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08/09/08
Week of Sad Days
Filed under: dogs
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 4:10 pm

This one is hard to write.  Not sure if this one will even get published. We’ll have to see when it’s finished.

Then again, if you are reading these words now, it clearly means I’ve posted it.  So, I ought to tell you up front that there’s not likely to be much about bikes or riding in this missive. And, I think it’s going to be kinda sad in places.  Won’t try to dwell there too long, but, it’s a bit unavoidable given the subject matter.

The facts are this:  this past Wednesday, Dr. M came out to the house and helped our dog Tashi to move on to whatever is next.  She expired a little after 1 pm as my wife and I held her.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t make that kind of housecall for many clients, and it has to be one of the tougher things he gets called upon to do.  He was tender and efficient, smooth in his voice, caring both for us and Tashi. The injections went quickly and by all visible signs pretty painlessly.  Well, for her.   For us, it still hurts.

We’ve picked up her beds, cleaned her food and water bowls and rolled up the mats that kept her from slipping on the slicker parts of the floor.  Now, the house feels large and echoey, yet quiet in a very bad way.  Too much room in the corners where her bed and mat lay, and hours are no longer punctuated by the clacking of her nails or the mild thump of a 30 pound Cocker Spaniel hitting the floor when she stumbled, tumbled or sagged.  For the first time in a couple years, we haven’t been driven by the clock to be home so she can get her pill on time. It’s oddly disorienting.

So is sleep. It had been a slow but steady adaption to the demands of her failing biological rhythms. She’d always gotten up early - normally 6 am or so.  I haven’t had to set an alarm most days for years. But as she aged, she’d stay up a bit later and then get up closer to 5.  In the past year, she began waking up in the hours between.  We couldn’t let her wander around, as she tended to get stuck in or behind things she’d nosed her way into.  Or she’d fall, which sounds pretty damned loud at 3:30 am.  Or, there’d be cleanup duty.  No fun at any hour of the day. Finally, it was to the point where if I was getting a couple hours of uninterupted sleep at a shot, it was a good night.

Rereading that last paragraph, it’s beginning to sound more like a complaint. That simply isn’t at all how I feel.  These past months have been maybe a bit of payback - us helping her through the difficult times after she’d brought us so much joy.  I’d sigh a little, get out of bed and hang out with her until she could get comfortable again. Now and again I’d get a little cranky, particularly if sleep had been fleeting, or if she had slowly eased herself into a lying position only to suddenly decide to pop up and do more laps around the house. I’d try to breathe a bit more calmly, remind myself that there would be a time when she wouldn’t be there to hold up. Kinda like now.

She’d come to us in July of  2000.  Originally, we were just going to “foster” her.  The rescue group we’d worked with - Hopalong - worked to place adult dogs who were getting passed over at the shelters.  In this case, she was on the 15th day of her stay - which was only supposed to be 14.  If someone didn’t take her out of the clink, she was going to be put down.

I’ll never forget that first time we saw her.  We were in the main chamber of the shelter and a myriad of dogs anxiously barked in every pen. They put us in a “meeting room” with a door and one of the volunteers appeared with the “unclaimed cocker”.  She looked tiny in the doorway, and seemed to be trying to look smaller still, her large dark eyes scanning the room to see what other incomprehensible thing would befall her next.

She’d been found wandering, tagless and clearly having had a recent litter.  When they closed the door to the room, she just kind of walked up to us and sat.  We greeted her and petted her a bit.  The volunteer asked if we wanted to go out to the lawn, so we could get to know each other in a nicer setting. We all went outside, where the dog gratefully did her business on the grass.  She was housebroken, the volunteer said. We nodded a little and walked a bit further along to a bench. After a little more petting, she rolled onto her back and looked up at us. She’d pretty much decided that we were hers.  It only took us a little longer to figure it out.  We agreed to take responsibility for her on a trial basis - to foster her “at least.”

As we drove away, with this dirty and matted Cocker Spaniel lying in a blanket on the back seat of the car, both my wife and I knew it would be a bit more permanent.  We didn’t even have to say anything to one another.  She’d pretty much found us, and we all decided that was OK.

The volunteers had directed us to the a local groomer, who donated her services to bathe and give a quick trim to the dog. We walked around the town for a little bit and came back to find she’d lightened at least 4 shades to a buff color.  She was quietly sitting in the center of a cage, but when we came in, her ears dropped and she clearly recognized us - she made a furtive little nose nudge of hope and excitement. We  brought her home and let her sniff around the house a bit.  She made her way into the back yard and then under a tree, where she just sat for a while and caught the smells of her new home.

 

We called her Tashi.  It was a name we’d heard up in Ashland, OR at the “Tashi Tea House”.  The server had told us that it was Tibetan for “auspicious”.  It fit well.  There was someting auspicous about her arrival.

She wasn’t too well for a while. Underweight, worn out and a bit sickly, she liked to just sit and be petted while she panted lightly.  Walks weren’t a lot of fun at first, as she didn’t have much energy. She’d poop out pretty quickly and just sort of trudge along.  Her back end was pretty weak, so we took little micro-walks, researched everything we could about diet and showered her with love.

As she gained strength over the next couple months, more of her personality began to emerge. She had an unerring ability to catch tossed food - we figure that served her well when she was living on the streets. She tended to “herd” us along toward the kitchen, particularly at meal times, with a soft bump of the head into our ankles or calves.  We finally heard her use her voice - she had a good strong bark.  She also tended to snore lightly when she slept. It was endearing rather than annoying.  Her coat began to grow in more fully, and she began to get stronger.

