Big Nellie Update

On Thursday evening, I was riding Big Nellie, my long wheel base recumbent, home from a social event in DC, when the front fork (the part that holds the wheel to the steering mechanism) snapped off. The bike is a Tour Easy which was made by a company called Easy Racers. Easy Racers apparently went under a few years ago. Many of the components on this rather exotic looking machine are standard bike parts made by companies like Shimano and Grip Shifter. Alas, the fork is not one of them.

I posted a picture of my fractured friend online and tagged Bikes@Vienna, the shop where I bought the bike 20 years and over 43,000 miles ago. To my surprise, Tim, the shop owner, said he might have a replacement fork. I drove Big Nellie out to Vienna and dropped it off.

The next day I heard back from Tim and one of his mechanics. The forks they have are not the right size so Tim advised that I send an email to the man who last owned Easy Racers and cross my fingers.

I followed his advice but also sent emails to several well known (to me anyway) recumbent dealers all over the country. One immediately responded with a “no.” A few hours passed when I received an email from Peter at Bicycle Man in Alfred Station, New York. (I am a native of upstate New Your and had to look this up on a map. It’s between Elmira and Buffalo.)

Lo and behold he had a few original Easy Racer forks. After a couple of phone conversations made unproductive by my rank ignorance of bike components, Peter offered to call Tim and iron out a solution. As it turns out, the fork is incompatible with my stem and headset (parts that connect the fork to the handlebars) but that can be remedied by replacing the latter two components which are standard bike parts.

As I write, my new fork is on its way from upstate New York to Northern Virginia. I won’t see the completed bike for several weeks because this is the peak time for bike repairs, a situaiton exacerbated by the pandemic.

The bike also needs a new middle chainring, which was damaged during my crash somehow. And, since I haven’t done any maintenance on the bike in years, there is a laundry list of other repairs. For example, the Grip Shifters lost their tackiness a long time ago, an issue I have been remedying with hockey tape. And since the bike is in for work anyway, I am getting a new chain and cassette (rear gears). The chain is pricey because this bike uses three chains linked in one long loop.

I am not replacing the bar end plugs. I have plenty of wine corks which had a little panache.

So thanks to the interwebs and the brotherhood of recumbent bike dealers, I believe I’ll have Big Nellie back on the road in time for some riding later this summer.

Scrape, Ride, Paint, Ride, Level, Ride, Dig, Ride, Watch, Read, Ride, Rest

April was a mixed bag of work around the house and riding. Most days I spent a couple of hours on a project in the morning followed by an afternoon jaunt on my bike.

Projects

I finished two projects. One involved re-painting a steel stoop. It was in rough shape seeing as how the last time I painted it W was president. (Or was it Clinton?) Most of the work was prep. Scraping and grinding and sanding for hours on end. I thought it would go on forever. The actual priming and painting took only an hour or so each. The second project involved fixing some landscape timbers that had been undercut by a giant surface root from a volunteer silver maple. The timbers see saw if you stepped on them. I had the option of cutting the root or working around it. I ended up leaving the root alone and raising the timbers using some bricks I had lying around. It looks okay but will probably only last a year. This took only a few hours. mostly excavating and cogitating.

While this was going on, we had a tree company come and take down two trees, a diseased white pine and another silver maple. The tree crew also removed a couple of Russian olive bushes that were distressed. (They were growing sideways.) The tree folks ground the stumps leaving me the task of cleaning up the aftermath. This involves a great deal of digging and raking and even some root chopping. The soil is mostly clay so this turns out (I am still working on it) to be exhausting work, especially in the recent 80+ degree heat.

I began the month riding The Mule then switched to the Cross Check. After a week on that bike, I’ve moved back to Big Nellie, freed from her basement dungeon. It took a few rides to get my bent legs back but now I’m having a good time banging out one 30-mile day after another.

Miles

I managed to ride 862 miles, or just a tad under 29 miles per day. Last year I only did 772 miles in April so I feel like I’m improving a bit. Year to date I’ve ridden 2,891 miles compared to last year’s 2,906 (which included a leap day). Even though I am 397 miles off the pace for 10,000 miles I am well within reach of another 10,000 mile year, because the big mileage months lie ahead.

The Mule hit 61,000 miles during the month. That’s pretty good for a bike I was going to get rid of 21 years ago. Glad I kept it.

