Sunday, December 31, 2006

Lots and Lots and Lots and Lots

Two quick photos to show you the accumulations of snow that northern Colorado received during the two recent blizzards. This one shows Howard's backyard patio under about 24 inches of heavy snow received during the morning/afternoon of December 20th. Though we have two dogs, there are no dog paths visible, even to this day, because the dogs hadn't yet figured out how to make them.

This photo is of a deck outside the house in Estes Park, near Rocky Mountain National Park. The deck was perfectly clear of snow when we arrived on December 26th. 24 inches of heavy snow fell the afternoon/evening of December 28th. Amazingly, most of the evergreens were able to support the extra weight as we didn't see any broken limbs or branches. These kinds of snow accumulations drastically alter lifestyles -- albeit in the short term. The day before the blizzard hit, all grocery stores in Estes were completely empty of milk, eggs, hamburger, chicken, and most fresh produce.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Git 'Er Done!

8,000 bicycle miles in 2006

In 24F degree temps this morning, through ice and snow and slush and wind, Howard rode his Ice Bike north three miles, turned tail, and returned three miles home.

8,000 miles for the year! Feels good.

Moving on now...

Next year's goals?
  • 8,000 miles (Howard's no fool -- it was tough enough this year!)
  • Mickelson Trail in South Dakota with Glenn the Machine in April or May
  • Find riding opportunity in Austin, TX in May or June
  • Lose those final 13 pounds by summer
  • Ride the Rockies in June
  • Attend a special wedding sometime this summer
  • Tour de Wyoming in July
  • RAGBRAI in July with Lance
  • Self-supported Tour from Vancouver, BC to Eugene in August
  • Fat Tire Triathlon in August
  • Horsetooth Double-Dip in August
  • Buffalo Bicycle Classic Century in September
  • El Tour de Tucson in November
  • Begin work on two new custom house projects
Gotta have them goals. Without goals, nothing ever gets done. (Actually the saying is "without deadlines, nothing ever gets done," but so close to the New Year, this works better.)

Friday, December 29, 2006

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

This is the house where 15 Howard-family members stayed for three days after Christmas. It's only miles away from Rocky Mountain National Park. Howard foolishly brought his Ice Bike with him because he needed ONLY 43.5 miles to reach 8,000 miles for the year. He considers himself fortunate to have ridden 28.2 miles during those three days. Once home, he rode another 10 miles through 12 inches of new snow and he now has five miles to go...

Here are lots of Howards freezing en masse while trying to figure out where to go next. They chose to go back to their mountain home (photo at top). Mrs. Howard can be seen peeking at the camera to the left, the Juniorest Howard is wearing red in the middle, Second Son is to his right, and Howard's father-in-law is to the far right (literally, not politically.) He is the coldest of them all.

Second son and the Juniorest Howard are frolicking on a frozen lake where the frolicking is hard work.

Howard's brother-in-law was once a professional photographer. He's in his pro stance photographing elk, which are considered weeds with antlers to many occupants of the region.

Howard's money shot. Taken while in a faux pro stance.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Little Snow Can't Stop Us!

Howard figures that since he posted pictures a couple of days ago showing what he and his best girl looked like, that it would be okay if he continued posting pictures of the Mrs.

Today, we walked about a mile-and-a-half to the nearest grocery store to buy life-or-death necessities like milk, yogurt smoothies, cat and dog food, small stinky candles, and bourbon whiskey (okay, it was for a Christmas recipe that the Mrs. wants to try.)

While all the neighbors were busy shovelling out their driveways or prying out cars stuck in two-foot snow drifts in the streets, the Howards ambled through neighborhoods, taking advantage of the fact that most of their neighbors were very conscientious about shovelling their walks.

Later in the afternoon, Howard got the urge to ride his Snow Bike. So that's what he did -- while the Mrs. and Howard Jr. went Christmas shopping for all the gifts they want to shower upon Howard, no doubt.

Howard headed north, following the major streets, which had been plowed the day before, though only to where car traffic lanes meet bike lanes. So Howard rode in the car lanes. Still, everyone was very patient with him, especially when they realized that he was moving as quickly as they were.

11 miles later, Howard pulled his Ice Bike up to the million-dollar house, where he took this picture. His bike is near the front door as proof that he rode his bike there. The contractor used their equipment the last two days to clear the driveways, however not much progress was made inside the house. Still a lot of cleaning up needed as the cleaners, who were supposed to make everything shine these past two days, clearly couldn't get out to the house.

