31 August, 2009

R.I.P. $12 Tent

After two seasons, it's time to retire the $12 tent (now valued at $16 as it needed a $4 patch). I realized recently that I was avoiding camping any time there was much chance of rain. Let's just say my confidence lacked.

Courtesy of a sale, I am now the proud owner of a North Face Moraine 23. From the instant I opened the box, the differences in quality were evident. But c'mon -- the new tent retailed for 15x the cost of it's predecessor.

The $12 tent served me well in helping affordably re-discover camping and how much I enjoy it. I'm also finding that camping makes it even easier to enjoy other activities; some great campgrounds by trout streams and mountain bike trails! But perhaps my favorite part is cooking over an open fire. I love to cook, and especially to grill. Campfire cooking takes the challenge to a whole new level!

Lest you think the $12 tent is dumpster bound, it's on to its next chapter - a new tent for my niece and nephew to utilize in their adventures. Farewell and bon voyage!


21 August, 2009

Plaxidope - Lesson Learned?

Plaxico Burress is all over the news this week for his 2-year prison term plea bargain. Some say too harsh, others not enough -- I think it's about right. This NFL star, in the prime of his earning potential is being taken out of circulation. This sends a powerful message about the seriousness of gun crimes and proper handling of a firearm.

Let's look at his trail of ignorance:
  1. Concealed permit had expired.
  2. Concealed permit was from another state.
  3. Gun wasn't registered properly.
  4. No holster; just tucked in his pocket - and with a round chambered.
  5. Carrying in a bar.

Nice work, genius. I can decide which of these is most outlandishly stupid. I'm inclined toward #4. Holsters aren't for Quick Draw McGraw old west antics. They serve a simple purpose; to keep the firearm under control in a consistent place, and to prevent accidentally hitting the trigger and discharging the gun.

Lock him up. And keep him there. And keep it in the media as an example. You own guns, you need to have the respect, intelligence, and common sense they demand.

And, let's not even get into the fact that he was wearing sweat pants in an NYC club...


20 August, 2009

Sweet Ride

My SE mountain bike has me all nostalgic for my youth. This BM Flyer (yeah, make the joke...) is really just a 29er upsized version of the old OM Flyer 24" that SE made for a few years. As a kid, I spent a lot of time tearing around, jumping over things, and generally wreaking havoc on various BMX bikes.

For me, the SE brand represented the most innovative and stylish bikes around. And they were usually among the most durable - I broke a LOT of bikes and parts back in the day. Actually cracked one of the early CroMo (strong stuff) CyclePro BMX frames IN HALF after only six months of riding.

I only owned one SE though - a PK Ripper. Eventually, it became too small, so off it went for something larger that I can't remember. What I do remember was that it was NOT an SE Quadrangle. I wanted one of those so badly, but cost was just astronomical and I tended to buy what I could find a deal on through the bike shop I worked for. Sadly, we weren't an SE dealer.

Poking around online I find a guy in CA who's had a custom, jumbo Quad built for himself. From the looks of the few photos online
it's pretty much authentic - except that instead of being a 20" wheel BMX bike, it's a full-size 26" mountain bike style! What a cool ride! I can't imagine the cost for this frame though. A handmade straight tube bike is one thing, but this beast is a complex maze of overlapping tubes and quirky angles. Nevertheless, it's WAY cool!

Whatever you're riding, it's a great time to be out there! I'm really enjoying tearing up the trails.


19 August, 2009

Bug Box(es)

Fly fishing has provided no end of learning. Seems like there's some "ah-ha!" every time. I love to learn new things, so this has been very rewarding.

The evidence of my learning has been the progression of my fly boxes. At first, bought a cheap one and stuffed everything in it. Then two things happened -- got too many flies, and figured out that waterproof fly boxes are worth the extra money.

By this time, I'd learned the difference between "dry" and "wet" flies. So started the first re-shuffling. Then I started getting more serious about steelhead, which triggered the addition of a steelhead box. After that a big bug box for streamers. Also poppers for bass on lakes, as well as some BIG flies for muskie. And, then mid-summer I discovered terrestrials -- hoppers, ants, spiders and other stuff that floats in the river and entices those mid-day summer fish to have a taste.