There were some tough and even tougher times ahead.  I ended up falling asleep on the floor with her the night after we had her spayed.  She had come off the anestethic some time in the night, and groaned and moaned softly for a bit.  I scruffled her ears and rubbed her chest and the two of us fell asleep at some point. I think it was then that she knew we’d truly take care of her, and she began to trust us fully. 

The first mammary tumor felt like a large grain of rice.  She always loved having her belly rubbed, and both my wife and I noticed the change.  The vet said that it wasn’t uncommon with adult spayed dogs.  It was worth watching.  It kept growing, and we found another as well. The vet wanted to do something, and so she went under the knife.  This time, it was a couple more uncomfortable nights.  But, it seemed to do the trick.

I remember feeling another growth maybe 6 months later. This one was pretty weirdly shaped, almost like a corkscrew.  It was also deeper and could at first be felt only when she stood. We had another doctor do that operation. It took longer than he thought it would, and afterwards, he said it was “pretty tricky” to get everything.   We both shook a little when we saw how many staples were in her belly.  She looked like she had train tracks on her stomach. She was kinda miserable for a few days, along with us. But, she slowly regained her spirit and movement, and the long scar and missing teets became her badge of honor.  She was a tough little monkey.  We changed her diet  a bit and used the supplements which the doctor recommended, plus others we’d found in our research.

Every day with us was a blessing.  That second operation just helped to crystalize that thought.  Her strength came back again and short walks became longer, her movements grew fluid again and she began to once more become the tricky little minx we loved.  Tashi remained cancer-free for the rest of her life.

We used to explain to people that she wasn’t spoiled - just “well tended-to.” She always would help herself to soft chairs and couches, and certainly any food that was within reach. We’d take her over on visits to our parents’ houses, get involved with eating or conversation and find her nestled nicely in the corner of their fancy couch, softly snoring. I got involved in a phone call at home one day and looked up to see her delicately lifting my sandwich off the plate I’d left on our just-low-enough-thank-you coffee table.

One time we had her with us in the car, coming back from a walk and trying to do a few quick errands. We’d been to the market and had to stop in a bookstore briefly. Returning to the car, we realized with a panic that she wasn’t lying down in the back seat as she tended to do.  Then we saw her in the hatchback area of the car,  sitting up and trying not to look guilty. She’d managed to hop over the seat (not an inconsequential trick for a small dog), get the cover out of the way, and make her way through about a half a loaf of french bread and a quarter package of cheese.  She just gave us a sorrowful “I know I shouldn’t have done that, but you guys really shouldn’t have left such good smelling stuff in here with me…” look.

The dog parks were never really a favorite of hers.  When we were caring for Jubilee the Poodle, we’d go there.  Tashi never really romped or played with the other dogs, but she did seem to find some of them interesting - we used to say that she liked the idea of other dogs, but didn’t really care for dogs specifically.  Although, she always got very inerested in Bernese Mountain Dogs when they showed up.  She would go up to them and look directly into their face as though asking a very important question.  It was always a curious sight to see a stocky 30 pound Cocker Spaniel going nose to nose with a 100-plus pounds of big, furry, black white and tan dog.  Never got a photo of that, but it’s burned into my mind indelibly.

In fact, she seemed to have no fear of anything. The biggest, bounciest dog would come up to her and she’d just look up at it, calmly saying, “um, yes?”  One time on a walk up in the hills, we met up with three horse riders, and the lead  horse lowered her head down, down, down until she could get a closeup look at this little furry thing.  Tashi looked up a this huge thing and studied it just as closely, but didn’t shake or tremor or even get too excited.

She came with us on trips, vacations and errands.  Tashi enjoyed the car and would sit up watching the world come towards her through the windows. Or she’d sack out on longer trips, knowing something interesting would be happening once we arrived.  She was always interested in whereever we took her, happy to be with us discovering whatever the day chanced to bring our way.

Like most dogs, she loved the beach and would get incredibly playful - trotting out in front, circling back to make sure we stayed nearby, then tossing her head and loping around on another loop. We’d chase each other around and just enjoy the salt breeze and the sure maneuverability of damp sand.  One time, a sneaky wave caught her and washed her up the beach a bit. She gave the most incredible look of  “What the hell?”, shook herself off and happily nestled under my wool shirt until she warmed back up.

I could continue with small stories for a long time.  After the operations, she had a good number of great years.  Tashi reminded us constantly to expect to find great things in the world, to enjoy those moments and relish the afternoon nap, when you could sneak one in.

Those are the things I want to think about right now: Tashi getting into good-natured trouble, the big furry feet and heavy floppy ears, the way she wagged her tail by wiggling her entire butt, sitting and watching us eat and silently willing us to save her a bite (she was particularly fond of salmon), all the tiny little events that made up our day.

The tougher stuff - the heart stuff, more recent difficulties - none of that really matters too much right now.  When I felt her last few breaths on my fingers the other day and the hollow knot in my chest hardened and grew heavier, all that stuff just evaporated.  Right now, I just want to remember the good stuff that made up most  of our time together.

As I alluded to earlier, this kind of writing is probably more therapy for me than anyone else. If you read this far, I appreciate it. Maybe we often write about what we don’t understand.  By describing it, we might gain some insight, a partial understanding, somehow come to grips with the tougher bits.  But, right now, I’m still very sad and I miss her.

