Sunday, January 13, 2019

Homebrew, A New Addition, and Free Solo

I have a new certification: Homebrewer. I've spent the last few weeks nurturing a glass jug of homebrew in the closet of our den, making sure the temp was just right so as not to shock the contents of the fermenting cider within. Friday was bottling (and tasting) day. My yield was 8 bottles of sweetened hard apple cider, one of which has Rachel's name on it. I honestly didn't have very high hopes that it would be very palatable but it's actually not bad at all. I would like to give it a go again in a few weeks but first I think I want to take a class in homebrewing because I think there's more I need to know than what I was able to glean from the directions in my starter-kit to more fully enjoy the experience and get the most from it.

I've added a new bike to my stable of bikes. I've been wanting a gravel bike since last spring when I noticed how much harder I was having to work on my fat-tire bike to keep up with others on their gravel bikes during the Miesville 56 ride. That it's a more difficult slog on a fatty is a given and I was good with that but something clicked inside me when I began thinking of lengthier rides I could do on gravel roads, away from the more traveled highways I'm typically on. Plus, gravel group rides are becoming quite popular, and I occasionally enjoy the company of others out there. Not always, but sometimes.

I began my search last spring at Angry Catfish in Minneapolis but nothing I saw there really grabbed hold of me and said, "take me with you!" I continued my search online to see what else was out there. That's when I came across this review and another for Giant's new gravel bike. It was everything I was looking for (and more). I pretty much stopped my search at that point.

I've been working with Todd at Michael's Cycles in Chaska and he phoned me two days ago to tell me that my long wait for the beauty pictured to the right (and in this video) was over and that I could come in and pick it up. They're just now beginning to make it to local bike shops after a bit of a delay in shipping them. I'm waiting on a few accessories -- a mount for my Garmin cyclocomputer and a Dinotte LED light for the rear (and for the side roads to lose their ice) before I jump on it for the first time but I anticipate I won't be waiting much longer.

Switching gears.

I was perusing a bike forum (what used to be the Serotta forum) a few months ago when I came across a thread titled, "Climbing Devils Tower". Tammy and I have been to Devils Tower a few times and have watched with amazement the oh-so-tiny people scaling the mountain, so I clicked on the thread to have a look. I was surprised to see that there were several users of the forum who had climbed Devils Tower in addition to some even more difficult climbs. I found the thread to be fascinating reading. It was around the same time that the movie Free Solo was being shown in limited screenings across the country.

The thread on the forum piqued my interest in rock climbing, and I was exposed to a new world of jargon: what are off-width climbs and multi-pitch climbs, and what is the difference between a 5.7 and a 5.1 climb? It all seemed so fascinating to me but I was pretty certain while reading about it that all of it will have to wait until my next lifetime. Or does it have to? I came across this link where you can show up as a novice and after two days of instruction be ready to climb Devils Tower on the third day. Seriously? I never would've guessed that but after poking around a little more online I found videos (an example) that seem to make it look somewhat doable.

In my week's long study of rock climbing back in October, the most compelling thing I watched was a 60 Minutes episode about Alex Honnold (embedded below), the man profiled in the film, Free Solo. I'm not sure there are many riskier endeavors than the sort of climbing he does, but to listen to him explain it, he's certain of his ability to the point that the entire climbing experience is one where he's in a calm state of being. I just don't know that I could ever control my nerves to that degree. I'm quite sure I couldn't.

I'd sort of stopped thinking about rock climbing and moved on to other things until talking with Rex a few days ago over a beer at Celts in Farmington. He'd seen the film Free Solo and was telling me how awesome it was. He later sent me a text to let me know that the movie was playing at the IMAX theater in Apple Valley but not for much longer. Tammy and I went to see it that night. It was so well done; at times funny, and at times riveting, and always captivating. We both loved it!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Disturbing Dream and 2018 By The Numbers

I've been having some wild dreams lately. I had a recurring dream last night, a dream I haven't had in several years, and each time I experience it, I'm left wondering if there's something in my life that I'm neglecting. It started out with me standing by the side of our home, looking up at an airplane that had lost its wings. It was using an engine on its tail to thrust it forward in an erratic way. I watched as it flew out of control, certain it would crash at any moment. A helicopter appeared next to the doomed aircraft and hovered overhead. My neighbor, Tom, a pilot for Delta was watching with me.

But then something else caught my attention. I noticed a trap door in our front flower garden that led to a lighted room beneath the garage. I realized then that my dog Sparky was down there and that I had forgotten about him. I last said goodbye to Sparky (in real life) in 1983 when I moved to Huron, SD and I couldn't take him with me. In my dream, it had been months since I'd checked on him and I felt terrible that he'd been neglected for so long. The dream always leaves me feeling profoundly sad that I could do such a thing and that a being so dependent on me was left to suffer.

I took a week off from stained glass work during the holidays but I'm back at it again. I finished this piece last night. It's been a while since I've done a similar panel and I wanted one to add to my inventory. It's a little on the spendy side for a sun-catcher but I'm happy leaving it to sit on my site until the right person comes along. I think I'll work on some lesser expensive pieces over the next week.

I was pleased with my miles both down in our basement and out on the road in 2018. I track meaningless stuff. It's just what I do. 2018 by the numbers:

Cycling: 5138 (8269 km)
Walking: 398 (641 km)
Walking with our pups: 268 (431 km)
Golfing miles: 229 (369 km)
Elliptical: 34 (55)
Rower: 8 (13)

I neglected both my elliptical and my rower but I hope to improve on those numbers in 2019. Strava (an app I used to help track meaningless stuff) puts together a nifty year-end summary. Click!

I've been riding indoors during the winter months for nearly 39 years. I never could've imagined when I was riding my first set of rollers after returning home from my enlistment in the Navy what indoor riding would one day become. I love it! And it's great training!

I lined up with 2269 others this morning on the island of Watopia for the first stage of the Tour de Zwift challenge. I gave it all I had for a little over an hour and it left me with an endorphin high that lasted for hours after the race (it's technically just a ride but tell that to the vast majority of us pushing as hard as we can). That was my first experience taking part in any sort of group ride on Zwift. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I also pushed harder than I otherwise would have. Win-win!!

That's all I've got.