Friday, July 24, 2015

Moving to Silicon Valley: Part III - Rebuilding the 304

The 304 in Stamford

Building a new bike work stand was done, and now I needed to reassemble the 304 - or the cabinet made up of small, plastic parts drawers used to hold the world’s most organized collection of clutter.

In Stamford I used a collection of nine metal two-drawer cabinets as the base of the cabinet standing on frame I welded. The frame was recycled in Stamford, so I resorted to using an industrial shelving unit as a base and reasoned I could arrange the two-drawer cabinets beneath however I wanted. 

That’s the thing about workshops: ideally, everything should either be modular or, like with the Part II post, be on wheels.

The first thing I needed to do was replace the countertop. Just like I did with the last 304: I checked the As-Is section of Ikea. But instead of going to the Ikea in New Haven, I went to the one in Palo Alto. It was there I found an 8-foot piece for $45. As luck would have it, it matched the fantastic $5 Connecticut yard sale find rolling hospital table. So I made sure the section of the 304 where my feet would go would be wide enough to accommodate it.

Speaking of $5 yard sale finds: the speaker stands I found at another CT tag sale - which were quite useful when making the Bikeducken during the DIYBIKING.COM Salutes the Cargo Bike special - were perfect for installing shelves: I just leveled the shelf, set up a bracket as an extra set of hands, and it all stayed nice and even during the install.

Putting up the cabinets themselves was easy even though I knew I’d one day have to go through all the drawers and rearrange everything since the movers in Connecticut packed some of the units sideways for no reason. 

Yes, it’s a grisly mess - what with bodies lying everywhere and all - but it looks good against the new countertop, doesn’t it?

Now that I’ve put the LED shop light in I can now say it is ready to go. 

It was good for morale alone just to get this up. Now anything I need from small wood screws to shower curtain rings to HO scale miniatures to batteries to shark shaped valve caps are in easy reach. I’m feeling a lot more normal now…and the sight of it is putting me in the mood to build something. Hope you find that mood too. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

We Interrupt 'Moving to Silicon Valley' For This Spec...Well, For This Bulletin

Moving things from the garage to the house and back again on one of the swirl of days I was doing so I noticed something peculiar on the street. 

Wow, I thought. I didn’t realize a Toyota Prius could tow such a heavy load. 

Back and forth in the house throughout the day I took a closer look and realized that what I was looking at wasn’t a tow package for a Smugmobile, but an abandoned bicycle trailer. 

Not my problem. Or so I thought.

Later, leaving the house to get dinner with my wife, she said there was a sign attached that read ‘Free.’ 

In my defense, she happily turned to me and enabled me - specifically asking if I wanted to stop and get it. Next thing I knew it was in my still unfinished and still crowded workshop.

Even though I appreciated the artistic touches in the sign, I was annoyed. Who gives away a bike trailer on my street when my workshop isn’t ready? Honestly. How insensitive can someone be? They were probably watching from their living room with binoculars laughing me.

“Look, Walter. He’s going for it. LOL.”

Now as you know I did give away my bike mover trailer to Domus, left the Bikeducken in Stamford, and was still looking for the rest of my DIYBIKING.COM trailer made from a Bike Friday suitcase trailer frame. I didn’t not need a trailer, but taking unwanted items and making something kinda useful out of them is…well…it’s kind of My Thing. 

With much grumbling, I dismantled the trailer…and on doing so I discovered three unopened bottles of water inside. I poured them on my plants (I’m living in Silicon Valley now. There’s a drought on).  

Everything else went away and now I’m left with a trailer frame I do not yet know what I am going to do with, but it’ll be something. And I’m taking it as a good sign that I’m still following my instincts even though I’m on a new coast. We’ll come back to this trailer later. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Moving to Silicon Valley: Part II - Where Do I Park the Park Tool Workstand?

You never realize just how much stuff you’ve acquired over the last ten years until you see all of it delivered to your house inside of five hours.

Let me back up a second. 

I was thankful I had painted the walls of my new bike workshop in Silicon Valley before my stuff arrived because when it did I couldn’t even see the walls. Boxes were piled as far as the eye could see…and you couldn’t see more than five feet in any direction for quite a while.

When unpacking, I quickly discovered two things: first, the movers in Connecticut had wrapped everything in paper, which meant that each empty box would produce various items and an equal volume of paper that had to be dealt with. Secondly: I think the Connecticut movers got disgusted, bored or both and just labeled most of the boxes from my workshop ‘Bike Parts/Miscellaneous.’ Occasionally they renamed some of my unsold artwork.