Sweet dreams, little cocker spaniel…

6 comments
06/01/08
Another Morning
Filed under: general, dogs
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 5:36 am

It’s 5:15 as I type this, and the eastern sky that can be seen through the shades has gone from indigo to lightening white over the past quarter hour. I’ve been up since a little before four and feel curiously awake.  In fact, it’s only in the past minutes that I’ve poured coffee. 

The little dog popped up, skittered out here to see what was going on, then wisely negotiated her way back onto the big bed once her doggie business had been attended to. Tashi is still puttering around, as she’s been for the last hour or so.  I’ve given her a few snacks to keep interest up, but am trying to maintain the discipline of the 6 am breakfast.  So, she’s got to hang in there for at least a half hour.

Went to bed just around midnight, on the couch.  Since Tashi has decided that for whatever reason, she now likes to sleep out in the living room, I come out here so that I can close the doors to reduce the nail-clacking echoes before she settles.

Last night was a pretty rare event.  My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  Just how rare was exemplified by a comment one of the people made.  She’d gone looking for a 50th Anniversary card, and found to her dismay that no one seemed to have them. Clearly, they have made it to the thin end of the bell curve.  I couldn’t be prouder of them.

It was fun too, as they’d collected a pretty good-sized audience, between friends, out-of-town relatives and the like. Got to see folks who were in their wedding party.  I’d been putting together a computer slideshow of photos which spanned from their high school yearbook photos until now. Everything went off without a hitch or a glitch, and seemed to be well-recieved.

The real fun was getting up in front of everyone with my brother and sister, each of us to make a toast or share a memory. In addition to some wonderful thoughts from both of them, it quickly devolved into a bit of sibling banter that you couldn’t have scripted or predicted.  None of it would transcribe particularly well, but it got laughs, got us laughing, and served as a reminder of how strong our ties are, even though geography and circumstance keep us a bit separated these days.

Came home late to the inevitable cleanup.   But, it wasn’t too bad and we had things scrubbed up quickly. I took little dog out on a loop around the neighborhood, and realized that I actually felt semi-clear-brained and not bad for the first time in weeks. Hopefully, that’ll hold on now, and I can get riding again.  Been too danged long.

comments (0)
05/28/08
Damping the Wobble
Filed under: dogs
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 6:53 am

5 am is good.

I hear the dog smacking her lips and then engage in a solid head shake.  It gets magnified by the mass of her ears, and the slapping of her flapping overwhelms the minor bird songs which have begun outside. Then it’s quiet again, back to the odd lip smack.

I don’t really know that it’s 5 am yet.  My eyes are only the slightest bit open, but I can make out the hint of dawn at the edge of the curtains. The covers are pulled back enough that I can move when the time comes, but I try to hold onto that brittle last dollop of sleep while it lasts.

But, 5 am is good.

The scrape of her nails on the floor means she’s now standing.  So, I’m up and on her, picking her up and getting her to the back door. It isn’t that she couldn’t walk, but it’s simpler to carry her.  Her eyesight isn’t great any more, and negotiating the turns can sometimes lead to getting stuck in a corner.  At her age, a delay in getting outside sometimes results in a bit of pre-breakfast cleanup.  But, there’s no such issue this morning.  I set her down the ramp and she’s out back, sniffing and finding the perfect spot for that morning pee break. By this time, I’ve thrown on what must be the  world’s ugliest pair of fleece pants - pilled, baggy and ill-fitting - and joined her.  The sky is a beautiful bluish-black, a few stars still hanging on.  A few chickadees flit about, but the acorn woodpecker which has been steadily working on the large maple has yet to begin. It’s mostly silent, and we pad around the edge of the patio.  She doesn’t like to venture too far onto the grass anymore, as it seems she gets a little bewildered out there.  Before long, she’s looped around to her satisfaction, and leads me back up the ramp and inside again.  I finally look at the clock.

Yep.  5 am.  Almost on the nose.

This is, as I’ve been repeating, a good thing. It’s the second day in a row that she’s slept in this late. A few weeks back, she started popping up early.  She’d done that before.  A 4:30 isn’t comfortable, but isn’t too bad.  Normally, we’d deal with the doggy business out back, and then she could be coaxed into sleeping for another hour or so.  The “spanielarm” had always been pretty hard-wired for a 6 am breakfast, so much so that I haven’t actually set an alarm regularly for years.

But, things got different.  4:30 became 3:30, which started to hurt.  Then 2:30, which had me spinny-dizzy awake from pretty solid REM-state, realizing I was out in the backyard in my underwear as I kept her from walking into things.

The real problem was that she wasn’t at all interested in going back to sleep at that point.  She’d pace around inside, nails clacking on the floors, getting stuck in all manner of places or falling over like a felled tree if she got a flop. Regardless, as soon as you picked her up or backed her out, she marched around again like a wind-up toy.  This new behavior continued for a while.

You get a little crazy when you’re sleep-deprived, when it’s the third night in a row and the behavior isn’t changing.  You try to hold her down in the bed until her impulse to walk subsides.  She got a couple of midnight snacks (she likes to sleep after meals) which sort of worked. We tried ascriptin, in case it was body aches in that so-thin-now frame of hers.  That seemed only to make things worse, as she’d now circle tightly as though she was about to lie down, but just keep circling, endlessly.

So, I’d watch that - particularly the spinning - and just want to cry. It’s the time when you realize that you are closer to the end than the beginning, when the hard and real question begins to clearly form. There’s a point when you have to say goodbye. 