Then Howard rode his bike to his parents' house, where they bought and have been enjoying a six-week-old Labrador Retreiver, still named "puppy." They will give it to one of their granddaughters as a Christmas present Sunday night. Don't tell her, please. It's a surprise.

As you can see for yourself, "puppy" is adorable, and Howard's parents are starting to argue about whether they should get another dog of their own.

The total mileage for the day (via Ice Bike) was 22.3 miles. That means Howard only has 86 miles to go in nine days to reach 8,000 miles for the year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dave Moulton: Invisible Man

Speechless, I'm speechless. Two weeks ago, I wrote about Dave Moulton, a 70-year-old retired bicycle framebuilder, writer, blogger, and avid cyclist who was in a near-tragic collision with an SUV. Since then, he's focused on recovering and has started blogging again. This morning he wrote about his appearance in court with the driver of the SUV. You have to click here to read it directly from Dave...

Bicyclists have no rights. It's like we don't exist in the eyes of the law -- not really. Men and women on bicycles get killed by inattentive drivers somewhere in this country every week, and yet in every case I hear about, the driver is not charged or is given a token slap on the wrist. Judges dismiss cases for "lack of evidence", though such a cavalier attitude is never taken in auto-v.-auto collisions. Fault is always placed in those cases.

We're speechless. The law has rendered cyclists speechless. Attention SUV drivers: It's open season on cyclists!

So now Dave must deal with this in Civil Court. He has a good lawyer who's also a cyclist -- one who even owns one of Dave's frames! Good luck, Dave.


As Howard noted with tongue-in-cheek concern a few weeks ago, Billmon disappeared for a while. But now he's back. In a big way. And with the Big Important Blog of the Day. It's heavy lifting, it's about Iraq, and it's significant. Go check it out.

Welcome back, Billmon.

Update: Farewell, Billmon. His website has been ripped up by its roots. It's all over.

5,000 Visitors, None of Them Stayed

The very next visitor will be Howard's 5,000th guest to the Big Blog of Howardness. He or she will glance about disapprovingly, sniff with contempt, and immediately hit the "Go Back" arrow.

Update: Congratulations, lucky visitor from Milton Keynes, United Kingdom! You win the knowledge that you made a middle-aged cantankerous geezer-in-training very happy. Probably not worth it, huh?

Oh well, come back at 10,000 and Howard might have an actual prize.

Thanks anyway.

Ice Bike Action Photos

The snow has finally stopped falling on the Colorado Front Range and the accumulations in Northern Colorado seem to be somewhere between two and two-and-a-half feet with drifts up to five feet or more. While everyone else was busy digging out, Howard had other plans -- Ice Bike plans...

Here is Howard and his dog Truman getting ready for a romp. Truman is a golden retreiver/bonehead mix. All the neighborhood side streets are unpassable as even our neighbor with the big diesel 4WD pickup truck got himself stuck and needed the help of neighbors to shovel his way back into his own driveway. Heh heh heh.

The city has already plowed all the major and arterial streets by noon on Thursday. This is the nearest major street where Howard was able to ride. Note the lack of traffic. Who would be stupid enough to be out in this weather?

And in addition to Howard getting in a little Ice Bike action, Truman got in a little Ice Dog action as well. All of the neighbors stared and stared at Howard, but he reassured them that he had studded snow tires and wasn't going to die. They seemed disappointed to hear this.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Never Make a Bet You're Willing To Lose

To sweeten a bet that two cyclists at couldn't reach the 8,000-mile mark, Howard offered to disclose what he looks like. And wouldn't you know it? Both of them recently surpassed the mark that Howard himself hasn't yet reached. Envious congratulations to the two of you. Wish Howard luck finishing out the 114 miles he still needs, especially following the Blizzard of 2006! So without further ado, here you go, SiouxGeonz and LadyJai, Howard in the flesh...

Taken a few weeks ago on top of Coyote Ridge the day after the first big snowstorm of the season, temporarily suspending cycing activities.

Howard flying a kite -- taken last August on an Oregon coast beach.

Mrs. Howard can't get over how sensitive and kind her best guy looks in this disturbing and misleading photo taken a month ago. That's one of her paintings in the background, BTW.

The Howards at the precipice of Crater Lake in August. He's about to say something all superior and know-it-allish. How can you tell? His mouth is opening.