No, it’s not a ‘Wire Man’ and it’s not ‘Johnny 5’ either. I welded it from a $5 garage sale typewriter and it is known by his Rowayton Arts Center name of ‘Making a Friend.’

But I’m off the subject. 

The first thing I needed to establish was a place to put bike tools and work on a bike. As I discovered during my brief stay in Mountain View: my PCS-9 was mistakenly left out of the ‘early out’ container so I felt as though I hadn’t fixed any of my bikes properly in months.

I also knew that my recumbent - which, of course, was in a warehouse somewhere instead of riding in the Five Boro Bike Tour this year - and Budget City Bike were arriving. They both had been in storage for two months and I wanted to get them back on the road as soon as possible. Happily, one of the first boxes I opened contained my Park Tool PCS-12 work stand with a workbench mount…but I had no place to mount it. 

Before I left Stamford, I hatched a plan to use an old cabinet my dad got from the retailer G-Fox as a bike work stand: I attached the PCS-12 to the top of a rolling work stand meant for a car (where it could be raised and lowered at will) and all of my tools would be in the drawers near my knees. It would also help keep the shop clean since dirt and grime would land on a piece of paper spread on the cabinet and not the floor. 

The G-Fox cabinet had 2” casters on them but the seams in the concrete of my garage floor meant they’d get stuck all the time. Lucky for me I found all four of my 8” Mutant Giant Caster 3000s (or whatever the brand name is) from my ill-fated laptop stand project and set about attaching them.

I barely had any room to turn the cabinet on its side, but I just about managed it so I could attach the casters to scrap plywood. I had to use the drawers of the cabinet to make a crude workbench.

Since my hand power tools were in the car when my wife and I did our nine morning drive from Connecticut to California, I was able to attach everything without too much trouble…and realized just how big the casters were.

After gently placing it on the ground, I enjoyed putting things in the drawers. When you move across the country and every box is labeled the same and your big bookcases won’t even fit into the new home office it is nice just to put things away. I like these little $6 ammo boxes from Harbor Freight Tools to put parts and tubes for specific bikes inside.

I added a Thule fork mount to one side of the bench in case I ever wanted to secure bikes there - it also makes a convenient handle for dragging the workbench around.

I reattached the arm topped with the PCS-12 to complete the new bike workbench. Now all of my bike tools have a place to go and any bicycles on the PCS-12 would be just the right height for me to service them. 

Of course, I had to keep up emptying boxes…and discovering parts of the 304 and other things that just had no place to go yet. So they went on my new bike work stand cabinet. But it’ll be used for its proper purpose soon soon as I can find all the bike tools. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Moving to Silicon Valley: Part I - How to Use Your Garage

I’m very sorry, dear readers, for the large gap between posts (and the fact Folding Bike Week will have be rescheduled for later this summer) but I can explain: I’ve successfully moved…well, I’ve moved from Connecticut to Silicon Valley. I’m unpacking and learning just how difficult it is to put things away when the away part hasn’t yet been established. It’s an episode of Hoarders in reverse. 

Nothing was damaged - but as you can see from a piece of the bike trailer I made, I lost an ‘I’.

I’m also getting used to new things that came with the house - such as a refrigerator that has the freezer on the left side instead of on the top where it belongs (I froze my milk by accident last week - but we’re getting off the subject). 

My workshop moved too. As I explained during the last days of the Bikeducken it was packed up by four guys I only knew by their first names and loaded into a truck. At the time I had no idea what kind of workshop I would end up with in California. But I now have my answer.

This is the third house I’ve owned in my life. Like the others, this has at least two rooms that you can put beds in. A room where you can cook food and load a dishwasher incorrectly. A room where you can sit and watch a television. 

This is the first house I’ve ever owned that includes a room you can put a car inside. It’s called a garage. 

It has a really big door controlled by a small box the size of a Generation 1 iPod. Push the button and it rumbles up. Push it again, it rumbles down. 

I put my car in the garage to see if it worked as advertised. It did, but I didn’t like the experience at all. Cars are very big things and I really don’t enjoy being in the same room with one. 

It occurred to me the concept of the garage as a building to put a car in is outdated. Unless you own a vehicle along the caliber of the Ferrari in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you don’t need to put it in a building.

Instead you can turn the building into a space where you can be creative. Apparently that’s big here. I actually Googled ‘tech companies that started in garages’ and before I got to the first ‘g’ it filled in the blank. 

