Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday is Adrenaline Day

Woke up early today, thanks to daylight savings time and convinced Adam that we should go dirt biking instead of playing Civ all day. Our original plan was to start at 10AM and meet a couple of friends there, but friends flaked, so no point in waiting.

Arrived at Metcalf at around 9AM (which really is 10AM, if you think about it), unloaded the bikes and geared up. We warmed up by taking a few laps around the GP track, then headed out to the hillside track. The hillside track has some neat features to it, and is mildly difficult to get to, which means its never very busy. This morning a tractor had torn some gouges out of the downhill that leads to to track, which was exciting because it's steep enough that you can't really stop or slow down much on the hill.

We spent a while working on jumping our bikes at the hillside track, and then Adam wanted to try some trail riding. I said I was game, let's go find a trail.

Some of you may hear the theme music change around this point.

Neither Adam or I have ever done any trail riding at Metcalf before, so we had no notion of how easy or hard any of these trails are. All the single track is marked "Most Difficult" (black diamond), so the park really didn't help us out there.

We started out by just taking trails we knew existed, but hadn't been down before. Went down a drail that runs next to the creek, and then up a short hill climb, which were both "blue" (medium) trails, but we noticed a number of entrances to a trail called "Snake". At the top of the trail, we saw an entrance (looked like a big rabbit hole), and Adam said "let's go in there".

The trail was pretty cool, and not too bad for the most part. There was one hairy right-hander early on, where you have to make a tight right-hand turn, and if you leave the line, you're pretty much going to slide down the hill into the creek bed. But we kind of tip-toed our way through that. Then, later in the trail, we came around a corner and suddenly we have to do a climb up through a small gulch. Adam punched it and powered his way through, I tried but got off-line and my front wheel rode up the side of the gulch.

I knew I was in trouble at this point, but figured my only chance was to gas it out and hope I got somewhere better than where I was. My XR has a big, torquey motor, so it just drove right up the side wall of the gulch until I lost my balance and the bike fell.

Adam noticed that I hadn't followed him, so he came back to help out. I managed to muscle the bike around so it was pointed downhill, but couldn't get it started (four-strokes do not like being tipped over). The hill climb we did earlier was only a short distance away, so I rode it off trail over to the hill climb, then went down the hill climb and used the hill to compression-start the bike.

I rode around to meet Adam at the top of the trail. He had managed to get through all the difficult parts without dropping his bike, but then hit a rock in the straight-line part as he was coming up to the top of the trail. He had picked up his bike by the time I got there, but, naturally, it wouldn't start. We took turns talking and trying to kick-start his bike (no convenient hill), then went back to the parking lot for a water break.

We had had a couple minor mishaps, but were having fun trail riding, so we decided to pick a couple more trails and then call it a day. We saw there was a trail that did a little loop around a hill, so we went to try that one out. As Adam rode past the trail head marker, I noticed that in addition to the "Most Difficult" icon, there were "Steep Uphill" and "Steep Downhill" icons on the marker I had never seen before. However, at this point we were pretty much committed, so off I went.

Right off the bat it was clear this trail was much more difficult than the others we'd found that day, but there wasn't much we could do about it. There's nowhere to turn around on the trail, so we pretty much had to plow forward. At one point I heard Adam yell out and his bike stopped moving, so I turned my bike off and leaned up against the hill and went to check it out. He'd had to make a tight left-hand turn into a rut, and a root of a Manzenita tree had caught the footpeg on his bike was holding up the entire bike by the footpeg. That was a tough tree.

A little shoving got him off of the tree, so I followed him past the tree without incident, but just down the hill from there the trail was a bit washed out. My rear tire got off the trail into the wash, and the whole bike started sliding down the wash at that point. We quickly figured out there wasn't going to be any way to get the bike back on to the trail, and so decided to just let the bike slide down the wash to where there was another trail. It fell a couple times on the way down, which wasn't a big deal -- the wash was basically sand.

I slid and pushed my bike down to the lower trail and took a breather while Adam got his bike started, then I started up my bike (kick, kick, kick) and started heading up the new trail. I met Adam about 50' down the trail -- turns out it was the lower part of the same trail. Adam had to ride through a four-foot drop to get there, and had broken his clutch lever on the way down.

We saw a bail-out point on the trail, where we could see the creek side trail, so Adam managed to get his bike started up and running in first gear, then rode it on to the trail and out. I followed him out to the parking lot, and we loaded up the bikes.

Despite the multiple falls, we didn't feel too bad about the day of trail riding. Had we known the trail was that difficult, we wouldn't have taken it, but once we were on it we did the best we could. Next time, though, maybe we should ask the ranger what the "easy" black trails are.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Today is a Good Day to Blog

Apparently I'm not the only one having a tough time concentrating on work, because Mark just posted a lengthy description of the work he's been doing in his basement.

It must be something about Fridays.

I'm also trying out the "BlogThis" feature, which does seem pretty convenient, as well as the backlinks feature. Of course, for backlinks to work, someone else actually has to link back to my blog. Could be a while.

On the blog spam front, I can report success since turning on word verification. Apparently the bots aren't smart enough to figure that one out yet.

