Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Got that old bike feeling?

Recently I’ve become more interested in riding off-road or doing some trail exploring.  Buying a new or even used mountain bike seemed cost-prohibitive.  I’ve never even been mountain biking, so why waste the money on a whim?  My last bike was $1,250.  Despite being worth every penny, it’s not an amount I plan to spend again in the near future.  An old-school mountain bike looked like the cheapest, most efficient option.  Newer “bikepacking” bikes look totally awesome but also don’t normally take front or rear racks so easily.  I also don’t need monster tires, even though they look like super fun!  Looking for a next step I contacted my friend Richard of Sacramento.

He's a super bike guy having rehabbed bikes, built rigs from scratch, and worked at a bike shops in the Bay area and Seattle.  Richard made a few suggestions from Craigslist and I zeroed in on a white, mid-90s 21” Specialized Rock Hopper with a rear u-brake listed for $60.   That was a good price for something that might be worth a test-ride.   It could clearly take racks and fenders, making for a nice adventure bike to explore those WA forest roads.    A day later I was meeting some dude in the parking lot of the Issaquah Public Library.   I took it for a spin and it seemed fine, maybe a hair small but I'm also unsure about mountain bike sizing.  On the phone earlier, seller-dude told me no rust, but there it was, rust!

Thinking about building a bike-out had me focusing on the quality of the frame rather than the components.  In this case, the components worked reasonably well and were free of rust.  The rear tire was warped but could still be ridden.  The friction shifting was good, the drive train looked pretty clean.  For $60 this bike was actually solid but I told him I didn’t want it.  While the rust was not structurally damaging it was pervasive with slightly rusted scratches throughout the frame.  This bike had been maintained but given too much love from getting banged around!

The seller said to make an offer so I said $40 if he just wanted to get rid of it.  Offer accepted!  This gentleman had a nice, newer car with bike racks on the rear and roof so clearly he didn’t need the money.   I handed him a $50 but he didn’t have correct change, so we split the difference and called it $45.  Thanks, then bike small-talk, goodbye!  I reluctantly fixed the bike carrier to the back of my Mazda wagon wondering if it was a great deal or one more thing to stuff in the garage.  That rust!  In the back of my mind I knew that even if I didn’t want it, I could sell it again for a profit or give it to my brother in law so he could get to/from work.  I guess as much as people want to get rid of their crap when selling on Craigslist, impulsive purchases wouldn’t roll in for a selling-rendezvous resistant to buy.  So what next Mr. Rock Hopper?  Fix-you-up or sell-you-off?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Iron Horse Trail Overnight

Time to go off-road.  After-all, a cyclocross bike is an all terrain bike, right?  Here in Seattle, the pavement is terrible.  Years of under-funded infrastructure make larger tires feel like a necessity.  Big tires while still retaining speed seemed like the way to go.  The solution?  A used aluminum cyclocross bike.  My Trek Crossrip Elite LTD came with 32mm tires, which are fine for most things.  For our trip from Rattlesnake Lake to Keechelus Lake on the Iron Horse Trail I put some 35mms on and cut the pressure to 40psi.  Let's go for a ride on the Iron Horse- a well-known trail I've heard for which I've heard many good things.

Our group was quite motley: Brian towing a puppy in a trailer on road bike with quite narrow tires, Jeff riding a Franken-bike road/hybrid, Heather on a road bike, and Hess on a Kona Rove w/40mms.  Rattlesnake was a spacious trailhead for parking and our group gathered quickly.  This was the first over-night for most of us and it made for a leisurely ride.  Despite being uphill most of the way, the grade on the Iron Horse to the Snoqualmie tunnel is quite mild, even with baggage in tow.  As a rails-to-trails conversion, the Iron Horse is remarkably well-maintained with an even light-gravel surface and clean restrooms/camp-sites along the way.    
As we rode, I noticed site-after-site said “No Fires”.  Despite the ban on campfires on Western Washington being recently lifted, it looks like fires on this trail are banned regardless of the weather.  Apprehension built in me as the ride progressed, fearing my 8 raw sausages would be wasted lest fire be found.  The scenery made up for my worries even as I considered cooking one sausage with a pocket lighter. 
Fine views framed the forest of the Cascade Range as we passed a multitude of day hikers and mountain-bikers zooming downhill.  Clouds sat low on the mountains promising rain.  We stopped often to enjoy snacks and traveled at a leisurely 10MPH.  Brian caught up with us at the entry to the Snoqualmie tunnel.  The puppy Misha seemed content in her trailer without getting out so we proceeded into the 2-mile tunnel with lights ablaze.  As we zinged through the seemingly-endless cavern, numerous hikers lit the way with flashlights.  Likely they had parked at Hyak, just on the other side of the tunnel.  It was a thrill to ride in the dark, even at a low speed.  The trail within was packed dirt and concrete and the tunnel is reportedly expensive to maintain, as well as being closed in the winter months.
We had only gone 20-some miles but after exiting we were hungry and anxious about our food options.  After the tunnel we were done climbing for the journey.  Passing Hyak and then alongside Keechelus lake we viewed the long dead tree stumps of an older, higher water level.  Initially Hess was going to bring a camp-stove, but backed out of the idea at the last minute to save weight.  Brian and Heather also brought camp food to cook.  It wasn’t long before consensus was reached that we would need an illicit camp-site for a fire.
Jeff and Hess hiked up a hillside, unfortunately finding houses and a resident.  Further down the way was a legitimate spot a stone’s throw from the lake, with a nearby clearing suitable for an illicit fire, and where I would sleep by myself.  Camp was quickly established and the eco-log I hauled was quickly ablaze.  Dinner was had by all.  Jeff and I took a quick trip down to the shoreline to check out the aging, cut tree stumps and hypothesize their origin.  As the rain increased, the others retreated to their tents early while I managed the fire.  A warm fire in the falling rain is a rare pleasure, making the dying embers all the more hypnotic.  

