Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ending my social media blackout

Rodeo Beach
For quite a lot of months now I have been relatively social media averse. Between run of the mill social drama, time constraints and ongoing recovery from "the big accident" last year, I just needed a break, especially from things like Facebook. I've been returning to more of what I have come to think of as my normal activities and activity levels, especially in the last couple months or so. Learning to manage some of the aftermath of the crash, get on with, rebuild and just plain old build life anew.

I remain a dedicated bicycle commuter though my knee still gives me grief and it's certainly weaker than it ought to be. I'm not doing much yoga or sailing right now but hoping to return to those as well. I am cycling more each day and trying to get out and climb redoubling my efforts and commitment to pursue the things I'm passionate about. Bound to those efforts I am now riding for Blackburn Design as a Blackburn Ranger. It's been fantastic thus far and I can only imagine it will get better as the project progresses. Without a doubt this is becoming a true growth experience on many levels from personal and physical to professional and creative, things I hadn't fully anticipated.

Here is an early look at a video introducing the project.

Blackburn Out There from Blackburn Design on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ano Nuevo Seal Rookery

A very cute, dangerous wild animal
After posting about the Chimney Rock release I realized I hadn't written up anything about the Ano Nuevo visit. The visit was back in February during the breeding season when there is a mix of males, females and seal pups. It's one of the few times when they haul out on land. baby seals are incredibly cute and tiny compared to the adults males that can reach well over 5,000 lbs. The pups start out about 60-80lbs and quadruple their weight while nursing before then losing about a third of that during a phase called the "weaner fast" toward the end of the eight to ten weeks they remain in the rookery learning to feed themselves once their mothers have returned to the ocean.

This one is likely just squalling for food
This was another outing with The Marine Mammal Center, a very worthwhile trip. No doubt at least a few of the many animals currently under the care of The Marine Mammal Center in Marin were among those we saw that day. I took several hundred photos, most are still in the editing and post production cue. A local venue in San Francisco has offered space for a show, so I may be putting something together in the coming months.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Giro Code Shoes

I recently got a pair of Code mountain shoes from Giro. After some initial rides of 80 or 100 miles, I have to say I love these shoes. The break in period was fast and painless and they're remarkably light and rigid giving them great efficiency on the bike with the mountain style sole adding utility for getting around on foot. The highlight yellow and black color scheme is a welcome option, even though there is no ghosting in, wearing cycling kicks you hope might pass for regular street shoes. I do say welcome though, as there is a lot to be said for two bright, high contrast, objects moving in the view field of motorists. The EC90 carbon is no doubt what keeps them light weight, again an appreciable quality in shoes I wear both on and off the bike. As an urban rider and commuter my needs are different than on trails, road rides or doing cycle cross. In some ways the urban environment and the basic transitions in a given day are more demanding than all but the most dynamic days dedicated solely to riding.

Still playing with the fit but they are pretty great right out of the box, took the cleats without a hitch and work well on both Shimano and Bontrager pedals. I'd like to say something deeply insightful about these shoes but essentially, I just like them a heck of a lot and thus far they're an excellent product on every level from quality, function and fit to appearance. I admittedly didn't start with entry level shoes in my adoption of SPD style pedals, not sure what difference that might have made but even from the standpoint of a daily commuter this constitutes a tangible lifestyle improvement. When I think in terms of what I wold be spending on fuel alone if I were commuting by car the value of things like cycling shoes comes squarely into focus as a bargain by comparison and in terms of safety there is simply no rational case for not adopting a best practices approach. 

Chimney Rock Seal Release

Started Memorial Day weekend lending photography skills and a little heavy lifting to The Marine Mammal Center in Marin. They were returning more than a dozen sea lions, harbor seals and elephant seals to the wild near Chimney Rock. I've photographed harbor seals a number of times and elephant seals at the Ano Nuevo rookey so I'm starting to get a feel for these animals in particular, at least what to expect from them. There was also a documentary film crew working with the team and a number of well wishers and press had come out to see "Bumblebee", the first baby harbor seal rescued in 2013, as it ambled off into the surf.

