Archive for December, 2016

Inadvertent Adventure

Right, then…

So, on Monday, I didn’t need to be in until 9am, so I thought I’d ride all the way in from home – about 23 miles, judging by Google Maps.

Not that hard of a distance for me as I’ve done it before, even though I’m not in the greatest shape these days.  However, on this particular occasion, I was riding my new/old mountain bike as the Bob Jackson is now in the shop getting a generator hub, headlight, single speed crank and new handlebars.

The mountain bike is what I bought about this time last year. I had the frame powder coated this cool burnt orange color, transferred the good stuff from my old, unused FSR over and added a front rack.  Cool looking, not horribly heavy, but…it felt slow.

No matter, I gave myself 2.25 hours to go 23 miles…this should be doable.

In the old days, I used to consult maps and make a cue sheet.  With the advent of omnipresent GPS, I’ve come to rely on the iPhone.  I like Google Maps app and think it works fine, but the iPhone does not do well in cold weather; it dies at inconvenient times.  So, I went back to the old way:  Making a cue sheet.  Which was convenient for a while, until I could no longer find the road that I was supposed to turn right on.  This led to several minutes (longer than I thought, as it turns out) spent backtracking and trying to find my turn.  This went on at various parts of the trip between Menlo Park and Sunnyvale.    Ultimately, I rolled up to my office.  I figured I was maybe 1/2 hour or so late.  When I get inside and warmed up the phone to start it, I checked the time:  7 minutes after 10.  Holy shit.  In a panic, I checked pages and e mails for anyone that was looking for me and happily found none.  Showered, changed and at my desk a full 1 1/2 hours after I was supposed to be there.  It was not until after lunch did I finally warm up from the ride.

I took the time to map out the route, backtracking and all.  The original route was supposed to be 23 miles; I rode 31.

In the post mortem, I learned a couple of things:  1)  Don’t ride a new route if you have to be somewhere by a particular time; 2) Wool clothes do a fine job of keeping warm, but a beanie would have helped; 3)  Missing one minor side street can derail you’re entire navigation plan; and 4) despite all of the articles now saying you ride just as fast on wider tires, someone as heavy as I still needs to jack up the pressure, somewhat.  (this is why the bike felt slow, I reckon).

I was able to get through the day, but it was tough.  However, I wasn’t out of the woods, yet; I still had to get back home.  As I was rather tired after work, my boss (who is also an old friend that I ride with) took pity on my and gave me a ride to CalTrain.  As there was no recent train that would stop at my house, the thought was to ride it north to a particular station, cross over and pick up the southbound train that arrives a few minutes later and get off at my stop.  Well, my train arrived late, so I missed the southbound train.  There was another train in about 5 minutes that would get me home in 1/2 hour.  Wanting to get home sooner, and not wanting to walk the 1.5 miles home,  I decided to walk over and see if there were any cabs in the parking lot – there weren’t.  3 minutes until the next train comes, so I turned back…then I heard the horn.  The fucker showed up early.  Shit…legs too dead to run, I could not get to the crossing before the guards came down, trapping me on the wrong side.  While I could have gone under, that’s a $250 fine which I did not want.  I hoped against hope that maybe the guards would go up after the train had stopped; they didn’t.  So, I got to stand there and watch as everyone loaded up and took off.  Pissed, I put on my headphones, cranked up some music and hoofed it out of there, finally making it home about 1/2 hour later.

I’m happy to report that the first shakedown ride went very well, however.  Tahn builds a damn fine bike.  I still need to tweak some things (still getting numbness in the hands, even with ergo grips and padded gloves), but I like the bike.

But sometimes you get more exercise than you bargained for…



Categories: Uncategorized

Flying, Health, Puppy

Right, then…

Thought it was time to write a little bit about the flying lessons.

Today, like most weekends, I had a flying lesson.  Early in the process, my instructor focused on the basics:  Turning, altitude changes, taking off, etc…  Having gotten somewhat OK with those, we’ve spent the past 6 or so lessons focusing on landings.  Specifically, we’ve been doing touch and go’s while staying in the pattern.  My instructor stated that we’ll be spending lots of hours practicing these as a) they’re hard to master, and b) they’re a critical part of flying (take offs equal landings, and all…).

There’s a thing that is a little counterintuitive about this process.  Normally, we think that we control altitude changes by either pushing or pulling on the yoke, and we control the speed by working the throttle.  In fact, during most of normal flight, this remains true.  However, while landing, we’re in slow flight, which means that these actions are reversed:  The yoke controls the speed and the throttle controls the altitude.

Counterintuitive, but it does make sense.  If I want the plane to move faster, I point it towards the ground (push the yoke forward) and let gravity do the work.  If I want it to slow down, I point it towards the sky (pull the yoke back) and…well…let gravity do the work.

As for altitude, increasing prop speed (via engine speed) increases air flow over the wings, which creates lift, which then lifts the plane.  Slowing it down does the opposite.

It took me a while to process this, but I’m getting better and remembering which control to actuate when I want speed and/or altitude.  But it’s not that simple.

When landing, you are effectively flying the plane to the ground, leveling off just above the runway, and then pulling the nose up (flaring) to slow down the plane, which causes it to lower on to the main gear, and then touch down the nose wheel.  I’m struggling with the “flying the plane to the ground” portion.

Now, logically, I know that in order to land, I need to get…closer…to…the…ground.  But when I find myself on final approach, with speed maybe a bit too low, I point the nose down to increase speed.  I then incorrectly think that I’m too low, so I give it throttle to gain altitude…which gets me too high.  That, apparently is where I’m hosing thing’s up.  Part of this is my perception of how low I am, vs. how low I need to be, and part is my belief that I’m going too slow (65 Kts is fine, but always seems too slow for some reason).  Regardless, I find myself effectively pointing the plane at the ground while applying power which feels a lot like “Mother of God, I’m going to fly straight into the goddamn ground and they’ll be digging bits of me and airplane out of the goddamn marsh!”.   This feeling with followed by the thought “You’ve done some stupid shit in your life, but this one beats all.”

The good news is that the instructor feels that I am, in fact, improving and that I’m not, in fact, different than other students.  He thinks I have another 7 or so hours of flight before I can solo.  Absolutely terrifying.

One new thing today: I did some talking on the radio with ground control and the tower.  Listening to KPAO tower – or any one, for that matter – on Live ATC is intimidating, but I was told is that there’s only a limited number of things to say with a limited number of responses, generally.  So today I worked with ground to taxi to the run up area, then spoke to the tower to get clearance for takeoff.  While flying, my instructor worked the radio, as he feels (correctly) that it’s more important for me to learn how to fly the damn plane.

So I got that going for me, which is nice…

On the health front, I’ve been sick.  Started out as throat and nose, then descended to URI. So bicycling is out for a few days, which is a fucker as I’m trying to more consistently commute on the bike.  I even have a route mapped out from home to work.  Now, I wait.

Final thing:  Puppy.  It’s amazing how an 8 pound puppy can completely immobilize you.  All she has to do is lay on some part of me and I’ll be stuck for hours as I don’t want to disturb her.  It doesn’t help that she’s soft, either.

OK, enough of this…