Tag, I'm It?.....Tag, You're It!

Howard was recently tagged by Dave at Dave Moulton's Bike Blog. Thanks a lot, Dave. This means Howard has to write five obscure facts about himself. As Dave says, this seems a pretty harmless exercise, and yes, Howard is always looking for reasons to write about himself. So here goes:

1. In 1968, when Howard was eight years old, he found his mother crying in the kitchen. He went over to her, hugged her, and asked her why she was crying. She said that Kennedy had been shot and killed. Howard was very confused because he thought Kennedy had already been shot and killed some years earlier. But he didn't say anything and just kept hugging his mom.

2. When Howard was twelve, an atmospheric scientist from the Soviet Union was visiting the University of Wyoming's atmospheric science department and stayed in our home as a guest. Howard's father has always been an adventurous dude, and since he was also a professor with the department, he volunteered to host the visitor. As payback, Howard's father got to travel to the USSR a year later, and once again in the early 1980s. But back to the story, Howard was very worried about "a commie" staying in our home. The guy, named Yuri, was gruff, looked like Leonid Brezhnev, and smelled exactly like Howard imagined Brezhnev smelled too. When Yuri visited our local grocery store, he was deeply offended. He was certain the whole place with its abundance and selection had been staged as propaganda. Lotta paranoia and distrust in the household during the week. And, true to stereotype, the vodka supplies rapidly dwindled.

3. Howard and his wife started a weekly newpaper in the early 1980s called the Laramie Chronicle. Howard's wife was the Chief Editor and Howard did everything else.
As the frustration level over the local daily was high, an encouraging number of local businesses pledged to advertise in our new weekly paper if the first few issues looked promising. After the first few issues came out, and it was clear the paper was well-conceived and attractive, those same business owners continued to dig their toes into the sand. Howard heard through a friend who sold advertising for the daily that word had gone out from the daily's publisher to the business community that anyone who advertised with the Chronicle would not be allowed to advertise in the daily -- a clear breach of Anti-Trust laws. The Chronicle lasted a grand total of three months.

4. While in architecture school, Howard and his best friend -- also an architecture student -- won a national architecture student design competition which included a $2,000 prize. With his half of the winnings, Howard went to Paris for a week in January with his family. Amazingly, the weather wasn't half-bad.

5. Howard's grandmother was blind, was never married, lived alone after Howard's mother went off to college, never saw Howard or his mother before losing her sight, and was the most influential person in his life. After graduating high school, Howard wasn't ready to go to college, so he moved to Fort Collins to live with her for a year while working as a cabinet maker. He greatly enjoyed describing their surroundings for her, and thus, during the year he lived with her, Howard took her on many adventures including riding a motorcycle, riding the new bus system throughout the entire city, and going on lots of grocery shopping trips. Before then, she had to order everything by phone to be delivered to her home. Years later, when Howard was 24 and preparing to take his wife to the fanciest restaurant in town to celebrate their wedding anniversary, he called his grandma to arrange babysitting for their two young sons. She didn't answer the phone, so he rode his motorcycle to her house and found her -- dead since that morning. Worst moment of Howard's life, to be sure. But for someone with such a profound disab
ility to have such profound and positive influences on the lives of others speaks volumes about the potential of the human spirit.

So there they are, five obscure bits of information about Howard. Now, according to the rules of tagging, Howard must tag five six other bloggers.

Howard tags:

Gene Bisby
Lance Notstrong
Tony A in Saskatoon, Saskachuhuanwuan

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Only A Matter of Days Now

Howard purchased a digital camera last weekend with some special features and he's been looking forward to visiting the million-dollar house with camera in hand. He took about a hundred photos today, but he's considerate enough to only show the best sixteen -- some of them showing areas unseen before now because the old camera didn't have the optics capable of producing a photo worth showing. The downside of such a nice camera is that all the dirt, sawdust, and grit is now highly obvious.

The cleaners came into the house this afternoon -- started while Howard was there, as a matter of fact. They'll be done by Friday.

This weekend, Howard will be showing the house to relatives coming town for the holidays, and he will be taking a lot more photographs of a clean house, as you might imagine.

Please don't hesitate to let Howard know what you think of the house, if you wouldn't mind.

Bamboo floors have been installed throughout the house now. In the family room, the darker amber bamboo was specified. Also, note the entertainment center and the beautiful ceiling fan.