Did a re-org -- again -- this weekend. It's now mostly by species/location. So here's the current inventory. Standard size boxes are Scientified Anglers two-sided System X boxes, larger are Orvis or Cliff's.
  1. All-purpose trout box: dries on one side, nymphs (and split shot and indicators) on the other.
  2. Steelhead box: eggs on one side, nymphs on the reverse.
  3. Terrestrial box: all manner of earth-bound stuff that can fall in the river. Orvis Toon Hoppers are my current faves.
  4. Streamer box: big trout streamers, muskie streamers, and some mice for late-night mousin'.
  5. Lake box: assortment of large and small poppers for largemouth bass on lakes.
  6. Huron box: assortment of hex and terrestrials that are working for smallmouth on the Huron river.
  7. Leftover box: some salmon flies mixed in with some oddballs and other mutts.

This system seems to work pretty well for me. I can grab 1-2 boxes, throw them in my vest and be ready to go on fairly short notice. It's also easy to tell what I'm running low on.


18 August, 2009

One for Fun

Gotten in a fair bit of saddle time on the single-speed. And, I love it. The simplicity just completely works. Out on the trail I can hear the geared folk coming a mile off -- clink, ker-plunk, sproing... as they shuffle gears to get into the right one for the uphill, the descent, the corner, whatever. Got a hill to climb? Pedal harder.

Plus, I feel so much more in-tune with the bike, the trail, and my body. Much more able to find the groove of the ride.

Only downside I've found are moderate downhills. With 31-18 gearing you spin out pretty fast. It's not an issue on steeper hills -- no need to pedal there anyway! The Hammerschmidt front crankset (basically gives you two gear ratios, without two cogs) looks appealing, but that's more hardware, cables, etc. which I don't want.

And you stand out in the parking lot and on the trail. Maybe as a retro eccentric, but the s/s does seem to garner a measure of respect! I seldom see any others sans gears, even at crowded trailheads.

Finally an update - the WTB Laser V saddle and I have made peace. I think I just needed to get my arse broken in properly (seriously -- I was reading an article in Bicycling that talked about just this issue). And the narrow profile works well for leverage in technical trail spots.

Diggin' my new (to me) ride! Only issue is the road bike's not seeing as many miles this summer.


17 August, 2009


Clunks are bad. Whether on a bike, ski bindings, fly reels, or a gun. A clunk means something's assembled wrong, doesn't fit right, or has worn significantly. In some cases it's a sign of imminent catastrophic failure. In other premature wear.

But, they're often hard to track down. I've been chasing one on my mountain bike since the start. When I shift my weight side-to-side, there's a distinct "clunk" in the drivetrain. As a somewhat obsessive gearhead, this has been driving me bats. I've had the crank arms off, cleaned, greased and tightened them; had a look at the bottom bracket, and more. No sign of anything fitting less-than-perfectly. I put on my best super-sleuth act, but can't find anything that's less than jake. Grrrrr...

As I'm headed down the trail on a ride on Saturday it occurs to me though I tightened the pedals in the crank arms, I've never checked out the pedals themselves. BINGO! Right pedal clunks nicely when you tug on it!

So, new better quality pedals are on order. Glad it was something cheap. I was starting to look into a Profile crankset (and spindle, and sprocket, and bottom bracket .... $$$). Thirty bucks for a pair of new pedals is MUCH better!

Great ride on the yellow trail at Island Lake yesterday. At about 6 miles, it's a little shorter than the blue trail I rode a couple of weeks back. That's such a great area to ride, and close to home. But, I am SORE today!


14 August, 2009

Small Ball

August is prime time for the Hex hatch on the Huron River. Last night was my first one out for it. Also my first time out on the Huron this season. During the early season frequent downpours kept it up to almost flood stage, so not safe for wading. Since then I've had the good fortune to fish several of Michigan's best trout streams, but never seem to get to the one in my backyard!

The Huron is a great smallmouth bass river. If you have haven't had the pleasure, smallies are great fun. Some have called them "warmwater trout" which is probably pretty accurate.

Was great to fish five minutes from home. But, the crowds were out -- stopped at my original intended destination to find ten trucks parked and a river full of guys waving sticks. No thanks! So, off to a secret destination that was MUCH less crowded.

If you don't fish and haven't had the experience of a hatch coming off, it's pretty wild. Especially with a bug the size of Hexagenia limbata. It was like cricket-sized hail!

One big difference I noticed right away was the dramatic difference between the Huron and the northern MI/UP spring-fed streams. It's much warmer, but also has a lot more silt and such that almost eliminate visibility. Requires a bit more cautious wade, as you can't see obstacles.

Got two last night. First was easy -- after only about 20 minutes, hit hard and ran with it. Second one made me work for it. Half a dozen strikes, but wouldn't take it! Then finally a harder strike and finally FISH ON!

A great outing, all in all. And the quick drive home was nice, too!


