25 January 2009

Staying cool

Riding with kids involves special activities, like pouring water over yourself.

Ten years ago I "over did' a bicycle ride with my 14 year old son Seth. He came home from boarding school for the weekend with his roommate and I took them for a long bike ride into masailand. It bordered on epic as it was too hot, energy levels got low, food wasn't eaten. It was my ignorance, and I almost gave bicycling a bad name for Seth.

Since then I am careful trying to make it less painful and fun for kids.

A week ago Sunday I needed to make some social visits, to Erik mdogo's to see what he has been doing and to Pete Oneal's to hang out.

It was a 75km ride lasting and all day. Nashesha and I packed up our tandem with some water and snacks. Dina got on a man sized bike and by 730 am we were on our way to Erik Mdogo's for a big breakfast. This 20 km section was cool and generally downhill. No worrying about kids spirits.

After a huge breakfast and a tour around Erik's farm we moved on at 11am.

Note the sweat on my shirt. Now I start worrying about Nashesha , so after taking this picture I have her splash around in this stream.
A bit later she sees some "zambaro" fruits so we pick some of those.
From the smile on nashesha's face I am going a good job
Nashesha informs me she needs real bicycle shoes with cleats so her feet stay on the pedals. Wow, am I happy.

We cross the highway and head up the Momella road. It is a long gentle uphill and Dina starts to lag and it is hot. We stop at as many streams as necessary and in between Nashesha takes cold stream water from a water bottle and pours over herself as seen in the first photo. That makes all of us feel better.

We reach Pete's early afternoon and drink cokes and beer and gobble crackers and eventually Pilau. We meet the orphans and watch a animated cartoon with them. Then we chat some and head out home. I am not sure we will make it as it is about 35km uphill. the first part is easy but we stop in one stream anyway just for fun.

After we cross the highway black clouds come up behind us and with the sun in our face we get rained on. Nashesha finds a rainbow and memorizes the colors.
The wind is behind us pushing us home. The dirt road is smooth and little traffic. I am doing a good job.

Erik Mdogo turns off to go home. Nashesha makes a firm decision to ride all the way home, and not get a lift from Mom like 3 years ago. We start racing daylight. Everyone feels like they have energy as we reach town but I force a soda on the kids, we drink 1/2 and the rest goes in water bottles. We make it into town before dark, but get caught by darkness on the other side. we crawl along on the side of the highway, weaving between pedestrians, cars, bikes, parking lots. We are on the wrong side of the road because that keeps us from crossing major intersections. We make it home 715 pm.

Nashesha is a chatter box of excitement, telling her mom all about her adventures for the next hour.

I think I succeeded in keeping her happy.

20 January 2009

Barack Obama

Enough print has been and will be written about this historic event.

I am happy he has been elected. I am even happier that the majority of Americans voted for him. That makes me feel better about being American.

I don't think Barack will ever be able to ride a bicycle again in his life. I can't imagine that.

15 January 2009

What I carry.

As I was putting my thermos in my commuting bag this morning I reflected for a moment on permanent stuff in that bag. It seems to get heavier. Is that because of experience it has more stuff?

A year ago I bought a commuting bag from Arkel. I bought this because (1) it looks like a briefcase (remember I am a stealth bike commuter), and (2) it has the locking mechanism so it doesn't fall off. Before that I used a backpack strapped on the rear rack.

I always have these in the bag:
-Pump. Once a month or so the tyre goes flat. I pump it up, spin it, and usually it stays up for ages. I have slime in the tubes, rarely do I get a flat that doesn't self fix. However once in awhile it just goes down.
-raincoat. I used to select the days but now I always carry it.
-rain pants. to keep mud, not rain off my legs. Link-headlamps (2) Most days i ride home in the dark.
-taillights (2)
-emergency miniature taillight. Someone sent one, I had to keep it somewhere.
-water bottle. for washing my feet in case they get muddy.
-plastic bag. For covering the seat.
-goggles. I should use everyday but it is not a habit. Lots of dust and grit in the air.
-shoulder strap. Never used it but it is forgotten in a pocket
-screwdriver. Why a big screwdriver? (I do not carry any other tools.) There was a time I didn't have the right middle chain ring, and sometimes the chain would get jammed between smallest and middle chain ring. without something like that it is hard to pull it out.
-strap for trouser legs.
-cable and lock.
-plastic bag. for covering my seat if it looks like rain.

I should add:
-magazine. Never know when i am twiddling my thumbs waiting for someone.
-multitool. I don't carry a multi tool and I should. I rarely need it and if i take one off the other bike bags i will forget and have a bigger problem.
-tube. It has happened that i have been punctured by bolts.

11 January 2009

My new bicycle workshop

I need some excuse to show off this roof on this bicycling blog.

The excuse is that this will be the ceiling over my intended bicycle workshop. Above will be Nashesha's bedroom.

I could make this a long, long, story as it involves many parts in my life over 15 years. However I will be brief.

I have been building a house at the clay brick factory for 4 years in the chance we have to move from where we live now.

My original well thought out floorplan keeps changing. It is bad enough that I can not make up my mind on the floor plan and keep changing the plan. Then add to that our ability to build with bricks is evolving.

The past 6 months several two factors have come up to make me change the floor above the garage/workshop from wood frame and floor to a groined brick vault. First the price of lumber has shot up astronomically and secondly my personal progress in brick building has followed the evolution in building Gothic cathedrals in Europe from wood trusses to barrel vaulted roofs to groined vaulted ceilings.

It started with plain single storey brick buildings 20 years ago.

From experience building underground water storage tanks and bio gas digestors I then built round rooms with dome roofs. Not very practical.

Then I learned about catenary vaults as roofs. As I mentioned previously, this was built as a storage room but Diana our maid lives here now.

Thomas Caspary a local architect then got me trying flatter vaults for between floors

The past month we have made groined vault for floor/ceiling.
Here is my mason Robson trying to figure out how to place the first brick on each arch. It was trial and error for a few days.

And our man Robson showing off his finished work, before pointing.

He built without form work, using one r-bar as a template for each wall. The bricks are put up quite dry or dry and the mud mortar works like glue and holds if you build fast enough.

The next step is high angle groined vaults, suitable for churches and musical buildings as shown below.

02 January 2009

Tanga Town is full of bicyclists

On boxing day I headed to Dar by bus for a TzNIC board meeting. The flights were all full as Air Tanzania is grounded (read the news yourself). Two days later I was back on the bus heading for Segera to rendezvous with my Family and Balden Family for 4 nights at Pangani.

Dar does not have so many bicyclists and I wondered why. Heat? More mass transit?

We got delayed as Mike's Nissan blew up and we waited for another car. So we only made it to Tanga for the night, too late for the ferry at Pangani.

Tanga is a sleepy slower town. We walked down the beach road in the twilight and dark. Next day going out of town I was struck by all the bicyclists. Always they were around. Pretty cool.

I missed a week of riding. Maybe I should get a fold able bike for my trips to Dar. I spent around $70 on taxis. The heat and humidity might make it impractical though.

We did a day of snorkeling. Nashesha is at ease snorkeling and we got to see an octopus.