Pinnacle National Park

Very pretty… And very random set of rocks.  Very out of place in Cali.  Kind of like stuff you’d see in New Mexico and Utah, but in a much smaller scale?  Still cool though.

Best part is the verticals… Steep enough that even I wanted to use the handholds and go down backwards.  Would love to do it again and check out the Balcony caves…

Alouette Lake Hike

Some real hiking. Vancouver style – rain, muck and snow.  Fallen logs and ladders.  Awesome hike.

Muir Woods Hike

Back way in… got totally lost and didn’t hike any of the route we wanted, but still a great day.

Road Trip to Yosemite Part 2

Another slow start… Didn’t leave the place until after noon.   It was our last day and had to clean up after ourselves.  Too bad, should have spent more time there!

But we did get into the valley and did a quick walk to Bridal Veil and then over to do Yosemite falls.  It was awesome!   Wish we had more time to be able to do a more complete hike.  Will have to save it for next time!

Road trip to Yosemite Part 1- Mariposa Grove

Like all trips, planning was ambitious.  We wanted to leave early and grab a bunch of things on our way south.  It largely went to plan, but probably more pain than necessary.

First, leaving work at all was difficult.  After a week of iOS training, I wanted to get a feature launched or dark launched before the weekend. But even after much scrambling, we just had to call it off.  But it did mean the original plan to leave the South Bay was delayed.  Did manage to pick everyone up, swing by to pick up boerewors sausage and get groceries in Gilroy and make it to the AirBnB by 10.  Late, but was a pretty awesome pad.  Hung out and chilled for a few hours before calling it a night.

Next morning, I woke up ridiculously early as usual and proceeded to make breakfast for everyone.   Annoyed the poor guy sleeping in the living room closest to the kitchen a little bit, but it was worth it to wake everyone up with actual food.  Marshmallow French Toast with bacon!   Delicious.   Was also able to pack up lunch for everyone.

Getting out the door was a bit rough.  Unfortunately with only a single car, it meant everyone had to be ready at the same time.  Never easy… But we did get out the door a little after noon on and make it to Mariposa Grove for a bit of a hike.  It was a short hike 2.5miles… We figured we’d be done in an hour or so…

But snow!  And pictures!   So the hike took a lot longer than planned.  But it was a ton of fun!

But by the time we made it into the valley, the Visitor’s Centre was closed.  They were still kind enough to open the door to let me stamp my passport.

Back to Oakhurst to pick up groceries for dinner and lunch the next day.   Group dinner of Rack of Lamb and roast veggies!  Delicious…  Then hot tub and smores.  It was an amazing night!



2014 Bicycle Project – Day 5 & 6 – Brake Lines

So having mostly sourced the parts the day before, this day was mostly about putting them on.  The best bet I could find for the front centering mount didn’t fit – they key was too big for my headset and everything was rather bent out of shape.   Spent a good chunk of time twisting it into something reasonably straight and making the adjustment fit.

Rear Brakes:

Rear Derailleur:

So I now have brakes and gears – sort of.   Can’t actually reach the high/low gears.  But I can ride it!

All in all, mostly an exercise in hunting for parts.  In retrospect, probably not worth my time.  The rear shifting is most likely off because of some bad cable housing and a pretty mangled shifter.  Next day will have to be spent on replacing the bad housing and replacing the shifter.

2014 Bicycle Project – Days 1 & 2

Of the physical things lost as part of my move to California was my access to single track vehicles.  My bicycle was lost in shipping and Mendy is still waiting on paperwork issues.   Both of which I plan on resolving this year.   But since Mendy requires a trip to the DMV, the more practical thing was to work on getting a new bicycle.  I had considered just buying new bike, but since everyone says that SF is a terrible place to own a nice bike – they all get stolen, I tried to source a cheap one.  Unfortunately, to be able to shop for a bicycle, you kind of need to know something about them.  Not exactly one of my strong points.