12 August, 2009

The Little Details

Lately I've noticed a bunch of little details in gear that I appreciate - how you tell the really great tools from the average. It's some small feature, fit-and-finish, or feel. A little clue that this one's a really special piece. Here a few of my favorite things I've noticed recently:

Ross CLA fly reel - somehow this reel has the most satisfying click sound either when stripping out line, or reeling in. It's a silly thing, but somehow it just communicates quality, precision, and solid engineering.

White Industries freewheel - it's the click again. My road bike's cluster is almost silent when you coast; something I've never liked about it. With the freewheel on the mountain bike, you can almost hear the solid, precise machining through the click. As an added plus, you don't surprise people on the trail!

Rapid River hunting knife - funny thing, while I love the feel and heft of this knife in hand, that's not what sets it apart for me. The sheath for this knife is perfect. Retains the knife perfectly, yet it's butt-simple to open for access.

Oakley polarized sunglasses - both pairs I own always surprise people. The optical quality is just astounding; the seem to make all other glasses seem to have a light film on them. As an added bonus, they fit better than any I've ever tried.

Hand-tied flies - I can't put my finger on it exactly, but it's so easy to tell a hand-tied fly from some mass-produced Chinese special.

Simms G4 Guide jacket - while this jacket has some amazing features in the "Why didn't I think of that?" category, it's the hood that sets it apart. Always accessible, never in the way whether up or down, and seems to just move with you like it's not there. Except that your head's not getting wet!

Remington 11-48 shotgun - my guess is that this one's from the late 50's or early 60's; an era when guns were rugged and labor costs weren't a prohibitive investment. The sound this gun makes when you release the bolt and it takes up a shell is just amazing and confidence-inspiring. Kaa-thwoomp!

Pay attention when you find one of these features in some piece of your gear. I find it's kind of cool when I notice them. Makes me appreciate using them (and the investment) more!


11 August, 2009

Worthy Investment

The old adage is true, "you get what you pay for". With the exception of cachet brands, where you're mostly paying for the value of the brand name, this seems true in outdoor gear. A difficult reality for a guy who likes a bargain, as I do.

After some negotiation with Orvis over my defective Silver XT waders, local fly shop stepped up to take care of me and get me into better waders. That will be my LAST pair of Orvis waders. Simms gear has always served me well and their waders have a sterling reputation, so I now have a brand new pair of G3 Guide stockingfoots.

As soon as I tried them on, I knew this was a whole different ballgame. Fit was completely different - not baggy at all. Yet, I had plenty of room to move, and layer for cold-weather steelheading. Shoulder straps fit naturally (always a problem with cheap waders). And, a million little details done just right - what I've come to expect from Simms. Fleece-lined handwarmer pockets should be welcome when the snow flies.

I've only been out in them twice, but so far they just disappear once I'm in the water. That seems like exactly what you want in a wader. Hoping to get out this weekend on the Huron for hex hatch.


10 August, 2009

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming...

... for something other than outside, stuff. Don't worry, all things cycling, skiing, shooting, camping,and more will return shortly.

Took a journey back in time on Friday. At the invite of friend and former radio cohort, Tom, we shared a Modern Rock Retro Rewind (say that without going all Fudd...) on WMHW 91.5. What a great experience. Moore Hall Radio is so different now -- 13,000 watts that covers most of mid-Michigan as opposed to 300 that ALMOST covered the Mt. Pleasant city limits, and no more vinyl -- but so much the same. We walked into master control with an army of computers and a new modern board to find that the floor and acoustic walls tiles were the same as when we were there over 20 years ago!

Radio presence was a little rusty after 20 years, but about halfway through we found our groove. Had a blast putting together playlist of things from back in the day -- Long Ryders, Fishbone's first EP, Members, Husker Du, and so much more. My first cut of a playlist ran 6 hours total! A great time -- with thanks to Tom for invite, Ray for running the board for the old folk, and Dr. Patty for making it all happen.

Made a stop at CMU Public Radio to see the place, catch up with old boss Ray, and other friends. Great to see everyone.

Original plan was a little camping/fishing on PM, but weather nixed that. Instead I stuck around for the Foolery re-union/takeover of it's former location. The Foolery was a bar with amazing music that was in operation 1984-1989. Saw some astounding music there, including Black Flag, Fishbone on their inaugural tour, Gatemouth Brown, and so much more. Had a blast re-connecting with former radio colleagues, enjoying some great bands, and throwing back a few cheap PBR's!

To Tom, Connie, Kris, Margi, Ray, and so many others -- thanks for a very memorable trip! Let's do it again in 20 more!