One of the companies that started in a garage? Google. Inc. Magazine spotlighted them and five other tech companies that started in a garage. Imagine what the world would be like if every garage was emptied of cars and filled with people who just wanted a space to build things and be creative? 

That’s what I want my garage to be: DIYBIKING.COM 2.0. Already a good sign: the people we bought the house from left behind bicycle hoists - a technology I have never used before. I tried it with the mountain bike I built (which made the trek across the country with me back in May) and it is hanging one foot over my head as I type this.  

I’ve already noticed a common thing with garages in Silicon Valley: when they were built nobody bothered to finish the inside - either that or I overlooked Urine Stain in the Benjamin Moore color catalogue. Since we bought our house two full weeks before our stuff was due to arrive (more on that horror later) I decided to put some work into it while I didn’t have my stuff lying around to get in the way. 

One of the things I had to do first was patch a few holes in the drywall. I got some drywall tape and joint compound (and a trowel and sandpaper since I had none of my tools with me) and set to work. 

This hole actually housed an electric car charger. I know this is going to sound made up, but someone else bidding on the house at the same time as us wanted the car charger to be left behind. The sellers didn’t like that, so they went with our offer instead. So someone’s fondness of electric vehicles - call it Car Culture 2.0 - got me this workshop. 

I won’t bore you with the details of every change (a lot of work had to go in the rest of the house during this period too) but two coats of Kilz primer went on the walls first - information supplied by a company that started in a garage said that’s a good way to start when putting paint on old drywall - before applying Benjamin Moore Concepts interior paint. The color is ‘wet cement.’

I was feeling really good about what I had done and how ready I was to get to building again when our stuff arrived - and I’ll cover how that was handled (and is still being handled) in my next post. In the meantime, if you have a garage, move your car out of it and move in some desks you found for free on Craigslist. Making a space to make things beats housing a motor vehicle anytime. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

National Dump the Pump Day Can Be Everyday

Today is National Dump the Pump Day. It’s primary focus is getting more people to use public transportation.

Here in the Bay Area, you definitely have a lot of options. As I wrote before, Silicon Valley's overall bikes on trains policy leaves Connecticut in the dust. 

Where Silicon Valley does fall behind - way behind -  is scale. When I lived in Stamford I wouldn’t bother checking the train schedule when going to the train station in the mornings as there was always a train within twenty or thirty minutes. From what I’ve seen so far - especially when I try to use Caltrain or VTA - there needs to be more trains. Otherwise, locking oneself in an individual 3,000 pound glass and metal capsule, massaging the brake and gas pedal while crawling along sounds better than choosing public transit. 

I #choosethebike for a lot of reasons - but now that I'm living in Mountain View (but not for long - more on this later) and see how much great company I have on two wheels (and how much easier it is to park a bike) I ride out of convenience. If public transit wants to succeed it needs to be a more convenient choice than a car. 

So today I hope you all participate in National Dump the Pump Day and remember two things: when you #choosethebike, everyday is dump the pump day. And the Bay Area will never truly be worthy of Peter Coyote's voiceover talents until it can figure out how to get all of these innovators and disruptors to work on time without traffic or environmental damage. 

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Nine Mornings to California: Morning 9 - Truckee, California

Note: this is the final post of the Nine Mornings series, but I posted it Saturday night because this morning, Sunday morning, I am riding in the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure in Palo Alto. Please help me by making a donation to my ADA page...and then enjoy reading Morning 9. 

Morning 9:(Sunday, May 10) Truckee, California

I woke up in Truckee, California - at the site of the Donner Pass. People once ate people here. I ate pancakes. 

Let me back up a second. 

We were originally going to spend the night in Reno but in our effort to make the last day of driving as short as possible, we decided to drive over the California border and stay at the Truckee Donner Lodge - which gave us a view of the Endor-like trees outside the window. 

I went out biking in the chilly morning air and savored the ride. I had no specific destination. It was quiet. I didn’t have to pick up any groceries or run any errands. I just rode out into the woods.

I also thought about the Donner Party, stranded so long ago and forced to resort to cannibalism for the simple reason because they didn’t have the right transportation option available. Had they fat tire bikes and Bob trailers, their story would have had a different ending. 

I ended up logging about nine aimless miles. Nothing particularly exciting happened on that ride. But it was a fine ride nonetheless. And the pancakes at the Truckee Donner Lodge were good. 