Between loading, transit and the release it was about an eight hour shoot that produced some great photos and a lot of excitement for all in attendance. For a mostly volunteer operation the mammal rescue center does an amazing job of rehabilitating a returning animals to the wild, saving them from things like shark attacks, boat strikes, starvation and about every other difficulty you might imagine. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Allagash Pack Basket

Growing up in Northern Indiana and Michigan I used a lot of pack baskets. As a scout, camper and historic interpreter they were a regular part of my life until about the middle of college when I switched to mostly using cloth packs of one kind or another. The main reason was that pack baskets are much harder to come by if you don't go looking for them and I was simply no longer part of any organizations that used them. Pack baskets are good for a number of things and arguably superior to many pack styles for a variety of uses.

Being basically rigid they protect the wearer from hard and odd shaped objects. This makes them favored for hauling things like trapping and fishing gear. They also protect fragile things like mushrooms, field greens and other forage. The only real drawback is their bulkiness and inability to be stuffed or stowed in tight places. Examples like the Loring pack basket  will last for years and go toe to toe with more modern designs on a lot of levels. Another useful trait is how repairable they are. The harnesses are simple and relatively easy to replace even for those with few tools and limited experience. Though, realistically, any bag can be repaired if people would bother to.

I had been wanting a pack basket for quite a while but had balked at the prices for most of the decent ones. Not that the market rate is unfair, on the contrary, it's a reasonable long term investment. Enter the Allagash Pack Basket from L.L.Bean and a gift certificate. Bean sells pack baskets made in Maine, light weight, durable and built from domestic maple. It comes unfinished with roughly adequate nylon straps if you don't really plan on loading it down. These packs are capable of carrying a lot of weight and doing so comfortably. Ones I have used in the past had either leather or canvas straps, usually wider at the shoulders. While the nylon straps on the one from Maine are no doubt durable, they aren't wide enough to distribute a heavy load. Nor is the harness as a whole set up for the weight the pack can handle. That said, the stock setup is probably enough for most uses.

There is seem to be about three schools of thought as to how to care for the baskets. One is to leave them unfinished. Scrub them clean as needed and keep them from drying out and crack but not so damp that they mold. With regular use the ideal conditions to do that actually come naturally in most environments other than very dry or humid climates. Just don't let the things stay wet and don't store them in direct sun. Not so tough. Another popular option is oiling the basket with a marine grade finish, teak oil and Deks are popular but any oil finish ought to do. I don't like oil finishes on things that will come in contact with clothing. That's not always a bad thing as evidenced by countless oil finished rifle stocks but my preference is for a third option, varnishing. All of the baskets I have used in the past were varnished. The finish was durable but not brittle and made it much easier to keep the baskets clean as well as preventing them from soaking up water in rainy and humid conditions. All of these methods work to some degree or another, if you find a way that works, it's likely the method you should use. We're talking about pack baskets that will last for years with minimal care regardless of care methods. I have seen a wide range of reinforcements and repairs ranging from cloth and leather to copper sheeting and basketry materials. Simple cloth bags or fitted cloth liners can extend the use and life of pack baskets even further. I'd still like to have a Loring but the L.L.Bean is a welcome addition to my outdoor gear.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Nor Cal on the Bianchi

Not too long ago I went on a team ride in Big Basin down near Santa Cruz on my early 80's Bianchi Sport SS. We took a short stretch of very rough dirt and the Bianchi came back pretty broken and wasn't ride-able until I replaced the wheels. As part of the re-fit I also upgraded to a Shimano 7 speed cassette and spun on some SPD's. That has collectively taken the old bike to a new level altogether. It's noticeably lighter, a little more snappy and responsive and is a better machine for climbing by far. I guess it's now a 14 speed and it looks less like a vintage bike with the alloy wheels and machined braking surfaces. It's old but reliable Ishiwata tubing leaves it squarely in the roadworthy category and well worth riding as it rivals many bikes built today. To look at it you might not guess it's a 30 year old bike but then again, a lot of it is no longer 30 years old.