We’re pretty sure that our families think we’re a bit obsessive and kind of nuts.  That it would be simpler to put her down.  But, whatever tipping point that has to occur to make that decision hasn’t quite happened yet.  We’ve had to make that decision before, and while it’s never easy, you just know when it’s time. At this point, the happy moments - meals, short walks, ear scratches and sniffs - still take place, and we need to hold up our end of the bargain for a while.

That’s really what we agreed to back - what, 12 years ago?  When Tashi was a greasy, dirty, frail-looking, recent-momma dog just overwhelmed by the clatter and roar of the shelter. When they asked us just to foster her until they could find a home, since she was already past her termination date and they needed the space. When we went outside to get to know her, and she looked up at us and suddenly rolled onto her back, letting us pet her belly as she made it clear that while she didn’t know us, she trusted us.  And anything had to be better than where she’d been for the past couple weeks.  Before we’d even left the shelter, we all knew that this was for keeps.

We took her home, cleaned her up, got her strength back, listened to her bark for the first time, enjoyed longer walks, then romps, felt the masses in her belly, stayed up through the night as she recovered from the first, then the second operation, watched her regain her strength and stay cancer-free for the past 8 years.  All through it, she kept smiling and loving and saying, “thanks”. She’s plugged along through a lot. Now, when the propanthelene doesn’t quite cover things heartbeat-related and she stiffens and flops, she still pops up, wonders briefly how the room went sideways and then gets back to the serious business of finding whatever morsel of food we may have dropped.

Now it’s the stewardship phase.  It’s not always comfortable, and involves cleanup more than not. But, at least from the perspective of a couple nights worth of normal-esque sleep, it’s what we agreed to. I’ll sit there ready to pass out, rubbing her ears, crying a bit at 3 am, telling her it’s OK if she needs to leave us while just hoping that she can get back to sleep for an hour or two. We owe her that.

Maybe with the 5 am wake ups, things have settled back in a bit.  Maybe it was the heatwave, the combination of sleeping too much in the daylight, the propanthelene building up a bit and wiring her.  Hopefully that was more of an anomolie, a bad patch, a speed wobble that suddenly damps with a shift of weight.   She’s lying on her bed again, all doggie business done for the morning and a bellyfull of food in place. Breathing steady and shallow. In her world right now, things are soft and warm, hopefully comfortable and happy.

3 comments
11/26/07
Visual for Yesterday’s Post
Filed under: photos, dogs
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:49 am

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08/24/07
End Your Week With a Smile
Filed under: photos, dogs
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:11 am


Frank F’s photo of his loaded Bakfiet gave me the biggest grin I’ve had in a couple of weeks.

Thanks Frank!

comments (0)
02/13/07
Smatterings
Filed under: general, photos, dogs
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:30 am

Coming off a bad/good weekend and trying to get things back in order a bit. Sort of a laundry list just to get these things behind me.

Tashi-the-dog had two bad days Thursday and Friday, with a continuing case of the wobbles ‘n flops (what happens when her very calm heartbeat decides to rest for a few seconds).  In an over-the-phone consult, the heart-vet ok’d a little extra propantheline, which got her amped and (we think) reacting badly to the medication Friday night.  The end result being tremoring and instability in a different manner, combined with a case of the “don’t-wanna-sleeps”.  We finally fell sort of asleep around 3 o’clock Saturday AM, but I don’t think I  ever went fully down, as I didn’t want her to get up and wander around the dark house.  When the sun rose, we didn’t, as the drugs worked their way out of her system and she slept like a binging college student while I just wanted to pull the sleeping bag over my head and pretend it was dark. Not even an interest in riding for me - it’s been a few years since I pulled an all-nighter (something you oughta train for…) and all I wanted to do was sleep. We cold-turkeyed her Saturday, which hopefully reset things. Sunday and Monday were much better.

It turned into a series of rainy days last week, and Sunday started sunny so I snuck out for a couple hours easy ride. Happily, the fenders on the Quickbeam were still in place as the roads started wet, I got good ‘n rained on for 15 minutes and then sun popped out. Saw a ton of folks who must ride for the same team, as they were all wearing jackets and jerseys with the same graphic - kind of an inky black/brown cloud that ran upward in the center of their backs. Their team seems to lack a fender sponsor as well.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not afraid to muddy up -

 
 - it’s just that when it’s been raining since Wednesday, wouldn’t you think that even a simple set of RaceBlades would be preferable to driving mud, oil and grit into the gaps of your bicycle frame and personal frame?  It was even worse on Saturday, when I (gasp) drove around in my sleep-deprived state and saw probably 30+ riders out in what had been a steady, all-day rain, and only one of them had fenders installed (and he was riding a fixed gear). I could barely see through the wipers, and between the forward spray and the personal sluicing, it had to be a little hairy on a bike.

Didn’t connect with JimG last weekend, but he got out and enjoyed most of Sunday.  The part that wasn’t enjoyable took place as he headed home on Sir Francis Drake and encountered the aftermath of a cyclist run down by an auto . Details are sketchy right now, as the police have neither released the name of the cyclist nor the driver. 

The MarinIJ story is here.  Those of you who frequent that road know how wide and visually “clean” it is. It’s a rural “highway”, with one lane both directions and a wide strip to the right of the fog stripe that is frequented by bicycles. In short, there’s no reason that the car should have been where the bike was (and I’m assuming it wasn’t the other way around). Maybe the next effort of the MCBC ought to be to reduce the posted speed limit on that stretch of roadway. This is a shot I took in the morning a few weeks ago as Carlos and I rode that stretch in the opposite (westbound) direction - just by chance we’re at the narrowest section of the shoulder which continues to widen as we head west.  As near as I can reckon, JimG’s photo was taken just past the road signs on the other side of the roadway.  Later in the day (the time of the accident), the sun would have been behind the driver.