Soon after breakfast, we hit the road and began the long descent toward Silicon Valley. Even though it was the shortest leg, it felt like it was the longest. The closer we got to the coast, the worse the traffic became. 

I saw more cars than I had ever seen before as we entered Redwood City. It immediately felt strange to be sitting in a car I’m familiar with and driving it in an unfamiliar place that was to be my home. 

We arrived at our temporary apartment in Redwood City and I shut off the engine and snapped one final photograph. I had driven more than 3,400 miles in the course of ten days with a Yoda action figure on the dashboard.

In the days that followed this trip, I removed the Yoda. I got a California driver’s license.  I learned what a ‘smog test’ is and ultimately used that knowledge to get California plates put on my Element. And every morning since these nine mornings, when I ride in Silicon Valley, I look around and think: 

Why aren’t more people cycling and what can I do to get them to #choosethebike? 

Hope you can help me ask and answer that question. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Just found Nine Mornings? Click here for Morning 1.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Nine Mornings to California: Morning 8 - Ely, Nevada

Note: if you're reading this blog right now I could really use your help: I am riding in the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure in Palo Alto tomorrow. I normally don't do organized rides at all but I want to mingle with my new neighbors and, more importantly, raise money to fight diabetes. Please donate here and help sponsor my ride!  

Morning 8: (Saturday, May 9) Ely, Nevada

Another morning, another motel bed.
Another city waiting up ahead.
And another small memory to leave behind.

- Dave Alvin, ‘Harlan County Line’ 

It was raining in the morning, but unlike Wyoming a few days earlier, I knew I’d have another shot of riding in Nevada so I decided to forgo the morning bike ride. The hotel served breakfast early and we agreed that we could make it to Carson City for a late lunch if we were on the road before seven - and I’d still be able to ride a bike in the state of Nevada.

Getting to Carson City meant driving on Highway 50 (sometimes known as the I-50). Dubbed ’The Loneliest Road in America’ I had trouble deciding if it was so boring it was interesting or so interesting it was boring. 

“We warn motorists not to drive there unless they’re confident of their survival skills,” said an unnamed AAA rep in the July 1986 edition of Life magazine. I was ready: I had oatmeal cookies my mother had given us, a case of bottled water crammed between the Element’s seats, and had watched several episodes of Discovery’s Dual Survival before beginning the trip. 

Life magazine’s story checks out. It’s a lot of nothingness I wouldn’t attempt with a less reliable car. Anyone who bikes it is a brave soul - I saw only two cyclists on the entire length of the 50. Luckily there are a couple of places to stop to stretch ones legs and pause whatever Michael Connelly audiobook we had playing (Good storytelling, Mr. Connelly: the short Harry Bosch mysteries did make the miles go faster).

In the sleepy, aging mining town of Eureka an effortlessly charming bartender named Susan poured me a cup of hot coffee in a plastic Budweiser cup at the Owl Club Bar and Steakhouse and, after I told her I was a drifter passing through town (though I didn’t phrase it quite that way) she insisted I stay to look at ‘all the ladies’ along the main thoroughfare. As my wife sketched Eureka, I wandered around to look at the classic cars Susan was referring to - and hoped the rain would clear up for the Eureka Car Show, which was taking place that very morning.

Soon after we left Eureka the rain cleared up and gave us a clear view of the nearly hypnotic road. I kept expecting to see Lord Humungus’s truck in the rearview mirror but we saw only one or two normal cars an hour (sorry I don't have a more up-to-date Mad Max reference but I haven't seen Fury Road yet).

After a few thousand years of this, we made it to Carson City for our late lunch. Since my wife didn’t feel like sketching the city and I didn’t feel like biking it, we continued on to Lake Tahoe so we could indulge in the passions that chose us. 

I unpacked the bike at Lake Tahoe State Park and rode on Rt. 28 - nearly unable to believe that California was just on the other side of the lake. Near the Tunnel Creek Cafe I found a bike shop called Flume Trail Bikes that was just visible from the road.

I diverted up the nearby trail to see if I could find a better place to see the lake. I succeeded and could actually see California - the place I would eventually be permanently living in - across the water.

I’d have to wait for another visit to ride on the Flume Trail (which looks irresistible looking at the pictures on Flume Trail Bikes' website), so I turned around and headed back to the beach to meet my wife and check out the sketch she had made of Lake Tahoe while I was riding. 

We continued driving on Rt. 28 and crossed the Nevada border into California. We were officially in the home stretch of our trip and there was only one morning to go - Truckee, California - a town the infamous Donner Party put on the map.