Enter the Bike Kitchen – I had heard of this place in at MakerFaire, It had seemed to be a bit of a hacker dojo for bicycles – common space to work on bicycles and learn from others.  But I had pretty much forgotten about it until a friend needed something fixed on his bike and went there to get it done rather than dealing with a traditional bicycle shop.  I went to check things out in Dec, but never really got around to doing anything since I was about to head back to Vancouver.

New year, new project!  It’s actually quite nice because it should scratch all sorts of itches:

  1. Build/Work on Something – condo/apartment living is a mild nuisance for a casual grease monkey such as myself.  It wasn’t so bad in Vancouver since I could go back to my parents’ or friends’ places to work on vehicles or help out.  It’s not like I was going to seriously invest in a project anyway, but having the option to do something was nice.  No such network here, so a (small?) project with a clear benefit would be nice.
  2. Obtain a cheap bike – this might be a false benefit since if I put in a lot of sweat, I might be even more upset about losing it than one I just paid for…
  3. Learn something – I don’t know much about bicycles, but gotta start somewhere.  I’m not the best ‘book’ learner anyway, a project is the best way for me.
Day 1:
So, Jan 2nd, I went over, paid my membership dues for the year and bought some digging rights and browsed through a bunch of frames on the walls.  I spotted a nice read Pinnacle, tagged it with my name and considered it a good start.

Pinnacle FS 10speed Frame


Day 2 – Actual work on the bicycle.

I got there bright and early on a Sat, 15mins or so before they opened to make sure I would get a spot.  After some waiting, I was first in line after the volunteers and managed to get myself a stand.  A good few hours to work on it… But no idea where to begin.  No front wheel, so I figured I should start there, right?

Lots of semi confused wandering, trying out various wheels and finding that none of them ‘fit’ the front forks.  Eventually just gave up and asked one of the volunteer mechanics for help – Elijah suggested that wheels were a good place to start, but considering it was an older frame that it might fit 27″ wheels instead of 700c.

Lesson 1:  27″ vs 700c

So it seems that older bikes in the USA and UK had 27″ wheels.  Generally, these were not very good quality bicycles and as racing became bigger, the good bikes from Europe became a bigger deal.  So the metric system started making inroads and is basically the new standard.  Choose 700c over 27″ wheels if possible.  Newer wheels and tires will be easier to get, but need to consider fit and brake distance/leverage.

I managed to find some matching 700c wheels, tried to fit them on the bike and realized that they still didn’t really fit – the back frame was most likely crooked.  Elijah dragged an older mechanic over and he pointed out that I should fix the frame, find a proper set of wheels and to widen out the frame enough to fit something appropriate – from 5 gears to 6 or 7, and that I should look for cassette for the ‘bigger’ sizes.

Lesson 2 – Freewheel vs Cassette

Good article here –   Basically, freewheel was the old style and more work to swap out sprockets.  Since the ratchet mechanism tends to last longer, the Cassette system allows you to replace just the sprockets multiple times before needing to deal with the internals.

Cassettes tend to show up with newer bikes and more gears.  What I was looking for would have some overlap.  I ended up with a 6-gear freewheel.

I had to straighten the frame with the ‘candlesticks’ before being told to look for a ‘hanging derailleur’.  No idea what that was or how to compare which ones were better.   Apparently, the important thing was to make sure all the little parts were attached(half moon plate for mounting the derailleur being the key).

Got that attached and put on some pedals and some handlebars too:


All in all, a good few hours of work.  A very humbling experience overall – I had no idea where to begin and the volunteers were very nice.  I managed to get dirty a little bit and I’ve already injured myself – pinched my finger between the bike and the stand:

So no actual blood drawn and no tears, just a bit of sweat so far.  No idea how long this project will actually take, but rather satisfying so far.  Visible progress, some lessons learned.  About the only reservation may be that since I am working with such an old frame, when I finally do pick up a ‘real’ bicycle, I’ll have to learn about a different set of components.