JimG also honored the Quickbeam by including it in his continuing segment of “Chameleon Bicycles” - if you’ve got an adaptable bike and the photos to back up that claim, send them to him and get in the queue! Thanks again Jim!

The Keyesville Classic MTB race is happening again - 45″ wheelbase? Slack angles? Thumbshifters? Toothy bear-trap pedals? This is where you want to be!

In other non-cycling news, the smaller orchids have had a tough winter, and now that the freezes are over and rains have hit, have begun dropping leaves and yellowing. They sit in a reasonably protected area in the porch, but still don’t like it when the temps get down as low as they went. I hadn’t been too regular with the feedings in recent months, so they were not exactly “strong-like-bull” going into this winter. Once I get the through this month, I’ll probably have to engage in some serious triage. The cymbidiums are looking robust and happy, having escaped the frosts and freezes thanks to old sheets and careful location under overhangs and trees. One of the spikes has bloomed without getting torched by the weather, and other bloom spikes have erupted and fattened.

The working plan is to have an iBob jamboree at the NAHBS on Saturday, March 3rd -  JimG has aggregated the potential attendees. Send him an email if you’ll be down there.  Remember, the iBob anthem is sung in F-sharp, and the chant starts with “hoobally-bob”, not “hobally-boob”.  We don’t want to get kicked out again… Rumors are afoot for a Marin-ish ride on Sunday.

Speaking of the end of the month, my blogging will probably be light until then.  I’ve got my late February gig which sucks time away, and I’ll probably be working just to get on-the-trainer-at-odd-hours efforts in.  Plus, I figure most folks would probably see more bikes in the Galleries than read my drivel, so that will come first…

2 comments
12/29/06
Is it Friday?
Filed under: general, dogs, brevets
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 6:26 pm
Hard for me to even tell, actually. Got this crappy little cold that decided to move south into my chest, so deeper breathing has been an adventure for the past couple days.  The good news is that it’s moving through in what seems a reasonably quick manner, horking down all manner of real and imagined cures (here’s a hint, do NOT lie down immediately upon using Zicam Extreme Decongestant unless you enjoy forehead puncturing headaches). The bad news is that I’m either asleep or wanting to be asleep. So, my inner timeclock, which normally has a remarkably tenuous grasp on linear time movement in general, has totally spazzed out due to odd sleep rhythms and has recently tried to convince me to get up and get busy at 3 am in the very cold morning, and has made me babble confusedly like a caffeinated drunk at a doughnut tasting party, even though it was 1 pm and the situation did not warrant it.

Of course, the crappy little cold also has me gazing at the cyclists I see on the roadways, thinking, “…man, I used to do that…” and makes me extremely jealous of the  miles I’m not getting in as preparation for the 200K Brevet which is now less than 30 days away.

I am such a whining whimp. 

Luckily, there’s some bulwark of recollection which slowly intones (in some moderately thick eastern-European accent), “Below the neck, not work out.” As much as I may miss a ride or two (or three) now, bouncing back from an activity-worsened chest infection is not way up my list.  And better to be sick now than four weeks from now. Best to look at this as a not-so-subtle reminder to watch my sleep, in addition to increasing my efforts.

Whew - with that little bitch now jettisoned…

The holidays have been pretty good, all things considered. Tashi has had a pretty stable couple weeks, though she’s been a bit chilly as of late as our recent trim of her coincided with the temperature dropping again. In order to work through a few hidden matts in her legs, we clipped her hair back a bit, so now on the frosty mornings, she goes outside and glowers back at me.  She’s got a natty little sweater that makes her look a bit like a striped tube sausage.  It does warm her up though, and she’s reasonably easily convinced that it’s pretty good looking.

Also managed to get out and do a decent road loop with JimG.  I was doing a bit of a proof-of-concept ride on the Quickbeam, and he was shaking down a tentative rig and gear selection on his Fuji Cross.  Photos here.  The two close nasty climbs (White’s Hill and the climb from Tocaloma Bridge to Bolinas Ridge) went OK, if a bit slowly. I want to try to do the out-of-Inverness climb  and maybe the Nicasio Valley loop as well, before committing to do the ride on that bicycle. It was the first time I’d been out fixed on the QB since it decided to take me cross racing this fall.  The feeling of comfort and power on that bicycle was reassuring.  Well see if that opinion remains.

I also need to solidify the hardware for the ride.  I’ve had one of the Nitto Mini Front racks, but it looks like it will rub on the front canti cable when mounted.  I stumbled through OSH earlier this week to look for spacers and such, and may do a little cold reset on the upright to prevent this.  (I will wait until I’m no longer using cold medication before deciding upon that action.) My plan is to use a PVC ring attached to the side of the rack for a lighting knob, and have a decent bag atop it for food and essentials.

Also got a set of QB-sized SKS fenders (and cool zip-neck wool top) over at RBWHQ&L.  While I was there, I got a chance to ride the A. Homer Hilsen. Wow. That bike sings. If I had the ready cash, that would be the bike I would want to use on the brevet.  It was light and snappy, with the same solid tracking ride that the Quickbeam provides.  Honestly, I was not quite sure why Rivendell brought that bicycle out, but riding it seemed to make it clear in my mind. Granted, my ride was limited to extended tours around the local parking lots and streets, but it did seem like they got it right.