Rock on,


06 August, 2009


Hmmm, National Weather Service says "thunderstorms and heavy rains" for Friday night near the Pere Marquette River. The $12 tent is not checked out for such antics, so I'm not optimistic about any fishing.


I'm outdoors in all sorts of weather. But thunderstorms are another thing. Especially standing in the water waving a 9' lightning rod about. On recent muskie fishing expedition we turned around and noticed a wall of black clouds. Just was we were discussing what to do, a nice collection of lightning strikes went off. OK, time to GO!

It's funny, as an outdoor type, I'm always checking weather forecasts - I keep the National Weather Service bookmarked in my browser and even use the mobile version on my phone. I find them to be the most reliable resource.

On the upside, I'll be back at my alma mater tomorrow to re-live my glory days on radio. Friend Tom invited me to share a shift with him during a reunion day on WMHW. Pulling together playlists was fun and it should be cool to see people and get back on-air. But it's looking like no outdoor play for this camper this weekend.


05 August, 2009


Though it seems like there are way too many things to do right now -- mountain bike, road bike, trout and smallmouth fishing, sporting clays, and more -- I was talking to a friend about skiing and winter steelhead fishing last night. Which kicked off thoughts of snow.

Going to be mid-90's here on Sunday, and yet I can't wait to be freezing my a$$ off. Too cool.

Hoping weekend thunderstorms hold off so I can get in some time camping and fishing on the Pere Marquette (at right in January). But we'll see.


04 August, 2009

Gear That S*cks

I realized yesterday that I'd done several entries highlighting great gear, but few that spoke to stuff that was an absolute disappointment!

WTB Saddle
This one came on my Giant OCR road bike when I bought it. I quickly replaced it with a Serfas RX, which was a gigantic improvement. So, why did I put it on my mountain bike? Good question indeed. Too bad, it's cool looking, seems to have really rugged leather, and is pretty light. But it's like sitting on a sewer grate after a few miles. Time to go.

Cheap Cabelas Fly Boxes
Bought these when I first started fly fishing -- because they were cheap ($6). On first trip to Jordan River, waded in a little too deep and everything got wet. Fun time drying it all out. Plus, you have to open them to see what's inside. Now I buy Scientific Anglers System X boxes - only. They cost more for a reason. Clear covers so you can have a peek at contents and completely waterproof.

ACS Claws Freewheel
Why does ACS even sell these? Sounds like a bucket of rocks -- when you're pedaling! I could understand a rough coasting, but pedaling? Don't waste the 20 bucks, put it toward a White Industries freewheel. It'll be the last one you ever buy. Plus, it's got about the coolest coasting click sound in the world... yeah, I know...

Orvis Silver Label XT Waders
I was pretty happy with these until the double layer over the knees started filling up with water Michelin Man style while in the river. Inconvenient and potentially dangerous. Looks like it's a design flaw with the drain vents, but I've found out this was common with these. And they weren't cheap. Now they've been back at Orvis for two months awating resolution. Simms, or the cool new Redington CPX's, from now on.

Giro All-Around Helmet
Bought this with my road bike because it was cheap. Fits OK, and even has decent ventilation, but the strap system SUCKS! Won't stay tight, something's seemingly always in the wrong place.

Oh, well -- it can't all be good stuff on the first try!


03 August, 2009

Geometry Problem

Always hated story problems. So, here's one:

If you have Size 12 feet, 180mm crank arms, and 29" wheels, what happens? Significant opportunities for interference. The delightful "RRRrrrrrrrpppp" of shoe contacting front tire. No disastrous results, but I'm definitely aware of pedal position!

Took an awesome ride yesterday at Island Lake Recreation area in Brighton. Rode the Blue Trail, which turned out to be a bit longer than I thought - 10 miles. But it was great fun to ride! Nice singletrack, moderate hills, and really nice people. When I arrived at the trailhead the parking lot was full of high-tech hardware. Thought it might be crowded, but trails were great -- especially for a nice Sunday afternoon in August.

Single speed is just perfect. Hill coming? Pedal harder. No time planning shifts, considering gears, or getting crossed up. Sort of a Zen thing with a more direct link from trail to rider. Sure, I spin out on fast descents due to low gearing, but that's the price you pay.

One suprise as I'm getting to know this bike. I heard a lot of criticisms of 29ers as feeling like a "big bike". I don't get that at all. Perhaps for a shorter rider that might be true, but my bike is almost trials-like. I can dead stop, balance and maneuver around obstacles.

I will say one thing -- I am SORE today!