This photo has been shown before, but using the old camera. All the dust is now highly visible with the new camera. Most of the kitchen cabinets still need hardware, but the sink, floors, and lighting are finished throughout the house.

Photos of the eating nook have been shown many times before, but never from this angle, which was made possible by the wider angle capabilities of the new camera. Note the support for the table which matches the newel posts at the stairway. It's called design.

Here's the landing of the stairway showing protective pads used during construction to prevent damage to the coastal maple hardwood floors and treads. Also, note the glass blocks which are visible from the study on the other side of this wall. Kids should love these. Howard does.

Built-in dresser drawers in two bedrooms show a bit of Arts & Crafts influence.

One of the two vanities in the master bathroom -- his and hers -- with a large storage cabinet in-between. Note the same trim detail around the mirror as used throughout the house. The light fixture was selected by the client -- she vetoed the architect's choice, which was a bit larger and more contemporary.

This great view to the southwest towards Terry Lake has been shown before, but not with the new camera. The exact location of the house on the lot, the location of the master bedroom on the plan, and the design of this deck were consciously chosen by the architect to create this great view through the neighbor's backyard.

The view to the southwest from the same upper deck hints at how the back of the house was oriented directly towards the best views of the foothills of Fort Collins.

The landscape plan starts to become apparent from up above. The concrete patio nearest the house will be covered by a cedar pergola -- currently under construction -- so the owners can enjoy their great views of the foothills and sunsets year-round while being screened by the garage from the prevailing winds.

One of the special features of this house is a dog room accessible through a dog door from outside so the dogs can come into the house anytime they wish. With stained concrete floors in the basement, a floor sink for easy cleaning, and a dutch door (shown to the left), which can be left half-open when the owners wish, means the dogs can have a very pleasant yet durable interior space of their own.

The extra large shower to the 3/4-bath in the basement is lined with the same slate as used in the master bathroom two stories above.

You can see a few branches from one of a dozen scrub oaks left untouched per the architect's instructions to the contractor. The two-acre site was substantially revised except for one corner of the site which had these trees on it. Howard hates to cut down trees if it can be helped.

The contractor's superintendent and a carpenter talk about construction of a wood fence leading from the dog door and dog room to a fenced-off area for the dogs. The carpenter should begin framing the cedar pergola on Wednesday. Note that the upper floor hasn't been painted yet as the painter needs a cherry picker and good weather. Also, lots of cedar fascia and posts still need to be stained.

The air conditioning fan coil units amidst landscaping rocks and trees on the northwest side of the house. This whole side of the house hasn't been painted or stained yet.

A close-up view of the landscape rocks and boulders creating a step path up to an elevated outdoor seating area. This was designed by the landscape designer.

Tuesday Travels with Livestock

Howard rode north of town again today looking for 170-some miles, but only finding 61. Temps in the low 30s, sunny skies, breezy, but Howard kept a good pace. Big winter blizzard apparently on the way. One finger kept freezing inside the glove, but a little frostbite only makes Howard stronger. 114 miles to go to reach his magical number of 8,000 miles. Stopped at the million-dollar house and took about a hundred photos with the new camera. Some of them are coming to this blog soon.

A single solitary cow standing in the middle of a nicely furrowed field of snow, staring at a cyclist.

Christmas tree orchard unharvested, overly mature, in a desiccated winter field. Not a metaphor. Just trees, okay?

Lone white horse at feedlot looking at Howard and hoping not to be "processed".

Curious cattle waiting to be "processed", but wishing they were white horses.

A strange yet beautiful house on a rise, with a curiously unpainted second story. Another unharvested Christmas tree orchard in foreground.

George Bailey's Not So Wonderful Life

James Howard Kunstler thinks the greatest waste of time, investment, and resources in the history of mankind occurred shortly after WWII with the contruction in America of suburbs and our auto-dependent way of life. As he writes, "American suburbia represents the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."

This particular Howard agrees.

In his latest weekly blog installment of Clusterfuck Nation, Kunstler, author of Home From Nowhere and The Long Emergency, writes about the wonderful film It's A Wonderful Life and how backwards its message was about the progressive evolution of towns.