Tried to get the updates done to the Galleries.  Lotsa single photos of some cool rides.  It’s just inspiring to see how many folks around the world have the passion for bicycles and cycling. Got a nice warm glow from what Andy did with the Bottecchia he built up.  That’s one of those actions that just helps to restore faith in folks. 

And here I am whimpering about a cold.  Ah well.  This’ll pass and my head will hopefully clear soon..  All the best to everyone for the coming new year.  Be careful out there and have some fun too.

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11/30/06
Month End Threads
Filed under: general, music, bike tech, dogs
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:10 pm

Dog Update -

Knock wood, we’ve had a couple solid week’s worth now of no canine collapses.  Nice to know that you can always rely upon Propanthelene… We actually had a follow-up with the doggy heart doc, and we all watched the heart activity on the monitor, just like they do on ER (or used to do on “Emergency”, if’n y’all remember back that far…).  The tech is pretty amazing actually - just a laptop that looks like it was mated to some oddball Playskool plastic wheeled base - except this one has a touch screen which you can use to look at sections of the heart, zoom to specific beats and all sorts of other ways of parsing the info.  The good news is that Tashi’s heart pauses didn’t  occur while we were there - she still has some bits of tachycardia (little 32nd note riffs of 5 or 6 beats).  That used to be the thing that triggered the looooooong pauses (up to 5 or 6 seconds, which oughta make you collapse), but the heart kept firing the way it is supposed to.  One of us has to make sure we’re around to give her the midafternoon dose, but that’s a heck of a lot better than watching her try to walk up a wobbly wall that isn’t there… She still knows how to spend the evenings.

Site Update/Milestone/Notes -

During the past week, the Current Classics Gallery hit 200, thanks to a beautiful Kogswell P/R submitted by Adam A.  I’ve been watching this bike come together over on Adam’s Flickr pages since he got the frame, and it’s probably one of the more thoughtful and useful builds I’ve seen.  (And check out his bag designs while you are there.) The P/R has been on my “short list” of bike objects of lust for a while, as I like the idea of 650B, and appreciate a bicycle that you can use for actual, you know, use… 

In the other gallery sections, the Singlespeed Gallery crested 50 also, and the Working Bikes hit 40.  The only slackers are the Cross Bikes (although I got a submission for that in this evening’s email…).  It may be that a lot of the folks who have come to the site are using cross-type-bikes for more general purposes.  It may also be that folks who race their cross bikes are either training or resting, not messing around with taking photos of the bikes. I also spend more time being active on the iBob and RBW lists than with any cross-specific group, so it isn’t as if there are a lot of folks who have probably come across it yet.  As much as I’ve said it before, I really appreciate it when folks take the time to send in their pictures - it’s been stunning to see the variety of bicycles that people are using.

There’s a bunch of stuff I’d love to do, but have just barely been able to get photos tweaked and uploaded in a reasonably timely manner. I’ve kind of painted myself into a corner with the random images on the front and some internal pages.  Received a nice email from Forbes over at Cycles Valhalla, who (like me) has been seeing images on the front page that interested him. Of course, as the links are static, when you click on the little image of the cool Pink Jonny Cycles bike, you instead get jumped to the general Current Classics page, rather than directly to the bike. It would be nice if it would take you directly to that bike, but with the naming conventions I’ve used for the individual pages, it’s somewhat problematic to make that happen.  I’ll ponder that for a bit and see what solution can be found.

I’ve also been adding links to this blog page.  The software that (tellingly) came free from my ISP has some quirks - one of which is not actually providing an easy way to get back to the blog main page when you follow a comment thread or come in linked to a specific entry. Hence, the top link, which will always get you back to the front without having to manually hack bits off of the url. It also doesn’t  provide a list of recent entries, as most of the other venues seem to. And, while I’m grumping, it would be nice if the whole page could be spread out across the screen and dynamically align itself.  I guess if it really starts to get to me, I could uncork a version of Moveable Type or something similar.

Lemond Poprad Frame Update -

The LBS were I took the bicycle has forwarded photos to Trek USA, and to his great credit, the Service Manager called me two days in a row to apprise me of the situation. Definitely above average and laudible actions in the difficult trenches of retail. Everything has been reasonably simple and positive, aside from the specific issue of those cracks starting in the frame in the first place. I also got a bunch of direct email responses from folks on the Framebuilders list (see http://www.bikelist.org/), in which some have posited overheating and improper finishing of the hole in the headtube to begin with.  Not a single person has said that it’s just in my head and I should’ve kept riding the frame.  To date the only person who said, “ride it, dude” was the wrench-with-a-sandwich who had quickly taken a look over another person’s shoulder. (I mean, I’m not trying to be more obsessive than I already am, but it’s a flippin’ head tube, y’know? That’s really the end of the bicycle you don’t want to fail.) So, I’m running the Quickbeam, waiting to see how this play out. watching the big boys with their gears get away quickly and enjoying the simplicity of it all.

Ride Notes -

I took the long way home from work last night, with a goodly portion of it on a reasonably twisty and unlit roadway. I ran it with my newer NiteRider which puts out about 15watts of light.  Although theoretically, I can conceive of a well-focused 3-6 watt beam working, it does not put my mind at ease when considering a dynamo hub system, particularly on roads that I’m not familiar with. During a straight section, I throttled it down to low beam (I think it’s 5w), and the 1/2 moon was almost as bright.