Watching

We watched The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I thought it was kinda meh. I did like Erin Kellyman as the chief baddie. We also watched Concrete Cowboy, a strange movie about horse riding in a poor black neighborhood in Philadelphia. Basically, we’ll watch anything with Idris Elba in it. This one literally put me to sleep though.

My Octopus Teacher won the Academy Award for documentary feature. Entertaining. Octopuses are pretty strange critters.

I also watched nearly all of the Washington Nationals games. I am still not comfortable with going to a game in person. The mostly cool weather only reinforces my reluctance. Klarence, who had yet to be vaccinated, went to one game and said it felt creepy being there with a socially distanced crowd. (She had her first shot a few days after.)

Speaking of shots, I received both my Pfizer shots in March and became fully immune on April 1. I am old enough to have had vaccines for smallpox, polio (one shot and one sugar cube, if I am not mistaken), measles, mumps, shingles, pneumonia, tetanus, and influenza. If vaccines were dangerous, I’d have exploded years ago. Go for the jab, dear readers!

Reading

I only read two books this month. One was a 730-page biography of Sam Phillips by Peter Guralnick. It was overlong and repetitive, not nearly as good as the author’s Elvis and Sam Cooke bios. Still Phillips was quite a force in modern music as he was the first person to record Sly Stone, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Charlie Rich. He also recorded Bill Justis playing the song Raunchy which is a guitar instrumental. John Lennon was so impressed with 14-year-old George Harrison’s version of Raunchy (played on the upper deck of a bus in Liverpool) that he brought him into the Quarrymen. Phillips’s recording techniques were crude but innovative. The rest of his life involved radio stations and such and wasn’t very interesting.

The other book was The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. It’s a series of case studies of neurological patients with truly strange behaviors. I read this when it came out 35 ears ago and loved it. This time around it didn’t hold my attention.

Stenosis Update

One would think that with all the digging and raking I’ve been doing that my back would be deteriorating by the day. Not so. My stenosis pain has been mostly in check. I do have to take stretching breaks during my digging/raking work but I have to say that I am rather shocked that I’ve made it this far without screaming pain in my back and legs. (The stretching I do is a simple runners stretch involving leaning against a wall and stretching my calves, hamstrings, and glutes. I think it also decompresses my discs.) I took the last day of the month off and went for a two-mile walk. After a quarter mile, my lower back started to ache a bit but the pain didn’t build and I managed to complete the walk without much difficulty.

Looking Ahead

May holds more of the same. Summer bike touring is on hold until I see how the pandemic plays out. Also, my daughter is moving to law school in early August so I need to be home to help with that. After that, maybe a week-long tour of sorts in August followed by a month-long tour this fall. (New Orleans seems like an interesting destination.)

Spring Cleaning

Colors

It’s been an odd couple of days around here. Every day a new plant seems to burst into color. Crocuses, forsythia, daffodils. Cherry trees. Redbud trees. These have mostly come and gone but now we are in tulipalooza. I grew up in Ak=lbany NY, a former Dutch settlement. Every year there was a tulip festival. It was a big deal. Or so I am told. I never once attended. Around DC you can’t help but attend. Tulips are everywhere. The Pentagon Reservation (they actually call it that) and the Arlington Memorial Bridge are two places with tulips on display. The front of our house, and countless other houses in suburbia, are another.

In time the tulips will shrivel and die back of course. Don’t despair; azaleas are about to go nuts! We have three azalea bushes that are ready to burst into color any day. Two other azalea bushes planted last year did not survive the winter. My theory of the case is that they were planted too far under the eave of the house and didn’t get enough moisture. If you want to get your azaleas on, there are two pretty cool places in the DC area. One is Bluemont Park in Arlington. It’s right off the W&OD and Custis Trails. The other place is the National Arboretum in Northeast DC. It’s a bit tricky to get to by bike but once inside the biking is grand.

My ungodly looking lilac bushes (they are more like skeletons) are starting to leaf out. Soon their aromatic blue blossoms will emerge, as long as my attempts to cut the bushes back last fall didn’t do them in. I love the smell of lilacs. They remind me of my grade school. I remember going out the door and getting hit with a wave of that glorious scent. Alas, the DC are a is too far south for serious lilac bloomage.

Taxes

Somehow, someway I did several things today that worked out right. The other day I e-paid my estimated taxes. I screwed up the Virginia filing and called the tax office in Richmond this morning to clear things up. After waiting less than five minutes, I talked to an honest-to-god human who told me that I would be fined $500 for my error.