In his preamble, Kunstler writes:
It's a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas card to America, is full of strange and bitter lessons about who we were and who we have become. It also illustrates the perversity of history -- the fact that things sometimes end up the opposite of the way we expect.
He then goes on to make his case:
Here's the weird part though. The main business of Bailey Building and Loan was financing the first new suburban subdivisions of the automobile age. In one of the movie's major set pieces, George Bailey opens Bailey Park, a tract of car-dependent cookie-cutter bungalows, and turns over the keys to the first house to the Italian immigrant Martini family. Had the story continued beyond 1946 into, say, the 1980s, (with George Bailey now a doddering Florida golfer), we would have seen the American landscape ravaged by suburban development, and the main street towns like Bedford Falls gutted and left for dead. That was the perverse outcome of George Bailey's good intentions.
Kunstler then shows how our contemporary reality of residential life in America has become Bailey Park, but with largely few of the values exemplified by George Bailey:
Now the weirdest thing is that Pottersville is depicted as a busy, bustling, lively place -- the exact opposite of what main streets all over America really became, thanks to George Bailey's efforts -- a wilderness of surface parking, from sea to shining sea, with WalMart waiting on the edge of every town like Moloch poised to inhale the last remaining vapors of America's morale. Frank Capra could imagine vibrant small towns turning their vibrancy in the direction of vice -- but he couldn't imagine them forsaken and abandoned, with the shop fronts boarded up and the sidewalks empty, which was the true tragic destiny of all the Bedford Falls in our nation.
If interested, you can read the entire essay -- December 18th, Not So Wonderful -- here. If you haven't read Kunstler before, there are a lot of new and possibly confusing concepts being introduced in his essay about the urban/suburban development patterns over the past 60 years. If interested, you should read one of his books -- any one really since he explains his premises in all of them. The man has been accused of being a crank, but he's also a first-rate thinker who consistently makes his case.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Anatomy of a 41-Mile Bike Ride

Today's bike ride covered 41 miles. 172 miles to go to get to 8,000 for the year. The starting temperature was 25 degrees, but quickly warmed to 34. Howard installed his new studded snow tires on his Raleigh Hybrid Passage 3.0 bike, but didn't really need them as the city bike paths were already cleared of the snow that fell yesterday. The studs make a real racket and slowed Howard down, but they also helped make him stronger than ever.

Here are ten photos that Howard took with his new camera so you can see some of what he saw on a 41-mile bike ride of about three hours (click to enlarge)...

Lots and lots and lots of ducks.

Low-clearance pathways under streets (much better than across streets).

Low-clearance pathways under railroad tracks (better than across tracks).

Magnetized bike paths that go on forever.

Beautiful bridges across large frozen rivers.

Beautiful bridges made of rusted Core-Ten steel.

Frozen river beds and foothills beyond.

Great photo opportunities for ice bikes w/studded snow tires.

Strange suspension bridges leading from nowhere to nowhere else.

More strange suspension bridges from here to there (and back again).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Some Down, More To Go

There's nothing more boring than a diary or a daily activities log. Still... Howard's gonna do the big countdown -- or count-up -- to 8,000 miles on a bicycle since he's been working on this all year. Same as the million-dollar house, which should be done and moved in at about the same time Howard finishes his 8,000-mile goal.

The weather report was supposed to be windy and warm -- just like yesterday's weather. It wasn't very windy at all, though it was warm. Which leads Howard to believe that 1) weather forecasters have no imagination beyond assuming that tomorrow is going to be just like today, or; 2) weather forecasters that use computer models are clueless beyond what historical precedent might suggest. Howard can say this because his father is a retired atmospheric scientist. His father has on occasion been accused of a lack of imagination, and he loves the computer modelling. Howard's in tight with D
ad, so Dad won't get too offended when he says this to the entire world! Right, old man?

So with all this great (relatively) windless weather, one would expect that Howard did 70, 80, 100 miles? Nope. Too busy this morning. Didn't get out until about 2 pm. Rode for 41 miles, took a bunch of photos, and got back after sunset without any lights on his bike.

The picture above is a self-portrait at the halfway point in the afternoon ride -- a grove a huge cottonwood and evergreen trees at the end of a county road about 15 miles from the Colorado-Wyoming border. Sorry about the Wal-Mart happy face, but Howard's not quite ready to unveil his beauty just yet. He's 6'-3" and as of this afternoon, weighed 205. Working hard to reach his ideal weight of 194 by next summer.

Howard came across a herd of bison on the ride back. Howard's not sure how he missed them on the way out since he's usually most alert and attentive. Yeah, you read that right. He's also clueless -- like his weatherman dad.

41 miles down this afternoon, 213 miles to go. Keep ya' posted...