The recent cross racing has me eyeing the Quickbeam and wondering if there’s somewhere to drop a little weight. I do know that is a bit of a sickness, but in the last half of any cross race, even severing unnecessary digits seems reasonable if it means you don’t have to haul them up the runups.  The bottom bracket may be a UN52, and there’s probably UN73 with the 113 mm spindle sitting out in the parts pile. Then there are the big rubbery rim liners which could be swapped out for a lithe and light set of Velox.  Although I realize it won’t make a speck o’ difference, when you consider that this weekend’s CCCP will have an 80 yard “sand feature” (2005 photos here), any mental edge is welcome.

With the Poprad gone, I’ve been thinking about taking the Stump out for a spin. The fat tubes and springy bits were whimpering at me while I stripped down the Lemond.  It’s been a while, as 100% of the trail riding has been on narrow tires or single speed (or both) and it might be nice after the racin’ is done to go for an actual geared, coastable, soft-nosed ride. I bet it will feel weird.

Other Oddball (both weird and doesn’t fit anywhere else) Stuff -

Specialized hired this guy to do the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies from The Nutcracker using only bike bits as instruments.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

The long awaited Rivendell Bicycle Works website is live. It doesn’t seem to account for some IE6 bugs, (as reported by others) so it’s time to switch yourself to Firefox if you haven’t yet. It’s better.

In steering someone to “Dixie The Tiny Dog”, I found that there was another version of the song on Peter Himmelman’s website.  This is a somewhat darker and noticeably longer version

 

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11/20/06
Toeing the Line
Filed under: photos, dogs, cyclocross
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:06 am

“Well, they took my money, so I guess I’ve gotta race…”

My wife looked up from inside the warmth of the car, smiled and returned to the Sunday paper.  I commenced to stripping down, suiting up and attempting to warm up, chuckling at whatever cross-circuit in my brain makes me think this is a fun way to spend a winter’s morning.

Of course, “winter” in the SF Bay Area can be many things.  On this day, the sun burnt off the thin layer of fog and created absolutely perfect weather for racing.  We’d had a couple of rainy days this past week and things were greening up, wet enough so that the course had grip , but no slop to speak of. It was, in short, the kind of November day we don’t like to openly speak of, lest more folks decide it looks better than snowdrifts and icicles. 

The first tactical error was in not preriding the course enough.  I put in one half-hearted lap, for some reason nervous about getting in the way of the earlier races, which were actually very strung out and easy to deal with. Dipping under the course barriers, I then covered the roads of Golden Gate Park to warm up, drop layers and get ready to race. But when the whistle blew and we took off, there were two separate times when I set up to go the wrong way on a turn, and one little drop-into-a-right-turn-at -the-tree (after crossing the paved road for the first time, if you know the course) that I couldn’t hit right for the entire race, and bumped to a dead stop almost every lap.

The second tactical error was in not bringing enough engine. By the 20 minute mark, I was hurting and even considering just pulling off the course and whimpering for a while. It’s funny how depressed you can be with just relatively slight amounts of self-induced discomfort.  There was a good half a lap where I was pressing on pedals that didn’t seem to be moving,  and I just wanted things to end. This one kinda hurt.

But, the lap cards kept falling, and although I’m pretty sure I got lapped and ended up DFL, it always feels good to finish.

JimG PhotoAlong the way, I heard JimG hollering at me, which really helped, and throughout the course folks would hoot, “go Quickbeam!” or “Singlespeeder, Yeah!” and kick me a bit of much-needed adrenaline. It got a little lonely towards the end, as all of the big kids with their gears had gone to play up the roadway, so the support of those who were watching was really appreciated.

It was also kind of a mini-Rivendell/iBob convention.  In no particular order, there was a guy cruising through the roads on a butterscotch-colored Quickbeam, John@Rivbike was moving through the pits with his orange QB, Mark@Rivbike and his wife Amy had their Riv custom CX bikes (photo), an Atlantis-riding woman hooted at my QB as she headed west, Legolas cross bikes were multiplying like caffeinated rabbits (one in the photo below, for example), iBob JimG and his wife were there, and I think that Ron L and his wife must’ve been in the house somewhere, as there can’t be that many Bilenky mixtes with S&S couplers rolling around the streets. 


Rivendell Legolas

My wife got some good photos, and shot the video which is embedded below.  As I drained the sand out of my legs, JimG rolled up on his stylin’ Nishiki fixed-gear, and we ambled back over to watch the A men and Singlespeeders. It was pretty cool to watch the singlespeed folk race as a bunch, because as JimG noticed, it was silent when they went past except for their breathing. He was rooting on an ex-coworker who was duking it near the front, looking clean and smooth.  We watched for a number of laps and then headed home, still making sure that the dog wasn’t being left for too long a time.

Update (11/21) - Not DFL, but definitely lapped - full results posted here

Another Update (11/21) -
Photo Links: JimGRichard Zimmerman, Lhaughly on Flickr, IronCX on Flickr


Canine Update -

Tashi’s doing a bit better this week.  We finally peeled off the electrodes and got our deposit back on the monitor, and she’s had no wobbly-walks since we began the new medication.  It’s kind of a pain to give to her, as the dose is something like 3.5mg x 3 per day, and the pills are 15 mg.  So, we’re the proud owners of a $6 Walgreen’s pill splitter, and every four doses, I get to engage in surgery on these tiny disks.