Anyway, given the rebuild and an opportunity for a ride out of town, I struck out for Occidental and did some touring of wine country. It was beautiful weather and I got to drop in on the Union Hotel, one of the sponsors for the  St Patrick's Day Massacre Charity ride I did the photography for. The coffee was good and the peach turnover was great!

The bike is due for a new derailleur chain, bottom bracket and maybe a headset soon. I'll have to repeat the 70 mile ride, grab another turnover and compare.

New Marshalltown

With my dig kit packed away in an obscure corner, I needed a new trowel. Add that to curiosity about the resurrected Marshalltown moniker and it was a win for getting one.

Seems like it's still a solid tool and made here in the states but the joint at the blade looks different from my old ones. I'll have to pull my dig kit anyway so I can compare the new and old as well as check the Marshalltown site but it looks like maybe? something other than drop forging and the Marhsalltown name is printed on instead of embossed. Beyond that its the same old reliable 45-5 London pointing trowel from field school and CRM digs past. Same new(dull) edge too, now where did I put my file?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dogpatch Boulders

Took the kiddo to climb at Dogpatch Boulders today. One of, maybe the biggest, bouldering gym in the country, it's got a great kids area and more than enough structures and routes to entertain all skill levels of climbers. Truly amazing place with ample bike parking and easy access to food and public transit. Well worth the trip out to Dogpatch. One of the best things I heard that day was my five year old girl saying, "I want to climb forever and never get tired!" Me too!

It was great to climb with her and share something I'm passionate about with such a young soul giving her the opportunity to either pursue it or not as she see's fit. Every chance I get I expose her to something new simply to make sure she knows what is out there in her world  and that if she wants to she can in fact chase after things and that with very few exceptions, everything is obtainable if you set your mind to it.
How cool is that? 

Climbing with a little one is also a great way to hone your skill as an adult. The demands for safety and focus are intense and it's a "no fail mission" sort of thing. You simply have to be there, present and on top of things. It also or at least it should, force you to pay greater attention to the example you are setting. Each move you make shows your little progeny how it's done, better think twice and show them right.

Climbing is a great way to spend the day with a kiddo no matter how you figure it. Now I just need to hang in there and keep her interested until she's big enough to be my belay partner!

Friday, May 10, 2013


Neat little piece of Talavera, or Majolica as it's listed in the site reports. Colorful tin-glazed pottery. Surface glaze looks about the same and geographical and chronological context would make sense for either type but the clay body isnt red. I think Talavera makes more sense but I have not done much historic archaeology in California yet. What is certain is I like pulling this stuff out of the ground!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dues Ex Machina

Finally paid a visit to Deus Ex Machina in Venice(Los Angeles). Pretty great to see the bikes and boards and grab some coffee. Really well done retail space echoing the garages, surf shacks and club houses a lot of motorcycle and surf enthusiasts will be reminded of when they see it. The goods are high quality but on the spendy side and it didn't have the same feel of openness one typically gets in the non-retail version of these settings but that's just it, retail. It actually feels close enough to something not designed to sell clothes and bikes that it's borderline off putting. In this case though, other than the tension it causes, that's likely a mark of successful planning. I'd almost prefer it being more like a store than what it is for that reason but the locals seem to like it and they sell a lot of very cool stuff.

74 Schwinn Touring and Randonneur setup

When I unearthed my Le Tour it needed a lot of scrubbing and polishing but had essentially just been sitting neglected in a garage for 35 years. It's just a hint taller than I'd like but I've still got stand-over height and it's weight and long wheel base make for a comfortable ride with adequate gearing to climb hills in San Francisco. It's been an unexpectedly great bike. Not pictured are the additions of some very nice Tour De California 40mm bar tape(great review on Bike Rumor!) and some older Bontrager RE-1 SPD pedals.

So far the new setup has been great around the city and a few ten mile hops out and around the Presidio and Chrissy Field. It's also become my go-to option whenever I need to carry extra gear like cameras or climbing stuff and have a little extra time. The Le Tour is stable and good for a little extra loading but not as agile and snappy as my Globe Roll 1 or Bianchi Sport SS.

Rack, panniers and lights are from Blackburn.