It was a late start for the return journey.  Worried that I would hold back the group since they retired early, I was ready-to-go by 7:45, doing most of my packing before the rain settled back in to soak us for the rest of the morning.  I camped out under the restroom shelter while the group gathered itself.  We were on the road with no time constraints.  It was all downhill from here with everyone wearing as much clothing possible to stay dry.  Before long we ran into a rider headed to Montana, smoking a cigarette, not a habit you see much on the trail.  I felt slightly envious but his fingerless gloves made me feel cold on his behalf. 

This time we barreled through the tunnel at our high speed, the rain deterring day-hikers.  You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, if only as a speck.  With only one stop for snacks, our time back was much faster, the weather improving as we went.  It was liberating to go faster and not be concerned if anyone was staying with the group.  Loading our bikes in Jeff’s truck, I was satisfied using everything I brought after initially fearing I had under-dressed.  Every ride is a bit different, making it fun to assess how to be even more efficient the next time around.  Is wool clothing the way to go? Was it worth it using a front rack?  Did the tires feel that differently?

 Pix by me, Jeff, and Hess

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

PCNW Thesis 2013

PCNW Thesis Exhibition on view June 3-July 15.  Opening Reception June 13, 6-9PM

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Ilona Szwarc : American Girls

These "American Girls" images by Ilona Szwarc appeared in a post on the New Yorker site.   Each young model poses with an American Girl doll that she presumably designed to mimic her own appearance, or else created by an adult else as a gift.  The photographs are occasionally humorous for the juxtaposition between real and copy, also but painfully closed to meaning beyond that relationship.  The more successful images have at some hint of ambiguity, as in the shot above, that get away from the basic conceit.   In this image the open landscape (Southern California?) and pose place the girl and doll in an usual place.  The girls seems small, unprotected yet still confident in a squat seen throughout Asia.  She seems just capable enough to care for an actual child, gazing with just the right amount of self-awareness at the camera, despite being outside of a house/home context.  The least successful images are those in which the control of photograph seems to be mostly with that of the model and her family.  This happens more so with the economically advantaged models, in which a certain smugness pervades, such as the image of the girl on the horse paralleled in the foreground by her doll on a toy horse.  This looks more like commissioned work than something which originated from the photographer's concept of how to portray the girl.  While the ironies of a poor girl posing with a Barbie doll may be corrected through a DIY doll creation process like "American Girl" that can seemingly run the gamut of skin color and hairstyle, these photographs seem to reinforce the notion that young girls are still limited by typical gender and economic rolls.  Even as some of the girls assert an identity between that of the doll and the view of the photographer as in "Molleen" or "Tiffany-Amber", they are hemmed in by the photographer's insistence that the doll represent the child.  Rather than open up the notion of girl-hood and the effects of media images, these image mostly perpetuate a limited view of young women.  Regardless, Ms. Szwarc is onto something as a portraitist.  It will be interesting to see how she grows- even as lauded photographers such as Rineke Dijkstra grew beyond her "Beach Portraits" to imagery that encompassed a broader vision of youth, so may Ms. Szwarc.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cornish College of the Arts BFA 2013, Univesity of Washington MFA 2013

The direction of the blog is going to change a bit to focus more on Seattle art exhibitions.  What follows is selected work from the Cornish College of the Arts BFA show, plus a couple bonus works from the University of Washington MFA exhibit at the bottom.  These are all iphone shots so some look better than others.  Let me know if you'd like me to take your work down of if anything is improperly labeled or otherwise mis-represented.