Testing out Dreamhost

Time to switch away from my previous hosting provider – 1&1.  Service has been great and the package we picked up years ago is actually pretty good for some things, but definitely had some issues that made it less than ideal.  Two issues in particular made life annoying:

– Custom DNS:  They verify that the DNS is properly configured and then take down your site mapping if it’s not.  This saves them resources, but my DNS provider(Enom) uses round robin DNS configuration.  This meant that the few entries I provided to 1&1 would never match up and the site would get taken down eventually(30 days?).   Usually not a big deal to put back up and resume the cycle, but a nuisance.

– Memory/Performance Limitations:  Whatever grandfathered package we had from years ago comes with more domains, but less performance.  Essentially not enough memory to resize photos on the server and general site performance was less than ideal.  I ended up having to create a custom build of the WordPress App for the 2012 trip.  It was also generally slow to respond and frustrating to use.

Hopefully Dreamhost solves these problems for a minimal extra cost.

Meander 2012 – Summary

Mendy has made it back to Vancouver.  Not quite home, but at least back to her hometown.     Time to sum up the trip:

Leg 1:  The West

Leg 2:  The South-West

Leg 3:  The South
Leg 4:  The East

Leg 4:  Maritimes

Leg 5:  Heading Home

Day 85-88: The Train Home

The train built Canada.  If you haven’t taken it before, I highly recommend it.  But there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Canada is a big place
  2. The train does not move very fast
To make things worse, Canada is a resource economy.   Transport of goods by rail was the main reason things developed the way it did – and why BC is even part of the country. So as a result, freight trains get right of way when things are coming in the other direction.  There is a lot of pulling over and waiting for other trains to go by.   The size of the country just doesn’t allow for multiple tracks.   This makes travel even slower.
I just wouldn’t go about it the way I did.  I went on VIA Rail’s site and picked up a seat sale – $225 for a seat from Toronto to Vancouver – 4 days.   Cheap, and you get to see Canada in a way you wouldn’t otherwise -t train travels routes you would never go.  Compared to flying, it’s a better experience.
Most of the 4 days was spent trying to catch up on sleep in a rather uncomfortable position.  I’d do some reading on the Kindle and drift off to sleep with one view…  And pretty much wake up to the same thing.  Aside from the three different distinct sections:  Northern Ontario, The Prairies, The Rockies, it was fairly hard to tell you had gone anywhere.
This sentiment seemed to be shared by the other guys I sat with at the dinner cart on the second night.  Students and the like who had more time than money and wanted to “see the country” like myself.  All of us were a touch sleep deprived – none of us slept well.  Conversation was a little stilted as a result.  My food was also terrible.  Some sort of chicken, but the bottom was completely dried out, but somehow not burnt.  The wine helped, but it was not the most pleasant meal.
A very big change compared to retired, chipper folks at the next table.  I think it was fairly safe to say that they had sprung for the cabin with beds.  They were also travelling with friends and were enjoying themselves.
Northern Ontario:


Breakfast in Winnepeg at Alexis Grill – should have ordered the potatoes well done:


Best part of Winnipeg was the Leg:

Built back when the city was booming and had a lot of money, the managed to build something that would last.

…  Not entirely sure what happened to the pictures …

Prairies – the not so flat bit:



Sunrise in Edmonton:


The best part, by far, was coming up into the Rockies.  For the most part, the tracks run along the road, so it’s not a huge difference from driving from Edmonton into Jasper.  This was the point where I missed Mendy the most – especially when I saw the bikes on the highway riding in the sun.   It was chilly, but absolutely stunning scenery.

Lunch in Jasper:



It’s much nicer than travelling by bus.  But if you can afford to, travel with friends and spring for the cabin.  Or if you can’t afford that, take the best part from Edmonton back to Vancouver – maybe on the Rocky Mountaineer.