Friday, September 21, 2012

Garden State.... a shiny happy post

Last week I defied my ethical position on air travel and somewhat bleak economic position. I boarded a plane and deserted my crumbling husk of a failed and miserable excuse for a life, I defected to Melbourne for a few days to visit family and spend some time with my Dad on his 70th birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD and MUM! (I missed my mum's birthday so I felt much better having seen them both.

I had intended to take a bike on the plane but didn't want to spend a cent on luggage so settled for a car ride from the airport. It was 3 decrees C when I landed. Chilly but lovely! Back in Melbourne again! The traffic the people the dry barren fields water restrictions etc... I have to admit I haven't kept track of the weather down there. Apparently they've had heaps of rain. The fields were all green and lush!  Actually greener than anything I can remember! 

When we got home to my parents house, I was blown away by all the flowers! The whole yard was in bloom it was beautiful! The old granny flat my brother had lived in was gone there is now a great big space in the yard for growing food. My brother has finally moved out into supported accommodation (and loving it!) One of his house mates, David, loves those old beach huts you see down at Brighton. He creates art out of every kind of material you can imaging, I thought his work was excellent so I was wrapped when he sent this wonderful piece home for me.

Art by David W. All rights reserved!
I wondered down and kicked the dirt around the back yard. It was thick and dark! Unbelievable! Stuff just grows in it! Anything you can think of! Oh I miss soil so much! Deep rich black soil! You can push a shovel into it and it will just sink down deep into the wholesome earth! When they first moved in it was mostly clay but they built it up. Of course we can build our soil up here in Darwin too but it'll be bloody gone by the end of the wet season!

Back when I was a kid we grew everything. Corn, tomatoes, mint. If we didn't pick the zukini quick enough it would grow to massive proportions! Tamarillos (nobody even knew what they were back then!), Feijoas (what the hell are they? Right?) Pumpkins, peas and beans! Oh yeh and the sacred lemon tree! The obligatory piss stop for little boys. I remember the neighbors had one and they used to piss on theirs too... there were four males in that family... they had plenty of good lemons! The old veggie garden gradually disappeared as the years went by. Mum and Dad always had something edible growing in the yard but it became only a token. Although the lemons trees seemed to produce a prolific amount of fruit.

folks gardening

 I am so glad the yard is now changing back into a productive food garden!  Check it out!

wicking planter boxes

They've put in these wicking garden beds and are already growing some rhubarb. I wish I could have stayed longer to help them set it all up. I dug a couple of holes and we planted an Apricot and a Granny Smith apple both just reviving out of their winter torpor. 

It was great to get back down there again.I didn't do too much riding but did make a couple of trips along the plenty river. As I rode to Greensborough via Partingtons Flats I tool the long way past the old Diamond Valley swimming pool. (A deep pool at a bend in the river Not many people have any idea it even existed) There was a Chineese guy down there fishing. He'd actually caught one! I thought the river was dead but apparently they're discovering platypus along the Yarra and its tributaries. That is such great news. Life persists despite the odds!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Get me a bike!

This month has been a doozy for bike repairs!

I've already mentioned the Avanti with the broken spokes and the badly adjusted rear derailleur. 

On the weekend Sam called from the Uni, the folding bike with the new Tyres got a puncture... 'What do you mean you got a puncture!". I went out and picked her up and there it was. A punctured rear tyre. With a great long piece of brazing rod running through it! No wonder. The bike is resting in the back yard now.

Deep puncture
Tire Piercing Brazing Rod

Now my trusty Long bike has bit the dust!
A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to replace the chain and sprockets on the long bike. The bike still had it's original chain plus the extension provided with the Xtracycle kit, the rear sprockets came with the bike but I put them on a decent wheel I bought from the old bike shop in Darwin about ten years ago. After nearly 20,000 km of cycling the chain and sprockets had become worn out! The chain kept slipping and the teeth on the sprockets were worn to a sharp point! By now I've re-packed the wheel with grease at least twice... Basically the whole kit has had it's day.
Two chain pins bottom one is newish the top link is from my worn chain having done nearly 20,000 km (It appears that the new pin is slightly longer than the old one... they should be the same length)

Some left over chain... (After pulling them apart I got to appreciate the quality of the steel and the various components)

Long Bike all messed up!

With stuff all money to spend I had to improvise and unfortunately compromised a little too much. Having an Xtracycle means that my chain is longer than the usual bike. I needed two. The tip shop is usually pretty good for parts and I managed to find a couple of decent chains and a barely used 6 speed sprocket. I took them home, replaced the sprocket and was reinserting the final pin of the chain when I snapped the chain breaker! I got the pin in but was not happy with the job and was worried it would not stay... It didn't!

Mashing the chain
Messing up the gears! (The shiny chain is the result of no oil and rubbing on the disconnected front derailleur...)