Just kidding.

She was very helpful. She told me my error didn’t stop affect the payment and everything should be okay.

Changing

The other day I brought Big Nellie out of the basement – as sure a sign of spring as you’ll ever see. What you can’t see from this photo is the bald rear tire. It turns out that riding hundreds of miles with the rear tire contacting a resistance unit is not the best thing in the world for tread life.

I found an old Schwable Marathon Plus tire and decided to use it as a replacement. This tire probably has over 5,000 miles on it but you’d never know it. Marathon Plus tires are practically indestructible. And, better yet, they rarely get flats. This is especially good news because installing a Marathon Plus tire is a total pain. I have lost quite a lot of skin on my fingers getting one of these beasts mounted. To make matters worse changing the rear tire on a long wheel base recumbent is like wrestling a dolphin. The bike has a very unbalanced weight distribution. Trying to keep it in one place while working on it can be next to impossible.

So I decided to use my repair stand.

It took me three attempts to get the bike on the stand. The first try worked but I placed it on the stand with the chain facing the lever that clamps the bike to the stand. Not gonna work. So, I took the bike off the stand and turned it around. Picking the bike up was significantly harder because I am right handed. With the bike oriented in this direction my weaker left hand had to pick up the heavier rear end of the bike. I managed to get it into the stand but somehow in the process of applying the clamp the dolphin came loose. Eek. I fed the bike a fish (just kidding again) and tried again. This time the bike stayed on the stand and I closed the clamp. Now I could tilt the bike so the front tire was on the ground and the rear tire up in the air right at the ideal height for swapping out the tire.

The old tire came off with only minor assistance of a set of tire irons. Now came the hard part. I started working the Marathon Plus onto the wheel. I worked my way around the wheel, pushing the tire bead over the rim wall. After only one attempt, the bead popped over the top of the rim. Then I turned the tire around to work on the other side. Somehow, some way I had managed to install that side too. Do you believe in miracles? I flipped the tire around to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. In another few minutes the wheel was back on the bike and I was good to go.

Practice

I have participated in the Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee every year except last year when it was cancelled because of the pandemic. (I suppose it could have been held but it would have had to be renamed the Infectionnee, or something like that.) The Errandonnee is a friendly challenge to do errands on your bike (or by foot or scooter or some means other than an gasmobile). Errandonneuring is not for the faint of heart. It takes determination and focus.

This year’s Errandonnee starts April 15. I suppose you could just jump right in to the event. With all the good weather we’ve been having, well intentioned errandonneurs often end up with errands undone. You just ride right past the store and end up doing a tour of tulips. There is only one way to avoid a failed Errandonnee.

Practice.

Yes, I know Paul Hornung and Allen Iverson made fun of practice. Let the record be clear: neither Horning nor Iverson ever completed an Errandonnee.

Little Nellie and I would not make the same mistake. Today, I rode my trusty Bike Friday to Walmart to pick up my glasses at the Vision Center. We made use of the fabulous bike parking at the shopping cart return. Walmart ain’t exactly woke when it comes to Errandonneuring. We were not to be deterred and finished the errand in fine fashion.

Then I went for a ride to look at the tulips.

The Errandonnee is open to the public. That means you. You can achieve errandonneuring greatness.

2020 – One Last Recap

It was such a fun year!

Okay, let’s start again. 2020 sucked but at least I salvaged some decent bicycling. I managed to go 10,240.5 miles this year. My Cross Check edged out The Mule for most miles: 4,179.5 to 4002.5. The other 20 percent of riding was split between Big Nellie (my Tour Easy recumbent) at 1,458.5 miles and Little Nellie (my New World Tourist) at 600 miles.

My bikes now have a total of 145,082 miles on them. Either one of them break or I do.

End of YearOdometer MilesMiles Ridden
Specialized Sequoia60,0204,003
Tour Easy44,2431,459
New World Tourist22,598600
Cross Check18,2214,180
Total145,08210,241

The monthly distribution was kind of Bell curvy. (I took stats, can’t you tell?)

As a prize for finishing in first place, the Cross Check got a new look. People used to pick me out during events by my humongous Carradice saddle bag. No longer. I switched to an Arkel Tailrider. It kind of wrecks the all black look, but it weights a bit less than the Carradice. The bike still weighs a ton but that will be addressed when I replace the tires with something lighter.