to move it. Suddenly a whole new world of sleeping options had become available. We returned from our trip with a seed planted, that someday we would have a conventional bed.

Discovering that our beloved waterbed had sprung a terminal leak was not fun. I was about ready to pass out by the time I staggered to bed only to find a wet pillow. I spent about 45 minutes trying to get a siphon drain going on the bed while Christy snagged the futon mattress from Colin's room and made up a "bed" on the living room floor. I awoke the next morning to find that my siphon had failed after draining maybe three or four gallons. I called my boss to take a personal day, then I went to Lowes, rented the waterbed pump for what will hopefully be the last time and drained the bed. I busied myself with other bed dismantling tasks then arranged to meet Christy at the first of three mattress retailers during her lunch break.

The first thing to know dear readers is that the mattress industry goes to great lengths to ensure that you don't know what you're talking about when you walk into a store. The major brands make the same products for all stores, but different retailers get different names for the same product. So unless you have a photographic memory, the chances of you being able to successfully comparison shop two retailers is next to nil. The other thing to know is that mattresses sell for a whole heckuva lot more than you might expect. That Sleep Number thing that is all over the TV; the cheapest one retails at about $2500.

At the first store I rapidly realize that the imaginary prices I had in my head were laughable, suitable perhaps to cover the bedding and pillows. We find a couple mattresses within the new and still difficult to swallow price range that I'm thinking in, have the sales guy write his pricing for these products on the back of his business card and head for the door. As I'm reaching for the handle, the salesman knocks about $350 off the price of one of the mattresses, throws in delivery and a bed frame. It's a clever move on his part, I can't show this deal to another retailer because it's not on his card, but I did just learn that there is a LOT more room for movement on the price of these things than the sticker wold lead you to believe.

At the second store we find another salesman with similar products. Christy hops around from bed to bed until she has a couple that she likes and are not insanely expensive (although predictably, our price range grew a bit more). This salesman is a lot more friendly and we wanted to give him a sale, but we had decided to check three stores and there was one more, so we got his prices on the products Christy liked on the back of his business card and headed for the door. This guy also gave me a better verbal deal than the one written on the card.

The third store was looking to be more of the same, and we were pretty seriously thinking about going back to the second store and placing our order when we were presented with a couple of Kingsdown beds. The mattresses are obviously made using an altogether distinct type of fabric on the outside and felt very comfortable. The stitching all looked to be very good quality and it even had double the warranty at twenty years vs ten for the other manufacturers. In a room full of very nice mass produced beds, it stood out as being a cut above. It was priced accordingly. Having learned that there was room to move on the price from the first salesman, I started leaning on this guy a bit. He did a very nice job of holding his ground without being rude or confrontational about it. After about fifteen minutes of stalemate, during which Christy and I had already agreed that if we had to pay full price, we would, I told him that as much as I thought it was a superior product, I still needed to feel like I was getting a better deal. He made a phone call, something about trying to write up the order as if it were a commercial sale, blah blah blah. When he got off the phone he had come down nearly $400. Done. 24 months equal payments, no interest financing? Duh! So now in spite of having three cars and two motorcycles all paid off, I have a bed payment.

So we've come full circle now. Since that day when I committed to pay for two years on a bed, I've been sleeping on my couch. I'm cranky, I haven't actually slept for more than about two hours at a time without waking up to change position. I'm hoping that I'll wake up tomorrow having had a sleepiphany, and every day from now on will be a little bit brighter because I bought an extraordinarily comfortable bed.

Go to SLEEP bitches!!!!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Got some new tank pictures today. The Xenia has expanded even further and a section of it looks ready to move off to college. Other updates are covered by the captions for each picture.

Google Reader is a cool way to use RSS feeds to more quickly scan through content on sites that you regularly visit. You can also quickly share the articles that you think are interesting and others can subscribe to an RSS feed of your shared items. Think of it as a pull distribution method for all the web articles that you sort of want to email links to everyone about, but know that it'd be irritating if you did. Over there on the right of my blog page you can see some of the articles that I've recently shared.

Let me know if you start using this, I'd like to subscribe to the shared article feeds of any friends and family that use this.