Bike For Ash

I helped Ash pick up his new (2001) XR400 last monday, so he can join our little dirt-riding crew.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Gone Ridin'

Jon called me last night and wanted to know if I was up for a ride sunday morning. He said the meet time was 11AM, which I thought was reasonable, especially since I had a hockey game saturday night (tied, 5-5).

I woke up at 10AM, which was a tad late considering I was supposed to be at Jon's place at 10:45. Clearly I was entirely awake, since I found myself in Los Gatos on highway 17, and thought to myself, "Los Gatos? But I'm supposed to be driving to Menlo Park..." Turn around, back on 17, up 85 to 280, and I arrived at Jon's place not too late.

Met Ash, Amy, Ethan, and a couple of their friends at Peet's Coffee, then rode up 84 to Alice's restaurant. We spent about half an hour there chatting, as we waited for Warren to show up, then contintued down 84 to Pescadero. The original plan was to stop at Duarte's for lunch, but they had a 45 minute wait, so we decided to continue on to Davenport. Apparently we had a communications failure at this point, because it was not clear to Ethan quite how dire Jon's gas situation was -- he drove to Davenport on reserve.

After a rather overpriced cheeseburger, Jon and I headed back to stop at the next gas station. It turned out to be 15 miles away, not 11 as Ethan claimed, and unfortunately Jon had about 14.9 miles of gas left in his tank.

Jon hopped on my bike and we rode the 0.1 mile to the gas station, bought a vastly overpriced 1-gallon gas can (apparently they've got this drill figured out), then rode back to Jon's bike. When we got back, we realized that it was all downhill to the gas station, and he probably could have coasted in...

But, Jon got to the station, and was fuelled up and one gas can richer for the experience. Got back home, milled around for a couple hours, then went to tonight's hockey game, which we won 1-0. Yay!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Computer Recycling

The original plan for the day was to take a trip to Metcalf and spend a couple hours riding. However, due to minor technical foibles, the plan switched to spending some time working on the bikes, so we could go riding... some other day.

Adam decided he needed new tires, so we went to Cycle Salvage and priced out some dirt tires (pretty reasonable, apparently all dirt tires cost $75), and then we went home to go yank the wheels off his bike. Being cheap as we are these days, naturally we didn't actually buy a bike stand, but instead utilized the nearest handy device of approximately the right size:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Dirt Biking

Adam and I went to Metcalf last sunday to go dirt bike riding. It was the first time in a couple years for each of us, but the main reason we hadn't gone riding more in the past was a lack of someone to go riding with. Since we're both around the same skill level (almost none), we're also well-matched riding partners.

First run of the day was a little hairy -- most of my experience is in street riding, and it's a little unsettling to have the bike start wandering and drifting underneath you. Managed to shake that off after a couple laps and get back up to my previous comfort level.

The day went well, I even successfully did a hill climb towards the end of the day. We mostly stuck to the green and blue trails, as well as spending some time on the GP track, which was pretty fun. I liked the track because it helped me practice my skills, and spend less time worrying about what's around the next corner or over the next hill.

I dumped my bike on the last run of the day (naturally), which broke one of the brush guards and bent my clutch lever. Went to Road Rider to pick up a replacement, figuring it had to be cheap -- it's just a piece of molded plastic, and dirt bikes crash all the time, so there's lots of volume. Brake and clutch levers are $6-$7, after all, despite the fact there are dozens of different types of them for different bikes.

The brush guards turned out to be $90 for a set. Surprise. You can get them online for slightly cheaper, but it still feels like highway robbery. I bought them anyways, because I'm still not entirely used to low-cash-flow living, but next time they break I think I'll be repairing them.

Other than the breakage, it was a good trip, and we've decided we'll have to do more of that. As low-cost entertainment, it's hard to beat -- it's $5 to get the two of us into the park for the day. The bikes didn't even go through half a tank during the 4 hours we were there, so the main expense for the day (aside from the brush guards) was the gas it took to drive the truck there.

Oooh baby, change my track

Sometimes you run across applications of technology which are, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit strange. This article talks about a researcher who wants to use wireless technologies and implants to enable people to carry around portable electronic devices.

The storage location? Breast implants.

Yes, under the why-let-space-go-to-waste theory, someone figured that a set of aftermarket headlights would be a great place to embed a portable MP3 player. The marketing spins on this are just too good to pass up. iBoob, anyone?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Parental Units

My parents stopped in last weekend on their way to visit my dad's brother and my grandparents. Had a good time while they were here, showed them the house and the new office. My mom's comment: "It looked bigger in the photos."

I had a hockey game saturday night, so I took them to watch that. The rink somehow forgot to provide a scorekeeper, so my mom ended up in the scorekeeper's box running the scoreboard. She had the best seat in the house for our 2-2 tie game (I was also happy that my parents got to see a good game; I think the last time my parents watched one of my games we lost. Badly).

Lots of work to do these days, since we've started doing development of a new product. We haven't even finished the old product yet. Wheee.

The Blog Spam Strikes Back

Oh, the irony. I changed the posting policy to only allow registered posters to post, and what do I get? A flood of people I've never heard of all saying "oh, I love your blog, come take a look at my blog at XXXX".

So apparently I need to make my posting policy, or just turn it off... After all, since only two people that I know have ever actually posted to my blog, the spammers have the real posters beat by a wide margin.