Last night on my way home from work the faulty connection came away and the chain broke and got caught in the rear wheel. Luckily I had some tools to fix it and a joining link (The part I should never have compromised on!) I fixed the chain bent the derailleur back into what I thought was a suitable position and proceeded to ride on. No problem. Clicked her into a lower gear, OK... clicked her down again into first and WHAM! Chain came off and tore through the spokes on the rear wheel, seized the wheel and bent the derailleur all the way! One look and I could see it was terminal. The Long bike will be off the road for a long time this time! Now I'm wondering if I should resurrect her or start again and just attach the Xtracycle to a whole new bike!

Oh yeh one more rear wheel casualty. A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days wandering around Darwin on the old Shogun road bike. I did a lot of miles and traveled across some fairly uneven ground with a panier bag full of my gear... (Don't ask why!) As I was riding I noticed a creaking sound coming from the rear wheel. I Stopped and had a look and discovered that the wheel was starting to buckle under the load and a couple of the spokes had become loose. Not a good sign if you want a wheel to hold together. Wouldn't it be funny if I ran out of bikes to ride! Actually I'm a bit sad about that. The Shogun has been with me for years and the rear wheel has stood up to several trips around the harbor.

Actually I'm kind of happy about all of this. Through trial and error I have learned first hand several things.
  1. Fine tuning the low gear of a rear derailleur is worth it.
  2. When joining chains they should be very very similar in width and match the sprocket set you are using. (I probably should have found out more about this before I replaced the old chain)
  3. There's nothing wrong with using a chain joiner. (Don't be a hero and think you've got to get all the pins back in!)
  4. Chain breakers break if you apply them on an angle... particularly when trying to replace a pin rather than extract one!
  5. A good quality chain breaker is much better than a crappy one! (short handles mean poor leverage, long handles are good!)
  6. There are actually times when not having oil on your chain is an advantage
So there you have it. Another inventory of stuff that's gone wrong. ;)  I suppose I'll have to post a happy story next.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Farewell Vikki!

Yesterday we lost a dear friend and fierce advocate for the rights of vulnerable people. Vikki Riley has made a major contribution to alleviating the terrible anquish faced by so many people currently held in detention in Darwin. The art exhibitions she has facilitated have given voice to so many people who would otherwise have been locked quietly away without any way of communicating their message to the broader public in Australia. Vikki went to places many of us would prefer to forget even exist. She met and supported the people who many Australians would rather be kept out of sight and out of mind. In her own obstinate way she forced people to considder realities they'd prefer to claim ignorance of! She did not take no for an answer and she did not accept weak excuses for not doing what she felt was right.

Vikki died as the result of a colission with a car while she was riding her bike. Despite the tragedy of this event the comments came flying in accusations and attacks against her simply because she was on a bike!
I am currently in Melbourne staying with family. Sadly the mentality down here appears to be even worse than in Darwin. Having fixed my bike up with the intention of using it for transport I was inundated with pleas not to ride! Whenever the subject of cycling comes up in my family it is all to do with some kind of political possition and what side you're on! Cars against Bikes! How ridiculous!

My right to go out and ride my bike appears to be subject to the oppinions of rednecks and dickheads who's 'point of view' is apparrently worthy of printing in newspapers and coverage by all kinds of media outlets. I am advised by caring family members that I shouldn't ride my bike... 'People around here hate cyclists'. Somehow any error committed by a cyclist on the road can be used to justify every degree of neglegence on the part of a driver. 
After hearing the terrible news about my friend Vikki, rather than compassion or sympathy for her family I am given an oppinion from one particular family member, who can see 'both sides' and how there really isn't enough room on the road for bikes! I couldn't f--king belive it!
There are no sides in this situation! There were two people. One riding a bicycle, one driving a car. There is a duty of care when using the road under all circumstances to avoid causing injury to any other human being, be they driver, passenger, pedestrian or cyclist! A person driving a car hit a person riding a bike and the cyclist died! That is what happened! This is a tragedy! The driver must now be in a state of shock and be suffering terribly for his mistake. I can feel for him.
If you want to talk to me about sides, points of view... the right of drivers to an open road where they don't have to considder slowing down or avoiding any other trafic then.... (I reserve my comments for later!)

Many people will mourn Vikki. My thoughts are with her Partner Jimmy and son Elijah. I hope there will be something published through our mainstreem media that allows the public to get a glimpse of her world as she saw it and the forces she struggled against for the sake of the vulnerable people in our Detention Centres right now and those who will soon be shipped away... Out of our sight, far enough that they can be forgotten!

I'm not sure what to say about any of this right now. I am a bundle of nerves. Maybe better you read about it in The Northern Myth

Vale Vikki Riley – “a beautiful woman lost” … and still the trolls come out to play