She’s done a few moderate walks this past week - never one to hurry the process, they are probably more accurately described as “moseys”.  But, she’s getting out there, seems to have more energy and hasn’t collapsed in a heap since the weekend before last.  If you are playing along with the veterinary home game, she was uncontrollably amped and seizing on Terbutaline Sulfate, and has been dealing well with Propanthene.  My vet cousin said that the path of Propanthene was akin to atropine, which is what they used to test for High Vegal Tone (she was “atropine responsive”), while Terbutaline Sulfate worked through the adrenal system.

Someday, that will be my Final Jeopardy question.

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11/13/06
That Was The Week That Was
Filed under: dogs
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:25 pm

A week that starts to go bad on a Saturday does not bode well. It began a full week ago, actually. We’d gone for a long walk with the dogs and then headed home to make some dinner for them.  As Tashi (our cocker spaniel) was walking through the house after dinner, she started moving as if on a tilting ship and then collapsed.  She kicked a bit, but couldn’t immediately get up.  We grabbed and steadied her a bit.  Then she popped up and was extremely amped up for a long time, pacing through the house and sniffing around, with her ears cocked up  and her eyes not really seeming to see.  This went on for  while, as we watched carefully for any repeat. 

Of course, these things always happen on a weekend evening, eh? Our regular vet out of the office enjoying his weekend, and the only option being the 24 hour Emergency Service, with certainly competent but unknown doctors on staff. We’d been through a vestibular episode one night a few years ago, and this was nothing like that*.  She finally calmed down and sacked out after a while, but it took a while before her heart was not racing. 

*(”That” - the vestibular  event -  started with her tossing her chow
and then wobbling, but with rapid, back-and-forth eye movements and a
consistent imbalance.  These subsided slowly over several hours.)

Things seemed good the next day, and we were prepared to write it off to her just being overtaxed by the length of the walk.  But, then we had another episode the next day.  It seemed to happen right around dinner time again, and she bounced right back from it, though again padding around in laps through the house after getting upright. The next morning I called our vet, who was attending a conference until Thursday. As she seemed fine most of the time, and wasn’t showing any symptoms of poison, sustained confusion or 3 or 4 other things the vet tech asked about, we made an appointment to wait until he returned. That lasted until midday, when she had another bit of wacky walking and did her tumbling routine.  We punched the red button and zipped her up to the vet - luckily the partner of the clinic was there, a very good doctor.  By the time we got there, she wasn’t actively (?) in a heap on the floor, but he took his time and checked her out. He listened to her heart and said, “Whoa!”, cocked his head and listened again.

At that point I was kind of grabbing some part of the wall behind my back and the room felt pretty warm. Turns out that her always-very-low heart rate was taking a rest every few beats.  It was not something, he said, that he was expert in, so he was recommending that we go to the canine heart specialist.

As with a lot of things, you find yourself gaining information that you wish you could have ignored in this life. This has happened a few times that I don’t care to go into here and now, but in this case both my wife and I got to know about “High Vegal Tone” and “Sick Sinus Syndrome”, which one responded to atropine introduction, and what the options were for the other. A canine pacemaker was discussed. One side of my brain is processing all this info while the other is considering how absurd it sounded. But, and since you don’t know me all that well, this really must be said, I’m pretty crazy about this little dog, and she had some tough times through the years.  It just didn’t seem fair that things now hinged upon this.

Well, to not stretch out this story more than I have - the first medication choice was a bad idea, and resulted in her buzzing around like a 3rd grader on iced quadruple espresso shots. That morphed into her exhibiting seizure-like episodes which came in waves over the 8 or 9 hour duration of the drug. When it finally petered out at 11 pm, my wife and I had traded off restraining her (well - holding on to her) for the day.  We didn’t get a lot of work done.  I spent that night sleeping next to her, to make sure that she didn’t have any recurrence of the reactions. She didn’t, but awoke every two hours (on the nose) to head for the door and enjoy a good case of the runs.  During the end of things, my wife took some video snippets of the seizes, which we shared with the heart doctor the next day. The doctor thought that we needed to make sure it was a heart issue (one of the things we were wondering about  while dealing with the full-body-clench and tooth-clacking), and so fitted her with a monitor - I guess the canine equivilent of a Holmes Monitor (sp?).  She was pretty sacked out after the drug-induced workout from the day before.

Pretty interesting tech - when she has an “event” we tap the red button and it saves the heart rate from 30 seconds before and 30 seconds after.  Then we call the monitor service and hold the device to the phone, press the button again and listen to the howl of carrier tones for a while. After the upload, the doctor gets notified and she can view the results. 

We’re trying her on a different drug, building up the dosage reasonably slowly. Obsessing a bit over her as she knocks the monitor into the furniture - she isn’t used to the protruberence. She’s had a couple of recurrences, and the doctor has had a few looks at the output.  She gets it off in a couple of days, so we’ll see how things go.

Helluva thing.


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09/24/06
3 in 1
Filed under: general, rides, photos, dogs
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 4:36 pm

The working theory is that these things hit in threes:

#1 - Got smacked in the lower lip by a bee on the commute Friday.
#2 - Sudden, inexplicable flat while riding at China Camp Saturday.
#3 - Secondary inexplicable flat upon arriving home after C Camp ride.

Hopefully that purges this session…

Went to a play last night, drank strong coffee and enjoyed chocolate
covered toffee snackies.  Stayed awake through the play (which was
good - “Comedy of Errors” outside at Dominican), but then couldn’t shut
down the system to sleep last night.  So after AM stuff, couldn’t
find the gas to get out on the bike today.  But, I did
shoulder-run-n-carry up a few steep bits yesterday too.  Oh well,
maybe the dog has the right idea - it’s naptime…

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